Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Tunde Oyedoyin
[email protected]
London, UK

A night of honours for Africans in London

Okutubo(L) and Patti(r) pose with a guest
n some communities, a prophet is not without honour except among his own people, but this saying doesn't seem to be applicable among the African community in London, judging by what happened at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Russell Square on Sunday, August 25th. It was the fourth edition of the Gathering of Africa's Best, GAB, an occasion dedicated to rewarding Africans who have distinguished themselves in the United Kingdom.

Awards were presented to 10 eminent Africans under two main categories-Lifetime Achievement and others. Prominent among those who received honours were, Nigerian-born Patti Boulaye, Archbishop Gilbert Deya(Kenyan) and the Ugandan High Commissioner in the UK, Professor George Kirya. Others included BBC journalist, David Akinsanya,British Boxing Board of Control licensed promoter and trainer, Ishola Akay and South African, Joe Theron of the Umoja play.

The chairman of GAB's planning committee, Engr Adewale Adenaike, stated that his motivation for chairing the event for the past three years is due to the fact that:"our people are embracing the idea of having to celebrate excellence within our community and at the end of the day, you cannot put up a show of this magnitude without people actually embracing it. So, because people are happy to be part of it, we're happy to stage it."

Adenaike, whose ambition is to occupy one of the senatorial seats allotted to Ogun state in the forthcoming elections spoke further:"This is about celebrating Africans that are doing things to contribute positively to the image of Africans and Africa in the UK, this is celebrating excellence".He also disclosed that a prospective awardee doesn't need to tell the organisers about what he does, this according to him, will speak for itself."That is exactly the pattern we're following", the structural engineer said.

Patti and Erelu Lola Ayorinde
'Of course, we're following people's profession and all that, but at the end of the day, have you done things that have contributed positively to the image of Africa and Africans in the UK? That is the basis of being part of this. Yes, you can be doing well in your profession, but has that affected the image of Africa and Africans? So, the whole idea is to be able to motivate others."

Although many of the recipients are celebrities in their own rights, the awards night still meant a lot to them. Ishola Akay, MBE, Member of The British Empire-said, it was a great honour for anyone to be recognised by their community and that, it is always a comfortable feeling.Akay, who has turned out world renowned boxers such as the former world featherweight champion, Ghanian Azuma Nelson, added:"I feel very great, like i said, i've been honoured by the Queen and the Prime minister, but this particular one is unique to me because, its the fact that my people appreciate my contribution to this country as an African". I'm very delighted, he said.

On how the likes of Azuma Nelson can be reproduced, Akay's words were:"well, there're lots of talents in Africa because, i was watching the Commonwealth Games and i saw a lot of boys coming, so it takes time before they can really hit the International standards." Besides, 'I believe that there're lack of facilities in Africa, but when the facilities go high, they'll be able to produce boxers of international standards."

Once regarded as one of the world's most glamorous women, Patti Boulaye, also expressed delight at being given an award for the first time."Its wonderful and to be honoured by your own people is great. Like i said, people always invite me to give awards, but nobody ever thought of giving me one. But its really nice to get one from my people, its always, always good to get recognition from your own people."

Ishola Akay and a female guest at the event
Speaking about her charity's campaign against the spread of HIV/Aids, Patti said 'Aids is a problem that we should not leave solely to the government, our people have to do it, if each individual does his part, we'll help our people. We cannot rely on the West or the government, there're so many problems for them to deal with, its our brothers and sisters that are dying, its our family members. We can't pass the buck, we have to do it ourselves and that's what i'm trying to do and to also encourage others to do same."

But what could be in the mind of GAB's visionary, Femi Okutubo? The aim, is to publicise the good works of Africans, he stated. Okutubo, who also doubles as the publisher of Trumpet Newspaper, disclosed that:"we observed that Africans were not getting positive publicity from the mainstream media. We've been described as fraudsters and all what not, but the truth is, Africans are achieving, but in spite of that, if we as Africans don't blow our trumpet, nobody's going to do it for us. So, the idea behind GAB is to have a forum whereby, the best of Africans can come together, share experiences, network and then, showcase that to the outside world saying, this is the achievement of Africans in the UK"

Having held three editions previously, 'It's continues to get bigger and better, so we thank God for that," Okutubo said. This, according to him is a testimony that the 'event is worth its salt".On those who bring disrepute to Africans, "the reality is, the mainstream media has blown that out of proportion. What you find is, the people who're doing that are very Nigeria and Africa are no exceptions. but, the reality is that, there're much more people who are achieving and that's where the focus should be," he concluded.

A full list of awardees is as follows:

Professor George Kirya
Rev. Father Olu Abiola
International Relations
Inter-Faith Relations

Archbishop Gilbert Deya
Ishola Akay
David Akinsanya
Patti Boulaye
Gertrude Othieno
Joe Theron
Dr Olobo Lalobo
Angela Mpofu
Community Youth Work
Charity Work
The Arts
Health Care Delivery
Race Relations