25 April 2014, News Wires – Top oilmen may consider themselves an influential lot, but they were all beaten to Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people by the likes of Beyonce, Cristiano Ronaldo and, er, Miley Cyrus.
It was largely left to the political elite to fly the flag for the hydrocarbons industry in the magazine’s latest annual installment, with Venezuela’s colourful leader Nicolas Maduro and Russian strongman Vladimir Putin coming in for some hefty criticism in what were decidedly biased editorials.
Nigerian commodities and manufacturing tycoon Aliko Dangote, who Forbes magazine estimated last year has a fortune of $20.2 billion, was given a stirring write-up by Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
“Aliko is Africa’s richest man, and his business activities drive economic growth across the continent. That’s impressive, but I know him best as a leader constantly in search of ways to bridge the gap between private business and public health.”
Nigeria’s Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was serenaded by Bono, the U2 front man saying: “During her first term … (she) arrived at her desk to find a weighty $30 billion owed. With oil prices on the rise, she stopped having to plead with her creditors and bought a massive chunk of her own debt so she could cancel it herself.
“She’s got one of the toughest jobs on the planet — how to ensure that the tens of billions of dollars earned each year in oil receipts go into productive usage, like agriculture, infrastructure, health and education. Ngozi has made corruption her enemy and stability her goal.”
Sheika al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the daughter of gas-rich Qatar’s emir, made the cut as a “transformative patron of the arts”. Visual artist Takashi Murakami said the sheika “has chosen to use the resources at her disposal to give her people access to the world’s best art and to promote intercultural understanding”.
US industrialist billionaire brothers and staunch Republican party backers David and Charles Koch made the list, as did green energy tycoon Tom Steyer and Carl Icahn – the last getting a tribute from US energy mogul T Boone Pickens.
But it was in the political arena where some of the most interesting choices were made. Putin was lambasted by Madeleine Albright, the former US secretary of state proclaiming: “Through his illegal actions in Ukraine, Putin has reminded us that leaders of great countries are most dangerous when they make up their own facts. Putin’s worldview is coloured by toxic fictions.”
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, leader of the country with the largest oil reserves, also came in for hefty criticism following his succession to late president Hugo Chavez, senior Time editor Nikhil Kumar writing: “A year on, lacking Chavez’s firm grip on power, Maduro is struggling as a litany of ills, from soaring inflation to food shortages, fans popular discontent.
“All this in a country that many in the region trade with or depend on for cheap oil. Whether it collapses now depends on Maduro — and on whether he can step out of the shadow of his pugnacious predecessor and compromise with his opponents.”
US President Barack Obama, Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, Egypt’s new hard man Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and Iran’s new leader Hassan Rouhani were joined in the political stable by John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Kim Jong-un of North Korea.
Whistleblower Edward Snowden and Serena Williams both made the cut for closing in on the net so effectively, while Portugal and Real Madrid football star Ronaldo shared the limelight with Pope Francis and Hollywood legend Robert Redford.
In fact, the world of cinema appears to be especially influential, in Time’s eyes: 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen was joined by cast member Benedict Cumberbatch, with Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey also collecting a gong.
No room for Justin Bieber, it seems, but the presence of twerk “inventor” Cyrus was probably all the silliness Time would allow.