The Future Awards and its Misrepresentation of the Nigerian Youth


I have absolute confidence in the strength and ability of the Nigerian youth. All over the world, the Nigerian youth is a newsmaker, known for exhibiting talent, using his brain either to redeem or to reduce whichever system he is in. The Nigerian youth, despite having bad role models, has defied setbacks and limitations to climb up the ladder of excellence. This is why I am among the many upset by the misrepresentation of their achievements by the sham called “The Future Awards” – an award which was designed to highlight these achievements, but has been reduced to rewarding the ‘efforts’ of the organisers and their friends and friends of their friends!

Whoever is in charge of TFA – a comedian who has recently published a list of 100 most outstanding young Nigerians embarrassingly dubbed “The 100 Guardians of the Future” – has not only misrepresented the achievements of young Nigerians home and abroad, but is delusional for actually believing that cyberspace is a dependable database of successful Nigerians. Going through the list was depressing; I kept muttering, “Are these people really exceptional?” “What here is beyond ordinary?” “How about X?” “What about Y? Z?” The list just validated the obvious, that TFA is really just a haughty celebration of mediocrity. A body with no fund for research in the age of Google has no business scoring the success of Nigerians and if it must, let it not embarrass the nation with a ridiculous list of self-adulatory make-up artists, actors, musicians, bloggers, and small-time entrepreneurs – tired and irrelevant – as the best of us!

This is why I dismiss the average Nigerian online for pandering to delusions that only escalate our woes: the posturing that we are the best, or represent the best mainly because we can afford the luxury of maximising the use of our gadgets. The Nigerians on Twitter especially, ever elitist in their thinking and method of approaching the nation’s political evolution and social realities, allied to nominate friends or Facebooking-and-tweeting citizens who do what a thousand others outside the social media do even better. The honourees are a cheap list of young Nigerians whose peculiarities are praised because the really peculiar do not tweet or are less known.

A click or two into Google search bar would’ve been motivating. There are Nigerians who graduated top of Ivy League colleges at 19 or a little older, became sought-after scientists and are now among the world’s finest scientists. If we must honour academic excellence, there are many of them. We have hundreds of them! Still in their 20s! Despite all the country has passed through this year, we find in the “Advocacy and Activism” category of TFA a list without a people who are risking their lives fighting Boko Haram, exhibiting a measure of appreciable humanity in the land of terror. No, I don’t mean the JTF soldiers. I mean the young and patriotic men audaciously referred to as “Civilian JTF”. Is there any advocacy or activism as dangerous this year? And there are also young Nigerians risking their lives in the peace building efforts across crises-ridden regions – like the organisers of “Peace Football” in Jos, attempting to blur the ethno-religious lines on the map of that awfully segregated city – yet their struggles are not mentioned in our tweets. Those are influential Nigerians, those are Nigerians who have touched lives intellectually, culturally, economically, politically, name it!

The tragedy is, nominating this people is a waste of time. They are virtually nonexistent: no Twitter account, no Facebook account, no friend and no follower. Nobody to promote their cause. Our obsession with the virtual world has affected our understanding of our realities, and that is why I won’t be surprised if Goodluck Jonathan ends up as our President in 2015. We’re embarrassingly disconnected from our realities. And if this list is a representation of our best, then we’re unfit to succeed these extraordinary Vagabonds in Power!

We appreciate only what we know, that I understand. But that is not the essence of an award. I minded my business when TFA used to be awards shared among friends and friends of friends and friend of friends’ friends, but the moment they gathered at Mr. President’s shadow and declared that those indeed are representatives of our best, the fraud became too obvious, impossible to ignore. Some journalists, for instance, risked their lives, and their families’, exposing the evils of, say, Boko Haram. Some were killed. Some were arrested. Some fled. None was considered for recognition. A few journalists sit in Abuja pinging and tweeting and sensationalising what actual journalists have exposed. Yet only the tweeting group is found worthy of an award for excellence in journalism. And nobody finds anything wrong here. Some journalists have been praised for merely contributing articles to foreign media. And there is another now in exile, with his family, suffering – for stirring Boko Haram’s nest in his newsgathering adventures. He remains unsung!

The Future Awards (TFA) misrepresents our achievements, simple. It’s a popularity contest that not only insults the intelligence and sensibilities of hardworking Nigerians, but hauntingly fraudulent. Its mission is bold, misleading and disturbing. How do we actually gauge an awardee’s influence? In cyberspace: by his ‘followers,’ and by his ‘friends’, no doubt. If we must reward our own, let’s do it right. Let’s stop asking for “your” and “another’s” list. Yes, there are people in the list whose recognitions are deserved, but their inclusion shouldn’t be an excuse to shut up. Nonetheless, I congratulate my friends in the TFA list – the best 100 of us! Also congrats to the Lagos blogosphere, the online version of Lagos-Ibadan Press, for its dictatorial representations of our (under)achievements.

As for my fellow northerners, I hope you see the backlash of our un-progressive attitude. This is how a pack of clowns and opportunists, to whom we’re just “almajirai with laptops”, organise cliquey shams to reward their own. It is not too late to overcome petty antagonisms over religious differences and ethnic supremacy to redeem ourselves. I cannot believe that a Nigerian has been listed as one of our best 100 for merely converting our Constitution into downloadable apps when my brother Nasir Yammama develops apps half-asleep, when a friend in FUT Minna has designed a rocket launcher. These are just my friends. A simple research would show there are Nigerian youth more promising, more successful, more influential, more important than my friends! Who knows, say, Uti Nwachukwu beyond Lagos Blogs? He’s not known for any nationally relevant thing aside from winning BBA, which a few other Nigerians have done, and now wearing good clothes and partying; yet he is deemed a representative of our achievements.

The important question is: how do we gauge influence and exceptionality? Who tells the achievements of the North? Ali Nuhu, even though he is not the best in Kannywood, wouldn’t have been recognised had he not crossed over to the South. How, I ask again, do we gauge influence and exceptionality? Answering this question should be the first task of panels set up to select our best. Everything else comes later. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)

14 thoughts on “The Future Awards and its Misrepresentation of the Nigerian Youth

  1. Excellent piece. The awards is no doubt a scam. The same guys in charge dance to the tune of anybody bankrolling their event irrespective of what they stand or don’t stand for

  2. Pingback: Homework for The Future Awards

  3. Hard Hitting write up. Writer has made very valid points. The Future Awards is not necessarily a scam. The organisers obviously see things differently. However imperfect the award is, the fact is the organisers have done something. They didn’t just jaw-jaw, they acted on their line of thought. Gimba, having said all these, what do you want to do about it?

  4. Brilliant piece, well constructed observation and I think the organisers should adhere to this. But I believe there is no such thing as perfection in whatever we do in life. There are bound to be flaws. Again, the fact is social media has become so powerful that its driving the world now. Even big establishments and organisations too are gearing towards that same direction, so even an ordinary farmer now is expected to have at least a facebook account if not twitter. So for me I think it’s a global movement and the organisers too have a target, irrespective of their flaws.

  5. You’ve hit the nail on it head, sycophancy and mediocrity is the order of the day in Nigeria even amongst the youth, and that is the main reason why our inept leaders are taking us for granted. Our youth have become very lazy, lousy and noise makers in the social media. A typical Nigerian youth cannot endure 24 hours of protest except on the cyber space, they cannot withstand police tear gas. Our leaders knew all our attributes, abilities and limitations; that is why they will keep on taking us for a ride even beyond 2015. I urge all our youth to wakeup from their slumber, leave virtual journalism, social media hypes and face the realities and challenges in Nigeria. – E. Okeh.

  6. Gimba’s views represent my sentiments exactly. What sort of judgemental arrogance will make an entity list out certain people as the most outstanding youths in a nation of 120 million citizens?, a nation where this ”outstanding youths” have not visibly affected or influenced the common welfare of the citizenry.

    I have always had reservations about Hyped and superficial awards like this, these guys may be youth leaders in their mind, but in the mind of the majority of the populace, they do not even exist.

    In real life, you have youths fighting against boko haram, risking their lives to bring basic needs to the suffering, the fact that they do not take to social media to crow about their actions does not make them less a Future leader.

    The nation should be wary when It is fashion designers, actors, and musicians or twitter politicians/activists who get awards for being ”outstanding”. We have geniuses( I kid you not), both in and out of the country, Investigative Journalists-out on the war front, Grassroot movements directly affecting people at the rural level, Outstandingly bright scientists-innovating continually, making a difference. These are the future leaders, these are the people whose actions affect everybody systemically, these are role models, not fashionistas, not entertainers, not lazy-ass coders and most certainly not any of the people TFA has been listing all this while. No exceptions.

    But then TFA is just another award……………Its not relevant in the grand scheme of things.

    On the other hand, The organizers did not just jaw-jaw, like someone earlier said, they walked the talk, which formed the basis for our assessment today. Let us also start to walk the talk, maybe we can do better, until then, it is pointless to criticize them. Yea, Pointless.

    The points above are Pointless.

  7. Most Awards that are not academic in nature always tend to be flawed especially blanket awards that try to capture so many aspects of life in one ceremony. Future awards has the opportunity to shape itself like the Nobel instead is creeping towards a political convention were irrelevant people in the broader scheme of things are rewarded for their great achievements. Your views are quite interesting even though you soured it with the allusion to the ethno-social (if the word exists) divide that has kept us apart and still does for years. At the moment the organisers see it as a platform for personal gains in politics and some other way the Thieves in Government reward them.
    Future awards like Amaa is a cow with a full udder for the competior and its mastrer

  8. I was just thinking about this the other day! I think it’s not just the future awards that gloss over northern achievements like they don’t exist but almost many “Nigerian” awards are guilty of the same. Which puzzles me because many northern achievements are showcased online in blogs like spesh’s world, on twitter and even publications like leadership and daily trust. I live in abuja and everyday I discover something or someone new doing wonderful things for the community and if only award organisers broaden their horizon on their search, they too will discover these. But of course, like many other Nigerians, they fail to search either based on assumptions that nothing good comes out of the region or laziness. *sigh*

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