The audience this evening was different. Simply highbrow. An uncommon mix. Technocrats, beaurocrats, business magnets, legends of entertainment and icons of Nollywood.
It was a celebrity rendezvous in Lagos. The music of Flavour blaring outside was a screaming contrast from the magnificent aura of respect accentuated by the quality of the audience I walked into. These men and women have come to honour one man-Peter Igho as he walks into the Entertainment Hall of Fame. The ritual of live music and refreshments that delineate Ojez’s Honour Night’s template was not different.
I listened in awe as speaker after speaker paid tributes to this man. Although he had retired from the Nigerian Television Authority, (NTA) the story of his strides, his visionary traits, and his pragmatism were told and retold, enacted and re-enacted. The creative revolution he inspired with Cock Crow at Dawn, New Masquerade; raising the bar of production with the soap-opera genre of drama that includes Behind the Clouds, Supple Blues, and the tele-movies that laid foundation for the emergence of Nollywood.
For many a speaker, Peter Igho was an inspiration to the new generation of Nigerians in the motion picture industry. Yet, for all his staggering accomplishment, he remains a most humble man.
Jimi Solanke, a world renowned culture icon described him as a genius. “I had no doubt therefore that he would excel anywhere he found himself when he retired from NTA. That is why I am not at all surprised by the astounding work he has done at the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC); he stated in a concise speech.
Perhaps, I would have considered the chant of praises a bit obtrusive. But then I had to quickly peep through the windows of my memory and I recalled that I had seen a documentary that highlighted the revolutionary work of Igho at the NLRC.
Here, I had seen yet a rare chorus of praises by our National Assembly. From the Senate to the Representatives, members echoed the innovative spirit of Igho. He had, within four years, moved NLRC from a room and parlour quasi- agency unknown to even organisations in the same street that it existed into a super organisation of national prominence occupying four floors of a towering building in Abuja. While the northern states had remained impermeable to NLRC because lottery was viewed as gambling and forbidden by Islam, Igho was able to convince both the political and traditional leaders of the north about the difference and in fact about the noble causes that revenues from lottery had been used for around the world.
And so if you walk into Kaduna, Yola, Sokoto, Kano and Jos today, you will find NLRC offices. It had never happened before. It was a sheer fit of courage and sagacity. The members of the national assembly also appreciated the fact that Igho had checkmated some criminal minded lottery owners that had perpetually defrauded the government and people of Nigeria. Igho was therefore bringing more money into the vault of government and deserving Nigerians were receiving their dues and rightful returns from lottery.
With the ovations for Igho’s untrammelled integrity and indeed ingenuity, you can now imagine my shock and that of perhaps millions of Nigerians when news sneaked into the papers and the social media that Peter Igho’s chances of a second tenure at the NLRC is shaky. At first, it was simply a bad joke. Yes, in Nigeria, a few things happen by caprice. Yes some appointments could sometimes trigger a shock curiousity. But not where success is so crystal. Not when a man had demonstrated how a stunning vision could be transformed into an amazing, concrete reality. Igho simply spoke in a terse language that even in Nigeria here, it is possible; we can make things work.
But if you doubted the news in the papers and the social media, the reality dawned when a few weeks ago a letter was read on the floor of the senate about a certain man nominated for the job of the Director General of NLRC- Igho’s job!
Yet, Peter Igho has done just a term. If his performance was abysmal, nobody would squint. But here was a glittering success, a glowing picture of the innovative Nigerian spirit. I couldn’t help but ask, is it a crime to excel in Nigeria? Is it wrong to give one’s best to this great country that has struggled eternally to actualise its God given potentials? The Senate, the House of Representatives, the media and captains of industry, all attested to the quantum leap of NLRC under Igho. Should the reward for this exemplary performance be the abortion of this deserved second term?
For me, and certainly many Nigerians, Peter Igho embodies the spirit and enterprise of the envisioned transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan. To renew his tenure therefore is to tell Nigerians that hardwork and remarkable accomplishments will always be encouraged and rewarded.
The president’s transformation agenda is about change; change for the better. Peter Igho’s National Lottery Regulatory Commission is a fetching symbol of this change, a poster child for President