Empowered Newswire reports

NIGERIA'S IMAGE IN THE US GOT A MAJOR boost in New York over the weekend as prominent Nigerians abroad and top government officials came together under one roof to celebrate the achievements of top US and Canada-based Nigerian professionals, academics and business executives.

Some pictures from the Oct 16 @ 50 Top 50 US/Canada-based Nigerians Awards Dinner in New York
1. Representative from the Presidency, Dr. Jubrin Baba Adamu, VP's Senior Special Assistant on ICT with Nigeria's Ambassador to the US Prof. Ade Adefuye

2. Revd Goke Oyedeji, also a professor, and wife receiving the Evergreen Community Leadership Nigeria Diaspora Prize from Chief Harry Akande at the awards dinner

3.Revd Oyedeji and wife flanked by Ambassador Adefuye and Prof. Gambari

alt4. Nigeria's Permanent Representative to the UN Prof Joy Ogwu presenting the Nigeria Diaspora Prize in International Public Service to World Bank Vice President for Africa, Oby Ezekwesili
5. Gambari, Prof. Ferdinand Ofodile, winner of the Nigeria Diaspora Prize for Medicine, his wife, a friend, Ambassadors Adefuye and Ogwu

In speeches, remarks and comments made, the resounding tone was that Nigeria has produced some of the best people in different areas of human endeavor, and while many Nigerians abroad are making their mark those at home are as equally gifted only operating under different circumstances and environment.

The event designed as part of the country's Golden Jubilee Celebration in the US was witnessed by an array of distinguished Nigerians including a representative of the Presidency, the Nigerian Ambassador to the United States Ambassador Ade Adefuye, his counterpart, Nigeria's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Joy Ogwu and the Vice President of the World Bank, Ms Oby Ezekwesili.

Also the African Union and United Nations Joint Special Representative to Darfur, Professor Ibrahim Gambari and Chicago multi-millionaire and ANPP chieftain Chief Harry Akande also graced the dinner which celebrated a group of Top 50 Nigerians in US and Canada selected and recognised for their different outstanding achievements abroad and for giving Nigeria a good image through their own excellence and feats.

From the presidency was Dr. Jubrin Baba Adamu, a Senior Special Assistant from the office of the Vice President, who also spoke and congratulated the winners and all Nigerians abroad for projecting the image of the country positively.

In his opening remarks Ambassador Adefuye, the chairman of the event spoke of Nigeria's strategic importance globally, including in the West African region, adding that "God has been so kind to us."

Said he: "Some people are wondering why we are celebrating, that we should have done better than where we are. We should recognise our limitations, but let is continue to rejoice in hope and resolve to do better."

Saying that Nigeria always have "an array of talents, the Nigerian Ambassador noted that it is important for Nigeria as a country "to celebrate those who have made us proud as a way to encourage the coming generation."

Commending the organizers of the event, Empowered Communications, for coming up with the idea of honoring the top 50 US and Canada-based Nigerians, Adefuye stated that "Nigerians should always be thankful and worship God who has been so kind to us."

Addressing the top 50 Nigerians honored at the dinner, Adefuye urged them to "continue along the path that you have been treading, continue to do what you are doing, continue to behave the way the good Lord has created you."

Turning to the entire guests and audience, about close to 200 US and Canada-based Nigerians who were invited to the exclusive event, Adefuye said "the Lord has blessed us, let us continue to rejoice in hope and our country will go from strength to strength."

Delivering her keynote address, Ezekwesili, a former Education Minister before resuming as VP at the World Bank said the importance of Diaspora citizens have been exemplified by the examples of China and India, whose nationals abroad have impacted the rapid development of their home countries.

According to her, there has been some significant growth in African economies including Nigeria which should not be ignored because of other pressing socio-economic or political challenges. Congratulating winners of the award, including her self Ezekwesili noted that the season for Africa to take the bull by the horns has come and that Nigerians abroad should get actively involved now in contributing their expertise and making the desired impact.

Akande and Gambari made the closing remarks at the dinner congratulating the winners and restating Nigeria's hope as being in its distinguished citizens at home and abroad. Akande used the opportunity to update Nigerians abroad that he has decided to run again for the presidency, encouraging Nigerians abroad to ensure that they can vote in Nigerian elections.

According to him, "if you don't vote, you don't count."

In his remarks, Gambari restated Nigeria's importance, disclosing for instance that in the UN Mission in Darfur, Nigeria has 7000 troops in the service of international peace.

Present at the dinner were about 40 of the top 50 winners including Ezekwesili, Hamza Bassey, Jelani Aliyu, Prof. Ferdinand Ofodile the plastic surgeon, Dr. Oluyemi Badero, Prof. Toyin Falola, Dr. Joe Igietseme, Kayode Oladele, Revd. Adegoke Oyedeji, Prof Bolaji Aluko, Chief Usua Amanam, Dr. Marcel Ajah, Prof. Olufemi Vaughan, Dr. Baba Adam, Mr. Seni Hazzan, Dr. Olajide Williams, Prof. Edward Oparaoji, Prof Abba B. Gumel, Prof Ebere Nduka, Prof Wale Awodiya, Prof. Benedicta Egbo, and Dr. Akin Awofolaju.

Also honored among the top 50 were groups including the Nigeria Higher Education Foundation, NHEF, represented by its president Mr. Wale Adeosun, the New Jersey Chapter of the Nigeria in Diaspora organization-NIDO-NJ represented by Alhaji Abdullahi Dauda, Africa Abroad Newspaper represented by its Editor-in-Chief, Alex Kabba,, represented by Dr. Steve Nwabuzor, Nigerian Village Square ( represented by Rudolf Okonkwo and Nigeria Nurses Association, NNA, represented by Dr. Godgive Okoli & Mrs. Chinyere Onwumelu

Other groups honored were Nigeria Democratic Liberty Forum, NDLF represented by its president, Dr. Adegboyega Dada and Executive Director Bukola Oreofe, the organization for the Advancement of Nigerians, OAN, the organizers of the Nigeria Independence day parades, represented by its Chairman Attorney Dan Salami and president Mike Adeniyi and Saharareporters whose publisher was absent but Oreofe picked the award on his behalf

Some other winners who sent representatives to pick their awards included Dr. Kase Lawal, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Prof. Jacob Olupona of Harvard, Hauwa Ibrahim from Harvard Law and Divinity School, Pastor James Fadele, Dr. Chamberlain Peterside, Dr. Mercy Obamogie and Dr Ola Kassim from Canada.

Others who apologised for being unable to make it, some at the very last minute are Dr. Funmi Olopade, Dr. Peter Osemobor, Mr. Fidelis Umeh, Dr. Victor Oladokun of CBN, Mr. Toni Onianwah, Sunday Dare, Mike Okwu, Chimamanda Adichie, Prof Biodun Jeyifo & Habibat Garuba.

Eminent Nigerians who presented the award to all the winners were the Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Prof. Adefuye, his counterpart, the Nigeria Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Joy Ogwu, also a professor, AU-UN Joint Special Envoy to Darfur, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari and Chicago Multi-Millionaire, & Chief Harry Akande.