President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday evening said he would not hesitate to confer the highest national award, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, on any deserving individual.
He said although many believed the award was for presidents, former President Shehu Shagari conferred the same category of award on the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who was never a president.
Jonathan spoke at an interactive session he had in Rio de Janeiro with members of the Nigerian community in Brazil.
He said he was surprised that individuals and groups criticised him for conferring the award of Grand Commander of the Order of Niger on a bussinessman, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, during the last awards ceremony.
He said countries all over the world honour people who had contributed immensely to national growth like Dangote is currently doing.
The President said the earlier individuals and groups especially opposition politicians stopped playing politics with every decision of government, the better for the country.
He said, “One of the problems we have is that some Nigerians play politics with everything, but we cannot destroy our country because of personal political ambitions.
“We now have a constitutional democracy and no one can stay in office forever. It will therefore be best for our nation if we all support whoever is there for the development of the country instead of trying to pull him down by all means.”
The President assured the gathering that the Federal Government was working very hard to overcome Nigeria’s current security challenges.
He said the first person he called when he arrived Brazil was the Director-General of the State Security Service in order to be abreast with developments in the troubled Kaduna and Yobe states.
“We have challenges, but they are not insurmountable. We remain fully focused and committed to national development in spite of sponsored lies against this administration.
“We are ready to work together with all of our people to move the country forward. We will work even harder to place concrete realities on the ground that will further prove our sincerity and commitment to all Nigerians,” he pledged.
The President said his administration would continue to count on the support of Nigerians in the Diaspora in its efforts to build a better nation.
“It is generally known and acknowledged that Nigeria has a very robust Diaspora and we will continue to explore ways of harnessing your skills and talents for the development of our fatherland,” he said.
He said he would meet with President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil on the sidelines of the Rio + 20 Summit to discuss the enhancement of bilateral cooperation between Nigeria and Brazil, including the strengthening of trade and economic relations, as well as a prisoner exchange programme that could benefit Nigerians imprisoned in the South American country.