CRITICISMS, yesterday, greeted the list of 149 eminent Nigerians, who would be conferred with National Honours by President Goodluck Jonathan on September 17. While some dismissed the list as political, some said a host of the awardees do not deserve the awards.
Among those who spoke on the issue in a telephone chat with Vanguard include 2007 presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress, ADC, Prof. Pat Utomi; Afenifere elder, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; former Petroleum minister, Prof Tam David-West; National Publicity Secretary of the Congress for Progressive change, CPC, Engr Rotimi Fashakin; Lagos State Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Mr Joe Igbokwe.
PDP keeps mum
They spoke as National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, refused to comment on the issue when newsmen approached him at the national headquarters of the ruling party in Abuja.
Uotmi said: “I already have my position on it and I don’t intend to change that. For me, a real honour is when you go to a village, find a headmaster who for 30 to 40 years worked so diligently, and you also look for 200 to 300 personalities, who had become Professors or Doctors who might not have been anything except for the diligence of that headmaster. That is a person you award a CFR not some egomaniac who has stolen from the country and never adds value to it.”
Adebanjo spoke in like manner. He said: “It is not just now that this started, National honours have been discredited since three to five years ago. What they are supposed to give to credible Nigerians that have served this country diligently are now being given to party leaders.
For instance, when Chief Tony Anenih was given a National Award, that was the year Olusegun Obasanjo said he gave Anenih as Minister of works N10 billion for the construction of Lagos- Ore, Benin Expressway and since then, they have been re-awarding that road contract. I am not a fan of national honours, it has been seriously discredited. But for a few, it is well deserved. I am disappointed and I didn’t bother to read the details because it can actually insult your intelligence.”
Adenuga’s GCON is political — David-West
To David-West, the way the honours are awarded to non-deserving persons could not inspire the younger generation.
His words: “Any nation that gives over 100 people national award at the same time cannot be a serious nation. The whole thing looks like mass production. My observations are simple. The GCON that was given to Mike Adenuga is political. How can Nigeria relegate eminent jurist like Justice Kayode Eso? He was given CFR alongside Justice Mary Odili”.
Does it in anyway make sense? I believe that at the time Eso was active in his days, Odili should be in Law school. But today, she is being given the same CFR with Eso, who performed excellently in the history of the judiciary. Odili only came to Abuja two years ago. It is on record that Eso was the only person, who interpreted the two-third majority controversy of the 1979 presidential election properly.
National honours are supposed to inspire the younger generation to excel for the country, but thieves are the ones who get national honours in Nigeria. I can never accept any award from Jonathan.”
Awards have lost credibility – CPC, ACN
To the opposition Congress for Progressive Change, CPC and Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, the annual ritual of national awards had lost credibility because some undeserving persons are usually honoured.
Said Fashakin: “A lot of us have given up on this regime because the various decisions they have taken are unscrupulous, ruthless and had no depth. They have brought down the image of that award with the majority of names that are now coming out which shows that the awards are politically motivated. Awards like GCON that are normally given to former Vice-Presidents and Senate Presidents is now being given to people that helped in bankrolling his elections last year.
That is why you will see eminent Nigerians like Prof Chinua Achebe staying away from such awards because they feel that the award is no longer worthwhile. So let government continue to fool itself but Nigerians know the truth.”
Slamming the Federal Government over the way it was awarding the national honours, the Lagos State chapter of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN wondered why the government was honouring some Nigerians, who have questionable integrity.
In a release by the State Publicity Secretary, Joe Igbokwe, the party said “a careful perusal of the latest names released for national honours shows that it is a pot-pouri of businessmen that have no scruples, friends and associates of those in government, discredited contractors and acolytes of those in power, especially at the federal level and mainly PDP party members, who have done absolutely nothing than living off the state.”
It regretted that what was instituted as a badge of honour had been “bastardized to the extent that Nigerians see it as badge of dishonour” and “the present government is not in a hurry to reverse this negative perception.
“We see the awards still as a whimsical ritual that further erodes the entire concept when Nigerians desire an enrichment of the nation’s moral codes. 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.
Rather, what we see it as a mix of names of people whom Nigerians cannot place in the events that have shaped this country for good. We are shocked that the same tardy way and manner this regime has been known to handle critical issues was on display in this latest list as there is no binding code of honour that unites these latest lists of awardees, as it should be. We only see a combination of people, most of whom have played negative roles in the evolution of Nigeria till the present where we have a wrecked country in our hands.”
ACN canvassed a thorough review of the entire process of awarding national honours to ensure that only those competent and equipped with requisite integrity were honoured.
“We demand that well defined criteria be set for the award of national honours and not an empty, base and hollow ritual that Nigerians treat with scorn and odium. We demand that the Federal Government reform the process or stop this meaningless signal that deprecates rather than enrich the national moral base.”