10 Most influential public officials of the year
Pulse lists the ten most influential public officials of 2017.
As the year comes to a close, takes a look at ten public officials and and how their actions have affected our national life.
1. Muhammadu Buhari
After three failed attempts at the polls - in 2003, 2007 and 2011 - retired Major-General Muhammadu Buhari was elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2015. As the Number One man in Nigeria, all bucks stop on his table and Buhari wields the biggest influence by virtue of the office he occupies.
After two years of his administration -- despite the disappointments expressed by many -- Buhari still enjoys a cult-like followership. His Kano trip is a ready example.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a Professor of Law and former lecturer, is widely regarded as a stabilising factor in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
At different occasions when President Buhari was on medical vacation in London, United Kingdom, Osinbajo, as Acting President, was widely applauded for keeping the country running effectively, including visiting and holding several meetings with leaders of the major nationalities and geopolitical zones across the country.
Such meetings had led to declaration of a ceasefire by the Niger Delta militants in the South-South.
There are also instances where the Vice President would pay surprise visits to local markets- like the Garki market in Abuja and Ikenne market in Ogun State - to feel the pulse of traders and consumers as it relates to the micro-economy.
The report by a presidential investigative panel headed by Osinbajo, with the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN); and the National Security Adviser, Gen. Ali Monguno (retd.), had led to the sacking of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal; and former Director General of the Nigerian Intelligence Agency, Mr. Ayo Oke.
Although several analysts have described the Pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God as someone who is not politically ambitious, pundits have also widely agreed that Osinbajo is adding an immeasurable value to Buhari's government.
The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun was appointed, along with other members of President Buhari's cabinet, at a time Nigeria's economy had slipped into recession. She is driving the fiscal policy of the economy.
Adeosun who is a British-trained economist and chartered accountant, was Commissioner of Finance in Ogun State (2011-2015), before she was appointed Minister of Finance, a task that could be considered overwhelming at a time the country was heading into a recession.
In an interview with Punch on Sunday, January 1, 2017, Adeosun was asked to respond to those who said she was somewhat not qualified to lead Africa’s largest economy and she said, "...I have been a finance professional for 26 years; I qualified in the United Kingdom as a chartered accountant in 1994. I have done accounting, consulting, investment banking, and worked in the public sector in the UK and Nigeria. I have the skills to get the job done and I am supported by an excellent team."
When asked about her sounding upbeat about Nigeria's economic prospects despite the recession, Adeosun replied that, "I am unapologetically optimistic about Nigeria, despite our very real challenges because we are facing our reality like never before."
On September 28, 2017, Adeosun announced that Nigeria was getting out of recession. “We are already getting out of recession because of the actions the Federal Government is taking. If you are in a problem, the day you start to step towards progression, you are already getting out of it; we are getting out of it," she said.
4. Udoma Udo Udoma
Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, just like Adeosun, was in the eye of the storm during the economic crisis. One of his major tasks is to oversee the designing of the annual budget of the country as well recommend policies and programmes that will fertilise the economy.
Udoma is a Law graduate from Oxford University. He was also a member of the Senate between 1999 and 2007, during which he was Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, which spearheads the process leading to the passage of the annual Appropriation Bills presented by the President. Perhaps, this was when Udoma cut his teeth on budgetary designs and processes.
The minister is also a technocrat. He was chairman of the Governing Board of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Chairman of UACN, Chairman of Union Bank PLC, and Director at Unilever.
In September 2017, Udoma's office issued a statement in which the minister said, “Now that we have accomplished the first task (driving Nigeria out of recession), attention will now be on growing the economy as rapidly as we can. We are happy that people are beginning to see the results of the efforts we have been putting through in the last two years to get the economy back on track and to place it on the path of growth and sustained development."
Part of the national economic team is the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, who is driving the monetary policy of the economy.
Before his appointment as Governor of the CBN on June 3, 2014, he was the Group Managing Director of Zenith Bank Plc.
Emefiele came into office at a time when the economy was experiencing a downturn. Global crude oil prices had crashed, and being a monolithic economy that rests mainly on oil, there was a major forex crisis. One dollar was sold for over N500 naira at some point.
At an interactive session with journalists in February 2017, Emefiele said, "The reserves are now $28.9bn and it’s exciting to see this happen. But is there a need to float the naira? It’s important to know that we do not run a float regime; we run a managed-float (forex system) and what that means is that from time to time, we will continue to intervene in the market to ensure that the exchange rate does not go beyond our own expectations and those interventions will come to moderate the rates as we deem necessary."
He added: "The fact that we began to see some accretion to reserves does not mean that we have to be reckless. We will continue the policy of ensuring that foreign exchange is made available to those who are importing raw materials, plant and equipment and to those importing in the agricultural sector; but not for those who want to engage in what we regard as less important sectors that will not support growth and development of the economy."
In October 2017, Forbes Magazine honoured Emefiele with the 'Best of Africa Innovative Banking Award.'
6. Ibe Kachikwu
With oil as the major revenue earner for Nigeria, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, wields a major influence in the federal government. He 'controls' the financial engine room of the economy.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari is the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
Kachikwu is also Chairman of the Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (where he was the Group Managing Director), the organisation that oversees the country's petroleum management, sales and supply.
The minister bagged his first degree in Law at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and master's and doctorate degrees in Law from Harvard University with distinctions.
Before his appointment as minister, he was Executive Vice Chairman of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited and General Counsel of Exxon Mobil (Africa).
7. Tukur Buratai
Leading the war against Boko Haram insurgency is the Nigerian Army with the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai.
You see, the war against terrorism is one of the cardinal objectives of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, and the burden seems to be resting more on Buratai's shoulders.
It is worthy to note that Buratai is not executing the war in isolation; he is jointly working with the other Service Chiefs, including Chiefs of the Air Force Staff and the Naval Staff who are all coordinated by the Chief of Defence Staff.
It is equally important to note that the military is fighting the war in collaboration with other security and intelligence agencies in the country.
Based on declarations made by the Federal Government and the armed forces, and the accounts by indigenes and residents in the areas where Boko Haram attacks were recorded, the terrorist group has been "decimated."
Despite the renewed attacks by the insurgents in some parts of the northeast, the fact remains that the Boko Haram terrorists can no longer carry out large scale bombings as witnessed in the past two years.
8. Ibrahim Magu
Rejected by the Senate, accepted by the Presidency. This is the long and short story of the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.
Among the three cardinal objectives of the President Buhari-led government, the war against corruption seems to be the dearest to his heart.
The EFCC under the leadership of Magu is arguably the body leading the anti-graft war.
The Senate had rejected the nomination of Magu as Chairman of the EFCC. In fact, the upper chamber of the National Assembly suspended consideration and confirmation of appointments or nominations by Buhari that require legislative approval, in protest against the retention of Magu.
Still the acting chairman, Magu has continued with the hunt for corrupt Nigerians as well as recovery of loot, ranging from monies to properties.
However, Magu's activities are not without criticisms. There are critics who believe that the anti-graft war is selective and targeted at the opposition and strong voices against the government. There are also critics who strongly believe that the anti-corruption campaign is hyped by the media, as there are less cases of prosecution of corruption suspects.
Nevertheless, despite opposition by the Senate and condemnations from critics, Magu still enjoys the backing of the Presidency and he is forging ahead with his assignment.
9 & 10. Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara
The National Assembly is the third arm of Nigeria's Federal Government.
The Senate is the upper chamber and has Senator Bukola Saraki as the President, while the House of Representatives is the lower chamber and has Right Honourable Yakubu Dogara as the Speaker.
Saraki is the Chairman of the National Assembly whenever the two chambers are to hold a joint session.
The federal legislature plays three critical roles, which are representative, lawmaking (including appropriation) and oversight.
The legislature makes laws for the country through presentation and passage of bills which eventually becomes Acts of Parliament. Motions are moved and passed by the lawmakers to address issues in the polity. Investigative panels are also conducted by the legislators to probe into issues affecting the country and make appropriate recommendations to the Executive for action.
One major example is the recent sacking of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, based on the recommendation of by the Senate after its probe into Lawal's alleged mismanagement of resources meant for the rehabilitation of the North-East ravaged by Boko Haram insurgency.
The National Assembly, through its power of appropriation, is responsible for the consideration, processing and passage of the country's annual budget. Government's expenditures, to a large extent, are subject to legislative approval. The legislators are also responsible for approval of virement (re-allocation) of votes in the Appropriation Act as well as supplementary budget of the Executive.
The Senate particularly has the additional responsibilities of confirming nominations and appointments made by the President for ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government, including ambassadors. The upper chamber is also responsible for the ratification of international treaties entered into by the country.
As presiding officers of the two chambers of the National Assembly, Saraki and Dogara are indeed influential in the country by virtue of the offices they occupy.
For instance, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus of the House of Representatives had planned to ‘disgrace’ President Buhari during the 2018 budget presentation at the National Assembly.
Save for the intervention of Speaker Dogra and Saraki, it would have been a messy outing for President Buhari as the lawmakers had arrived the green chamber with placards in a bid to stage a protest over the poor performance of the 2017 budget.
Some members of the opposition party, the PDP, had called on the National Assembly to begin the impeachment procedure of President Buhari following his prolong medical vacation in the United Kingdom.
Many had predicted that the country would be thrown into a chaotic situation if that had happened.
On several occasions, the Senate President had helped to douse the tension in the upper chamber in the most strategic manner.
On a lighter note, there was no exchange of blows or torn clothes in both chambers this year thanks to the many Saraki and Dogara.
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