Zik prize: Another laurel for a working governor

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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

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altGroup Politics Editor, Taiwo Adisa, who attended this year’s Zik Leadership Prize Awards, where Governor Olusegun Mimiko, alongside the governors of Anambra and Katsina states emerged winners, presents the glitz and drama of the event.

PERFORMANCE in public office is like smoke which cannot be kept under the table. Such was the conclusion of the organisers of the Zik Prize awards 2011, which was conferred on deserving public officers at a colourful ceremony in Lagos on March 17. Eight top personalities were honoured with the prestigious award, with the categories ranging from political leadership, good governance, humanitarian leadership, professional and business leadership.

Ondo State governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, the man who has resisted all pressures to join the bandwagon of political hero-worshipping in the South- West to remain the lone Labour Party (LP) governor in the zone, was top of the list of the three governors singled out for good governance in 2011. He was joined in the category by Anambra state governor, Mr Peter Obi and the Katsina State governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Shema, whose efforts at combating desertification was well documented.Other top leaders honoured on the occasion included Liberian President, Mrs Hellen Johnson Sirleaf (Political Leadership), Group Managing Director of First Bank plc, Mr Bisi Onasanya (Professional Leadership), Minister of Power, Prof. Bath Nnaji(Professional Leadership), Business icon, Alhaji Aminu Dantata (Business Leadership), and another business mogul, Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion (Humanitarian Leadership).

Former Minister of Petroleum and Education, Professor Jubril Aminu, who is the chairman, Public Policy Research and Analysis Centre (PPRAC), organisers of the Zik Leadership Awards, said that the decision to honour the rare breeds was aimed at recognising true talent wherever it is deposited. Professor  Aminu stated that the recipients emerged after a stringent selection process which, according to him, eliminated other nominees as a result of the rigorous criteria adopted by the centre.“This is a great night and a great award. It is an award for distinguished Nigerians and those in the Diaspora,” he  said.

Chairman on the occasion, Vice President Namadi Sambo, who was represented by the deputy governor of Lagos, Mrs Adejoke Adefulire, said that the award was a challenge to the awardees as, according to her, it is an impetus for them to do more.“The award is a challenge to all of you to continue to do what you have been doing. It will also ginger you to do more so that generations yet unborn will see the legacies and recognise your contributions to development,” the deputy governor said.

One after the other, the awardees filed out to get their prizes. Group Managing Director of First Bank, Mr Bisi Onasanya, was the first to be called. He was recognised for growing the bank out of storm even in what was regarded as perilous times for the industry. Minister of Power, Professor Nnaji, was also recognised for raising the hope of a possible end to perpetual black outs in Nigeria. He was noted to have pioneered the Abuja Emergency Power Project which paved the way for independent power producers in the country. Dantata and Igbinedion were also recognised for their strides in business and philanthropy.

When it was time for the governors, the haul buzzed into frenzy as the admirers from different parts of the country hailed the awardees. Governor Ibrahim Shema was given a special mention for contributing to the political stability of Nigeria at a very crucial period when the illness of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua threatened national unity. He was also hailed for his efforts at ending desertification.

Deputy Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State, was also recognised for playing politics without bitterness and leading the state on the path of growth. But the mention of Ondo State governor, Olusegun Mimiko, threw the hall into more frenzy as traditional rulers, political elite and business moguls on hand in the haul gave him a rousing applause. Monarchs, who hardly betray emotion in the open, could not hide their admiration of Mimiko’s excellent performance in delivering good service in Ondo and not a few high class monarchs were on hand. There was the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, who was the Royal Guest of Honour Father, accompanied by the entire Ife traditional entourage, the Deji of Akure, Osemawe of Ondo, the Olugbo of Ugbo Kingdom, the Erelu of Lagos, some Obis and Chiefs.

The award organisers described Mimiko as a man who, in government, still behaves like a true labour leader, who is engaged in protests. The Mimiko protests this time, according to the organisers, are targeted against poverty, disease, squalor, urban slum, educational degradation, maternal and infant mortality and backwardness of any type.The organisers also stated that Governor Mimiko won the award due to his administration’s outstanding performance in three years in office.

Vice President Sambo, who spoke through the deputy governor of Lagos at the awards, said that Mimiko won the awards for his exemplary performance in office, adding that the governor should continue in the same direction.Sambo further noted that Nigeria would soon overcome its myriads of challenges if all Nigerians perform their respective duties to the best of their abilities.

Mimiko, who was accompanied by his deputy, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, members of the state House of Assembly and executive council members, while speaking at the venue, said that his administration would not relent in spreading the deliverables of good governance to all the nooks and crannies of Ondo State. According to him, his administration’s achievements in three years in Ondo State could be rightly regarded as “a revolution in governance,” adding that the success story of his administration would not have been possible without the prayers, cooperation and support of the people.

Mimiko said: “By the grace of God, we in Ondo State will take increased devotion from all the awards and recognitions we have received into redoubling our efforts to make sure that we spread, to all the nooks and crannies of Ondo State, the message of hope and the dawn of life more abundant for our people through the instrumentality of good governance.”

The Ooni, who also added his voice to the encomiums of the night, commended the efforts of the governors in enthroning good governance in their states. He said that their performances were fashioned after the remarkable contributions of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe (whom the award was named after) to Nigeria’s socio-economic and political growth.

Governor Peter Obi, in his response, highlighted the remarkable achievements of each of the three governors, saying that Mimiko and Shema were singled out for outstanding performances in the education sector and provision of infrastructure. He told the gathering that he had toured the two states and confirmed that while Shema was constructing a six-lane road in his state, Mimiko had built  gigantic Mother and Child Hospitals and embarked on an effective maternal and infant mortality reduction initiative called Abiye, which the World Bank had adjudged as the best in Africa.

Obi was particularly impressed with Mimiko, sparing no adjectives to qualify his notable performances. The governor who disclosed that he has learnt so much from his Ondo state counterpart recounted how a friend of his was discouraged from getting a banking site in Akure, some years back, because there was nothing on ground to encourage such business then. He said: “Now things have changed, Iroko has changed everything and I am learning from him. Recently I brought my wife to Ondo State and I told her she should learn because there is so much to learn from Iroko in every area, is it agric or education where he has been winning awards every year?”

While charging his colleagues to deliver the goods, he said: “Nigerians don’t want to wait any longer, they have waited for too long, now is the time to meet their aspirations.”

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