By Gimba Kakanda
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 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 phones. 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 revealed that 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 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 in the map of that 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. 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 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!