Stirs 2015 controversy, tells Tambuwal to run for higher office
By Jide Ajani
*IBB: Nigeria is not an accident
*Amaechi: Rivers people should expect 24-hr power supply soon
*Aig-Imoukhuede: Vanguard has challenged us and the nation
At a colourful Vanguard Personality of the Year Award ceremony, held yesterday in Lagos, former military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, described Rivers State governor, Right Honourable Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, as a fighter for true federalism.
Babangida also stirred fresh controversy when he asked Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, to seek higher office.
The Vanguard Award ceremony, which saw Amaechi clinching the PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR, had Chief Executive Officer of Access Bank, Mr Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, as his runner up.
The glamourous Eko Expo Hall, where the event took place, was filled beyond capacity as guests kept streaming in while organizers kept re-arranging seats to accommodate more guests. It was the event of the day as the high calibre who-is-who in Nigeria emptied into the hall.
It was in the presence of this mammoth crowd that Babangida stirred controversy when he urged Tambuwal to seek higher office.
According to the former military president, “Let me salute my brother and friend, the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, for giving us hope and assurances.
“His conduct has shown that the upcoming generation has the capacity to sustain the labour of our heroes past.
“When leaders like Tambuwal have delivered on their electoral promise, we advise them to try something higher.
“For Tambuwal, your guess is as good as mine. Well done”.
At this point, it was a thunderous ovation that greeted Babangida’s speech. For effect, that was the last paragraph of his well-delivered speech; therefore, the ovation that trailed it may have been for his delivery and the suggestion that Tambuwal should seek higher office, which was taken to mean the presidency of Nigeria – at a time when 2015 is at the corner.
The former head of state also had very kind and encouraging words for the winner of the personality of the year award – Amaechi.
IBB, as the former military leader is fondly called, said “Governor Amaechi is not just a governor in whom I am well pleased, but one that has been able to make a bold impression about promise and performance, in a Nigerian political space that is grappling with challenges of development and good governance.
“His conviction that the federating units in the country should be allowed to enjoy some level of independence and exploit their comparative advantages often gets him into trouble, understandably so.
“With leaders who are brutally frank about issues and the politics of transition, leaders who are driven by their conviction like Amaechi and Aig-Imoukhuede, Nigeria still has tremendous hope”.
He then launched into the realm of politics and governance.
In his view, the emphasis now should be about deepening democracy and enhancing the public welfare of the people who are the repository of power” (Read details at page 12).
Publisher of Vanguard, Sam Amuka, popularly known as Uncle Sam, clad in a black suit, with a black bow-tie, kicked off
the event by acknowledging the “very important guests,” saying he was delighted to welcome them.
He acknowledged “my dear friend, Ibrahim Babangida”, and pointed out that words could not convey how he got to the occasion. “Only one phone call to Minna and the conversation was sweet.
“I said sir. He said, Uncle Sam. I said I would like him to chair our Vanguard Man of the Year Award and he said fine but asked who the awardees were and I said Rotimi Amaechi and Aig-Imoukhuede.
“And he said, these are two gentlemen that I respect and he said, ‘DONE, don’t worry about it, I will be there’.
“We offered to fly him here. He said ‘don’t worry about me’.
“We offered him accommodation; he said he did not want.
“This gentleman is here at his own cost.
“Help me in thanking him.
“I have retired from full-time activities in Vanguard
“Just as I’ve retired from many many things I used to like.
“But thank God that I can still see and admire the beauty of God’s creation, like these beautiful and delightful women I see today”.
After his speech, a round of applause ushered him to his seat. He handed over to Vanguard Media Limited’s General Manager, Gbenga Adefaye, who mounted the stage to explain to the audience that there is a paradigm shift in the offing in Vanguard, urging the audience to watch out.
He said it is important to draw attention to the need for service delivery, anchoring it on Vanguard’s slogan, “TOWARDS A BETTER LIFE FOR THE PEOPLE” – to celebrate exceptional achievers in Nigeria.
It was after this that IBB presented his speech.
The first award of the night was for the runner-up, Mr Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede.
Tambuwal, while presenting the award, said it “is indeed my singular honour and privilege to present this token of recognition to you at the Vanguard Personality of the Year 2012.”
He left the stage.
Aig-Imoukhuede, in his comments, after acknowledging the VIPs, said: “I am truly grateful for the opportunity to speak.
“Uncle Sam has known me since I was a toddler and I must therefore disclose my interest that he has always been one of my favourite uncles and I, his favourite son.
“There are only two banks in Nigeria that are older than Vanguard, First Bank and UBA.
“All the great deeds you ascribe to bankers, Uncle Sam has surpassed
“I am grateful.
“You’ve challenged us and you’ve challenged the nation.
“The measure of a man is what you leave behind”.
Referring to Babangida, he said, “We grew up knowing the head of state who built the longest bridge in the world, the Third Mainland Bridge.
“The bridge Fashola has built between Lekki and V/Island is good but you cannot compare it with what the chairman (IBB) has built.
“There are many people in this audience who are also deserving of the award but that Vanguard has chosen us, I appreciate and I am grateful to God.
“I’m grateful to my colleagues in Access Bank with whom I worked.
“I thank President Jonathan for giving me the honour to serve on the Subsidy Committee but, most of all, I thank my family for standing by me when the cabal fought back”.
The awardee of the night, Amaechi, said he was humbled by so many things among which was the presence of the very important personalities who came to honour him.
In his view, awards had become commercialized, “but I am convinced that that is not the case with Vanguard Media Limited and that is why I am accepting the award after I had vowed never to receive awards again”.
On his choice for the award, Amaechi, who kept spicing his speech with humour, said “anybody could become a state governor”, but the issue of utmost importance is how you attempt to ameliorate the suffering of the masses.
According to him, the award “I am receiving today is on behalf of the people of Rivers State and my team”, because it is not a feat achievable by just an individual.
He revealed that in continuation of his delivery of democracy dividends, “the people of Rivers State would soon begin to enjoy 24hours of power supply” because the funds are there and all the necessary efforts are being made – the time is ticking and we have a deadline that we have set”.
Amaechi, who is also the incumbent chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, made his audience understand that all Nigerians matter in the quest of nation building.
Using the commitment, hard work and patriotism of the common man as well as the industrial and business acumen of the elite as examples, he said the effort of nation building cannot be consigned to the realm of politics alone.
He thanked the organizers, Vanguard, for the award.
The vote of thanks was given by Mideno Bayagbon, Editor of Vanguard Newspapers.
He thanked all who had come and explained that Nigerians should watch out for the giant leaps that Vanguard is set to engage soon, very soon.