By Charles Kumolu, Deputy Editor, Sunday Vanguard
SINCE great men and women look very different at different times, readers deserve to know editors’ definition of greatness in a year disrupted by alarming insecurity and falling standard of living. Like in 2020, the social, political and economic space hardly operated at optimum levels – no thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and widespread security breaches. This nearly foreclosed the emergence of men and women whose exploits are nothing but enduring images of greatness.
If you agree less, consider the negatives occasioned by two-digit inflation, food crisis, shrinking national income and volatile oil prices in the previous 12 months. That aside, Nigeria had the worst of it in terms of safety of lives and property, with an average of five persons killed daily in 2021, according to reports.
These and others added in making the year yet another one like no other in the nation’s history. Yes, activities were less as dictated by the new normal in several sectors, but impacts weren’t less profound in some areas.
Undeterred by the prevailing social climate, some exceptional Nigerians, in various fields, braved the storm, pushed boundaries and impacted positively.
For better, they influenced the course of history in the last 12 months. The result of their resilience didn’t just keep hope alive, it also kept a troubled nation working. In arriving at these persons of impact, Vanguard editors employed the same criteria used ever since this flagship event debuted: Excellence, courage, integrity and national pride.
Working on the Personality of the Year Award comes with a sense of pride as it presents the opportunity of assessing the year through the lenses of those who defined it. But in 2021, the task of choosing the best wasn’t made a lot easier by the dynamics of the year.
In fact, at the Board of Editors’ sessions, loud silence often preceded calls for nominations in various categories. From the visage of each person, you could feel conflict of thoughts as they ruminated about who to nominate. It wasn’t that political leaders and captains of industry were mostly passive last year, activities that could have produced many champions were less. Hence we found ourselves in a situation in which somewhat difficult choices had to be made between two or more alternatives.
Even when you thought you had nominated the best, a counter argument sometimes emerged, presenting another perspective on the person or sector you thought you knew well. Anytime a superior opinion succeeded, the house reverted to square one as it pondered available alternatives. The more we thought through, the fewer our choices became.
At some point, the limited number of likely options resulted in vacant expressions that gave way to robust debates and ultimately the best recommendations. The outcome, after nearly three months of painstaking nominations and heated debates, is this gallery of great men and women. They are all here: The statesmen, boardroom gurus, public service icons, philanthropists, business moguls, and entertainers who have consistently inspired others.
As demanded by Vanguard’s expansive coverage of events, persons, and issues, new categories of awards emerged this year. The innovativeness of certain individuals in their areas of influence also necessitated the expansion. For the first time, we are having Regulator of the Year, Private Sector Icon of the Year, Foreign Investor of the Year, Fintech Company of the Year, Real Estate Icon of the Year, and Special Recognition.
The awardees are persons, who through innovations powered public and private service for the common good. How these remarkable Nigerians made living a lot easier for the average person in 2021, is best understood through our editors’ prisms.