Nigerian Nobel Laureate and Human Rights Activist, Prof. Wole Soyinka has been honoured as the first recipient of the Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership on Wednesday. The prestigious award was instituted to honour Obafemi Awolowo, an inspirational Nigerian statesman, and reward leadership and good governance.
According to the Chairman of the award Selection Committee, Emeka Anyaoku, Soyinka, who became the First black person to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, was chosen by the committee unanimously after a careful consideration.
“It gives me immense pleasure to announce that, after very careful consideration, the selection committee came to the unanimous conclusion that, of all the nominees presented before it, the individual adjudged to possess to the highest degree the attributes for the award, and is, therefore, the first ever recipient of the Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership, is Prof. Wole Soyinka,” Anyaoku said.
“Suffice it to say at this point, however, that Prof. Soyinka has, in various ways, demonstrated many of the core values that have been associated with Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and which this prize is meant to encourage and reward.”
The award which will be given out every two years includes a medal, a certificate and a plaque.
Executive Director, Obafemi Awolowo Foundation, Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu added that there was no monetary value attached to the prize. She stated that “‘The Obafemi Awolowo Leadership Prize is instituted by the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation on the basis of one of the major recommendations of its Special Dialogue on ‘Transformational Leadership and Good Governance: Lessons from Awolowo Example’, held in July 2011.”
Awolowo-Dosunmu said Soyinka would deliver a lecture on the day of the award presentation.
The official award ceremony will take place on March 6, 2013 to coincide with the birthday anniversary of Obafemi Awolowo, the first Premier of the Western Region during the first republic rule of Nigeria. There, an appropriate citation for Soyinka would be read.
Speaking on the selection process, at a press conference at the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation office in Gbagada, Lagos Anyaoku who has also served as the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, said “Although an impressive number of nominations were received, Soyinka was adjudged to possess the highest degree of attributes that characterised the leadership style of the first Premier of the Western Region. Such attribute includes integrity, credibility, courage, selflessness, accountability, tenacity of purpose, visionary and people-centred leadership, respect for the rule of law and press freedom.
“The selection committee came to the unanimous conclusion that of all the nominees presented before it, the individual adjudged to possess to the highest degree, the attributes for the award and thus, the first ever recipient of the Obafemi Awolowo Prize for leadership, was Prof. Wole Soyinka,” he said.
‘‘The emphasis is on the intrinsic value of the award, which, in itself, not only confers considerable honour and recognition on the recipient, but also serves as a strong incentive for the pursuit of excellence in leadership and good governance.’’
Anyaoku added that Soyinka had, in various ways, demonstrated many of the core values that had been associated with Awolowo, and which the prize sought to encourage and reward.
He noted that Awolowo was “a highly revered Nigerian federalist, who was variously described by Nigerians as the best president Nigeria never had”.
Anyaoku also revealed that Soyinka’s reaction to the award was that the award is the “crème de la crème of all the awards that I have received.”
The Selection Committee include Justice Muhammadu Uwais, Sir Olaniwun Ajayi, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Bishop Emmanuel Gbonigi, Olorogun Felix Ibru, Niyi Adegbonmire, Bishop Matthew Kukah and Bola Akingbade. Others are Profs. Akin Mabogunje, O. Akinkugbe, Adetokunbo Lucas, Anya. O. Anya, Funmi Soetan and Ladipo Adamolekun.