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Buhari Which MLK family gave President disregarded leadership award?

There's been a little controversial storm growing around an award the president recently received.

  • Published:
Presidency comments on Buhari's MLK award controversy play

President Muhammadu Buhari awarded the First Black History Month National Black Excellence and Exceptional African Leadership Award

(Twitter/BashirAhmaad)

When President Muhammadu Buhari was awarded the very First Black History Month National Black Excellence and Exceptional African Leadership Award by the family of famous human rights activist, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it was a big deal.

At the award ceremony which took place at Council Chambers in Abuja on Monday, March 26, 2018, the delegation of the King family was led by Dr Naomi Barbara King who advised that the nation continue to pray for peace and strive to eradicate corruption in order to be a nation to be reckoned with.

To the presidency, it was a big deal because it validated their insistence of the president's value as a credible leader being recognised by a powerful family for his war on corruption in the country.

To the dissenting Nigerian public, especially on social media, it was a scam being orchestrated and paid for to further pull the wool over the country's eyes about the president's shortcomings as the 2019 presidential election approaches.

The objections were mostly based on the perceived clash in the human rights fight of the late Dr King and the governing style and track record of President Buhari.

When MLK's nephew, Isaac Newton Farris Jr,  further counselled Nigerians against voting out the president in next year's election, it kicked up more dust.

He said, "I will counsel Nigerians to say give this man the time he needs to do the job that he is doing. He is one of the most legitimate leaders that the continent has produced.

"So I will just counsel Nigerians, I know, I am a visitor it is really not my business but be careful before you vote this man out of office."

This raised even more controversy as, as Farris himself feared, Nigerians told him it was none of his business and wondered why the MLK family was rooting for the president.

Last night on Wednesday, March 28, an interesting development emerged.

No immediate MLK connection

After the 1968 assassination of MLK Jnr, a prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement in America, his wife, Coretta Scott King, founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

One of the nongovernmental organisation's drive is to develop a family of leaders who personify the philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in their own lives and apply the philosophy of nonviolence to the problems and issues of the world.

MLK Jnr's youngest child, Dr Bernice King, has been The King Center's president and CEO since 2012.

On Wednesday, The King Center denied any connection to the award that the family purportedly awarded President Buhari.

It posted on its official Twitter handle, "The award given to President Buhari of Nigeria was not given by The King Center, at the request of The King Center or by the children of MLK and Coretta Scott King."

 

The Center's denial seemed to confirm Nigerians' suspicion about the award's authenticity and the actors behind it.

Many even started to suggest that the president of the most populous black nation was swindled by a foreign party.

So who is behind the award?

A lesser-known King

Dr Naomi Barbara King, who presented President Buhari with the award, is the wife of Alfred Daniel Williams "A. D." King, a Baptist minister and a civil rights activist, who was MLK Jr's younger brother and died in an accidental drowning 15 months after his assassination.

Dr Naomi King, also a human rights activist, co-founded the A.D. King Foundation in 2008 with the primary focus on youth/women empowerment and nonviolent social change strategies as a way of life and entrepreneurship as the center core; travelling all over the world to promote such and speak out on important issues.

Which MLK family gave Buhari disregarded leadership award? play

Dr Naomi Barbara King

(A.D. King Foundation)

 

An interesting link between the award and Nigeria is Dr. Rev. Babatunde Olusegun Onabanjo, a co-founder and CEO of the AD King Foundation who has Nigerian roots.

The A.D. King Foundation and The King Center are two organisations who appear to have similar goals but are different and tied to two different Kings.

The frenzy around the president's award had led many to blur the facts about the actors behind it with some even confusing Dr Naomi King to be MLK's deceased wife, Coretta Scott.

This could have been what prompted the needed response from The King Center to clarify that the President Buhari was not awarded on its behalf.

When Dr Naomi King presented the award to the president, she didn't pass it off as an award from The King Center. All the official statements that came from the presidency suggested that it was an award from the family, with a vagueness about how far that link extends.

While the initial public reaction to the award contributed to the confusion around it which prompted The King Center's denial, Farris' role in the delegation had raised the stakes a little higher.

Isaac Newton Farris is the son of Christine King Farris, MLK Jnr's oldest sibling, who was also the Vice Chair and Treasurer of The King Center for many years.

Farris was named president and CEO of The King Center in September 2005, after he had spent the previous five years as chief operating officer.

His tie to the The King Center had carried some weight when he made his comments on the reelection of President Buhari who is even yet to formally announce that he'll be running. This contributed largely to the confusion over the whole award situation.

Even though the award given to President Buhari was not a 'scam' like many have shared jokes about, but The King Center's disregard of it strips the award of some of the gloss it had just three days ago.

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