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Wale Odunsi: Bode George, AASU and ‘Leadership Award’

 

As a youth myself, thoughts on the time ahead frightens me, because my generation may eventually turn out worse than that of my father’s and uncle’s. Reason: The dearth or near extinction of morals, decency, pride and patriotism in my country is enough to make a cadaver spin in its grave.

It is now custom to see Students’/Youth organizations dish out recognitions for the hell of it; in the most laughable manner and to the most undeserving persons. The quest for some hundreds of thousands or millions (of Naira), has seemingly triggered a traffic jam in the medulla oblongata of many who rather than seek assistance, remain obstinate in their self-aggrandizement.

Recently, one Olufemi Lawson, who claim to be Nigeria’s representative on the council of All Africa Students Union (AASU), announced that a convicted former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Bode George, will receive a “Leadership Award” on December 12, 2012. The young man who also identified himself as the project co-ordinator of the award said “we looked beyond the politics of Nigeria” adding that George was selected from among a number of nominees based on his “commitment to youth development and his defence of democratic institutions”. Did I hear him right…youth development?

Not a few Nigerians kicked when the story went public. They cannot imagine that the coalition of students in Africa will openly honour a man jailed for mismanagement of public funds. Truly, I share their pain and urge more people to speak out against this monumental gaffe. It must not stand.

The moment I read that news, I googled the fellow’s name and found nothing except news sites that picked the story. I later called two or three contacts but no one ever heard of him. At this point, what came to my mind was: ‘this too is another publicity gimmick; an unwise action, shaped with expansive lines of debauchery’.

Personally I won’t raise an eyebrow if soon (perhaps sooner), questionable characters such as ‘Femi Lawson deem it worthy to present Cecilia Ibru, Erastus Akingbola, Tafa Balogun, James Ibori and the others in the same vein, a “Lifetime Honesty Award”.

To underscore the level of Bode George’s preposterous choice, officials of AASU – a body with over 50-member countries headquartered in Accra, the capital of Ghana – immediately repudiated the upcoming ceremony, saying at no time did they decide on the controversial one-time Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) Chairman.

Secretary General of AASU, Fred Awah, in an interview, said news of the honour is “absolutely untrue, misleading and fraudulent.”

He stated that: “It is clear there are elements dragging the name of our organization in the mud. The Kwame Nkrumah African Leadership Award is a prestigious one and there are criteria for awarding it. At no time did we consider him for any award. There is no such for Bode George from AASU.”

“Lawson  is not an official of AASU. He contested for the position of deputy secretary general and lost. He was defeated by a Liberian. Since then, he has been pursuing a fraudulent scheme, using the name of the organization to hand out dubious awards.”

Commenting further, “Lawson is not an official of AASU. He contested for the position of deputy secretary general and lost. He was defeated by a Liberian. Since then, he has been pursuing a fraudulent scheme, using the name of the organization to hand out dubious awards,” the scribe snapped.

“What they (Olufemi Lawson and others) have done is criminal. We must expose and disgrace them so that others will learn,” he said.”

The secretary-general also disclosed his intention to travel down to meet with officials of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), to find out those using the title of the continental group as an avenue for monetary gains.

But Awah and his team will have to do more than mere rejection on the pages of newspapers. If de facto the leadership was not carried along, then the case must be pursued to a logical conclusion and those found wanting be punished accordingly.

Meanwhile, there are reports that AASU in fact, based on the recommendation of NANS, picked the retired top military officer as winner of the 15th edition of its Africa Leadership Award. This one indeed is a confusing episode.

Already, the co-ordinator Olufemi Lawson, has sworn to go on with the programme billed for Wednesday in the city of Lagos. Mr. Lawson said the President of AASU, Mohammed Bashir, a Sudanese, is aware of the arrangement, and that Sec-Gen. Fred Awah was not current with happenings at the secretariat as he had been occupied with the Ghanaian elections.

Lawson also noted that the PDP bigwig “is a man who has awarded over 1000 scholarships and grants to indigent students. So he deserves to be honoured.” However the question is: do you and I know of anyone that has benefitted from such? Someone should take time to lecture me as I am yet to comprehend this “scholarship/youth development” justification.

Speaking on the contentious issue, a former President of AASU, Oludare Ogunlana, said he had no knowledge of the purported award. He stressed that presently, there is no Nigerian on the executive of the organization; a confirmation that Lawson has no locus standi to act under the union’s authority.

It is only hours away before the charade takes place. If possible, I will be there to witness it all, so I can be sure I was not dreaming the day my constituent; my colleagues; my fellow ‘comrados’, made a mockery of the sacred word called INTEGRITY.

At it stands, going by the hullabaloo surrounding the event, calling it off would not be a bad idea. But will the egotism in the organisers allow this advise be regarded? It won’t be long before we find out.

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