THE FUTURE AWARDS: A PARODY OF NIGERIAN VANITIES? After-party, Strictly for the VIPs
It wasn’t really curiosity that killed the cat; it was the car. Perhaps the cat got pretty excited chasing that fuzzy looking ball - which had captured its curiosity - across the road that it didn’t notice the car coming along in a hurried screeching pace. So the cat died, with the fuzzy looking ball now well out of its reach, but fortunately, in the hope of a happy ending, cats do have nine lives, but we on the other hand have got only one. And in the reality of a not-so-happy ending, in Nigeria we don’t even have lives to live. We survive; and now we have a fuzzy looking ball tapping along the horizon of time into a foggy destination, and it seems we have gotten our tails locked inside a cultural frenzy that keeps us hopping after the fuzzy looking ball, into a destination unknown.

We all know that in Nigeria, we don’t have the luxury of vehicles crushing us when we miss our way. Rather, what we have here are freight trains; the creeping line of military dictatorship, the busy line of corruption, the speeding line of human rights violation, the crowded line of poverty, to mention a few (we have been limited by corporate privacy laws of these booming businesses), all crushing generations and generations of great Nigerians, both known and unknown, from the past to the present and on they are on their merry way to the future. How interesting is it for our readers to observe that most of these trains have already arrived at the future and some of them have begun a return trip back to the present hoping to crush generations trying to rise from the ashes of the past. And what are we doing in anticipation of the inevitable recurrence of this looming catastrophe of daunting astronomical proportions? We are having a party!

Yes dear reader, in the midst of this dreadful quagmire, we are having a party. Perhaps we are taking the whole positive attitude thing a little too far. We celebrate a future of which we haven’t the slightest idea how it will truly be (well, intrinsically, many of us still believe we are headed for doom, but no negative thinking here). We celebrate a projection, an assumption of a future we have no blueprint for. And then we give awards to ‘successful’ individuals; most of whom have no idea or a plan on how Nigeria’s future should be. Sadly, in this country, we are yet to understand that although a man may have achieved material success, praise is only due when he effects positive changes into his environment and the nation as a whole. How much of his success has he diffused into the society he lives in and buys his success from? And by such, we do not mean “birthday-ly” visits to the orphanages with gifts, food and money (well video-taped into award winning documentaries and covered by media houses or blogged about on our international grapevine: Facebook). No! We mean a proactive alteration of the present in order to lay the foundation for a future that can hold promises. Having a successful business or living a materially successful life cannot and will not do that.

Thus, The Future Awards is a fanciful parade of dull vanities. At its best, it is yet a well celebrated excuse for another gathering for Rice and Stew Very Plenty (RSVP) – a well rehearsed performance that thrives on the recognition of wannabe celebrity cliques and young Nigerians who are obsessed with becoming the Visible-In-Public (VIP). What are we celebrating? Have we achieved so much in this present that the future is the only “thing” left worth celebrating? We are yet to begin true democracy; have a transparent government that is truly for the masses. We are yet to have in place a system that truly works thus deleting from our ambitions the hunt for greener pastures. Country citizens do not have the right to walk the roads without having their rights violated by the same authority that swore to protect them. We pay taxes for non-existent government services; we trade everyday in a corrupt, biased business environment and return home to food left over by the movers and shakers of the country. Yet here we are, celebrating a future and giving out awards to immortalize the folly. We truly are lost in our merry chase of the fuzzy looking ball.

And just as if to drive the whole mournful message home, The Future Awards parades an array of respected Nigerians like Prof. Wole Soyinka, Prof. Pat Utomi, Dr. Reuben Abati et al – all in a frenzy to secure credibility for the awards. While we are not averse to such generous patronage by the older generation, we believe that more caution should be exercised in the way and manner today’s numerous youth ‘initia-thieves’ are endorsed. What we really need is a future, not a party about the future. We need to truly believe in ourselves as Nigerians, for those of us born in this generation never had the pleasure of being proudly Nigerian. Most of us may deny this observation, but it is true. Many of us never had that pleasure, neither the luxury nor the obligation of being proudly Nigerian. We speak with a foreign accent which is the confused mix of the brisk east American English, Queens English and Nigerian English accent. Many of us today claim to be proudly Nigerian, we shout it on media mountain tops, and we have turned the phrase “Proudly Nigerian” into a quality tag put on all products as if assuring standard manufacturing quality. But we all know that we are not. We all harbour the secret desire of migration and when we have free time, we all chase self-rewarding projects which is probably all the time. Nobody truly thinks of Nigeria as a future destination of peace and well-being. We have to change our present thinking and actions. Only those who become successful in doing that should be given awards, if at all we really need to party.

UP-RISING wants to see an award that will also celebrate a young Nigerian architect who presents a proposition on how unknown states should look like in the next ten years and then the award committee should take it up as a project using their influences to try bringing it into reality. We want to see an award that also includes young unrecognized doctors who change and save lives everyday in nondescript clinics all over the nation. We want to see an awards that also recognizes young Nigerian employees who work their hearts out at their jobs, NYSC corps members who really bring change into the communities where they serve, and also, entrepreneurs who not only become successful in their businesses but also translate that success into their host communities and make positive impacts - not just dressing up the streets with their corporate presence. Can’t we have an award category that rewards young Nigerian lawyers who battle against human rights violation, going into the prisons all over the country and advocating for wrongly arrested Nigerians who are wasting away in our human refuse dumps? These people have also made immense contributions towards creating a promising future for this country and they are worth celebrating. The high, mighty and famous have had enough awards and celebrations to last them for lifetimes. It is about time we started celebrating those we fail to even notice as we go our various ways, even though our very existence is hinged upon their daily efforts and activities.

Curiously, at the just concluded 2009 Future Awards, it was frightful to see the organizers reduce the whole essence of the future (the Nigerian Dream) to the ‘success’ of a music star whose self-professed disregard for moral values in his songs has attracted great opprobrium from a upright section of the Nigerian society. Suffice it to say that the award given to Dapo ‘D’Banj’ Oyebanjo as Young Person of the Year is in many ways a mockery of what the award category claims to represent. According to the organizers, The Young Person of the Year award is “the biggest of the 15 awards, and is for that Nigerian between 18 and 31 who has blazed a trail and achieved mind blowing success in WHATEVER field, and who has become an ultimate role model of talent and hard work for millions of young people. This person must also be a Nigerian with visible leadership skills and who projects positive values that young people primarily and then the whole of Nigeria can connect with. Young people must aspire to be like this person.” For the records, we harbour nothing personal against D’Banj and his ilk, though we disagree in values. But while one may reluctantly permit the award to D’Banj based on the first part of the award criteria, the latter part of the award criteria (hinged on “visible leadership skills” and the projection of “positive values that the whole Nigeria can connect with”) clearly precludes our brother D’Banj from that award category – thus stripping The Future Awards of the truth, openness and fairness characteristic of all credible awards. Not to mention the fact that The Future Awards has an interesting award structure that permits members of the awards’ Board of Judges to be nominated for the same awards! We have instances of Azuh Amatus, Tosyn Bucknor, Tolu Ogunlesi, Ruonah Godwin-Agbroko among others.

Nonetheless, let it be known that it is not the desire of UP-RISING to discredit the endeavours of the initiators of The Future Awards (and subsequently all other awards) but an effort to call for a deeper and more serious reflection on the values of the awards both morally and otherwise. It is a bid to make sure that we channel this excess energy emanating from all nooks and crannies of every youth arena into a path that will ensure healthy growth of OUR nation. It is something we can build on, but not squander. No! Not this time. UP-RISING hopes that the organisers of The Future Awards will read this piece as soon as it is published. They have enough time before the next edition to go back to the drawing board and rectify their stands and standards. Needless to say that they will continue to hear from us as long as they allow themselves to be corroded by the impunity that hinders the progress of so many in this country.

The truth is, we have a long way to go as a nation, united in peace, well-being and prosperity, but we are yet to figure out what path to travel, where to go and how best to get there. We blame the government for being irresponsible and negligent in their duties, but if we could gather ourselves to organize such an event and make it successful, we can imagine how much further we would be able to go if we were to do likewise for the right causes. UP-RISING believes that we would go so far; that those in government may eat up their chairs for all we care, but still we can and would be taking care of ourselves. But right now, we believe it would be best we took a pause, reflect and redirect our efforts currently devoted to chasing fuzzy looking balls. Freight trains are on their way!

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Wed, Feb 4, 2009 at 9:47 AM

I know nothing of these ‘Future Awards’ and any suggestion of their enjoying my ‘patronage’ is simply unfounded.

Wole Soyinka

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Fri, Feb 6, 2009 at 11:51 AM

Thank you Sir for your time in reading and responding to our mail. We
had actually mentioned your endorsement based on several publications
surrounding the Awards. For instance, on the first page of the award
event brochure, you are quoted thus:

''To claim that the future belongs to youths is a tiresome cliché.
More meaningful it is to remind youths that they bear a special
responsibility towards the shaping of that future. ''The Future…''
Awards salutes exemplary contributions towards the positive shaping of
the future and deserves the commendation of all, since it serves as
inspiration to other members of the youthful generation, and even to
more seasoned achievers of the rest of society.'' – Prof. Wole Soyinka

Once again we thank you for your time, and invaluable support towards
the cause of a New Nigeria. The Force be with you!

UP-RISING

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Fri, Feb 6, 2009 at 9:07 PM

Hallo,
You are absolutely correct. The way it was brought to my attention, both
through correspondence and telephone intervention from intermediaries,
'Endorsement' was not an issue, but the aims. I did not even recollect the
specific title 'Future Awards'!

No matter, thank you indeed for bringing this tendency up for airing. I
understand only too well the concerns you have articulated, and the
principles.

Wole Soyinka

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