How does one define “influence”? Thursday, TIME Magazine released the annual “100 Most Influential People” issue upon the world. Categorizing these figures as “Titans,” “Pioneers,” “Artists,” “Leaders,” and “Icons,” perhaps one word best sums up the assortment of figures: eclectic.

 

Some would likely argue the controversial nature of many entries to this list make them undeserving of such recognition. The issue does not concern itself with such arguments; it treats these figures with an underlying objectivity that reminds us of one thing: influence has no moral boundaries.

 

One could easily expect certain entries to the list, such as Apple CEO and activist Tim Cook, as well as Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai — this marks her third appearance on the list in three years. Singer Taylor Swift appeared on the list, and — love them or hate them — so did Kim and Kanye.

 

The most cursory examination of leaders on this list reveals that this year has proved both trying and empowering for the people of Africa.

 

One leader of note — nominated by U.S. General Carter Ham — is Abubakar Shekau. Leader of the Boko Haram terrorist group, Shekau has earned distinction as “the most violent killer [Nigeria] has ever seen.” His notoriety achieved global scale one year ago when the Boko Haram kidnapped 300 girls for their perceived “western” teachings in school.

 

Protesters of Boko Haram terrorist group hold signs reading #BringBackOurGirls, Bring Back Our Girls

Shekau’s terrorist group has affected countless lives, as well as incited global outcry (huffingtonpost.com)

The event drew international outrage, prompting the hashtag campaign “#bringbackourgirls” to try and coerce an end to the ongoing captivity of the young girls. A vocally driven Islamic militant, Shekau has most recently aligned himself with ISIS, setting the stage for a direct conflict between his forces and the United States.

 

TIME’s Africa bureau chief,¬†Aryn Baker, nominated a Nigerian who represents the other side of this conflict. Muhammadu Buhari — a former military leader who came into power through a coup in 1983 — became the first every Nigerian presidential candidate to oust an incumbent President through the electoral process. Buhari has been met with a mixed response from Nigerians.

 

Headshot of Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari

Hope remains that Buhari’s seemingly personal change can inspire the war torn region (saharareporters.com)

On one hand, he has spoken firmly about his mission to combat the previously mentioned Boko Haram, as well as corruption within the Nigerian government; on the other hand, some Nigerians may have a hard time forgiving the sins of his violent military past. Described as a “born-again Democrat,” Buhari seems to look toward the future, hoping that his administration can make serious efforts to “heal the wounds” of the past.

 

Whether feared or loved, it’s hard not to argue that these figures have influenced headlines over the last year. Some have used their power for the betterment of mankind, other have abused it to incite terror.

 

Do you feel anyone was unfairly left off of the list? Who are your favorite entries? Comment below or tweet @connerws to give us your feedback!