BY JOSEPH ERUNKE & EMMANUEL EBELEKE
ABUJA—In an apparent response to criticisms against the selection of candidates for this year’s National Honours Award, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday, defended his action, saying none of the recipients of the various awards had unquestionable character, just as he said the number of the awardees was still not enough.
President Goodluck Jonathan said he had directed the National Honours Award Committee, NHAC, to compile the list of honourees with the aim of stripping those with “questionable credibility”.
He said the move was to ensure that holders of the honours did not fall short of the collective expectations of Nigerians. He noted: “We are convinced that the National Honours Award is a very important part of the symbols of the country’s values and pride.
“Whilst government is always pleased to admit deserving persons into the ranks of those honoured by Nigeria, all holders must not fall short of our collective expectations. The dignity, honour and respect of the National Honours must never be tarnished
“In light of the foregoing, I have directed that the National Honours Committee compile a list of persons conferred with the National Honours but that their current credibility is questionable.
“If they are found wanting, our prestigious Honours will be withdrawn. This is essential in ensuring that holders of National Honours are truly worthy representatives of our nation, chains of values and honour, and especially are patriotic Nigerians or real friends of our dear land.”
Jonathan also directed the award committee to expand the scope of the search for recipients to include all strata of the society.
He noted that the 4430 recipients of categories of the award since inception in 1963 was not enough, adding that many more Nigerians deserved the recognition.
The president said the number of the awardees, which stood at 149 in addition to five paralympaians, was insignificant compared to the country’s population.
In this regard, he charged desirable people in the country to participate more in the National Honours Award nomination processes in future.
The president said he approved the nomination of the awardees, having realized that the National Honours Award Committee, headed by former Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Alfa Mohammed Belgore, had undertaken a thorough exercise.
He said the awardees were credible Nigerians who have distinguished themselves in their various fields of endeavour, saying his administration was committed to rewarding excellence.
“Their greatest efforts lie in the sacrifices and commitments, selflessness and passion for national development. The awardees today have distinguished themselves from far and wide as icons. Nigerians can learn some lessons from their achievement. Their efforts are commendable behaviour that should be recognized.
“We will continue to honour our business men and women who do us proud in the world international Paralympics. I challenge Nigerians to rise above board. Nation building requires sacrifice, transparency, accountability and we remain committed to due process, accountability and transparency in management of public fund. For us to succeed, we need an inclusive will to make it happen.
The president, while congratulating the award recipients for what he described as “deserving honours”, charged Nigerians to strive to deliver quality service to the nation and her people wherever they find themselves, noting that the awards were meant to show appreciation to those who he noted, have made the country proud.
His words: “At the inception of this administration, I urged all Nigerians to be part of our efforts to transform our dear country. We initiated political and socio-economic initiatives; most of them are beginning to bear fruits. Others will need little more time to make the right impact. Our economy is delivering on key targets including steady power delivery, better service delivery in agricultural sector, employment generation and wealth creation.
“We are proud of your life long achievements and contributions to Nigeria. To ensure the foregoing and reposition our dear nation, we need to sustain value reorientation and confidence building in the polity. There is therefore an urgent need for us all to embrace attitudinal change in our collective resolve to make Nigeria a great nation”.
He congratulated all the awardees, particularly Chief Mike Adenuga, the recipient of the highest award at the ceremony, saying he was proud to associate with them. President Jonathan said Adenugu had made the country in particular and West Africa in general proud by his business outfits which he noted, had provided over 100,000 jobs for Nigerians alone.
Encomiums on Adenuga
Dr Mike Adenuga the CEO of Globacom, was decorated with the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON.
Jonathan said Adenuga contributed immensely, as a businessman and entrepreneur, to the growth and development of the economy.
“He worked hard to establish Globacom as an international communication company which provides means of livelihood to over 100,000 Nigerians.
‘’Today across Ghana, Benin Republic, he has built a formidable brand and is expanding footholds in Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal.”
President Jonathan thanked the five paralympian gold medalists who, he awarded the national honours along side the 149 awardees for what he simply described as “their exceptional courage,” saying the gesture was part of his administration’s relentless efforts at re-awakening the country’s sports sector.
Responding on behalf of the awardees, Justice Mary Odili said the award which she noted, had really shown that hardwork and dedication to the nation were not being left unnoticed, would spur them to do more in their services to humanity and the nation in their various chosen careers.
She thanked the president and the National Honours Award Committee for not only recognizing what they were doing but chosen them for the honour.
Notable among those who attended the occasion which took place at the International Conference Centre, were General Yakubu Gowon, Chief Ernest Shonekan and present Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Aloma Muktar.
The five paralympic gold medalists who were given the sum of five million naira by the president besides the award of MON, were Obiji Loveline, Ivorie Nwokorie, Esther Oyomo, JoyOnalapo, Anozie Grace Ebere and Yakubu Adesokon. Their coach, Patience Igbiti benefited one million naira.
A total of 155 Nigerians were given various awards ranging from GCON, the second highest in the National Honours Award hierarchy to MON, the lowest.
Chief Mike Adenuga, Jnr, was decorated with the GCON award, while six Justices of the Supreme Court, among them two retired ones, got CFR honours award.