Poor Honour Awardee’s Records and Deserving MON(ey) By Sulaimon Mojeed-Sanni
What is wrong or what went wrong? Who cursed us? Why do we fall decades behind in orientation and general livelihood? When did we miss the “almighty” master plan left by the colonialist? Or wasn’t there a plan for us to develop on? How come data and keeping of records besiege our sense of belonging? Even to National Awards?
These are some of the thought provoking questions that jostle my being when it sadly came to the fore that Nigeria lacks a data base for its past awardees. In this 21st century, computer age? The Presidency must obviously be joking. The embarrassing revelation of our lack of a Database of past recipients of National Awards was made by Mr Henry Akpan, FCT’s Permanent Secretary, Special Duties, on Tuesday, 25th of September, 2012 in Abuja while addressing the Senate Committee on Special Duties to defend the ministry’s budget. Quoting him, “there is no record of the full list of those who had received the award so far”. Laughable, this revelation is coming on the heels of President Goodluck Jonathan’s mandating of the National Honours Committee led by former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore, to compile the list of awardees with questionable character. This is not rocket science; this administration lives in clear confusion.
When the conferring of National Awards on some (un)distinguished personalities finally came to fruition two Sundays ago, I had the premonition as usual that the President would use the opportunity to stare murky waters of national discuss because it is President Jonathan’s trademark to always leave tongues wagging after such national event; and trust the President, he never disappoints in putting up indecisive show of attitude. So, when President GEJ sounded a note of warning to national honours awardees, that the Federal Government would withdraw the honours from conferees that lacked credibility, I saw a leader running from his own shadow. Rather than mandating the National Honours Committee led by former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore, to compile the list of awardees with questionable character, I think the President could have stolen the show by stripping the honours off those very obvious. I still don’t think Mr. President needs a committee to tell him that Tafa Balogun, Erastus Akingbola, and Cecilia Ibru don’t deserve walking either in jail or out of it with their national medals still hanging on their neck. They are the opposite of dignity, honour and respect that the honour stands for!
Permit me to skip the above discourse to later paragraphs. The purpose of this piece is not for the Cons, the rogues, or impostors but the valiant paralympians, though, we won’t cease to castigate the thieves amongst ourselves, until they turn new leaves and make our nation heaven on earth. Either by default or collective prompting, one needs to commend the impressive show of attitude by the Presidency to the Paralympians and Female Under 20 footballers, Falconets. Six members of the Paralympics team that succeeded in bringing home Gold at the last paralympics games in London were honoured with the Member of the Order of Niger. The six, at the hour of decoration stole the show; the emotions that trailed the calling of their names were in-depth, the applause resounding, and their deserving the honour not questioned by all. The Six Gold winning paralympians, where among the very few Nigerians of the whole 155 awardees that truly deserve the national honour based on their contribution towards uplifting the name of Nigeria.
Unlike some who were nominated for no pointable reasons, the paralympians deserves even more. Aside the national honours, the President also added value, such that the expected MON (without “EY”) case of Chief Chika Okpala, aka Chief Zebrudaya of New Masquarade Fame can be said to have been avoided. For the paralympians, the President was generous enough to dole out N5m each for those who won Gold medals; Silver medalists went home with N3m each, while those who won Bronze went home with N2m each. Also the President’s magnanimity extended to each member of the team that did not register their names on the medals table as they receive N500,000 each. In one of the very few occasions, since we have this administration in place, I am giving it a complete 100 per cent for a decisive decision. Member of Order of the Niger (MON) was a deserving award for the Paralympians at the end of their bravura paralympic performance and the Money well deserved.
Now back to the underserved awardees. Each time I look at the list, what comes to mind is, how did a nation with few national heroes come up with a list of almost 150 heroes in a year? Where did they sprout from? Who nominated who? Aside the fact that the list lacked merit, it tested the selflessness of majority of those so nominated. If they are truly sincere and passionate about the progress of the country, they would have humbly rejected the award and call the attention of the government to the negative gravitation pull its directionless government is causing us. Cost of governance has soared steadily without corresponding development, inflation is not abating, more youths are getting unemployable, our schools remain derelicts, hospital still lacks drugs and modern day equipment and amidst other odds, our lives remain largely unsecured!
If the likes of Mike Adenuga were so honoured, simply because of their creating employment and being philanthropists, what explanation would be deduced for the six Supreme Court Justices, and the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar? Isn’t the government buying loyalty with national honours that is meant to be given after retirement as an acknowledgement of meritorious years of service? What gives us guarantee that these persons cannot descend from the ladder of success tomorrow? And, does those selected, rigged or elected into office deserve to be given national honours simply because they are “elected” officers?
I am not sorry to ask what have Honourables like Mulikat Akande, Sulaiman kawu, Halims Aguda, the Senators and Governors so honoured done to deserve the national award? If not for anything, our government needs to bow its head in shame for prioritizing quantity over quality. A sacred national honour, has been made such a cheap commodity that anybody with considerate sense of party sycophancy in “Oyingbo Market” can get. Even the fact that you are the Chairman of a non-functional politcal party can get you one, ask Dr. Emmanuel Okereke of African Liberation Party (ALP).
Nigeria is the only major oil producer where two-thirds of its population is poor; and gives national honour in proportion to what you can steal from the National purse. To make matters worse, Nigerians like taking honours for being dishonourable. If not, some of the awardees would have shown some sense of “honour” by being truthful to the government and turning down the award for not deserving it. They should be able to question the rationale behind their nomination, is it because of their obvious abysmal performance in office? And for those acknowledged by all to deserving the award, turning it down with probable reasons like Professor Chinua Achebe and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila did last year would have given them more honour. These are men concerned not of themselves but the general good. While rejecting the honour last year, Achebe said, “The reasons for rejecting the offer when it was first made have not been addressed let alone solved. It is inappropriate to offer it again to me. I must therefore regretfully decline the offer again.” May I tell all those who took flight to Abuja for the awards, that the “reasons” adduced to by Prof. Achebe, had worsen over time but their self glorifying instinct had blinded them or they are selfishly unconcerned!
When the National Honours Act was enacted in 1963, it stipulated that Nigeria’s National Honours should be awarded by the President to distinguished public servants not serving public servants. Again it empowers the President to provide for the deprivation of an honour in a case where a recipient conducts himself in a manner which the President considers to be inconsistent with the honour. But our government reads the provision the other way round. In the United Kingdom honours system, the large percentage of awardees is nominated by the public subject to their contributions to community development not based on the number of votes they can buy. And there is a standing Honours Forfeiture Committee, that ” consider cases where an individual’s actions subsequent to their being awarded an honour raise the question of whether they should be allowed to continue to be a holder of the honour”.
We only can hope the committee setup would be capable of compiling a list even without a database! While there is no database for awardees another of our miserable governmental entities, the National Theatre, wants to spend a whopping sum of N22.8 million to purchase typewriters! Just like we can’t get a reliable figure of the country’s population, number of unemployed graduates, number of taxable adults, etc, these recipients database would haunt us a great. Do I hear somebody muting Vision 2020 there? Conclusively, having commended the effort of FG in giving a deserving MON (ey) to paralympians and our female football team, we should not close our eyes to the utter decay of moral values in awarding majority of the awards. God save us, if next year’s list is a repeat of this year’s. A word, Yoruba’s say is enough for the wise.
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