THE world over, a newspaper editorial represents the official position or sentiment of a particular news medium on societal issues. In other climes, where ownership allows the observance of standard editorial policies, the commentary could be read with devotional commitment. Of course, it is expected to be well-researched; hence, an informed commentary. But in today’s Nigeria, newspaper viewpoints have been trivialised; an indication that all is not well with the society.

Clearly, that was witnessed on  September 25, 2011,  when the Thisday on Sunday shot itself in the foot!In a piece entitled: “The Abuse of Honourary Degrees”, the editorial writers sought to indict both the highly revered Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) and some prominent Nigerians who were recently honoured by the institution.

While  insinuating that the NDA sold its awards, Thisday singled out two, out of the four personalities who were honoured that day  to castigate. They were: Sen. Jubril Aminu, former Ambassador to the United States, former Minister of Petroleum; Alhaji Sada Abubakar III, Sultan of Sokoto and a retired Colonel in the Nigerian Army; Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, Minister of Petroleum and Gov. Godswill Akpabio. Surprisingly, in a piece bereft of solid facts or deeper analytical insights, the paper turned logic on its head and rambled to a ridiculous end.

While the leadership of NDA is capable of defending its decisions, many Nigerians have expressed shock that  the newspaper attempted to play down the worthy contributions of Governor Godswill Akpabio in that editorial. Among other things, it claimed that, “nothing can be more cynical than bestowing honour on public officials just because they hold specific offices where big patronage could be dispensed.

It is in this light that we view the recent award of honourary degrees in Management Sciences by the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) to … Godswill Akpabio, Governor of Akwa Ibom State … as we fail to understand the criteria that recommended … to the NDA authorities, an institution established for training our military officers”.

Academic research

In other words, Governor Akpabio has not done enough, in the estimation of the paper, to be given an award! So, who then merits an award (honorary degree)? According to the publication, “honourary degrees are supposed to be conferred on those who have distinguished themselves in one area of human endeavour or the other. It could be in recognition of their contributions to academic research and learning, sports and the arts or in community service and philantrophy” (sic). This is where writers of the editorial showcased their confusion. In an apparent attempt to justify their bias, they clearly contradicted themselves and that of the newspaper.

Wikipedia, the online dictionary, defines an award as “something given to a person or a group of people to recognize excellence in a certain field; a certificate of excellence”. In other words, award is a sign of recognition and appreciation; it is to serve as encouragement to the awardee. Thus, whether the newspaper likes it or not, a man who declares war of decayed infrastructure; ignorance; poverty; poor health facilities; backward educational system, etc has fulfilled all the criteria for any award. Indeed, he sure deserves an encouragement!

Last year, the same newspaper gave Governor Akpabio an award as an “emerging Tiger”. He was nominated among 50 prominent Nigerians who have contributed immensely to the growth of Nigeria. Then, while the paper’s editors noted that Nigeria was enmeshed in a potpourri of corruption, ineptitude, epileptic power supply, parlous state of infrastructure; they saw hope in Akpabio’s developmental efforts. Hence, according to them, after “a painstaking debate” Governor Akpabio was picked for his “landmark achievements” and contributions to the growth of Nigeria!

Instructively,  the paper’s Editors, including those who  wrote the editorial, maintained then that: “Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State is widely credited with leading an administration that has turned the state into a ‘big project site’. Massive construction works in the state are matched with excellent supervision and monitoring, making the state a model in both performance and prudent management of resources. The state has an automated project tracking system as part of the monitoring process”.

Put another way, Governor Akpabio, despite his relatively young age, has given Nigeria hope of a better tomorrow! So why is the newspaper contradicting itself a few months later? Why is it trying to dance naked? Why speak from both sides of the mouth? Does it mean that Akpabio did enough to deserve their honour but less to merit an award from another institution? Or is the paper saying its own awards come too cheap and does not measure up to those from other institutions. Is the paper questioning its own credibility?

In its struggle to discredit Akpabio’s sterling achievements, the paper forgot its own story. Like noted by one Enefiok Ekpe, who wrote from Ohio in the United States, the paper has given more awards than any institution living or dead. Commenting via Ibom Forum, an online site passionately critical of Akpabio, Ekpe challenged the publication to first withdraw all its previous awards to politicians before sounding sanctimonious. “Or, is it a case of overlooking a big piece in your eye while telling others to remove the small pieces in their eyes?”

In one breath,  the paper admitted “the prerogative of the universities to choose who they wish to honour”. In another, it attempted to taint the NDA by insinuating that the award was monetarily induced. So, was the paper saying that the “Emerging Tiger” award and, indeed, its numerous annual awards, generally broken in various categories, usually have a price tag?

Still, it should be clearly stated here that Governor Godswill Obot Akpabio, in the last four years, has rejected more awards than he accepted and has never paid for any recognition. He certainly has no need to induce an award on himself, as his internationally acknowledged achievements speak eloquently for him. In the words of Ernie Banks, awards mean a lot, but they don’t say it all!

Mr. Usoro is SSA Media(Print & Research) to Gov. Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.