Who Deserves A National Honour?


Recently a list of 149 so-called eminent Nigerians to be conferred with National Honours by President Goodluck Jonathan on 17 September was released and criticisms have since trailed the announcement.

As had been questioned in the last few years, this year’s list has drawn the ire of prominent Nigerians, most of whom have dismissed the list as political and lacking credibility. Most also agreed that some of the awardees do not deserve to be honoured as they have contributed nothing to the growth of the country; rather they have contributed to underdevelopment and poverty ravaging the majority of Nigerians.

While some Nigerians actually deserve to be honoured, most of those who got listed in the last few years do not deserve awards. We need to sit down and ask: who deserves to be honoured? Is it the ageing teacher who has taught for half a decade or a thieving civil servant who has so much abused his office that he deserves to be jailed for life? Is it the crooked banker who took advantage of his position to run down a bank or activists who helped throw out military dictators to usher in our much-abused democracy?

While we agree that some of the listed Nigerians may deserve some sort of recognition, we strongly believe many of the names on the list have not really contributed anything to the growth of the country. In other parts of the world, citizens are recognised for being outstanding, having made a difference in their field of work or community, brought honour to the country and enhanced its reputation, carried the respect of their peers, demonstrated innovation and entrepreneurship; improved the lot of those not able to help themselves; changed things with emphasis on achievement and displayed moral courage and vision in making and delivering tough choices among others.

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We wonder what criteria were employed in drawing up the honours lists. When the national honours were instituted by the National Honours Act No. 5 of 1964 during the First Republic, it was meant to honour Nigerians from all walks of life who have rendered special and outstanding services in their various callings to the benefit and progress of the nation. Almost fifty years later, it seems we have derailed and the national honours have become too cheap and embarrassing.

After the lull between the mid 1980s and the late 1990s, the awards were resuscitated by the military government of General Abdulsalami Abubakar and in the first few years after its resuscitation, deserving Nigerians were honoured but in the last five years, it seems the honours have been politicised as friends, political associates, business associates, contractors and even family members of the powers that be now receive national honours they don’t deserve.

National honours which ought to inspire the younger generation to excel in their chosen fields have lost credibility as undeserving and even disreputable people are now being honoured. What then do we expect from young Nigerians who are struggling so hard to make this country great? What would history say about a government that has stood reason on its head by honouring disreputable people just because they are political associates?

National Honours are no child’s play and eroding its credibility makes us a laughing stock. Let’s honour those that really deserve it and stop making mockery of a very important way of building a very good country.

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