The Special Guests over the years have been a fine pan-sector mix. Over the years, special guests and keynote speakers have included Prof. Wole Soyinka, James Iroha (Gringory), Folake Solanke (SAN), Dele Olojede amongst others. The past two years have seen the Senate President David Mark, and former Biafran warlord Emeka Ojuwkwu.
For this year’s edition, which holds on the 9th of October 2010 at the Eko Hotels, Lagos, the NLNG is back to the core arts industries.
Sam Loco Efe, veteran actor and comedian, who is something of an institute, has been selected as the Special Guest – a decision which some writers and journalists have described as ‘surprising’.
According to the company, the honour is not strictly because of his theatrical artistry “although you are a superb actor and film star who radiates beauty and an inner light that shines through every role you have played.”
The invitation, according to the company in a letter to the veteran performer, is also because Sam Loco is ever and always a gentleman; a sensitive man of warmth and kindliness as eternally charming as when he captured the hearts of all who saw him on stage or screen. You have over the years changed your medium, but have not changed your gift for bringing smiles to the hearts and faces of our compatriots. You are an actor with whom everyone feels a special bond of kinship irrespective of tongue or tribe.
Sam Loco-Efe has also remained a mentor and a role model to the youth. And in his private life, he has symbolised what is right about Nigeria, what is noblest and best and what human beings have pursued since the beginning of history – love for self, family, nation and profession.
In a letter from the company, signed by Ifeanyi Mbanefo, the Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Manager, Mr. Loco-Efe was told of the company’s simple intent. “There are several reasons for this invitation,” the letter said. “At this time, but by far the most simple and straight forward is that we want you to be with us on the day that means so much to writers and scientists. This year’s literature prize is for drama and there is no one, in our opinion, worthier of this honour than Sam Loco Efeeimwonkiyeke.
“Many, many years ago, Nigeria hosted the world to FESTAC 77 and a Nigerian drama, Langbodo was staged to a full house at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos. Sam Loco Efe was Akarogun and he gave a performance of matchless beauty. The silence when he finished was, I am sure, a greater ovation than any artiste had every received in that hall. It was so good that General Olusegun Obasanjo, then the Head of State ordered that the play be broadcast on network television every morning throughout the duration of the festival.”
This year’s Keynote Speaker is another surprise. Taking over from Dr. Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, this year’s speech will be delivered by the Managing Director of the Company, Chima Ibeneche – based especially on his feat stabilising the company in a time of global economic crisis.
“Over the years, The Grand Award Night lectern has been graced by intellectual giants and colourful and charismatic men and women at the zenith of their careers,” the company said in a letter to Mr. Ibeneche. “And others who, by their accomplishments have earned themselves whole chapters in Nigeria history books.
“Reviewing your long and successful career, your courage, wisdom and accomplishments, especially in keeping Nigeria LNG Limited, Africa’s largest private industrial company, profitable during the world economic recession and NLNG’s feat in stabilising the price of LPG in the domestic market, we are satisfied that you have earned your stripes and are eminently deserving of this high honour.”
Inaugurated in February 2004, The Nigeria Prize for Literature, The Nigeria Prize for Science and The NLNG Grand Award Night have been well received by a cross section of our compatriots, especially the corporate world, the academia and literati. Both prizes have cash values of $50, 000 each.
The prize for literature rotates yearly amongst four literary genres: prose fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature, while the prize for science is awarded to the scientist whose work made the most impact in furthering the frontiers of knowledge. This year’s award goes to drama.
The decision to institute these prizes was reached after several meetings with some stakeholders, including representatives of the Nigerian Academy of Sciences (NAS), Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), writers, eminent scholars and literary critics.
The aim of promoting these prizes is to stimulate authorship and scientific thinking, reward creativity and bring Nigerian writers and scientists to public attention. Literature and science can only be relevant if they are supported to play their vital roles in the society. A major pillar of support for them will come through recognising and rewarding excellence in these fields.
Planned as a prestigious ceremony that will go into the country’s cultural calendar, The NLNG Grand Award Night provides the forum for the award of the science and literature prizes and fulfils our major objective of promoting excellence in our national life.