By Chilee Agunanna
When The Future Awards launched in 2006, the trio of Chude Jideonwo, Adebola Williams and Emilia Asim-Ita (who later left), had a dream. They dreamt that one day an alumnus of the awards would become the president of the country and that from the pool of its alumni, a brand new set of young, progressive, and honest leaders would emerge for the country.
In those days, the awards had a maximum age selection bracket of 31 which was later increased to 35 and over the 10 years, even though there had been complaints about winners sometimes as is usual with every award process, we can attest to the quality of the entire pool of, volunteers, organisers, nominees and winners from all over Nigeria.
That age bracket also means that 31-year-old winners in 2006, would be in their 40s now. Which also means that they should be qualified to hold any office in Nigeria without being disqualified by their age. Going by the name of the award, the future should be now but what do we get?
In 2015, Chude and Debola formed Statecraft which they describe as “Africa’s leading political and governance communication firm, with a mission to galvanise a generation to make informed choices,” and with the massive youth appeal and goodwill at their disposal, they were able to sell the hitherto unmarketable former military despot candidate of General Muhammadu Buhari to Nigerians with the contrastive strategy of portraying Jonathan’s era as extremely corrupt and wasteful against the folkloric austere and Spartan lifestyle of the upright former general. And against the odds of incumbency, Buhari emerged president of modern Nigeria, 34 years after ousting a legitimate civilian government.
In 2016, they went to Ghana and again defeated the incumbent government of John Mahama with a 72-year-old Nana Akufo-Addo. How that would pan out is yet to be determined but the sufferings of majority of Nigerians since the inception of Buhari’s government is “audible to the deaf and visible to blind” as Patrick Obiahiagbon would say and the fate of Ghana with Akufo-Addo is still “too early to call”.
But what the two West-African neighbours can immediately agree on in their septuagenarian leaders is their level of ignorance and outdatedness. While Buhari plagiarized Obama’s speech without any inkling of it, Akufo-Addo went a step further by delivering a double dossier of Obama and Bush’s speeches at his inauguration with pitiable and embarrassing confidence—a pointer to the fact that both don’t know their left from their right in this modern world and that whoever was contracted to draft Buhari’s copy in Nigeria, may have also written Akufo-Addo’s piece.
That is the quality of leaders the founders of The Future Awards, an award that prides itself as the “Nobel Prize for African Youths” are happy to provide for Africa. It can now be deduced from subsequent happenings that there was no music in the headphones Debola put on Buhari’s ears and Akufo-Addo’s bamboozled happy face was simply being mesmerized by a blind camera and laptop screen. Thus it is quite sad that after seeing the ignorance of these two at such close quarters, the founders of The Future Awards were happy to push such them out to Nigerians and Ghanaians. Installing digitally-naive septuagenarians across the African continent after holding an award ceremony that has discovered some of the best and brightest young Nigerians and Africans for the past ten years is a blatant and unfortunate anticlimax to commemorate the first decade of The Future Awards. It is an outright betrayal of the cause.
Also shameful and disheartening is that during these electoral projects, various alumni of The Future Awards were extensively used and paid to decorate, package and project these candidates to the people.
This is a sad departure from the initial manifesto of the awards and it is frightening that its alumnae were excited and gratified to work on the “Change” projects of archaic candidates who their parents would have been loath to vote for.
At the moment, the time is far spent but it is not too late to reverse back into the Future. Having tested and certified their strengths and influence from Jonathan to Akufo-Addo, it is now time for the founders to actually follow the original blueprint of the Future Awards, which is to provide Nigeria and Africa with a pool of vibrant, modern and progressive leaders when the time comes and that time is now. The new manifesto posted on the website which reads that, “The Future Project has a simple mandate – to build empowered citizens across Africa, through (inclusive) enterprise and (active) citizenship… a generation of young people who are gainfully employed and able to demand better leadership”, is not what we saw there when the bulk of Nigerian youths signed up on The Future Project.
It is no longer time for us to demand better leadership, it is time for us to provide that leadership. Let us set ourselves to purpose and join hands together now. The next elections are around the corner and The Future of a decade ago is now the present. We have everything we need to take over our country instead of standing happily beside old men who destroyed the country in their own prime and bragging how we helped reinstall them to power.
Chilee Agunanna is a Nigerian journalist and you can reach him @ChileeChills.
(Note: Opinion pieces are strictly the views of the writers and does not necessarily represent the position of this website on any issue).