YNaija Editorial: Not a Good Year for Awards

As this online magazine decided to have a little fun and launch its end of the year spoof ‘awards’ called #TheBirdies, it stimulates an opportunity to take a look at actual awards in Nigeria and what kind of year it has been for the whole system of reward that has become popular over the past five years.

For a long time, many have made the point that Nigeria has too many awards, and frivolity has ensued. While the substance of that statement is exaggerated, considering that there are many countries across the world – from South Africa to the United States – that have multiple awards for every segment in every sector, its intent is worth considering: have the nature of our awards made a mockery of the entire affair?

Together, awards have bequeathed Nigeria with a now dominant red carpet culture, but are a number of them responsible for collectively lowering the standards for excellence and achievement in the country? Well, if you take a look at what a rough year awards ceremonies have had, then it’s easy to say perhaps something has to give.

Not that you would notice from the rush of activity in that sector.

The Africa Movie Academy Awards took the town again in Yenogoa, the Sideview Style Awards held again this month, the FAB Nite Out & Awards stood out, the Tush Awards reared its head, the Dynamix Awards snuck past, the Nigerian Music Video Awards made a case, as did the Nigerian Model Achievers Awards.

Then there have been others per sector – the British Council’s Creative Entrepreneur of the Year, the Nigerian Broadcasters Awards, the Best of Nollywood Awards, the telecom sponsored Lagos Design & Style Awards, the Channel O Awards (quickly becoming a Nigeria-South Africa affair) amongst others.

However it is difficult not to notice that a majority of these platforms have suffered a poverty of revenue, and even worse, a poverty of prestige.

And on top of that, the mighty have seemed to slink away.

The hugely popular MTV Africa Movie Awards was the biggest casualty, bowing out without as much a whimper, clearly after losing the support of its one major telecommunication sponsor. But that’s not the only award that snuck out on us. The Soundcity Music Video Awards also didn’t hold this year and no one has a reason why – at least, not officially. Even the long-running City People Awards seemed to lose a huge part of its luster.

The newly minted Headies, refreshed from the Hip Hop World Awards won our admiration for toughening it out. Despite the non-participation of its five-year sponsor and after one or two postponements, The Headies still held, and spectacularly did it hold. Still, the challenges were striking especially for an awards process so successful and it was perhaps a poster child for the new reality that awards are no longer the beautiful bride.

So what exactly is the problem? Is there an awards overload? Have we reachedour threshold? Is it downhill from here on?

We doubt it. The challenge, as far as we can see is one of funding, where sponsors find themselves unable to sustain their investments in events. It’s a sponsorship trend that has washed over beauty pageants and runway shows.

The challenge for award entrepreneurs therefore is innovation, and it’s about finding new models of sustainability. It might be a little too soon, but awards organisers need to begin to find a place of prestige that eliminates the dangerous reliance on fickle brand sponsorship.

The long-standing, though conservative, Nigeria Media Merit Awards, reputed as the nation’s most respected award for in journalism, shines a light in this area by its innovative partnerships with different state governments and consistent spin-offs that ensure it is not beholden to fickle marketing departments. It is just as well – its contribution to stimulating above-average work in the Nigerian media can hardly be over-stated. As are the contributions of many others from the AMAAs to The Future Awards to the Headies.

In a nation whose governments have serially abandoned primary and secondary responsibilities to regenerate different sectors of our economy, there is no denying the huge impact that awards have had in stimulating productivity, excellence, and sustainability.

It will be the nation’s loss if we somehow let go these platforms with all the good that they bring. It is our collective duty to hold them to high standards and to be quick to point errors in judgment and threats to credibility, and in our collective interest that they continue to grow in capacity, and in possibilities.

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