Personality of The Year: The burden of making nominations

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PROLOGUE
By Jide Ajani
IT happened again between October and December last year. With no no-go areas, you would expect the arguments and debates by members of Vanguard Board of Editors to be very straight forward. But, as in everything about life, nothing is ever straight forward.

In fact, the ghost of the events of October 2016, which cast a pall of indecisiveness on the sessions to choose Vanguard’s Personality of the Year for that period, refused to be exorcised. Worse, in the light of a manifest drop in the value, content and context of leadership construct in Nigeria, the ghost loomed large, thereby, once again, bringing forth the relevance of the premonition of 1927 by Time editors, “whether sufficiently prominent people could be found in subsequent years to warrant the designation, MAN OF THE YEAR.”

Therefore, the task to locate that ‘sufficiently prominent individual’ who touched the lives of Nigerians, whether for good or for ill, in ways that were so profound as to be voted PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR, confronted the editors once again. Interestingly, this had become an annual ritual and, therefore, would have been expected to be more like a walk in the park. Perish the thought, as Dan Agbese of Newswatch had written.

The sessions of the debate to choose the primus, the PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR, are always enervating and come with tantalising nominations, just as they also tolerate some names of personalities that cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered awe-inspiring. The editors have always been guided by a set of values that signposts predictors that engender success.

And talking about predictors that correlate strongly with competence at the top, Harvard Business Review (November/December, 2017), gives us five items: motivations, curiosity, insight, engagement and determination. These, while not captured in the same manner, represent the fulcrum of what Vanguard editors look out for when debating and making arguments for or against nominees.

What motivates an individual to do good and great things? What’s the level of curiosity and insight available to ensure a determined engagement? In the polity, business, religion and sciences, many things happen and steal the limelight. However, a deeper interrogation of the thinking behind and the forces propelling such actions sometimes reveal motives that are at once plebeian and devoid of altruistic intentions.

Therefore, how do you begin to nominate individuals with a profundity of immense relevance to the objective of meeting the set criteria for PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR? Even when you nominate such personalities, how do you get the buy-in of colleagues around the table, some, with their interests. Indeed, the interest of some editors was just to shoot down nominees made by others. Such is the nature of mere mortal man.

For a few others, a tunnel vision was all that motivated their support for or antagonism against a nominee. Yet, for some, the mere mention of some names evoked a nostalgic feeling. However, because there was a job to be done – and done well – names were put forward, names were dropped, names were added; more names were again dropped and a few other names were re-added. These exercise, which commenced on Monday, October 30, 2017, did not conclude until Monday, December 11, 2017 – all of six weeks. Such is the rigour that goes into the debate.

For one, members of the Vanguard Board of Editors are always conscious of the need to elect nominees and vote accordingly with some things in mind: Would the eventual winners pass the integrity test? Would members of the public, while not in total agreement, be substantially convinced about the choice made?

Can any member of the Board go into the open and be able to convince fellow countrymen about the personality(ies) that have been so chosen to be honoured? Does the name of any of the winners come with the dangerous effluvium of public opprobrium? Once these issues are settled, then the voting.

And so, after over six weeks, First Lady, Aisha Buhari, was voted as Vanguard’s PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR for 2017.

In making the argument, members were conscious of the novelty of the choice for 2017. But the facts in support of her eventual and ultimate choice swayed the majority. No matter.

With the choice of winners, the ghost was driven out of the conference room. But because the motivation to again be rigourous in nominating, debating and voting for the prospective winner of the 2018 PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR, there is every possibility that the ghost would again cast its apparition on the wall of the conference room – and the editors would do whatever it takes to drive it out, but never able to exorcise it.

Below is a list of the categories and winners:
Personality of the Year
First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari

Governors of the Year
Okezie Ikpeazu, Abia
Seriake Dickson, Bayelsa
Darius Ishaku, Taraba
Mohammed Abubakar, Bauchi
Umar Ganduje, Kano

Lifetime Achievers
General Abdulsalami Abubakar
Professor Grace Alele-Williams
Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas
Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe
Chief Sunny Ade
Chief Ade Ojo
Oba Otudeko

Businessman of the year
Muhammadu Indimi

Banker of the Year
Emeka Emuwa

Elsewhere in this pullout are facts and strong points which swayed the decision of the editors in favour of these winners.

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