By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Babajide Komolafe, Dapo Akinrefon & Gbenga Oke
Nigerians from different walks of life thronged the Eko Hotel and Suites , Lagos, for the presentation of the award of the Personality of the Year to Governor Rotimi Amaechi last Saturday. The event which also recognized the runner up, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imuokhude progressed through the evening in the refreshingly different Vanguard style.
IT was a show of glitz, glamour and grandeur . The cream of the political class mingled with the top echelon of the business community in the Expo Hall of the Eko Hotel and Suites last Saturday.
The presentation ceremony of the Vanguard Personality of the Year award was indeed one occasion in recent times where the men of yesterday and the men of today came to a convergence on issues. It couldn’t have been otherwise, given that it was the best of yesterday’s men that converged with the best of today.
The two sets converged for the investiture of Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State as Vanguard’s Personality of the Year and the recognition of the runner up, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, managing director of Access Bank.
The men of yesterday were led by that enduring enigma of Nigerian politics, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, erstwhile military head of state who led men and women of yesterday’s politics and business to the presentation ceremony.
The men of today were fully represented and included among others, Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan who was represented by his deputy, Prof. Amos Utuama, SAN, senators, members of the House of Representatives, among others.
The business class was led to the gathering by Africa’s richest man Alhaji Aliko Dangote with Mr. Cosmas Maduka among many others from the banking sub-sector of the economy.
The traditional class was also in full representation and included among others the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade who was represented by Prince Tokunbo Sijuade.
Though the Personality of the Year award was won by Amaechi with Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede as runner up, the recipients were humble to acknowledge that many of their generation and those before them had done equally, if not more to deserve awards like that from Vanguard.
Mr. Amaechi dressed in full Ikwere, Rivers State regalia, was even more forthright, saying that he had severally been offered awards but had seen such accolades as improper given that he believed he was doing his work. He, however, saw the award from Vanguard as an exception given the company’s prominence in the ladder of integrity and forthrightness. He also saw the award as a positive attestation of the work in progress in his state.
The event broadcast live on three of the nation’s television stations kicked off by 6:56pm when ace comedian, Gordons was called on stage to put smiles on the faces of guests.
Gordons whose real name is Godwin Omoneh, mesmirised the audience in his comic relief.
Also on hand to lighten up the atmosphere was another popular comedian, Holy Mallam did not only crack jokes, he also ensured he took photographs with the former Military President, General Babangida.
Music sensation and winner of the maiden edition of Nigerian Idol, Timi Dakolo sang the national anthem to kick start the programme shortly after 7 p.m.
Amuka’s welcome address
Publisher of Vanguard newspapers, Mr. Sam Amuka in a welcome address appreciated those who found time to come and paid special compliment to President Babangida who was the chairman of the occasion. According to him it was reflective of the simplicity in the retired general that it was just a phone call that was used in inviting him to the function. Mr. Amuka also paid high regards to Tambuwal who he hailed as the “Peoples Speaker”. He then gave way to the General Manager and Editor –in- Chief of Vanguard, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye to make a more formal welcome address on behalf of the company.
Babangida’s speech: In his address Babangida paid special commendation to the two awardees, Amaechi and Aig-Imoukhuede and Speaker Tambuwal saying that they had made their generation proud.
Before addressing the virtues of the two awardees, he made a deviation towards Tambuwal saying, “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”.
His call on Tambuwal was followed by a thunderous applause as men and women in the hall stood in recognition of the sterling qualities the speaker has brought to in running the affairs of the House of Representatives.
On Amaechi, he 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.”
Babangida who has been a ringing voice for the projection of the country’s federalism said: “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”.
Following Babangida’s address and a musical interjection, Speaker Tambuwal marched forward to the stage to present Aig-Imoukhuede, the runner up with his plaque.
Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede was escorted to the stage by his wife, a son and a daughter as a short narration of his efforts which recommended him for the nomination was made.
Following the presentation, he said: “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,” as he progressed to buttress the endurance of Mr. Amuka’s newspapering endeavours, at least using his own parameters in the banking sector.
“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,” adding that for Vanguard to have outlived most of the banks, underlined “the vision, capacity and tenacity of the leadership of Vanguard Media Limited.”
Affirming that a man would always be defined by what he does in life, Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede lauded Babangida for the projects he left behind in office giving the third mainland bridge as one.
“I grew up knowing the head of state who built one of the longest bridges in the world, the Third Mainland Bridge.
While appreciating the fact that he was second in the estimation of Vanguard editors, the banker said the emergence of Amaechi as Personality of the Year was fitting given what he said was the governor’s conversion of Rivers State to a massive construction site.
He was to subsequently dedicate the award to his wife.
Following that, musical star Omawumi performed on stage before Gen. Babangida came to the stage to present the Vanguard Personality of the Year award to Mr. Amaechi.
In his comments following the presentation of the award, Governor Amaechi, who was escorted to the occasion by a strong delegation of the Rivers State indigenes said that he had in the past paid little attention to awards because he thought he was simply doing his job.
The governor whose strong unpretentious political visage had recently caused him problems with some political interests came to stage with a prepared speech upon what he noted was the propensity of some to twist his words torwards what they claim as his ‘ambition.’
But even as he vowed to rely on his prepared speech, time and time again, he deviated with doses of humour that repeatedly kept the audience laughing.
Despite the commendable achievements he has made and the positive commendations attracted, he did not see it as any thing strange saying that for him it was in the line of duty.
According to him, anybody given the strong support of a godfather could become a governor.
The governor who noted the absence of his wife, given the fact that Mrs. Aig-Imoukhuede was present, nevertheless, dedicated the award to the team working with him and the people of Rivers State who he said helped him to be so recognized.
“I am receiving this award today on behalf of the people of Rivers State and my team”, because it is not a feat achievable by just an individual.” He was to cap his remarks with the promise that in the nearest future that the people of Rivers State would start having 24 hour electricity supply.
Like Aig-Imuokhuede before him, Governor Amaechi also poured accolades on Babangida, saying how hours earlier, while at a function with some young Nigerians in Ekiti State mention was made on past Nigerian leaders and almost everyone spoke well of Babangida. No one, he said, described Babangida as a dictator.
Rep. Dakuku Peterside
The award is an awesome event. Vanguard lived up to expectation. For Gov Amaechi It is an honour he truly deserves and rightly earned . Gov Amaechi without doubt has revolutionized the infrastructural landscape of Rivers state . The whole nation has come to acknowledge that he is the new gold standard in good governance.
His democratic credentials is exemplary and above all his principled stand on issues stand him out. He is an honest leader which is very rare to find in this clime . Vanguard made an apt choice.”
The award of the Vanguard personality of the year is a clear testimony to the fact that, in all one does,it is important to realize others are watching,either closely or from a distance.
For us as political office holders, we must cease every opportunity while in office to make bold impressions on service delivery to our people. There wouldn’t have been better awardeess than the duo of Gov. Amaechi and Aig-Imoukhuede. I join all well meaning individuals in congratulating them on the award.
Rep. Michael Opeyemi Bamidele
It’s a honour well deserved. Gov. Amaechi is one of the few humble but effective leaders of present day Nigeria who understand the dynamics of power and the constant need to stay on the side of the common people.
He has generously delivered on his electoral promises while holding on to his vision with a high sense of modesty. Surely, it is one award that is beyond controversy because it is truely merited.”
Hon. Chidi Lloyd, Majority Leader, RVHA
The award of the Vanguard personality of the year is a clear testimony to the fact that, in all one does,it is important to realize others are watching,either closely or from a distance. For us as political office holders, we must cease every opportunity while in office to make bold impressions on service delivery to our people.
There wouldn’t have been better awardeess than the duo of Gov. Amaechi and Aig-Imuokwuode. I join all well meaning individuals in congratulating them on the award, especially Gov. Amaechi, for his giant strides in Rivers State.
6:05pm—Governor Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers State) and Governor Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti State) arrive
6:44pm—Dance performance by Team Quba
6:48 pm—Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede arrives
6:56pm—Comedian, Gordons cracks jokes
7:11pm—National Anthem performed by Timi Dakolo
7:12pm—Aminu Tambuwal, Speaker House of Reps arrives with his entourage
7:15pm—General Ibrahim Babangida arrives
7:20pm—Sam Amuka, Vanguard publisher gives opening remarks
7:30pm—IBB delivers speech
7:45 pm—Timi Dakolo performs
7:50pm—Governor Fayemi takes his leaves
8:10pm—Tambuwal presents award to Aigboje
8:12pm—Aig-Imoukhuede gives acceptance speech
8:25pm—Yemi sax performs
8:50pm—IBB presents personality award to Governor Amaechi
8:51—IBB, Tambuwal, Amaechi, Aigboje and Amuka take group photograph
8:55pm—Governor Amaechi gives acceptance speech
9:25pm—IBB, Tambuwal and Amaechi take their leave