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Awards galore but nothing to show

By Josef Omorotionmwan

FOR Nigeria’s Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, this is certainly not the end but the beginning. This is one man who is not easily given to empty praise-singing.

In this season of awards, Fashola almost received two awards in a single day. We think he deserved yet a third one – for the use of discretion.

Fashola believes that awards must be earned. They are not meant to be dished out indiscriminately; otherwise, they might lose their lustre. Besides, awards could be counter-productive if not properly directed. His two most recent awards succeed in showing what awards can really do.

First, this immediate past Governor of Lagos State was, in far-away New York, USA, conferred with an award by the International Crisis Group, ICG, “for his commitment to resolving social, economic and security challenges in one of the world’s most challenged urban environments”.

No one who saw Fashola’s wonders during his tenure as the Governor of Lagos State would have any iota of doubt that the award is well deserved. We heartily congratulate Fashola on this award.

We are, however, unable to say the same thing about Fashola’s award as Minister of the Year, which was organized by City People Magazine. This certainly looks like an award for the future, not now.

Fashola could as well be working hard to truly earn the award much later but there is, for now, nothing on ground to entitle him to any such award. In fact, to accept the award unconditionally at this time would amount to being compensated for failure. Looking at the three components of his Ministry, we can easily surmise that there is indeed, greater darkness in the country now than we had when Fashola assumed office; the shortfall in our housing stock is rising astronomically by the day; and our Federal Highways are still death-traps, with potholes graduating to pig-holes. What, then, brings the Superintendent of this Ministry any near the Minister of the Year Award?

Why was the City People Magazine in such a desperate haste to confer the award, anyway? This is where the issue of discretion comes in. Fashola fell slightly short of rejecting the offer. A clever way of doing this was to spill the award all over the place. Fashola shared the award between the President and his Vice; all members of the Federal Executive Council; Secretary to the Government of the Federation; Cabinet office; Office of the Chief of Staff; the National Assembly and its staffers; the Judiciary; Member of staff of the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing; the Honurable Minister of State in that Ministry; and the all Progressives Congress, APC, and all its members nationwide.

This is certainly a good award that should have waited for its time. Praise-singing is not an alternative for hard work.

Come to think of it, on the issue of awards, Lagos must be in a world of its own. “Eko oni baje oo”. Lagos must show the rest of us around its world of open paradox. Year after year, right from the time of Action Governor Lateef Jakande to the time of the incumbent Akinwunmi Ambode, Lagos Governors have been perceived as high performers, deserving only of the best awards!

But year after year, from Jakande to Ambode, United Nations Reports have consistently shown that Lagos remains the 3rd worst city in the world to live in. The UN says, in the most recent Report, “Lagos placed 138th out of the 140 cities ranked in the liveability survey, ranking just above war-ravaged Tripoli and Damascus”. Does this suggest an inverse relationship between hard-work and results – the harder you work, the poorer the result? This is food for thought.

Some of the factors that go into the liveability index include electricity supply; potable water; telephone and mail services; public transportation, traffic congestion, crime and criminality; and other environmental factors.

The time has come to be discrete with awards. An award must be attributable to a particular achievement; and it must be rare and valuable. Anything that is lightly got is little valued. If you want to get gold, you must be prepared to dig deep for, gold is never got on the surface of the earth. By all means, an award should not be cheapened.

That explains why an academic degree is preferred to those bogus ones purchased from the universities without walls. Essentially, the value of education resides mainly in the struggle to acquire it. Even where examinations and certificates have been attacked on all fronts, they still remain the major source of a student’s assessment. If nothing else, the term paper and dissertations that go into the degree extract hard work from the student.

One common argument is that when some universities have 30% failure rates and others have 3% failure rates, a failure in one institution could have been a huge success in another. What that suggests is that our existing system of examination is merely a random process of selection.

With all their imperfections, examinations and certificates still remain the major planks of assessment. We counsel moderation in all things. Putting our reliance on the cardboard in the over-drive also has its disadvantages. A point might soon be reached where students would do anything to acquire the cardboard, including blocking and buying of marks. This would be inimical to societal growth.

Those in the academia, in whose hands the fate of our future generation lies, must be commensurately remunerated, so that children can easily see in them, evidence that hard-work pays. This is principally what the award system is meant to achieve.

There is no royal road to geometry. Government and traditional institutions cannot be giving awards on the basis of cash-and-carry; and to persons of questionable character as these may eventually succeed in debasing not only the institutions themselves but also society at large. Awards are good only to the extent that they serve as vehicles for moving society forward.


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