Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States, is making his third appearance as Special Guest at THISDAY Awards 2013, which will hold, for the first time, in the ancient city of Abeokuta, capital of Ogun State, some 55 kilometres from Lagos.
The prestigious awards, the 18th edition, will hold on February 26 at a venue known to specially invited guests as we celebrate Nigeria's best and brightest teachers in an effort by the Editors of THISDAY to reward the unsung heroes and highlight the challenges facing the country's troubled education sector.
In recognition of the critical role they play in human capital development and socio-cultural and economic advancement of the country, readers of THISDAY have nominated over 750 of their favourite teachers deserving of honour and celebration from primary, secondary and university levels from across Nigeria.
A distinguished panel headed by former World Bank Vice-President, Oby Ezekwesili, founding CEO of Guaranty Trust Bank, Mr. Fola Adeola, and veteran journalist, Mallam Haroun Adamu, will join THISDAY Editors to produce a shortlist of winners from the nominations to be published this week.
The winners will be honoured by President Clinton and other world leaders who will converge on Abeokuta in an event to be broadcast worldwide on ARISE NEWS TELEVISION and Channels TV in Nigeria.
The choice of Abeokuta for the prestigious awards was informed by the ancient town's unique history and contributions to modern Nigerian civilization and education.
Abeokuta had the first contact with the missionaries; the first secondary school in Nigeria, Abeokuta Grammar School, which was established in 1908; while the town also received the first Bible to come to the country.
It was in the town that the first church, St. Peters Church, was established in Ake. The first newspaper-Iwe Irohin Fun Awon Ara Egba Ati Yoruba-, was also birthed in the city.
Abeokuta is the home of many icons in the country among whom are the first Nobel Laureate for Africa, Prof. Wole Soyinka, who grew up in the town and still lives in the community, former President Olusegun Obasanjo who also lives in the community, which hosts his Presidential Library, former Head of Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Adegunle Shonekan, and the acclaimed winner of June 12 presidential election and business titan, Bashorun MKO Abiola.
The town also produced the first Nigerian Chief Justice of the Federation, Sir Adetokunbo Ademola; first Nigerian lawyer, Sir Alexander Akintola Sapara Williams; first Permanent Secretary and Head of Service in Nigeria who was also the country's Permanent Representatives to the United Nations, Chief Simon Adebo, among several others including Prof. Adeoye Lambo, one-time Deputy Director-General of World Health Organisation; Afrobeat maestro, and late Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
Incidentally, the first woman to drive a car in the country, Fela's mother, late Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, was also produced by the city.
Beyond the rich history of Abeokuta, the editors also considered the strides being made to transform education by current Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, in deciding the first THISDAY Awards outside of Lagos or Abuja.