11th September, 2012
Nigerians have described the list of 149 nominees released for this year’s National Honours Award by President Goodluck Jonathan as an embarrassment to the nation as many of the nominees do not merit the award.
Lagos lawyer and activist, Bamidele Aturu, lamented that the list of the awardees was filled with friends and contractors of the government in power, describing it as a shame.
“With this, it shows that Nigeria belongs to the contractors. When they give award, they give it to themselves; they feel the country belongs to them. To me, this award is meaningless. People just love title in this country. I don’t regard this award at all and if they give it to me, I will reject it. Journalists should stop reporting them,” Aturu said.
Also, Yinka Odumakin, scribe of the Save Nigeria Group, said the list of the awardees shows that Jonathan does not give a damn about honour, saying that the list was just a compilation of names of dishonourable people, adding that there was no credibility in the award.
The Lagos State chapter of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, also slammed the Federal Government for awarding national honours to Nigerians with questionable integrity.
The party, in a release signed by its Publicity Secretary, Joe Igbokwe, said that a careful perusal of the latest names released for national honours shows that it’s a collection of businessmen that have no moral scruples, friends and associates of those in government, discredited contractors and acolytes of those in power, especially at the federal level and mainly Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, members who had done absolutely nothing than living off the state.
It regretted that what was instituted as a badge of honour had been bastardised to the extent that Nigerians now see it as badge of dishonour and regretted that the present government was not in a hurry to reverse this negative perception.
“ It is clearly regrettable that the government did not take into consideration recent expressions of disappointment of Nigerians with the award and make necessary amends in the current list.”
Also, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, which described the list and its selection process as a charade, said it would have made meaning to honour people like the winner of the 12 June, 1993 presidential election the late Chief MKO Abiola; his late wife, Kudirat; late lawyer and foremost human rights crusader, Chief Gani Fawehinmi; late labour activist, Chima Ubani; and late Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
The two groups condemned the selection of people who are currently being probed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), saying that the honour should not be meant for the affluent alone.
Reacting, President of the TUC, Mr. Peter Esele, said though the list also had some credible Nigerians who had contributed to the country’s growth, he condemned some of the awardees that were being probed by the EFCC.
“Those people being investigated by the EFCC should not be given awards until they are cleared by the commission. The way we churn out these awards every year, it will reduce the importance attached to them.
“Honestly, I think they are becoming too many; this is not the situation in the United States where the President nominates about nine people and they are taken very seriously. You know that Nigerians are rated by the amount of money they have and not by the level of service rendered,” he said.
The Acting General Secretary of the NLC, Mr. Chris Uyot, who also reacted, said the NLC believes that the ruling class was only taking care of themselves “in terms of giving awards to their colleagues, their partners, moneybags and the rest of them.”
He said: “The President should not depend on recommendations from party stalwarts and friends from the business community. He should use his discretion to ensure that the searchlight is beamed on other segments of the society rather than politicians and technocrats. Great Ubani, Gani Fawehinmi, MKO, Kudirat, Fela, and others did a lot for Nigeria.”
—Kazeem Ugbodaga & Eromosele Ehbomele