On Thursday 31st October dignitaries gathered in Ibadan to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Western Nigeria Television (WNTV). The program which took place in the presence of the Vice-President provided an occasion for both celebration and sober reflection. With regards to sober reflection the fall of Nigeria from it’s leadership in the African visual media market is undeniably an embarrassment to say the least. At the time WNTV was commissioned in 1959 it was the first Television Station in Africa, and represented tangible evidence of Nigeria’s leadership role in the development of the continent.
The introduction of television in Nigeria long before many countries in Eastern Europe, Asia and South America enjoyed its benefits, represented the commitment of the government of the day to bringing the benefits of modern technology to the grass roots. It was also a recognition of the visual media’s vital role in nation building. From these lofty heights and leadership position, today 60 years later the majority of Nigerian homes with televisions subscribe to South-African DSTV or GO-TV. While admittedly these foreign companies must be commended for offering Nigerians access to top class European football which they love so dearly the fact is that they are in the business of making money and aren’t overly concerned about either patriotism or morality in Nigeria.
They encourage neither. Sober reflection can only lead to the conclusion that something must have gone so terribly wrong if a nation which had so much to be proud of about it’s past, has so little to be proud of about its present. One significant aspect of the program of events during the occasion was the conferring of awards. Nowadays in Nigeria conferring awards on those still alive and occupying high office in order to massage their egos has become a lucrative business. Ever increasing numbers of political office holders celebrate meaningless cash and carry awards for “Excellence” with grandiose labels such as “Governor of the year”, “Best Local Government Chairman”, “Bastion of Legislative Democracy” and so on.
With so little evidence of excellence on ground, it’s hardly surprising that such awards don’t stand the test of time, and they together with their recipients are soon consigned to the dustbin of history. The issue of National Honors is particularly galling. The reasonableness of conferring the highest honor upon individuals for merely being elected or appointed to high office was called into question when a certain Inspector General of Police was later removed from office and stripped of his honor. The unsavory episode lent weight to the suggestion that National honors should only be handed out after meritorious service when the recipient has left office and sufficient time elapsed for their performance to be placed in true perspective.
The idea of bestowing awards posthumously would appear to be a far more reasonable method of conferring honours upon individuals. In such circumstances it could not be inferred that the honour is simply an attempt to massage the recipient’s ego for material gain. Rather it would represent clear evidence that their achievements are still recognized long after they have run life’s race, evidence that they left a legacy, left their mark on the sands of time. One of the awardees at the occasion was my father the late Nationalist and Elder Statesman Chief Anthony Enahoro who was Minister for Information Western Region when the station was established. It is pertinent to reflect upon his reaction to the way and manner government chooses to honor our heroes past.
The Edo State Government decided to honour him while he was still alive by naming the State House of Assembly Buildings the “Chief Anthony Enahoro Complex” a name which it still bears to this day. Shortly afterwards, he requested that they remove his name from the building because of the goings on in the complex. He was annoyed because the news media regularly carried headlines such as “Legislators exchanged blows in the Enahoro Complex”; or “tables and chairs were destroyed in the Enahoro complex”; or “The Mace was snatched in the Enahoro complex”; or “Police had to disperse tear gas in the Enahoro complex”. My father said that since the Legislators insist on being unruly and he has no right to tell grown men how to behave, they should kindly remove his name from the building and rename it the “Mohammed Ali Complex”! So that anyone who wins election as a legislator will know they are is going to the House to exchange blows!
Even as he was being posthumously honored in Ibadan the goings on in the Chief Anthony Enahoro complex in Benin City are back in the news again for all the wrong reasons! The point my father was making was that while honouring people by giving out plaques or renaming places after them is laudable, perhaps a better way to honour them and appreciate their legacy is to carry forward the ideals for which they lived, believe in the things they believed in, do things the way they would have done them while teaching our children to do likewise. Today’s current leaders must learn to appreciate that real honor does not reside in the voices of cronies and praise singers, it lies in receiving awards long after you have left office and even after your race is run. As far as government is concerned there is very little point honouring heroes past if we have abandoned their legacies.