By Mike Ebonugwo and Victoria Adibeli
With the dreaded corona virus, COVID-19, rapidly ravaging the world and Nigeria joining other countries to adopt restrictive measures, including a nationwide lock down, to contain or halt its spread, the 2019 edition of the eagerly awaited annual Vanguard Personality Awards could not hold.
It was indeed a big disappointment to all who looked forward to the fun, joy and excitement associated with what has come to be known as the biggest personality of year award in Nigeria.
So, it was little surprising that the announcement by the Vanguard Media Management that the Awards programme was holding this year after all was well received in many quarters, with most of those invited expressing a willingness to attend, the overshadowing reports of a third wave of COVID-19 notwithstanding.
So, obviously July 17, the day the event was slated to hold, could not come fast enough. This was clearly evident as people began to troop to the Eko Hotels and Suites Victoria Island, Lagos venue of the event as early as 5pm for a programme scheduled to start by 6pm. Beaming with smiles in anticipation of what is to come, the early arrivals, especially the females among them, were only too glad to strut the Red Carpet in their glamorous and fashionable attires, while squealing in delight as they stopped to greet their friends, in spite of the nose masks worn by all making recognition somehow difficult. In doing that, they did not fail to observe COVID-19 induced social distancing. Unlike in the past when such greetings will end with a hug or firm handshake, most people settled for blowing kisses or fist bumps.
For the award recipients/honourees and specially invited guests, it was a day and occasion for celebration. Indeed, many of them came with a large entourage consisting of a retinue of aides and cultural troupes who sang and danced enthusiastically in their honour even before they were ushered into the hall. Even those who could not come made their presence felt through their strong representatives who made spectacular showing in singing their praises. Inside the well-arranged hall, complete with a beautifully designed stage, it was a festive affair as arriving guests were welcomed by a steady sequence of musical renditions from the live band led by Laolu Gbenjo. This served to put them in the mood for what was to come. It all began with a moving solo rendition of the National Anthem by Evelyn Lawrence. Thereafter the event began to unfold like a riveting spectacle which turned out to be an unforgettable experience in one night of great and hope-inspiring speeches served on an entertainment platter of wonderfully seductive music, rib-cracking jokes and other side attractions that left most of those present yelling for more.
Indeed, it was only appropriate that this year’s award was tagged a “Night of Music”. And the rich musical cast of Timaya, Mayorkun and Chike invited to do the honours in this regard did not disappoint. They certainly lived up to expectations as they succeeded in thrilling the guests with their musical renditions. To add to the medley was the Vesta Orchestra and the Laolu Gbenjo Band whose performances brought a musical variety that many found rather wonderfully intoxicating.
The guests, it must be said, were also lucky to have as compere and MC, the popular and highly celebrated Tee A as he masterfully called the shot from the stage. He was ably assisted in this regard by the delectable Bolanle Olukanmi.
As usual, Tee A was at his comical best as he effortlessly dished out jokes and wisecracks, sending many into fits of laughter. For instance, when His Imperial Majesty Oba (Dr.) Frederick E. Obateru Akinruntan described the Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu as the best governor in Nigeria, Tee A jocularly responded that such comment could lead to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to start demanding toll from those coming to Lagos. This expectedly drew all-round laughter. The royal father who is the Okoro Ajiga 1, Olugbo of Ugboland and Chairman, Ondo State Council of Obas came to felicitate and support with Governor Akeredolu, one of award recipients.
For sure, the combined 2019 and 2020 editions of the Vanguard Personality Awards certainly lived up to expectations as a celebration of a carefully selected cast of eminent Nigerians who had made landmark achievements in their various professional fields, in government and the private sector and all round contributions to national and individual developments.