For Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, it was another day of honour recently. Last weekend, at the cosy ambience of Intercontinental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, the cerebral Governor of Ekiti State was garlanded as the winner of the Champions Newspaper’s Governor of the Year Award.
The event provided yet another opportunity for eminent Nigerians to celebrate the man reputed to have, in the last three and half years, thoroughly transformed Ekiti State.
Fayemi wasn’t the only one that received awards at the colourful ceremony. Other winners at the event chaired by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Tambuwal, include renowned industrialist and Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, (Champion’s 2013 Man of the Year), Mr. Peter Obi, (Outstanding Igbo Personality of the Year), Chief Sunny Dike Odogwu, (Lifetime Achievement), Chief Emeka Anyaoku, (Lifetime Achievement), Chief Ralph Uwechue, (Lifetime Achievement), Chairman of Honeywell Group, Dr Oba Otudeko, Dame Abimbola Fashola, (Heart Of Gold), Lady Mercy Odochi Orji, (Heart of Gold), Dr. (Mrs.) Stella Okoli, (Heart of Gold), Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, (Minister of the Year), Chief Leo Stan-Ekeh, (ICT Personality of the Year), and Engr. Earnest Nwapa, (Oil and Gas Personality of the Year).
Globacom Limited, Zenith Bank and Mutual Benefit Assurance were equally honoured.
But it was Fayemi’s award that threatened to bring the roof down on the occasion. Speaker after speaker unleashed a torrent of panegyrics on the activist governor.
In his welcome address, Executive Chairman of Champion Newspapers, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, who was represented by Chief Bonnie Mnachukwu, described all the winners as men and women that had provided sacrificial leadership in the country.
His words: “Our 2013 awardees are certainly deserving of their awards. These recognitions were not meant to massage anyone’s ego or to promote frivolity. Our newspaper conducted an independent investigation of the activities of the award winners. Our assessment of the awardees was without their knowledge and without their approval.
“Our country is moving towards turning the corner and it has therefore become imperative to appreciate those who provide sacrificial leadership.
“There is no doubt that there is a dearth of committed and selfless leaders in our society today, not only in politics but also in the economy, education, industry, academia and a host of others. As we consolidate our democracy, there is no other time than now to begin a process of identifying and celebrating those who have effectively utilized any and every opportunity to lead at one level or the other for the good of our people.
“This is our modest way of contributing to the uplift of our society by providing a veritable platform to recognize selfless service among public office holders.”
Also speaking, chairman of the event and Speaker, House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal expressed satisfaction at the calibre of individuals and groups being honoured by the newspaper organisation.
“It is true that despite the many problems we face as a nation, most of which can be blamed on the lack of the political will of most leaders, there have been people who have been able to raise the bar.
Awards like this serve as recognition of the efforts of such people and help to set agenda on the kind of leadership we should have,” Tambuwal noted, even as he called on the media to help influence policy and set the agenda that can ensure society’s progress.
“The media must be become more objective, more nationalistic and more democratic. The freedom of information bill, which the National Assembly passed into law, has improved and broadened the aspect of access to information. The media must take advantage of this and investigate properly in order to disseminate information that can make people to reach a rational conclusion on issues,” he stated.
In his speech, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola released a downpour of accolades on Fayemi, describing the Ekiti State helmsman as his friend and brother.
“He is a very selfless leader,” Fashola said of the awardee. “He is someone who has shown to us how strong he can be. Even though his intellectual disposition suggests that he prefers staying in the comfort of his office, but he is still committed beyond that, and when he is committed to a cause you can be sure he pursues it so judiciously. He held on to his mandate in spite of the obvious odds against him. He went from court to court in pursuit of justice and when that justice was served, he continued to use it for the benefit of his people and for the purpose he achieved it. I think it is such value and strength of character that has failed to elude the attention of the Champion Newspapers and resulted to his choice of the newspaper’s 2013 Governor of the Year. I believe this is to also encourage him to do more.”
He described his wife, Abimbola, who was also honoured at the event, as a pillar of strength and a woman with the heart of gold. “Since I met my wife, my life has been going in a positive direction,” he informed the guests.
Another awardee and immediate past governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, said Fayemi’s performance so far had placed him at an advantage over other contestants in the forthcoming governorship polls in Ekiti. He intoned: “For the others, they would say what they would do. But Governor Fayemi would be saying what he has done already. That is to show you how patriotic and effective he is. I want to congratulate him and other awardees.”
A tumultuous cheer from the audience rent the air as Fayemi was summoned to receive his award. Resplendent in his blue agbada and a wine-red Awo cap, the governor, who beamed with smiles, stepped to the podium, accompanied by his wife, Erelu Bisi, Fashola, Osun State governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, his deputy, Professor Modupe Adelabu, and other dignitaries. The award was presented to him by Tambuwal.
In his acceptance speech, Fayemi praised the organisers of the event for appreciating his efforts at uplifting his people. He also thanked his wife for being a pillar of support, just as he expressed gratitude to his children and family for coping with the stress of his busy schedules.
“I dedicate the award to the good people of Ekiti State,” said the governor. “For me, it is a great privilege and honour to serve my people. It is rare for one to attain such heights in our country, so for those who are endowed with the privilege to serve our dear country, at this highest office, we owe them a duty to serve diligently, selflessly and with great compassion and other similar ways. That is what we have done in the last three and half years in office. The evidence of that transformation agenda is all over the state for all to see. I do agree with Mr. Peter Obi that I am running for the second term on the strength of my great performance. The things that I have done in about 132 communities in our state are very visible and are evidence of performance all over the state. So for me, this award is an encouragement for us to continue to work harder. I
want to thank the people of Ekiti State for giving this rare opportunity of leading our state back to the path of honour.
“This is not my first award as Governor of the Year. I also won the Leadership Newspapers 2012 Governor of the Year Award. So, as I go into the gubernatorial race the second time, the people of Nigeria already recognized that we have served our people well and we are building on that legacy of sound service to our people. We will build on that foundation of development and continue to contribute our quota to make Ekiti State great.”
Olayinka Oyebode, Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, said his principal indeed deserved the award owing to his palpable transformation of Ekiti State in all areas.
“The governor always puts the people of the state first in all decisions he makes, and this is responsible for the rapid and massive development visible in the state presently. He ensures massive development in all areas, be it health, education, human capital development, agriculture and empowerment to mention just a few. He has put in place a lot of programmes that are impacting positively on the lives of the people. In 2012, he won the Leadership Newspaper’s Governor of the Year award. Even in South Africa, and now the Champion Newspapers 2013 Governor of the Year. Don’t forget that he was also awarded the Best Governor to develop ICT in his state. He has also won awards in South Africa and The Netherlands, among others. All these are recognitions of his great performance in office.”
A group of Ekiti dancers enlivened the event. They praised Fayemi for taking care of the people, including the aged, who now receive monthly stipends from the state government.
Dignitaries that came to celebrate Fayemi at the event included his wife, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, Osun State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola; former Ekiti State governor, Niyi Adebayo; Fayemi’s deputy, Prof. Adelabu; Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Dr Adewale Omirin, Senator Tony Adeniyi, members of the State Executive Council, traditional rulers from Ekiti State, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Ekiti State University, Prof. Gbenga Aribisala and many others.