Time to celebrate the unsung hero and uncelebrated toiling Nigerian in the UK

Standfirst – At the Mayfair Banqueting Suite in Chadwell Heath, 56 Nigerian unsung heroes will be honoured at the Uncelebrated Nigerians Awards UK in the first such ceremony of its kind. Organised by the revived Nigerian Centenary Awards UK organising committee, the event will hand out awards to ordinary workers like firemen, traffic wardens, care workers and lollipop ladies

By Ayo Akinfe

OVER the last 10 years, there has been an explosion of award ceremonies in the Nigerian community across the UK with one event holding virtually every weekend. In what has now become a ritual, Nollywood actors, councillors, media personalities, community leaders and the cream of the Nigerian diaspora in the UK, pick up plaques and certificates every weekend.

As a principle, there is nothing wrong with honouring people who have served and continue to serve their communities well, however, the process becomes tainted once it starts to lose credibility. One key feature of this plethora of Nigerian awards ceremonies is that it is the same 100 or so eminent personalities that are picking up the awards week-in, week-out.

In a move that poses a serious threat with regards to alienating the rest of the 2m-strong Nigerian diaspora community in the UK, these leaders, most of who are London-based, have now become such a permanent fixture of the landscape that a ceremony would look weird without them. A lot of these awards organisers are aware of the pulling power these community leaders have, so they intentionally target them, knowing their presence will sell tickets and draw in the crowd.

Nollywood actress Theodora Ibekwe Oyebade, which is also the assistant publicity secretary of the Central Association of Nigerians in the UK (Canuk), said: “I have received 65 awards in recognition of what I do. This is because I am very visible but there are a lot of hardworking people out there who are not seen and it is time to recognise them too.”

Given the fact that there are no regulations governing the organising of award ceremonies and neither the high commission nor Canuk has deemed it necessary to put any safeguards in place, this proliferation looks set to continue unabated. Faced with this challenge, the group of Nigerians who organised the Nigerian Centenary Awards UK in 2014, have decided to step into the breach and address the matter by honouring 56 people, in recognition of Nigeria’s age this year.

They have decided to revive, rechristen and expand the committee, renaming it the Uncelebrated Nigerian Awards UK organising committee and put together an event for the ordinary toiling man and woman. There are thousands if not millions of Nigerians in the  UK who work 12 hour shifts in both the public and private sector and get no recognition whatsoever.

In organisations such as London Underground, Royal Mail, the National Health Service, the Fire Brigade, local authorities, McDonalds, KFC, the civil service, Sainsbury’s Asda, Kwick Fit, etc, there are Nigerians who work from 8am to 8pm, keeping Britain going without even receiving a thank you in return. With the Uncelebrated Nigerian Awards UK, this anomaly will be corrected.

Ronke Udofia, the chairman of the awards sub-committee of the Uncelebrated Nigerian Awards UK organising committee, who will be responsible for finding these unsung heroes, said they will not spare any corner of the UK in looking for them. She added that apart from looking at every industry, the committee will also venture into every nook and cranny of the UK in search of nominees.

Mrs Udofia said: “I think it is time for the celebrated to start celebrating the uncelebrated. Our committee is made up of highly acclaimed people who have taken it upon themselves to go out and look for the silent stars who just graft on a daily basis.

“Nobody who has received a community award will be eligible for our award and no committee member or their relatives will be allowed to get one either. Our process will be transparent with members of the public asked to nominate via  our website www.uncelebratednigeriansawardsuk.com and once we get the nominations in, we will review and vet them.”

Prominent community members on the 40-man committee include former Canuk chairman Chief Bimbo Afolayan, current Canuk first vice chairman Chief Alex Achebe and Mrs Ibekwe-Oyebade.  Also on board is the current mayor of Hackney Sade Etti, her predecessor Susan Fajana-Thomas and the former mayor of Enfield Kate Anolue.

Having elected several officials to run its affairs and organise the event including journalist Ayo Akinfe as coordinator, former Canuk treasurer June Douglas as vice coordinator, healthy eating medical campaigner Dr Nkem Ezeilo as secretary, Agatha Ewruje as assistant secretary and accountant Ayo Oyebade as treasurer. Now, it has to deliver the event that has been planned for the Mayfair banqueting Suite in Chadwell Heath on September 24, starting at 7pm.

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