Man of the Year, By Ose Oyamendan

I’m sticking with my man of the year. They’re not even men but they are going to a place no Nigerian man has ever gone. Remember these names – Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga. Someday, they will be heroes. Girls will sing about them and men would wish they were their daughters.

So, here we are, the end of another year. A time when an older generation of newsmen and women, probably starved of news in a festive period, needed an idea to sell newspapers. After shaking the old noggin like a tree in hurricane, they came up with something – man of the year.

Every year, news organisations try to outdo one another by naming their own man of the year. It doesn’t matter if the winner is a man, woman or a donkey, the award will go to him, her or it. It’s an award that keeps readers and viewers intrigued. Sometimes, it puts bread on the table.

This year, the awards are going to be more significant. 2019 is around the corner. Nothing gives your political behind a better kick than a man of the year award in the year before political primaries. 2017 is when the wallet comes open. In 2018, that wallet will be significantly lighter. 2017 is the year to cash in.

Organisers of the awards will spend countless hours going over such criteria as – are they worthy of the award? What are their achievements? How big are their egos? Do these egos match their bank accounts?

Big, big decisions!

Why give the award to Abubakar Atiku merely for quiting a party yet again, when you can give it to President Muhammadu Buhari and ensure EFCC is never gonna knock on your door? Why give it to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for being the loyal deputy while his boss was away, when his fellow men of God who hold the diamond-crusted duplicate keys to the kingdom of heaven in their multi-billion naira hands can assure you of heaven on earth?

For making Nigeria proud, for taking Nigeria where she has never been and for finding a way out of the wilderness of pain and doubt, these three women are my man of the year award. Hopefully, we will all have fuel to power our generators and charge our phones so we can watch those highlights where they fly Nigeria’s flag.

If you are bold and despise those earthly materialistic things pastors preach against but acquire anyway, you may decide to choose an issue for the award. Like corruption, for instance. But, you have to thread carefully because in Nigeria there is no frenemy in corruption. It’s black or white, friend or enemy. It’s also confusing because you hear the noise but all you see is a puff of smoke.

For me, the man of the year was an easy choice. I settled on one many weeks ago. But, last week, I had serious doubts, the kind of doubts a girl has when she has to decide if she should marry for love or for money, the old man who is like a sugar daddy or the young, promising boyfriend who coos poems into your ears after you’ve fed him with your hard-earned naira.

Love or lust? Or better still, heroes or fuel?

In Nigeria, you can’t go wrong with gallons of fuel. It will get you a girlfriend. It will get you a chieftaincy title. It would put a spring in your steps. It will power your generator, which in turns helps you charge your cell phone, which in turn connects you to the world. In Nigeria, fuel powers life. When you have it, you’re somebody. When you don’t, you feel less than complete.

In a fair fight, fuel will knock out every competitor for the man of the year award. But, you know fuel and its scarcity would be in consideration every year. In most countries, the government shows their impact in people’s lives with the provision of infrastructures. In Nigeria, they show it by turning off the petrol pumps. Fuel is the man of every season.

I’m sticking with my man of the year. They’re not even men but they are going to a place no Nigerian man has ever gone. Remember these names – Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga. Someday, they will be heroes. Girls will sing about them and men would wish they were their daughters. Born in the United States, they are a part of that growing breed of Nigerian-Americans who want to be known as Nigerians first and country of their birth second. They not only wear the green white green on their backs, their hearts pump with it.

For a country battling for global relevance, no one deserves the man of the year award better than the female bobsled team which shrugged off a mountain of challenges to take Nigeria’s flag to the winter Olympics. In a football mad country, this is close to scoring the goal that takes you to the world cup final.

They are athletes but not your Pop and Mom kind of athletes. They’re taking an unknown sport, wrapping it in the green white green flag and taking that flag to the Olympics, the 2018 winter Olympics – yes that one done in bitter cold, the Oyinbo Olympiad.

For a country battling for global relevance, no one deserves the man of the year award better than the female bobsled team which shrugged off a mountain of challenges to take Nigeria’s flag to the winter Olympics. In a football mad country, this is close to scoring the goal that takes you to the world cup final.

Imagine this – this is the winter Olympics, an event for countries in the colder climates, countries that control the world’s economy. For a country like Nigeria, it’s not about winning here. It’s about making the appearance count. It’s about selling Nigeria to people whose ears will be wide open to a new gospel.

For making Nigeria proud, for taking Nigeria where she has never been and for finding a way out of the wilderness of pain and doubt, these three women are my man of the year award. Hopefully, we will all have fuel to power our generators and charge our phones so we can watch those highlights where they fly Nigeria’s flag.

Ose Oyamenda, filmaker and writer, maintains a Tuesday column for Premiumtimesng.com. He tweets @iam_Ose

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