By NBF News

• Gov. Mimiko admiring Albert Ohams' cartoon
The 2011 edition of the Nigeria Media Merit Awards (NMMA), where The Sun journalists shone like a million stars, afforded selected journalists from across the country the opportunity of exploring the beautiful city of Akure, reports ERIC DUMO

Breathtaking fireworks, loads of fanfare spiced with melodious tunes blaring from giant-sized speakers inside a glittering and packed hall, drew the curtains on the 2011 edition of the prestigious Nigeria Media Merit Awards (NMMA).

The event, which had all the trappings reminiscent of the Nottinghill carnival, one of the world's most glamorous and hugely attended festivals held in London – was a collection of fun and glitz. Guests who had thronged Akure in Ondo State, to be a part of the historic event were not disappointed. Apart from having wonderful experiences, scores of attendees who had come from far and near told Daily Sun that they were leaving Akure with sweet memories.

The NMMA, now in its 20th season, is the biggest and most respected media award in the country established to recognize outstanding journalists. The scheme, created in 1991, have celebrated veterans in the trade and continues to be popular among the current crop of practitioners in the country. A total of 45 different awards from the print and electronic categories were up for grabs this year. And to a large extent, the competition for honours among nominees was very fierce. But by the time the event game to a glorious end in the early hours of Sunday, 11 December, a new order had emerged in Nigerian journalism.

The Sun's features editor, Tope Adeboboye, had the world literarily at his feet when he mounted the podium to receive his award on the night. A multiple award-winning journalist and prose stylist, Adeboboye's sparkling white jacket complimented with his trademark hat, painted a man on top of his game. He had won the Abubakar Imam Prize for Newspaper Features Writer of the Year – one of the most contested and respected categories of the annual awards. With a smile on his face and excitement flowing in his voice, Adeboboye told the packed hall it was just the beginning of things to come. He is among the competition's few serial winners. He had won the features category three times, besides other previous awards at the prestigious event. Last year, he clinched the Travels and Tourism Reporter of the Year award.

Maurice Archibong, a, seasoned journalist, author, artist, culture activist and contributing editor with The Sun, who went away with a trophy on the night, equally got the hall thrilling. Another of the competition's biggest winners, Archibong clinched the prize for Culture and Tradition Reporter of the Year. Like Adeboboye, he has become one of the leading veterans of this respected media awards, having won the Travel and Tourism category three times, besides other awards.

As if that was not all, The Sun received its third award on the evening when another of its finest writers – Eric Dumo was announced as the Sports Reporter of the Year. Dumo, who is on the newspaper's magazine desk, have before his victory last weekend, been nominated three previous times.

The honour could have been more for The Sun had three other journalists on its stable clinched their categories. Multiple award-winning Cartoon editor, Albert Ohams, Education correspondent, Sam Ottti and Musa Jibril all narrowly missed out on the prize for Cartoonist of the Year, Education Reporter of the Year and Tourism Reporter of the Year respectively.

However, the highlight of the evening came when Ohams presented the executive governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, with a wonderful artwork celebrating the gallant performances and achievement of his administration in only two years in office. Mimiko, in his short stay in power, has transformed Ondo State from a poor and less developed state into one of Nigeria's most beautiful and preferred destinations. And it was in graphic celebration of these huge strides that Ohams presented the gift to the Governor. In excitement and utmost ecstacy, Mimiko translated the drawing to the admiration of the massive gathering.

But beyond the significance of the 2011 NMMA, it is the beautiful and colourful sights and sounds provided by Akure that would remain most memorable. In large convoys, visitors were taken round different projects – finished and ongoing, to see how Iroko, as the governor is fondly called, is making Ondo work. From education to healthcare, social amenities to even sporting facilities, Ondo State has come a long way to earn a place in the hall of fame. The testimonies are just too visible for all to see.

Indeed, this year's NMMA would not be forgotten in a hurry. It would go down in history as one of the best organized and attended media award ceremonies in the country. Other winners included Sunday Adedeji of Tell who won the News Photography of the Year prize, Wale Alabi of The Nation, Brand and Marketing Reporter of the Year, Emmanuel Uffot of Newswatch, Investigative Reporter of the Year, and Sika Baridom of Radio Rivers, Radio Reporter of the Year.

Olatunji Ololade (The Nation), Akeem Lasisi (Punch), Deji Bademosi (Channels Television),Adejuwon Soyinka (Tell) and others were equally celebrated at the glamorous event.