Hallmark awards

OBINNA EZUGWU

Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike; National Secretary of the All Progressive Congress (APC) Caretaker Committee, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe; APC chieftain, Prince BB Apugo; Fidelity Bank CEO, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo; immediate past President and Group CEO of Transcorp Plc, Valentine Ozigbo, as well as Dr. Francis Ottah Agbo, Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Narcotic Drugs, were on Sunday confered with prestigious awards at the 2020 edition of Business Hallmark People of the Year Awards held at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.

The People of the Year Award is an annual event organised by the Hallmark Group, publishers of Business Hallmark Newspapers, as part of its concept of honouring outstanding individuals and corporate organisations that have affected the Nigerian economy and polity in productive ways.

Other winners of awards in what was a night of glitz and glamour are Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, former director of public communications at the CBN who took Professional Excellence in Corporate Communications accolade; Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami who won Public Servant of the Year Award; Barrister Mrs. Uju Ifejika, CEO of Brittania-U Nigeria Limited who emerged Entrepreneur of the Year; Edo State Deputy governor, Philip Shaibu, who took the Outstanding Achievements in Grassroots Leadership award; Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, who was named winner of Outstanding Achievements in Public Service award; Konga, the country’s leading e-commerce start-up which won Company of the Year award; as well as Heritage Bank Plc and Keystone Bank Limited, winners of Special Products Award for their support for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the country.

The top honour of the event, the ‘Man of the Year’ Award was given to Wike who was represented by the Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Dr Ipalibo Banigo.

Senator Akpanudoedehe who is also a member of the APC Executive, Legislative and Party Tripartite Committee, alongside Prince Apugo, a top chieftain of the ruling party, took home the Outstanding Achievements in Political Leadership Awards for their immense contributions to the growth of Nigeria’s democracy.

Similarly, Okonkwo took home the Banker of the Year accolade for his strides as leader of emerging big player in the country’s banking industry; Ozigbo went home with the Outstanding Achievement in Transformational Leadership, while Dr Agbo, who represents the people Ado/Ogbadibo/Okpokwu Federal Constituency of Benue State in the House, received the Lawmaker of the Year Award.

Delivering his opening remarks at the event, chairman of the occasion and former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim described the awardees as achievers who have “shone like bright stars” spreading light on the nation.

“Today we have gathered here to honour people who in their respective walks of life have tried to make meaningful impact in supporting the growth of critical institutions that are needed to foster the healthy evolution and growth of the country. Whether in their public or private capacities, these individuals have shone like brilliant stars, spreading light on very dark pathways. Given the challenges that we face as a country today, to have such a bevy of illustrious achievers that we can celebrate is indeed quite reassuring. We are honoured,” the former Secretary to the government of the federation said.

Anyim seized the opportunity to call for the restructuring of Nigeria, warning that the need had become urgent as the country dances on the brink.

“From my various engagements with different social groups from different parts of the country, what comes us most unequivocally is the fact that there is an urgent need for us to find and adopt a sociopolitical framework where everybody feels included and effectively represented. This is why the recent calls for the restructuring of the country have become so loud and indeed, quite compelling.

“No nation can afford to be impervious to the forces of change. Even modern Western societies are the refined products of centuries of adjustments and modifications that were engaged in or designed to improve their countries. The outcries of marginalization by different groups in the country reflects an underlying dissatisfaction with the way things are. And the broad nature of the calls for a review of how Nigeria is structured politically and fiscally is indeed send out a message that we have reached a ‘tipping point’ or a moment in our national history when we could make or mar our collective destinies by taking wrong decisions or wrong actions or both.

“It is my opinion that Nigeria has reached that cross road when she must find her purpose, define her reason for existence or simply flounder into global irrelevance or worse still servitude. Attaining nationhood involves more than platitudes and sentiments. It is about the collective interests of all citizens and how they are organized and aggregated within a geographic entity. To suggest that people should accept their fate within a place regardless of how well such a place meets their aspirations is to put it mildly, naïve and unacceptable. For a country to be viable it must provide its citizens with a clear sense of security, an unambiguous notion of equity and an unwavering belief in justice. Without these elements being evidently in existence no country can possibly hope to thrive and blossom.

“To be sure, building a great society is not rocket science. It has been done and is still being done all over the world. All that is needed is a leadership that is prepared to see the bigger picture of what would accrue to all when it commits itself to the building of a healthy society that is competitive, equitable and fair. Indeed, Nigeria must now change, not just in the context of shallow political sloganeering, but in the more important manner of changing the way things are done.”

The awardees in their various remarks, commended Business Hallmark for the honour, promising to continue to contribute their quotas to national development.

Receiving the Man of the Year Award on behalf of Wike, Mrs. Banigo, described the honour as a recognition of the modest people oriented achievements of Governor Wike in infrastructure, healthcare, education, agriculture, sports and human capital development.

According to her, the state remained committed to the rule of law and overall development of the people.

In his own remarks, Ozigbo said he was elated to be given such honour as he was aware of the reputation of Business Hallmark and the scrutiny that award recipients usually go through.

He also paid tribute to his wife, Ojiugo, and his family who have been massive pillars of support, while also acknowledging former colleagues, business mentors, and his allies who have been a part of his eventful journey through life.

Ozigbo who is a leading governorship aspirant in the 2021 Anambra governorship polls, said he decided to join politics to help uplift the people of the state.

“I am stepping out into an arena which many regard as ‘the murky waters’ and many people close to me are perplexed why I would leave a plush job for politics. My answer is that I am pulled by the belief that Nigeria is a great country and we need to close the leadership gap to actualise our dreams urgently,” he said.

“I believe I have the leadership content needed to bring a positive transformation to my people, and that is why I am running for the office of Governor in 2021. This award encourages me and tells me I am on the right path. So I am grateful.”

In similar remarks, Agbo who dedicated his award to the people of his constituency, appealed to the relevant authorities to pay more attention to the effort towards combating the menace, regretting that at the moment, the effort has proved inadequate.

“Drug abuse has become very rampant in the country, with the youths of course, being the biggest abusers. If we don’t work hard to wage war against this menace, I can assure you that the leaders of tomorrow, as we usually refer to the youths, will be destroyed,” Agbo said.

“I want to use this opportunity to call on all of us to work hard so that we can contain drug addiction. As we are witnessing, while narcotic drug addiction is progressing geometrically, the means for fighting it is processing arithmetically. The NDLEA that is the body established to fight drug addiction is under funded, ill-equipped and under staffed.”

Okoroafor on his part, called on all Nigerians to support the Central Bank of Nigeria in its efforts to pull Nigeria out of its second recession in less than five years.

He pointed out that the activist posture of the monetary authorities in Nigeria was appropriate especially at this time given the peculiar nature of the challenges confronting the Nigerian economy.

“If the CBN had not taken its activist posture and if I had not adopted its current pragmatic approach perhaps we would not have had an economy today.”

Okoroafor appealed to participants at the event to support the Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele and his team, saying “The battle being fought by Mr Emefiele and his team at the CBN is a battle on behalf of all Nigerians to diversify the economy and all well meaning compatriots should give them support.”

Similarly, Akpanudoedehe who was represented on the occasion by veteran Aniete Usen, praised the organisers of the event, noting that the award will spur him on to do more for the country.

On his part, Apugo, a member of the APC National Board of Trustees and National Causcus, said the award will give him fresh impetus, to continue his service to country and humanity.