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Aliko Dangote: An easier choice


DANGOTE-03Being welcome address by Chairman/Publisher, Guardian Newspapers Limited, Lady Maiden Alex-Ibru, on the occasion of the presentation of Man of the Year 2015, to Alhaji Aliko Dangote, at Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos, on Friday, April 22, 2016

Your Excellencies,
Special Guest of Honour,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this unique evening, and for joining us to celebrate one of our nation’s best. We are honored that you have set aside other pressing needs in your usually tight schedule, in recognition of true excellence, industry and vision, attributes epitomized by our Special Guest of Honour, Alhaji Aliko Dangote. Your presence here is a fitting tribute and recognition for a man who has defied all odds, saw only opportunities where others pulled back, and ventured into the quick sands of manufacturing. Not surprisingly, Alhaji Aliko Dangote has arguably become Africa’s foremost industrialist, entrepreneur, investor, and employer of labour.

Your newspaper, The Guardian, saw early on, the need to single out trail blazers, as worthy examples for our society which, these days, seems to be perennially short of truly great men and women. This is why we started looking out for persons or groups that made the greatest impact, usually positively, in the lives of the people of our nation, Africa and the larger world. We did this once a year, and we recognized such a personality as Man or Person of the Year just ended.

This usually takes the form of a rigorous exercise in The Editorial Board. It begins with nominations by members, followed by weeks of debate, during which a short list of candidates is drawn up. Then there will be more scrutiny and debate at the end of which two candidates emerge as top contenders. Further debate and due diligence take place, and finally, the best candidate is chosen, usually unanimously. The Man of the Year is then announced in The Guardian on New Year day.

From the first Man of the Year in 1987 – incidentally, that trail blazer was General Olusegun Obasanjo, who had that year, assumed the unofficial role of the critic-in-chief of the military government of the time – The Guardian has in almost 30 years, churned out an illustrious alumni of the the bold and courageous, the good and great, the visionaries and the humble public figures. There have also been persons of enviable virtue and dignity, as well as the plainly ordinary, such as the long suffering common man. It has indeed been a journey most rewarding and instructive for this newspaper. All that those who seek to lead in our society need to do is to pick up each of these yearly diary, and they would come face to face with the attributes, the qualities, the virtues that make for a life of impact, influence, greatness.

Our distinguished honoree this year, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, was an easier choice to make. In our estimation, he stood shoulders higher than others in his bold effort to become the builder of modern Africa, to create jobs for our teeming population, and to courageously confront conventional wisdom that says that an African entrepreneur stands no chance when pitched against multinational firms from Europe, North America and Asia. In the process too, Alhaji Aliko has re-written the form book that indicates that Africans would rather patronize Western and Asian firms than one of their own. Without doubt, Alhaji Aliko Dangote has by his entrepreneurial forays into Africa and beyond (not to speak of his highly diverse business interests in every part of this country), become a Nigerian ambassador. He has done more to burnish the image of Nigeria than any government effort in recent memory.

In choosing Alhaji Aliko Dangote as Man of the Year 2015, The Guardian is making a poignant statement about the role of the newspaper in the society. A newspaper does not claim to be an alternative government. It only seeks to show those whose duty it is to govern, how to work for the enduring benefits of the people on whose behalf they hold the reins of office. It continues to call them back to the first principles of governance, namely, service to the people. A newspaper should be critical, some times stridently, but always keeping in focus what serves the best interests of citizens, small and great. Governments that succeed often feel in newspapers, the pulse of the people. Above all, a newspaper should identify heroes and publicize good examples as a way of redirecting the values of the society. This is what The Guardian has sought to do with all the personalities chosen over the years as Man of the Year.

In February 1983 when this newspaper first hit the newsstands, it came with a pledge about its independence, purposeful presentation of balanced coverage of events and promotion of the best interests of this country. It declared its commitment to justice, probity in public life, equal access to the nation’s resources and equal protection under the law for all citizens. On this auspicious occasion today, we renew our commitment to these ideals, with an added pledge to continue to lead in the search for solution to the latest challenges facing our nation.

Your Excellency, Distinguished guests, I congratulate our worthy honoree, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, for recording spectacular success in his business ventures, for showing us the virtue of hard-work, perseverance and belief in what is possible.

Once again, I welcome you to this reception and look forward to a very rewarding evening.

I thank you for listening.

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