ADVERTISEMENT

The 7 most influential Nigerians of 2023

If Nigeria happened to be a TV show on Netflix, these would be the main cast of this year's season.

This year's highlights were channelled through standout figures who had a sizable influence on the country's talking points across 12 months

The general elections gave Nigerians another opportunity to elect or re-elect leaders tasked with shaping the country's future for the next four years, and potentially more. These political leaders affect Nigerian lives in little ways like the price of rice in markets, and big ways like how well schools and hospitals run, and how efficiently security agencies can protect lives and property.

But politics wasn't Nigeria's only major highlight for the year. Afrobeats continued to make global inroads, a pandemic-sized desire to break world records gripped the country like a fever, and citizens recorded exploits that exhibited the full range of the Nigerian spirit, for better or worse.

This year's highlights were channelled through standout figures who had a sizable influence on the country's talking points across 12 months.

ADVERTISEMENT

If Nigeria happened to be a TV show on Netflix, these would be the main cast of the 2023 season:

When Peter Obi dumped the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in May 2022, effectively abandoning his quest for the party's highly-coveted presidential ticket, the national sentiment was near unanimous that his political career would sink.

The only group of people that didn't invest in that sentiment was his growing fanbase of young Nigerians, later to be referred to as Obidients, who were hungry for a change in Nigeria's political order and saw the former Anambra State governor as an embodiment of what they wanted to see.

ADVERTISEMENT

Obi's public track record, personality and populist politics appealed to young voters desperate to create a new political order. The odds against him were great, and the doubts about his chances multiplied when he joined the Labour Party (LP), a well-known but underperforming party which paled in influence and structure compared to the more established PDP and All Progressives Congress (APC).

But the burning passion of his Obidient movement, built almost organically by the influence of his public record, fueled his shockingly strong showing at the 2023 presidential election. Obi's performance was unprecedented for a supposed third-party candidate that even the most optimistic observer predicted would score less than a million votes — he posted 6.1 million in total.

He may not have won the election — and there are still debates about that one — but the many surprising victories of LP in many federal and state legislative races, as well as winning the Abia State governorship elections are tied to the sensational pull of Peter Obi.

For 100 hours, Hilda Baci cooked.

ADVERTISEMENT

The chef started with a simple goal — registering her name in the Guinness World Records by cooking non-stop longer than anyone else has ever done. What began as a long-cherished dream in a corner of Lagos State brought the chef mind-blowing global attention. The Guinness World Records admitted that her cook-a-thon was so popular its official website crashed for two days due to the immense traffic volume from the fans she gained overnight.

Even though the organisation recognised only 93 hours and 11 minutes of her total time, it was enough to beat the previous record of 87 hours and 45 minutes. But that's only half of the influence Hilda Baci wielded this year.

Her attempt opened the floodgates for more Nigerians to want to get into the record books in numerous other categories, including even the one that launched her to fame. The chef is the reason there are many more Nigerian names in the record books this year, and the mention of her name on the Guinness World Records' social channels is still a magnet for interactions.

It’s why the organisation's PR machine won't stop milking her for engagement even though she has since lost her record to Irish chef, Alan Fisher, who cooked for 119 hours and 57 minutes in October.

ADVERTISEMENT

Super Eagles and Napoli striker Victor Osimhen’s contribution to the football world this year is impossible not to notice. The super striker has gone from one daring feat to another, making a name for himself and making his country proud.

He finished the 2022/2023 Serie A season as the highest goal scorer, catapulting his Napoli team to its first league title in 33 years.

In May, the outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari conferred on the 24-year-old the national award of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR), one of the highest honours a citizen can receive from Nigeria for service to the country.

ADVERTISEMENT

Osimhen was also ranked eighth for the 2023 Ballon d'Or award — the highest-ever finish by a Nigerian. To cap off a phenomenal year, he was recently awarded the Best Male Player of the Year in Africa at the 2023 CAF Awards, the first Nigerian to win it in 24 years.

Osimhen's wild success this year doesn't just register as personal accolades as it has further helped to advance the gospel of the Nigerian spirit of excellence, given the right circumstances.

It’s undeniably been an accolade-filled year for Afrobeats superstar, Davido. His fourth studio album, Timeless, dropped in March and quickly gained global recognition when it became the biggest African album in Apple Music history with its record-breaking first-day streams, confirming the singer as a linchpin of the Afrobeats sound.

ADVERTISEMENT

The chart-topping album bagged three nominations for the 2024 Grammy Awards, including Best Global Album, Best African Performance for Unavailable and Best Global Music Performance for Feel. Ranked at number 39, Timeless also secured a spot in Billboard’s esteemed Top 50 Best Albums of 2023 list — the only African album to do so.

From the popular Unavailable dance challenge to the first leg of the Timeless Tour and the singer's appearances at several other shows and festivals, the hit-packed album is a gift that keeps giving. But the hitmaker's impact wasn't limited to only the art he created.

In July, his David Adeleke Foundation (DAF) donated ₦237 million to orphanages across Nigeria. The foundation successfully disbursed the funds to 424 orphanages, significantly improving the lives of over 13,000 children.

ADVERTISEMENT

The founder of the Eternity Network International (ENI), Apostle Joshua Selman, is a remarkable preacher who has shown his profound impact on the lives of thousands of Nigerians.

The gospel minister's powerful and insightful teachings on spiritual growth, leadership, and other aspects of the Christian faith captivate a large audience — it's no surprise he was invited to minister at several events in Nigeria and beyond throughout this year.

To cap an incredible year of influence that's placed his name on the lips of many young Nigerians exploring spiritual growth, the 43-year-old televangelist was recently crowned the king of podcasts in Nigeria.

On Spotify, his self-named podcast, Apostle Joshua Selman finished first, while KOINONIA with Apostle Joshua Selman, and Koinonia Experience with Apostle Joshua Selman (ENI) ranked second and fifth respectively on the list of the top 10 most popular podcasts.

ADVERTISEMENT

In a world where young people are increasingly tuning out the news and all the baggage that comes with it, Arise News has managed to hold significant sway on what many young Nigerians consider to be journalism that presses for accountability in all the right corners.

The television station, through its flagship news programmes and often strong personalities of its presenters, has positioned itself as the voice of the public and expanded the frontiers of independent broadcasting in Nigeria.

Arise TV may not be the silver bullet that cures millions of young Nigerians of their resentment for the news and distrust of the mainstream media in general, but the station makes it just a bit more bearable to endure.

ADVERTISEMENT

What is possibly left unsaid about President Bola Tinibu at this point? 2023 was the year he finally wrapped his hands around his most coveted political prize.

He won one of the most closely contested presidential elections ever in a manner that continues to divide the country due to electoral irregularities that even the courts failed to resolve satisfactorily.

That he won at all is a testament to the spirit of his influence on the Nigerian political industry, considering the many baggage trailing behind him — from his unresolved academic certificates scandals, surrendering hundreds of thousands of dollars of suspected drug money to the United States government in the 1990s, and his concerning health issues that reared multiple ugly heads during his gaffe-prone presidential campaign.

In his position as president, no one has a bigger potential to influence Nigeria more than Tinubu does. Notably, his inauguration day announcement of the removal of the long-demonised fuel subsidy has impacted the economy and the lives of Nigerians in ways unimaginable at the beginning of the year.

ADVERTISEMENT

Regardless of what you think about President Tinubu, one thing is clear — he wields a great amount of influence for as long as he remains in office. Whatever he does with the power and influence, it's the lives of more than 200 million people at stake. No pressure.

Enhance Your Pulse News Experience!

Get rewards worth up to $20 when selected to participate in our exclusive focus group. Your input will help us to make informed decisions that align with your needs and preferences.

I've got feedback!

JOIN OUR PULSE COMMUNITY!

Unblock notifications in browser settings.
ADVERTISEMENT

Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or:

Email: eyewitness@pulse.ng

Recommended articles

We’re not recruiting, don’t be deceived - NDLEA warns Nigerians

We’re not recruiting, don’t be deceived - NDLEA warns Nigerians

Nigerians raise concern as MKO's wife declares Yorubas' secession from Nigeria

Nigerians raise concern as MKO's wife declares Yorubas' secession from Nigeria

15 other times Nigerian students have been kidnapped in schools since Chibok in 2014

15 other times Nigerian students have been kidnapped in schools since Chibok in 2014

EduGate: FG to resume social investment programmes soon, 3 months after suspension

EduGate: FG to resume social investment programmes soon, 3 months after suspension

Stop cursing Nigeria so that God would change it for better – Sanwo-Olu

Stop cursing Nigeria so that God would change it for better – Sanwo-Olu

Troops neutralise 12 Zamfara bandits, recover weapons and 18 cows

Troops neutralise 12 Zamfara bandits, recover weapons and 18 cows

Lagos seeks help in locating woman seen assaulting baby in viral video

Lagos seeks help in locating woman seen assaulting baby in viral video

10 years after abduction, CAN demands rescue of remaining Chibok girls

10 years after abduction, CAN demands rescue of remaining Chibok girls

Urge Dangote to lower diesel price from his refinery, APC Chieftain tells Tinubu

Urge Dangote to lower diesel price from his refinery, APC Chieftain tells Tinubu

Pulse Sports

Alex Iwobi makes Premier League history which Mikel, Yakubu, Kanu could not achieve

Alex Iwobi makes Premier League history which Mikel, Yakubu, Kanu could not achieve

Like Michael Jordan - Details of Victor Osimhen’s ‘superhuman’ jump against Monza emerges

Like Michael Jordan - Details of Victor Osimhen’s ‘superhuman’ jump against Monza emerges

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT