The Editorial Board of Y!/YNaija.com, has announced the 2016 edition of its annual list of the 100 most influential Nigerians in the past year.
The carefully curated list is a perfect mix of individuals who have greatly impacted the Nigerian society in different fields of endeavour including entertainment, religion, governance, media, technology and more.
“In our annual tradition, we take a look back at the 100 people who have defined, re-defined and moulded the days of our lives in 2016, as part of our mission to focus our largely youth audience on the issues and ideas that truly matter,” says Isime Esene, Managing Editor, YNaija.com.
Founder and artistic director of Style House Files, a creative development agency for Nigerian and African designers, Omoyemi Akerele is a driving force behind the burgeoning Nigerian fashion industry. A pioneer in image consultancy and creative direction, Akerele also helps brands gain essential international exposure through presenting showcases at Pitti Imagine in Italy, and through the annual Lagos Fashion and Design Week.
Atelier, businessman and showman, Mai Atafo is one of the most dependable names in men- and women’s fashion. His output moves from the production room straight to the red carpet and every celebrity of note; from Ramsey Nouah to Ebuka Obi-Uchendu has been attired by Mai Atafo. Weddings by Mai, perhaps his most popular line caters to every wedding clothing element that exists.
Oke-Lawal’s Orange Culture was part of Nigeria’s delegation to the 2015 International Fashion Showcase and was invited to show at premier menswear trade show Pitti Uomo under the Ethical Fashion Initiative. The self-effacing Oke-Lawal continues to juggle multiple balls in the air with the spin-off diffusion labels, Orange by Orange Culture, and a streetwear brand, O.C by Orange Culture.
A lot of working models, both at home and in the diaspora owe a lot of their success to Joan Okorodudu, founder of ISIS modelling agency and godmother of the Nigerian fashion industry. A former beauty queen herself, Okorodudu started ISIS while trying to fill the need for suitable representatives for models who emerged victorious in a reality competition that she organised.
Amaka Osakwe’s Maki Oh is white hot, even Beyonce knows to seek the brand out when looking to return to her African roots. And who can blame the Queen Bey? Maki Oh’s 2015 collection Arodan, debuted exclusively on Vogue, instantly making Osakwe the first designer based in Nigeria to achieve this feat. Maki Oh’s first studio in Lekki was commissioned last year and influential figures like Michelle Obama and Kerry Washington have been spotted wearing the label.
For a spell now, Yoruba Nollywood fans have been in on Odunlade Adekola, the genre’s biggest leading man. A veteran of over 100 movies, Adekola has been quite prolific, producing and starring in some of the biggest and most successful Yoruba films of the last decade, building a cult following along the way. He made the crossover to mainstream audiences last year with the stylish caper Taxi Driver: Oko Ashewo.
Mr. Afolayan’s big budget, pan-African production, The CEO may have been a critical misfire what with its problematic final act, but the box office receipts and accolades received only proved that Afolayan is one of the few names that are a genuine box office attraction. For The CEO, Afolayan gathered a cast from Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Benin Republic and South Africa and premiered the film aboard an Air France flight to Paris, France.
After a string of trials, Niyi Akinmolayan finally hit the mark with The Arbitration, a sexy legal thriller starring OC Ukeje and Adesua Utomi that plays as a meditation on corporate power structure and how it plays out between both sexes. With a heavy presence on social media, Akinmolayan organised a scriptwriting competition for his next project with a winning prize of 100,000 Naira awarded the winner.
Yemi Alade capitalized on her pan-African appeal and released her sophomore, a dance-heavy record pandering to as wide an audience as possible. This gimmick worked in her favour as she was embraced by the continent, co-hosted the MTV Africa Movie Awards (alongside Bonang Matheba) and featured on a worldwide Shell promotional campaign with Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson.
AY Makun is presently Nigeria’s funniest man. From AY Live to The AY Show, AY’s Crib to AY’s Open Mic, the span of products his Corporate World Entertainment has been able to turn into money-spinning business ventures is quite something to behold. A Trip to Jamaica, the sequel to 2014’s record breaking 30 Days in Atlanta has quickly become the most successful Nollywood film ever in terms of box office receipts.
Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD)
A former commissioner in his native Delta state, Richard Mofe-Damijo returned with his trademark charisma to the screen big time with high profile roles in television (Hush), lead roles (Oloibiri, The Grudge) and supporting turns (Dinner, The Wedding Party) in big screen productions. RMD was a member of the jury at this year’s Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF).
This rapper, comedian and internet savvy disrupter was born Folarin Falana. With 2 hit albums behind him, Falz has found a way to leverage on his comic talents and social media clout to push his music to wider audiences. Beyond mixing hit singles by the numbers, Falz took the concept of visual expression to a whole new level with his long form video for his single Soldier, a duet with singer Simi. This was a precursor to the eventual release of Chemistry, the joint EP by Falz and Simi.
DJ Jimmy Jatt
When it comes to the business of turning tables, Cool DJ Jimmy Jatt has elevated it to a profession. Beyond his unimpeachable bonafide as DJ of record for every event of note across the continent, DJ Jimmy Jatt has mentored a new generation of DJs, placing them on viable career paths. He has put out two well-received albums and has headed the jury for the Headies, Nigeria’s biggest music award show since 2005.
Femi Kuti has been all flying the flag for Afrobeat music since his father, Fela passed on and has been able to successfully create his own space, away but not separated from his father’s overriding legacy. He has been nominated for Grammys and has packed the convention centre of the Eko Hotel with a much buzzed about concert with younger brother, Seun Kuti.
Mkparu is the CEO of Filmhouse cinemas and FilmOne Distribution Limited, a franchise currently operating in Lagos, Ibadan, and Calabar. A beneficiary of the $200 million Bank of Industry creative and entertainment industry intervention fund, Mkparu’s Filmhouse opened the first IMAX cinemas in Nigeria and his distribution business is responsible for The Birth of a Nation arriving local cinemas.
When it comes to pure box office attraction, Omoni Oboli is simply without peer. No other actress/producer can draw people to the movies like she does. She was in Fifty and First Lady, two of the highest grossing films of 2015 and this year, has already made a profitable statement with the comedy, Wives on Strike. Her movies may be short on quality but they always find an audience.
Izu Ojukwu has shown traits of genius, working on Amstel Malta Box Office sponsored films like Sitanda and White Waters. But it was with the long in the making ‘76, released this year, that Ojukwu achieved his potential as the most important director of his generation. ‘76 is both high water mark and career highlight for Ojukwu and the team of actors and crew members which he marshalled to make movie magic.
Okwo is the co-founder of The Audrey Silva Company, the forward thinking production house behind the future classic, The Meeting and Surulere, a showcase of fresh Nollywood talent. A well-respected film director and producer, Okwo acts as Nollywood’s mother hen, dishing out tough love to a new generation of thespians on and off Twitter. She provided support to Bovi’s It’s Her Day and is hard at work on her new television series, Bankers NGR.
Chibuike Azubuike Nelson aka Phyno isn’t the first indigenous rapper working predominantly in the Igbo language but he’s been the most successful so far. Phyno who enjoys an endorsement deal with NairaBET has two successful solo studio albums (No Guts No Glory, The Playmaker) to his name and recently shut down a large stadium in Enugu with his annual Phyno Fest concert.
Africa’s most famous twin brothers Paul and Peter Okoye left their fans flustered when they spent the better part of the year bickering and threatening to terminate their union. After releasing lukewarm solo projects, the brothers decided to patch things up and came back with Bank Alert, an instant club banger that got everyone dancing again and proved that two is more formidable than one.
Tiwa Savage put out an innuendo-heavy video for her smash single If I start to talk in April, and by the next week her marriage was over. She seized control of the narrative though, voicing out her version of events in an exclusive interview that very nearly broke the internet. She returned to work almost immediately, releasing a well-received single with Wizkid, signing with JayZ’s Roc Nation and appearing on the soundtrack to AY’s record bursting film, A Trip to Jamaica.
The executive director and founder of the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) has been working assiduously for 6 years now to make AFRIFF the continent’s most important film festival. Aside the glitz and glam, AFRIFF provides film training and talent development opportunities for budding filmmakers and creates an environment for stakeholders to engage in robust discussions.
26 year-old Wizkid achieved the unthinkable when he helped Canadian rapper, Drake secure his first Billboard Hot 100 number one as a lead artiste with the single One Dance. From London to Laos, Cairo to Cape Verde, the new sound of World music is Afrobeats and Wizkid is at the forefront of artistes creatively marketing Nigeria to the world. Everyone else is mostly following his lead.
See full list of the #Y100 Most influential Nigerians HERE