The Future Awards Africa: Why it’s not so Futuristic

On the evening of Sunday, December 15th, 2018 in Lagos Nigeria, as it was one of the weekends leading into the year-end, there were a variety of events for Lagosians to grace.

That very evening, the movie UpNorth by musician turned politician, Bankole Wellington (BankyW), husband to actor Adesua Etomi, premiered in Lagos.

People who had anticipated the premiere of that movie and at the same time friends of the socialite Adebola Williams, popularly known as Debola Lagos, must have been torn between witnessing the unveiling of the ‘youngest successes’ in Nigeria and relishing a debut movie by a successful Nigerian youth.

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Anyways, Nigerians made their choices. And some loyalists attended both.

My very close friend had gotten an invitation to attend The Future Awards Africa (henceforth, it will be referred to as TFAA). The award ceremony was organized by The Future Project under the umbrella body of RedMedia, an organization co-founded by the socialite Debola Lagos.

It was the 13th edition and as Instagram feeds and stories would testify, it was a good example of how an event should be well attended – from prominent politicians to successful business moguls; top celebrities; eminent entrepreneurs; thought leaders and industry heavyweights, the list is endless.

Debola Lagos Giving the person of the year The Future Awards 2018
Image from ThefutureAfrica.com

Dignitaries of such calibre probably only came together under one roof at the country’s independence celebration or when Luggard amalgamated the country.

Now, that’s an exaggeration. But TFAA 2018 was indeed a gathering of giants.

There were about 20 award categories that night and in the middle of doing justice to the business of the day – giving awards – there were many great speeches and musical performances by top Nigerian musicians.

As nominees for each category were called by gorgeous looking award presenters, and the winners mounted the podium to give brief comments, there were quite some emotional displays which of course, should be attendant of an event that exposes promising under 31 to the world of hundreds of thousands if not millions of Nigerians and Africans at once.

As the evening unveiled, I got updates of the event via post-event pictures and videos on social media. Since then, some thoughts would not just let me be until I had put them in white and black honestly hoping that they don’t get me in trouble.

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Anyway, a few months ago, while doing my weekly routine of checking through Facebook feeds to see which of my schoolmates has gotten married too, a cousin sent me a link as we were both online.

As I clicked the link and landed on the nominations page of TFAA website, I quickly submitted my email address and other requirements and quickly nominated a girlfriend whom I thought had done well enough in recent to deserve a TFAA.

I must have thought that it was just as easy to get nominated or win TFAA as it was filling that form and nominating a friend.

That alone can explain my anger or disappointment or a mixture of both anger and disappointment that overwhelmed me when I scanned through the TFAA nominee’s list on their website weeks later and there was nothing like my friend’s name.

So late into the evening of Sunday, December 15th 2018, the deal day, I did not mind that my friend had not been nominated and while I was trying to get pictures and videos of who had won which category, I exhausted my epileptic internet data and just then, a thought came to me.

I started to feel strongly that the organizers of TFAA, in as much as they do not owe us anything, have the responsibility to be more transparent in the award processes.

As of December 2018, Nigeria was estimated to have a population of 198,186,135 persons based on the latest United Nations estimates with about 70 per cent of this population below age 30.

Going by this estimate, Nigeria is home to about 140.000.000 people under age 30 which is the same demography TFAA targets.

With such a humongous population of Nigerian youth, an award that seeks to “celebrate young people between the ages of 18 and 31, who have made outstanding achievements in the year under consideration” has an enormous task of reaching these youth in the nook and crannies of the country where they may reside.

With a handful of media driven, youth-oriented outlets, such as Ynaija and numerous other platforms owned by the organizers of TFAA, one is almost tempted to assume that it would be an easy task for the team to reach the about 140.000.000 Nigerian youths for the prestigious award and then award the deserving ones amongst them. But upon further examination, the intricacies of such a task come to the fore:

How do the organisers of TFAA, for example, get to know of Funsho?

27-year-old Funsho does not live in Lagos but somewhere in Ilaje. Ilaje is a local Government area in Ondo state, southwestern Nigeria. Funsho runs a shoe factory that caters to the needs of locals in Ilaje town and other neighbouring villages.

Funsho neither has an Instagram account nor is he big on Facebook. In fact, he does not have a website. In Funsho’s village, for more than a year, there has not been any power supply whatsoever.

Yet, Funsho has a long list of other shoemakers who apprenticed with him and are now independent adults, providing for their own families and impacting other people’s lives.

Truly, Funsho may very well be an imaginary character in this write-up, but Funsho’s story is the reality of most Nigerian youths today, especially those who live outside of Lagos, the same set of people TFAA claims to target.

The big question then is, how do the Funshos of this world ever get nominated or awarded by a TFAA?

As it stands, the process of nominations and voting of TFAA are at best opaque. From what we know, to nominate a candidate for a TFAA, you simply go to the TFAA website, enter your candidate’s brief details and state why you are nominating him or her. From that point on, no one knows what really transpires.

So, how does TFAA arrive at the list of their final nominees? How do they select the winners of different award categories? These are questions that demand genuine and urgent answers.

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And for an organization that boasts of winning elections for two whole nations, the lack of transparency with which the TFAA is conducted is totally below expectations and antiquated and this leaves many of us worried.

Then again, why are many of the nominees and winners of the TFAA above age 31 when it is clearly stated on their official website that the award celebrates outstanding Nigerians aged 18-31?

Is there perhaps a dearth of outstanding successful people aged 18-31 in Nigeria that they should exceed this age range? Or is it a case of corruption, the same one with which the country is largely bedeviled? Or could we say it is a case of serious miscommunication? Again, we need answers to these questions.

Undoubtedly, TFAA has a lofty intent.

In the past years, it has spurred many Nigerians up to give in their best in what they do and make an impact in the society. TFAA has produced some of the most successful young Nigerians in different fields of endeavours.

Bayo Omoboriowo who won the creative artist of the year in TFAA 2012 quickly comes to mind. Bayo is now the Chief Official Photographer for President Muhammad Buhari. And to think that he was discovered by TFAA…

No doubt, many more recipients of the prestigious award are doing great in their spheres of influences.

But perhaps there are just as many, those who are seriously struggling to combat the endless foes of success in Nigeria. Those who have been placed in high esteem by once clinching a TFAA but find it almost impossible to live up to the expectations.

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In the light of this, TFAA will go a long way in helping to further establish their recipients’ careers if the awards could come with actual cash prizes. That way, TFAA can track the successes of their recipients and the whole idea will go beyond a night of awards and beautiful dresses rocked on the red carpet.

Like the coveted CNN heroes awards, if TFAA comes with a token, young Nigerians and indeed Africans will come to understand that achieving great outstanding feats as an entrepreneur; a great sportsman; a media personality; a professional, an actor a musician is even more rewarding than winning the Big Brother Naija Show.

In conclusion, while TFAA is one of the best things that has happened to Africa’s youth population, like the biblical Apostle Paul, it is important that we ‘carry the gospel to our own Macedonia’ and help people in the innermost parts.

As we reach more people, transparency with the award processes become even more vital and if possible, a token may accompany the very sought-after plaques.

And like anything that will achieve it’s greatest potential, maybe it’s time TFAA got a strong competition. One with equally powerful network of the most prominent and eminent Africans.

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