• Monday, July 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Awards and rewards

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According to Wikipedia, an award is something given to a person, a group of people or an organization to recognize their excellence in a certain field.

The conferment of awards to people is a veritable way of encouraging desirable behaviour among the populace. When a large number of people come together and agree to give someone a special recognition for his or her contribution to societal growth in a particular area, the person so honoured is encouraged to do more. More importantly, other people, especially the younger ones, will learn that the best way to get such honours is to toe the path of service to one’s people. This is essentially the place of awards in the growth and development of a people.

Trophies, laurels, medals, ribbons, plaques and certificates are some tokens of various kinds of awards given to people in modern times. In the past era, the Igbo society used rare feathers like those of the kingly eagle (abuba ugo), horse tail, oza evula, special cowry jewelleries and other special items as tokens of honour to deserving individuals. The essence of these tokens is to announce to the larger society that the possessor of such a token is deserving of respect in the specified area. Succinctly put, awards are rewards given by an appreciative society for work well done by an individual or a group.

Speaking of rewards, it is one major factor that shapes the destiny of a society. Different communities are known for various traits that are predominant among them. A closer look at such communities will reveal that one way or the other, their cultural reward system is to blame. We know some communities in this state where stealing is predominant. A little research has revealed that in the past such communities had festivals where valiant men were celebrated after they displayed uncommon courage in stealing something strategic without being caught. Sometimes such stealing challenges were from a neighbouring community and sometimes their own community. Naturally, the reward given to such men and the fact that they are regarded as valiant men fires up the zeal to steal in other members of the society, especially the growing children. Some other societies tend to breed more harlots than others. It has also been shown that such societies, by certain cultures, promoted and rewarded erotic lifestyles among their people.

Basically, every organized society has the ability to modify the behaviour of citizens using appropriate rewards and punishment. While punishment instils fear in citizens, reward builds pride and patriotism. It should be common knowledge that a society built on love progresses better than one built on fear. I believe it is on this premise that the conferment of awards is trending in our society today. Unfortunately, like in many other things, we are getting it wrong.

Today, the giving of awards has become a career for some people. They give awards to anybody that can pay stipulated fees for them. This is very condemnable. Again, most groups in selecting people to honour with awards go for rich and influential people, whose only qualification for the award is that they are rich. Many such associations reason that giving such recognition will lure the receiver to give them some financial aid in gratitude. This is like giving a non-wrestler abuba ugo as an incentive for him to represent your community in a wrestling match. It is just not done except in the land of crazy people. Unfortunately, that is exactly what we do when we give someone an award of excellence for doing nothing but in anticipation of what he might give because of the award.

As we mentioned before, an award is a reward for spectacular work well done. If we want to get it right in this society, we must learn to do things the right way. Most of our problems emanate from having greedy and selfish politicians as our representatives at various levels. They represent the interest of their immediate families only and whenever we see them either in church or the village setting, we stand in reverence, bow in worship and readily give them the most prestigious awards in our kitty. Whenever a social club or association wants a patron, grand patron, etc, the first names that come to mind are these misrepresentatives, money-miss-roads, yahoo kingpins and master tricksters. Why? We have elevated wealth above every other consideration. Whatever goes around comes around. No one should be surprised at the kind of things that occupy the minds of our young people today. The reward system we have adopted makes it obvious that the only criterion for honour in the society is the possession of wealth, no matter how it is acquired.

Certificates are awarded to people who can pay their way through school whether they know what the course content is or not. Knighthood, chieftaincy, even kingship are all for the highest bidder. The people who have imbibed the virtues of honesty and hard work are ridiculed and often made to regret choosing this lifestyle. How many honest truck pushers have ever been given any recognition as patrons of reputable organizations? How many have been knighted in the church even with all their devotion? How many diligent, struggling, low-income women of virtue have been conferred with the Ezinne title in various churches?

Extreme materialism has overrun our system, making it impossible for merit to be rewarded adequately. The result is that mediocrity now reigns in all sectors, including the lofty ivory towers.

There is urgent need for true leaders to get back to the drawing board and review our reward system holistically. Let there be a deliberate policy to promote interest in certain areas by encouraging efforts in such areas. Examples of special areas that our society needs to encourage growth are research, inventions, creativity, technological advancement, genuine altruism and sound morals.

This society appears to be drifting because of the lack of direction by seasoned leaders (not necessarily politicians). What politicians at the helm of affairs need to do is to provide an enabling environment for these thinkers to operate and help place the society on the path of progress.

Let it be stated clearly that if the only thing the elder statesmen and thinkers of any society are able to achieve is to give the people a balanced and just reward system, they have done all they need to do to reposition the society for unprecedented growth and development.

NNENNA Ihebom