2014 National Honours For Cronies? By Gabriel Omonhinmin



President-Goodluck-jonathan 600Before now, I was an incurable optimist in the potentials of Nigeria becoming a great country. But events at the just concluded National Honours Awards ceremony, presided over by the President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, in Abuja on Monday, September 29, seem to have watered down my faith in the country instead of re-enforcing my initial optimism. The reason is simple. In present day Nigeria, top government functionaries, especially civil servants tend to do whatever they like brazenly, not bothering about the general feelings of Nigerians whom they are to serve. Nigeria is the only country I know, where public office holders instead of towing the path of honour and doing what is right, deliberately do wrongs, daring the ordinary people to do whatever they like, that is if they can. These attitudes are making genuine lovers of the Nigerian project to lose faith in the country. Honour, as far as I know, is the primary measure of social status which is of two kinds,” ascribed honour” and “acquired honour”.
My concern here is the “acquired honour”, which is usually gained through meritorious deeds or excellent public performance. This to me, is what the National Honours Award was supposed to represent in Nigeria. But from what we have been seeing over the years especially in 2014 and from the list of some persons just bestowed with the National Honours, one is no longer in doubt, that we as a country, is not ready to encourage excellence in public life. I am beginning to have a rethink, that the present Nigerian government is much more interested in ascribing honour to top government functionaries, cronies, sycophants, politicians and the few dubious privileged persons in the society, no matter how poorly they are performing or would have performed while holding public office. This certainly, was not the thinking of the first generation of Nigerian leaders, who instituted these awards in the first instance.
Immediately the list of the 2014 National Honours awards was announced, I could not stop thinking and weeping, whether the National Honours Award Committee members, whose responsibility it is, to screen potential awardees for this much cherished and revered honour, ever got to realize, that public forum provided challenges for gaining of losing honour in any society. The essence of National Honours, as far as I know, is to motivate men and women whose power, talent or moral examples can help to shape our daily lives for the better. This as expected is to encourage such people to do more and also create for the nation a pool of role models, who the younger generation can strive to emulate.
It was in line with this thinking that on July 1st 2013, without any prompting or any personal gratification or gains whatsoever, I decided to do a personal letter to the Honourable Minister of Special Duties and Inter Governmental Affairs, nominating a man whom have come to know and see over the years as an exceptional character for any category of the National Houours Award. This man is neither my relation nor my tribe’s man. For several years, I have watched with keen interest and closely too, as he strives to lay a firm foundation with the bricks that other manufacturers throw at him, in the process building a solid and viable manufacturing industry, in the areas of the nation’s economy, where most Nigerian entrepreneurs are not willing to invest or the least given the chance to succeed or make an in-road. In spite of the harsh economic climate in country, he has not only made a huge success of these ventures, he has in the process provided employment for thousands of able body Nigerians in the formal and informal sector of the economy. Most of the beneficiaries are young men and women who were hitherto unemployable across the country. I watched with great admiration, as he mopped up, the youths once regarded as miscreants in Onitisha in South Eastern Nigeria, making them useful to themselves and the country. As if this is not enough effort, he deliberately built into his employment system a training programme for these group of people, who within a period of one year or two of being in his service, acquired different skills that made them independent in life. These men and women are daily being pouched by other manufacturing companies, who are only interested in engaging already made skilled manpower. These groups of people have now regained their confidence, self-esteem and thus making the large society less vulnerable to crime. I was therefore compelled to do the nomination, in spite of the fact that “call for nominations of suitable Nigerians for the National Honours Award”, had earlier been published in some National newspapers, precisely on February 25th 2013.
Exactly, Twenty-two days after my letter to the Honourable Minister of Special Duties, I got a text message on my phone, from one of the secretariat staff of the National Honours Award Committee (NHAC) acknowledging the receipt of my nomination, and at the same time requesting me to urgently submit to the committee, the C.V of my nominee, two passport size photographs and one page citation, which I promptly did. From all indications, I was only being fooled, and made to believe that there was a level playing field, in the nomination and screening of eligible Nigerians, not knowing that those who have connections in high places and other preserved to be powerful in our society have already been allotted the national honours.
My reason for doing this nomination was to stress the point, that men like this, no matter how late, needed to be encouraged with National Honour that will propel them to do more for the country. I am, however, glad that I did this nomination in secret and without letting the man in question to know, otherwise, I would have been thoroughly embarrassed today. Before my failed nomination bid, anytime in my discussion with him, I would say to him, you deserve a national honour for all that you have been doing, he will smile, and say with a wave of hand, “Nigeria never get to honour any honest and hardworking man so I would not want to bother myself with their national honour.” How true he was. The way and manner excellence, patriotism and commitment to nation building which are supposed to be the qualities for an awards like this, were jettisoned for government sycophancy, men and women of dubious character alongside government bootlickers in the 2014 edition of the National Honours Award, is to say the least depressing and outrageous. The reason for my nominating him was to further encourage and spur the man in question to do more in the area of manufacturing where he is currently blazing the trail. I must confess that I was surprised, that a man of these qualities was shoved aside, while men and women of dubious and questionable characters were given awards such as CON, OFR and other categories of the National Honours. If I may ask, what have some of the Ministers and Governors done in Nigeria, to merit the honours they were given? This is not only shameful, it is also unacceptable.
I am honestly using this opportunity to challenge members of the National Honours Award Committee, to come up with the conditions or criteria they used to judge members, who were bestowed with this year’s National Honours Awards. I would also want the National Honours Award Committee, to make public the reason(s) why my candidate and several others, were not considered for any categories of the award. The National Honours Award should not be a platform for pacifying people, who are opposed to government of the day, or trying to woo such persons, to be favorably disposed to the government in preparation for up-coming elections. It is also not supposed to be a platform to reward and encourage cronies, bootlickers and politicians, who are supportive of the government of the day. No! The National Honours Award is supposed to be for people, who have distinguished themselves, performed exceptionally and give the country extraordinary service that has changed the course of the country and significantly transformed the lives of Nigerian and Nigerians. Recipients of the National Honours Awards must be people who have contributed significantly to the development of Nigeria and positively projected its image. They must be men and women who are known for exceptional achievements in any field or discipline at the national or international levels.
They must be men and women, who have made meritorious contribution to national development in the field of arts, science, commerce, sports, education, governance, philanthropy, community service or other related areas. Spicing the 2014 National Honours with decent people like Blessing Okagbare, and other sports men and women, who are well deserving of this honour, is fraudulent, alongside the three men of exceptional qualities, I mean Pa.Taiwo Akinkunmi, the man who designed the country’s national flag, Imeh Usuah, the taxi driver who returned N18 million left in his cab to the owner and Mr. Onuah Issac Michael, the steward, who has diligently served nine Presidents, right from the time of Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Corporal Solomon Dada for showing high level of dedication in his job is nothing but a deliberate attempt to deceive Nigerians, this must not be encouraged and should also not be allowed in subsequent exercise.
Mr. Omonhinmin is a Lagos based Media Consultant.

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