Celebrating Nigeria’s Giants

Eminent Nigerians were honoured recently in Lagos at the 20th anniversary of Hallmarks of Labour Foundation. Peter Uzoho who covered the event, reports
It was an assemblage of the crème de la crème in Nigeria at the Ballroom of the Lagos Oriental Hotel on Sunday, May 22, 2016.
Better seen than told, those big names from the academia ranging from former and serving Vice Chancellors were there. The great legal luminaries turned up. Politicians of high pedigree also graced the occasion. Also not left out were past and present senior public and civil servants, medical gurus, management experts, notable diplomatic figures, were conspicuously present at the event.
Also, the religious community was not left out; reverend fathers decked in their priestly attires and the Royal Highnesses adorned in their befitting apparels graced the 20th anniversary and role model award ceremony of Hallmarks of Labour Foundation.
Prior to entering the hall for the event, cocktail was observed within which the guests met their old friends, relatives, colleagues and associates, exchanging pleasantries with one another, while sipping some wine.
Shortly after, guests were majestically ushered in and the event started in full swing. To fulfill the Nigerian tradition, the national anthem of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was sung to invoke the spirit of national unity.
Following the flow of programme with military precision, the Chaiman, Board of Trustees, Hallmarks of Labour Foundation, Prof.Umaru Shehu, was called up to the podium to deliver his welcome speech.
In his welcome speech, Shehu said the Foundation has done quite well in the past 20 years, particularly in re-orientating Nigerians.
“The Hallmarks of Labour is 20 years old, and as I look back at these past 20 years, it occurred to me that the Foundation has done quite well, particularly, in re-orientating Nigerians from a culture of crass materialism and primitive acquisition of wealth, to that of honesty, integrity and commitment to service of our community and the nation in general.
“To this end, we have identified several great men and women who are worthy of emulation and whose records constitute a great inspiration for future generations. In other words, we have been able to give our younger generation, an opportunity to make a choice on which way to go as we continue to provide them with worthy inspirations.
“From our role model awards, we successfully ventured into the publication of the Hallmarks of Labour book series (now in its 8th volume), scholarship scheme for secondary and tertiary students, youth and women empowerment programmes, community development, and excellence awards for deserving individuals and institutions,” Shehu noted.
He continued: “Our modest attainment have been made possible largely with the active support of quite a number of individuals and corporate bodies, some of them are represented here today.
“Today’s programme is not only designed to mark our 20 years of operation, but also to celebrate another set of role models who have distinguished themselves in their fields of endeavour and strengthened our resolve that our country, Nigeria, is far from being a lost case.
“We congratulate them all; they are indeed worthy ambassadors for Nigeria and Africa. I have no doubt that the people of Nigeria are indeed fortunate to be blessed with all of them within this same generation,” Shehu said.
The chairman of the occasion and former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, in his keynote address, said, “the Hallmarks of Labour Foundation has come a long way from 1996 when it was conceived against the background of growing decay in the moral fabric of the Nigerian society with the pursuit and worshipping of money, creating negative role models.
“Hallmarks of Labour Foundation is also a philanthropic organisation having over the years acted as a platform for the mentoring of the youth through workshops and symposia, in order to help them realise their potentials with honesty and integrity, a platform for empowering the weak, the indigent, the dispossessed and vulnerable through such projects as community development, endowment of scholarship schemes, and a platform for offering assistance to widows in the society,” Anyaoku said.
Not failing to commend the initiator and Executive Secretary of Hallmarks of Labour Foundation, Mrs. Patricia Utuedon-Arawore for her noble project, Anyaoku said “I would like all of  us here to join in specially commending the initiator and driving force of the HLF, Mrs. Patricia Utuedon-Arawore, for her exemplary initiative, determination, courage and an untiring commitment to a cause that is noble, a cause that is entirely positive in its national and international symbolism.”
Anyaoku also congratulated the recipient of the HLF-Anyaoku Life Time Achievement Award for Nigeria’s Most International Icon, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, describing him “as truly one of Nigeria’s most distinguished internationalists, having served Nigeria and the United Nations with distinction in many renowned international positions.”
At this juncture, a documentary of previous activities, programmes and projects of the Hallmarks of Labour Foundation were played as the guests watched the visuals with keen interest. Subsequently, a minute silence was observed in honour of the departed awardees of the Foundation.
Intermittently, there was music rendition as an opera singer; Chioma Igbojekwe, in company of Vivache Group, was on ground entertaining the guests and driving any looming sleep off the scene.
Hallmarks of Labour Role Model Awards of different category were presented to eminent Nigerians for their noble contributions to the nation, which they received with high sense of gratitude, in company of their entourage.
However, in returning appreciation, the awardees took turn to thank Hallmarks of Labour Foundation for deeming them worthy of such honour and recognition, while encouraging them never to relent, but to continue with their good work.
“Let me first of all congratulate the Foundation for organising this ceremony. I congratulate them for living for 20 years. They are doing a great service for Nigeria. The Foundation has done a lot and  got many Nigeria’s to understand that service is our duty”, the first civilian Governor of Lagos State and recipient of the HLF Role Model Award for Excellence in Leadership and Good Governance, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, said.
“I thank them very much and I want them to carry on their job so as to carry the message to all Nigerians,” the octogenarian added.
Former Chief Justice of Nigeria and recipient of HLF-Life Time Achievement Award for Exemplary Leadership in the Advancement of Our Legal System, Hon. Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar, commended the Foundation for the honour done her.
”I commend the Foundation for its zeal and effort in raising the standard of education in Nigeria. I also commend the Foundation for thinking me worthy or deserving of this award. The gesture will remain very close to my heart and I will cherish the award forever.”
Prof. Njidda Gadzama, who received the HLF-Umaru Shehu Life Time Award for the Most Consistent Advocate for Positive Change in the University System, dedicated his award to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North-east.
“I dedicate this award to the suffering IDPs from my local area of  Northern Adamawa and Southern Borno, all of the Maji and so many other tribes where remnant of Boko Haram are still active.”
Similarly, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari who bagged the HLF- Emeka Anyaoku Life Time Achievement Award for Nigeria’s Most Outstanding International Icon, dedicated it to the IDPs in the entire world.
“I feel particularly honoured that I’m receiving this award in the midst of eminent Nigerians. I will like to dedicate this award to the IDPs in the whole world because I have had opportunity to serve in many conflict areas and the worst thing that can happen to any human being is to be an IDP within his or her own country.”
Lumen Christi International School, Uromi, Edo State, that was presented with the Award for Best Performing School in the West African Senior School Certificate (WASSCE) 2014, was further rewarded with a number of computer sets. The Vice Principal of the School, Reverend Father Amos Awonime, thanked the board of Hallmarks of Labour Foundation for their wonderful contribution and encouragement.
“We wish to thank members of the Board of Trustees of Hallmarks of Labour Foundation for your wonderful contribution and encouragement. Your contribution thus becomes a reassurance that there is need for reward for hard work. May the good Lord continue to bless, sustain and fortify your future ambition,” Awonime said.
Rising from the occasion, the initiator and Executive Secretary, Hallmarks of Labour Foundation, Otuedon-Arawore told THISDAY how they were able to package the event.
“It’s been several months of working very hard”, she says, “This Hallmarks of Labour Award takes about six months to organise and we’re very grateful to God.
Everybody turned up for this award unlike most award ceremonies. Indeed, the calibre of people remained the same, and I’m grateful to God that all these have come to pass. And I look forward to launching the Hallmarks of Labour book 8th in the next two weeks or a month’s time. So I’m not going back to rest,” Otuedon-Arawore noted.
On her message to Nigerians, she says, “My message to Nigerians is simple one; look at the lives of people who were rewarded tonight and you would find out that the men and women who have been recognised achieved that by dint of hard work and were able to do Nigeria proud.
“I advise young people to look at them and pattern their lives after them. Parents should look at these role models and try to build up their children to be like them.”