National honours and the pride of a nation
By Kassim Aiegbua
We are such an interesting nation peopled by different characters and shades of individuals with no discernible compass. We do things in very ridiculous manners and get national awards for it. Nigeria is an award-giving-ceremony country but with less achievements both at the individual and collective levels, and often times one wonders why the ostentatious display of success without visible signs to showcase such achievements.
Take a roll call of all chieftaincy title holders in Nigeria; it will be unimaginably long. Every household wants to produce a long list of chiefs and high chiefs, all because we care too much about very little things of life for the self and not for the whole.
The chieftaincy list has been over saturated hence we now have high chiefs. I am told that the high chief list is also getting filled up, so people are making an upward movement to the next cadre of High-High-Chief. And the trajectory goes on and on like an unbroken chain.
When one takes time to take a critical look at the list of those who are annually churned out as beneficiaries of the National Honours Award, one begins to wonder what the unique achievements of the awardees is. One is compelled to listen to all manners of citation; some carrying the burden of boredom, others appearing so watery that you begin to search for the unique achievement of the awardees.
Yet others are essentially deserving of the recognition on account of what they have contributed to the development of the nation. If you ask me, what was the rationale for giving an Officer of Federal Republic [OFR] to one female actress sometime ago?
Was she adjudged the best in terms of contribution to that genre that has grown to become very lucrative in Nigeria? Or she was simply the friend of somebody in high places who just decided to invoke the doctrine of “printer’s devil” to include her name on what was supposed to be exclusively distinguished list of achievers? Due to the shoddy manner with which the exercise was conducted, the Committee ran short of certificates in the process.
Fresh graduates have also been part of the list of honourees for no justifiable achievement whatsoever. The content and character of the National Honours Award has been reduced to a political platform where contractors and business men are given recognition for ripping off the country.
If Nigeria is seen and known to be a deeply vulnerable and corrupt country, with mortals that are desperate to build new empires to enlist in the exclusive list of new “arrivee”, where is that cutting edge that has produced this long list of those that are said to be deserving of the national award?
What are the effects and impacts of those unique achievements on the generality of the people? Who is inventing what? Who is creating new dimensions to solving one problem or the other? How much of employment are we creating by the activities of these awardees?
How do you reward a man for doing his money-making business well? The GCON award on Chief Mike Adenuga is a misplaced one. Here is a man who got telecomm license as the second National Carrier after the almost extinct Nigerian Telecommunications [NITEL], and till date, we cannot see his landlines.
The concentration is now strictly on GSM because it fetches quick money. I would have supported the Globalcom czar if his call rates are unimaginably low and if maximization of profit is not a motivation for his businesses. Added to this is the allegation of underhand dealings of Consolidated Oil which parades Mike Adenuga as a scion. What about his Equatorial Trust Bank? What has been the performance and history of that Bank?
The man may be a good man as many have already attested to, but there must be a unique cutting edge that qualifies him for the enviable award of Grand Commander, Order of the Niger [GCON]. I think very seriously that it is about time for us to review the criteria for dashing out these awards to individuals who are considered as having contributed to the growth and development of the country.
Such criteria must take into account our peculiar history and unity in diversity. It must ignore geopolitical consideration and federal character if we are truly serious about building a united Nigeria. Achievements of such an awardee must cut across ethnic sentiments.
It should be based on an idea that has therapeutic content to combat the challenges that we face as a developing nation. We should probe into the sciences, arts, sports, and technical areas; encourage inventions that could answer the many developmental questions staring at us in the face. The rendition of awards in the name of quota does not encourage merit.