OUR annual national honours awards are seen in many quarters as hollow rituals. Yearly, hundreds of people, especially those who have occupied top positions in government, are honoured for purported contributions to the development of Nigeria.
In 47 years of the awards, thousands of Nigerians have been rewarded, yet Nigeria is one of the most undeveloped states in the past 50 years.

Some of the awards stink. This year, awardees included wealthy judges, one of whom has been mentioned in several cases of “black market” judgements.

More pointedly, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Patricia Olubunmi Etteh, who after three months was forced out of office over a contract scam, was conferred with the third highest honour Commander of the Federal Republic, CFR.

Though she was not convicted of the alleged offences, the manner in which she left office and the death of Hon Aminu Safana should have stayed the hands of whoever recommended her. Hon Safana died on the floor of the House in a fracas over Etteh. Since the scam, Etteh, a House of Representatives member since 1999, has been famous for her silence during debates.

The President, who presents these awards, should have raised questions. Unfortunately, none of these happened. Any surprise that some Nigerians like Professors Chinua Achebe, Tam David-West, late Chief Christian Chukwuma Onoh and Chief Gani Fawehinmi rejected their nomination for the honours?

For 2010, one of the awards that drew attention was the Member of the Federal Republic, MFR, the sixth in the order of prestige, conferred on Nollywood star, Chinedu Ikedieze, popularly known in the industry as Aki.

The shine was taken off this nomination by the omission of his pair, Osita Iheme, also known as Pawpaw. The duo is the inseparable screen twins of Nollywood.

Many have been wondering what qualified Aki for this award which Pawpaw did not possess, since the two are like the inseparable two sides of a coin. They have an extraordinary friendship and partnership. Their contributions to all the movies they have starred in have shown them as natural complements.

Aki and Pawpaw are not just entertaining and engaging, they have also inspired others with physical challenges to live above their impairments. The movie industry has room for them and has raised them to prominence. Several Aki and Pawpaw characters have sprouted in the burgeoning Ghana movie industry.

The surprise of it all was that nobody in the selection committee saw the oddity of separating the duo. It says something about the rigour of the process and others whose valuable contribution would have been missed in the awards.

We expect that Mr. Iheme would be rewarded next year to correct this omission. The quality of the awards could be improved through more thorough and better criteria for giving them. Those who win must have deservedly earned the respect of the public by their contributions to society.

Aki and Pawpaw are national icons celebrated all over the world. They are among the bright spots in a country beleaguered by corruption, crime, failed governance and poor international reputation.

They have demonstrated that physical challenge can be overcome by those who are determined – and with the enabling environment – to prove their worth.

Celebrating Aki without Pawpaw amounts to clapping with one hand.


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