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A consummate Poet, Writer and Media Consultant, Odimegwu Onwumere has won the maiden edition of Nordica Media Merit Awards in the Digital Category at the gala night for the awards held at the Banquet Hall, The Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos State, on April 9 2016. In this report made available to the public, Odimegwu Onwumere reports:

It was a long walk to success. I was declared Winner, Digital Category, in the Nordica Media Merit Awards on April 9 2016, at the gala night for the awards held at the Banquet Hall, The Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos State.

The journey started in 2015, when I came across a call for journalism contest organised by The Endometriosis Association, Media Excellence Award, with the address, 8585 N. 76th Place, Milwaukee, WI 53223, USA.

The contest was meant for journalists around the world. I did not know what ‘Endometriosis’ was or meant. I ventured into research and was shocked by the sordid stories of people that I gathered. Data collection on the subject was an eye opener.

I entered for the contest, which was benchmarked for December 31 2015. And since then, I have not heard from the organisers of the contest – whether they received my entry or not – since I entered the contest via post mail.

Nordica Media Merit Awards
I was surfing the internet on January 14 2016, when I came across the Nordica Media Merit Awards, which deadline for submission, was January 15. I noticed that the call for submission had been in place since 2015, but why I did not notice it till that day, I would not know.

I contacted the number I saw with the content of the contest information to find out the deadline, because it was not stated on the portal I read about the contest. The receiver of my call told me that the deadline was January 15. The awards were open for journalists to submit at least three articles on fertility that were published the previous year.

I filed in three of my articles with the hope that a particular article on fertility would make the shortlist. Smallest-amount did I envisage that it was going to be the story on ‘Endometriosis’ I had entered for the USA awards that would bring this smile on my lips.

Entering for the awards
When I made my entry, I sent a text to the number to confirm the receipt of my entry. To my shock, I was told that the entry was not in the organisers’ entries bank. The reason, I would not know.

The following day being January 15, the deadline line for submission, I left my house early to a place in Port Harcourt to resend the entry.

There was no electricity in the area where I live that day and even the night before. Even if there was, Telecommunications network in the area that I reside are so poor, which suggests that the area needs effective Internet boost to help residents work with their modems – for those who use such devise for internet connectivity.

My entreaty to find out if my entry was received was from an experience I got from a particular journalism contest, which I entered and, on inquiring from the organisers if my entry was received, I got ‘no’ in response.

I entered for the said award via a form meant for submission on the organisers website. When they could not receive my entry after multiple trials, they provided an email through which I did the submission.

That experience taught me a lesson that most of the awards entries made by journalists in Nigeria online are not received by the persons or organisations they were meant for. I guess poor telecoms network in Nigeria should be held responsible for this!

After resubmitting my entry for Nordica Media Merit Awards and thought that the entry was received, I got a mail after a period of time; precisely on February 24 2016, with the info, “Urgent need to get the entries of the following is critical.”

Seven people’s names that included mine were mentioned as those whose entries had not been received by the organisers of the awards.

I checked the email of the sender and it was different from the earlier email through which I had made the former entries. I resent my entry and inquired to find out if it was received, I got a response that the entry has been received. In my reply, I wrote, “Thanks for clearing the air on my submission. I appreciate.”

I was in a long queue in a bank in Port Harcourt on April 4 2016, when I received a call. The person introduced himself as Olakunle Oyebanjo, Head of Marketing & Sales, Nordica Lagos. He then asked if he was speaking to Odimegwu Onwumere. I said that he was.

“You entered for the Nordica Media Merit Awards?” he asked. “Yes, I deed” was my response.

“To confirm you are the right person, send us with your email address again.” I did that immediately and within some seconds, I got an email from Oyebanjo with the subject “Invitation – Endo Gala Night & Fund Raising Dinner – Saturday April 9th 2016.” I was a shortlist! Instructions pertaining to attendance were clearly detailed in the mail that came to me in the “BCC” icon.

Preparing for the Awards
I started preparing immediately for the awards – To travel from Port Harcourt to Lagos by road. A journey of about 8hours, depending. But by air, it is usually 45mins.

I decided to travel through the road, due to the government of Major General Muhammadu Buhari, which majority Nigerians can now see hoodwinked them with the “change” mantra during the All Progressives Congress electioneering campaigns in 2015, has impoverished the country than lessen poverty in the citizenry as Nigerians had anticipated.

It is only in this government that a dollar had equaled N400; and a litre of fuel (PMS) sold at N400 in fillings stations across the country – in variations. In short, it is a government of “Trial and Error” of “Blame Game” and “All Promises Cancelled (APC)”.

I did not join the bus from Port Harcourt, I went to Aba in Abia State, knowing that as Aba is a commercial place, buses would load very fast.

I was disappointed that Friday night. There was a decline in the rate of people travelling to Lagos that night. An official of the motor station I was at, told me that ordinarily, the first luxurious “Night Bus” was supposed to leave Aba for Lagos by 7pm, but here ‘we’ were by 10pm.

When the bus finally left with a negligible number of commuters, I wanted to sleep, but could not sleep, due to the irritant called dilapidated-roads in the country.

There was never a smooth-three-minute drive from the East to South on the journey. I got to Lagos by 9am. My brother (cousin) Udoka, who was on the fuel queue in Lagos, left for the ‘Black Market’ at a very mouth-vomiting price, when I called to inform him of my arrival.

He came to the bus-stop, where I had alighted and we rode through the Mango Bus-stop axis to his residence. As we got home, we expended the one day that I stayed in his house, burning the generator.

Awards gala night
The weather in Lagos was so hot unlike the weather in Port Harcourt. When it started drizzling around 3pm on April 9 2016 – the D-Day for conferring of the awards – I was relieved as the weather became mild.

Udoka, who passively knows the bus-stops by their names, but knows the roads very well and I, set out in his Camry car to the venue.

An alluring environment with hard-working security officials making sure that the influx of cars in the venue was regulated, The City Centre, Victory Island, Lagos, could win an award for the orderliness of its environment.

We parked the car and were directed to the Banquet Hall. The decoration in the hall was sparkling. Udoka and I looked for a table and occupied just two seats.

There were several tables in the hall, each with over five seats making it up. We sat waiting, filling our eyes with the appearances of some women, who were making the occasion booming with their oversized and downsized outfits! The security men and women were neatly dressed.

The awards ceremony that was billed for 6pm started latter. In making sure that all the journalists that were shortlisted for the awards were present, we were gathered to a particular place in the dazzling hall. Each of the journalists was wearing a look of “Am I going to be the winner?”

The MCs – a man and woman – were very good. The woman in doing everything to keep the place fun-running was loquacious. The good-looking, brilliant and soft-voice wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo was a Special Guest of Honour.

She had the brain in her Keynote address. “Endometriosis poses a danger in making the women world go on extinction if the menace is not arrested soon,” she said.

I saw the likes of Veteran Journalist Dele (Momodu); Musician Shina Peters; Ex-Beauty Queen Nike Oshinowo whose authentication of how endometriosis had been an unfriendly friend brought bitter tears down her jaws; music star Tiwa Savage as well as MBGN World Unoaku Anyadike were there; Tanzanian beauty Millen Magese; Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, a consultant Obsterician and Gynaecologist and the Managing Director, Nordica Fertility Centre, Lagos; and so many other dignitaries were present and represented.

Conferring the awards
I was bewildered when the occasion got to this stage if I was going to be a winner. My befuddlement heightened when a good-looking man who introduced himself as Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, the Editor-in-Chief of Vanguard newspapers, mounted the pedestal to call out how many entries from journalists that were gotten for the awards and how many journalists were shortlisted.

Adefaye was among the Panel of Judges that screened the entries. I did not know him. He said that there were three categories for the awards: Print, Electronic and Digital. One winner will emerge in each category; each will get a reward of N250, 000.

The Health Editor of New Telegraph newspapers, Mrs. Appolonia Adeyemi won in the Print Category, while Toyin Aboh of Television Continental won in the Electronic Category and, I won in the Digital Category.

Conclusion: Nordica Media Merit Awards open and plain
I would say that the Nordica Media Merit Awards were judged on merit and not, on tribe, or who you know.

I want to thank Nigerian editors and newspapers publishers, who do not publish the chaff and dropping, the wheat. The online publishers have kept the spirit running and they deserve the support of Nigerians and the leaders.

I’m of the view that no matter what some quarters are suggesting that journalism in Nigeria was heading to extinction, I want to make a consolidated remark that journalism will not die in the country; rather some journalists may be going out of the profession for something, but the ones who remain stoical will continue to represent social justice and impartiality, contributing to society as well as being the watchdog in society.

I want to thank Udoka who was my ‘guide’ in Lagos. I want to implore the authorities to support the Nordica Media Merit Awards and in so doing, initiate other journalism awards to encourage journalists.

Conversely, I want to especially thank Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, managing director, Nordica Fertility Centre, organisers of the awards, for their fertility initiative, which has added to the fertilisation of my journalism womb.

Contact Odimegwu Onwumere via email:

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