Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES from AASU headquarters in Accra, Ghana, the Secretary General of the organization, Fred Awah, said reports of the award on Mr. George, an ex-convict, who recently served jail term for corruption, was “absolutely untrue, misleading and fraudulent.”
“It is clear there are elements dragging the name of our organization in the mud,” Mr. Awah said. “The Kwame Nkrumah African Leadership Award is a prestigious one and there are criteria for awarding it. At no time did we consider him (Bode George) for any award.”
Mr. Awah, who sounded livid on the telephone, said he was already planning to travel to Nigeria to meet with officials of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, with a view to identifying “the fraudulent elements” using AASU’s name to offer dubious awards to individuals for percuniary gains.
“What they have done is criminal,” he said. “We must expose and disgrace them so that others will learn.”
There have been reports in the media (not PREMIUM TIMES) that AASU, on the recommendation of NANS, had nominated the PDP chieftain as winner of its 15th edition of the Africa Leadership Award.
A certain Olufemi Lawson, described as the Nigeria representative at AASU and project co-ordinator of the award, reportedly announced Mr. Bode’s selection, saying the award would be conferred on him on December 12 at an elaborate ceremony that would feature “a distinguished leadership lecture”.
He was quoted as saying Mr. George was selected from among the many nominees for the 2012 award based on his commitment to youth development and his defence of democratic institutions.
AASU is a regional students organisation, headquartered in Accra, Ghana with over 54 African countries as members.
When contacted by PREMIUM TIMES Friday, Mr. Lawson insisted there was no going back on the conferment of the award on Mr. George. He said the award ceremony would hold in Lagos as planned.
Mr. Lawson said the President of AASU, Mohammed Bashir, a Sudanese, is aware of the arrangement, and that the organisation’s secretary general, Mr. Awah, was not in the loop because he had been busy with the Ghanaian elections.
Mr. Lawson said in selecting Mr. George for the award, he and his group “looked beyond the politics of Nigeria” and were impressed by his effort in youth development and education.
“This is a man who has awarded over 1000 scholarships and grants to indigent students,” Mr. Lawson said. “He deserves to be honoured.”
But shortly after Mr. Lawson spoke to us, we called Secretary General Amah again who insisted “there is no such award for Bode George from AASU.”
“Lawson is not an official of AASU,” Mr. Amah said. “He contested for the position of deputy secretary general and lost. He was defeated by a Liberian. Since then, he has been pursuing a fraudulent scheme, using the name of the organization to hand out dubious awards.”
A former President of AASU, Oludare Ogunlana, also explained that his investigation indicated the organization and its secretariat had no knowledge of the purported award.
He said there is no Nigerian on the executive of AASU at this time, meaning Mr. Lawson could not be speaking for the organization.
Many Nigerians have widely criticized the plan to honour Mr. George, who was imprisoned for mismanaging public funds.
The PDP chieftain could not be reached for comments Friday morning. He did not answer or return calls made to his telephone.
Past recipients of the AASU bi-annual Africa Leadership Award include former Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Kofi Anan, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Afe Babalola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, late Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai among others.