Nigeria: Citizens Who Contribute to National Devt Deserve to Be Appreciated – Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, reaffirmed the principle of sanctions and rewards, when he conferred national honours on nearly 450 citizens and some foreign nationals, declaring that persons who contribute to national development deserve to be encouraged and appreciated.

Those honoured by the president during the ceremony in Abuja included Chairman of THISDAY Newspapers and Arise TV Media Group, Prince Nduka Obaigbena, who was conferred with Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).

The colourful ceremony held at the State House witnessed the conferment of different categories of national honours, awards, medals and insignia on 447 other Nigerians and seven foreigners for selfless service to the country.

Top on the list of other awardees were Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan; Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola; former CJN, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; and former finance minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

There were also Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), Ms. Amina J. Mohammed; Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Professor Tijjani Muhammad-Bande; Group Managing Director, Access Corporation, Herbert Wigwe; Chairman, Ikeja Disco, Kola Adesina; and novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Others were Chief Executive Officer of Flutterwave, Olugbenga Agboola; and Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, Lee Engineering Group, Dr Leemon Ikpea.

The recipients were decorated under different medal categories, including Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), Commander of the Order of Federal Republic (CFR), Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), and Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON).

But one of the awardees, human rights activist and lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), frowned on the non-consideration of former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, for the honour, saying it is against the laid down principles of national award.

Buhari stressed the need for all citizens and friends of the country to do their best for Nigeria. He reiterated the commitment of his administration to smoking out all bandits, criminals, terrorists, and insurgents in the land and bringing them to justice.

He reaffirmed his pledge in the Independence Day address to the nation to hand over a Nigeria free from insecurity to the next generation of leaders.

The president stated, “We will continue to root out all forms of banditry, criminality, terrorism and insurgency in the land. As I stated earlier in my Independence address to the nation, I will hand over a Nigeria that is free from insecurity to the next generation of leaders.”

Buhari commended the National Awards Committee, headed by retired Justice of the Supreme Court and Emir of Lafia, Justice Sidi Bage Muhammad I, for a great and patriotic duty of diligently going through over 5,000 submissions and coming up with recommendations that formed the basis of the awards.

He noted that the screening and selection of nominees for this year’s award, as always, followed established broad criteria, in accordance with the National Honours Act CAP.N43 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

He said the criteria included “consistent and meaningful participation in community and/or national development; rendering unsolicited, selfless and philanthropic services to humanity; outstanding sacrifice in the defence of a cause popularly adjudged to be positive, relevant and beneficial to the nation and community.”

Other criteria listed by the president for selecting the recipients were, “Distinct act of bravery in the protection and/or defence of national interest, public peace, safety of life and property, remarkable achievement in any field of expertise, where the person’s activities in that field have made significant contributions to the attainment of national goals and objectives, immense contributions towards the uplift of community, state, nation and/or humanity through achievements by way of inventions and bringing outstanding honour and glory to the state through personal dedication and patriotic commitment.

“Service with integrity is also a basis for the selection process.”

Emphasising that nation building involved a lot of sacrifice by the citizenry, the president declared that citizens, who contributed to national development deserved appreciation.

He lauded the 2022 National Award recipients for distinguishing themselves in various ways “for the purpose of recreating a new Nigeria of our dreams through respect for the rule of law, image laundering, transparency and accountability in management of scarce resources.”

Buhari praised private sector players for helping to transform Nigeria and bringing the country honour in various areas, such as creditably acquitted themselves in business, entertainment, hospitality, and transportation.

He stated, “We have amongst the recipients today, Amb. Prof. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who are doing our country proud on the international scene. Our dear sisters are a source of inspiration to our young women that through the dint of hard work and dedication, they can achieve greatness.

“We also have on the list, Imam Abdullahi Abubakar, a religious leader, who hid over 262 Christians in his mosque from attacks in Yelwa Gindi Akwati village, in Plateau State. He is a good example of religious tolerance we preach amongst Nigerians. I am excited that he is being honoured today with Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR).

“Worthy of mention are our artistes, particularly, our very own Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu (Burna Boy), who won the Grammy Awards in 2020. He along with other artistes have repositioned the Nigerian entertainment industry and placed it on the global map. At the just concluded Dubai Expo 2020, Nigeria’s pavilion was a beehive of activities as our musicians entertained guests from around the world.

“Despite the present economic challenges, Nigeria still boasts men and women of integrity. Ms. Josephine Agu, an airport cleaner returned $12,200 found in a toilet at Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, as well as Ogbanago Muhammed Ibrahim, a bank security man, who found and returned $10,000.

“Today, we celebrate their dignity and strong strength of character by conferring National Honours on them. They are a shining example to our younger generation. I congratulate all the recipients today, who will be joining the league of Awardees.

“I appreciate the non-Nigerian recipients and assure all of you that this administration will continue to provide the enabling environment for you to undertake your lawful businesses to allow you to sustain your efforts at contributing to the development of our nation, Nigeria.”

The president acknowledged that the list of awardees was justifiably long because the exercise had not been carried out since 2015. He recalled that since the inception of his administration, there had not been such occasion as this, where individuals and friends of Nigeria had been singled out for investiture, except for the Special Investiture Ceremony in honour of the late Chief MKO Abiola, Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe, and Chief Gani Fawehinmi.

Buhari further noted that the Investiture Ceremony for Abiola and others was specially carried out to right past wrongs, assuage feelings, and resolve to stand firm now and in the future for the sanctity of the electoral process and the country’s democracy.

The president said the country’s athletes were also honoured recently for their spectacular performances in several competitions. He appealed to other Nigerians, who were yet to receive this recognition to be patient and understand that their efforts in nation building were appreciated and at the right time, they would similarly be recognised.

“This administration will continue to partner Nigerians and friends of Nigeria with like minds in our efforts to build the Nigeria of our dreams, where everybody will strive to excel in their chosen fields, devoid of parochial sentiments,” he maintained.

Buhari reminded the recipients and other Nigerians that national honours were not merely decorative, but, “They remind us of an important part of our responsibility as citizens. We must always endeavour to do our best for our country.”

The awards, which were in 10 categories, were presented to Supreme Court Justices, judges, top lawyers, incumbent and former governors, ministers, traditional rulers, creative artistes, politicians, businessmen, athletes, security officers who died in the line of duty, and other distinguished Nigerians.

A total of six persons were conferred with GCON, 55 received Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR), 65 got the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), 77 were presented with the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR); 110 received the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON); 74 were presented with Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR), and 55 received Member of the Order of the Niger (MON).

There were four recipients each for the Federal Republic Medal I (FRM I) and Federal Republic Medal II (FRM II) Second Class).

The seven foreigners honoured received the OFR Award.

Earlier, in his welcome address, Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs, Senator George Akume, said the 2022 national award ceremony was unique and outstanding, because there had not been an elaborate national awards ceremony under the current administration.

Akume disclosed that over 5,000 applicants were submitted, screened and scrutinised to arrive at the latest national honours list.

According to him, the process was rigorous and the recipients were people “that have contributed and will continue to contribute in the economy and social development of the country.”

But one of the award recipients, Ozekhome, flayed the non-consideration of former Senate President Bukola Saraki for an award. He said Saraki’s omission was against the laid down principles of the national award.

Ozekhome, who spoke at the award ceremony, however, thanked Buhari for the recognition. He said he was coming face to face with the president for the first time in his life.

Ozekhome said, “I have been very critical. I think he must have seen things from what I’ve seen. The cup is half full rather than half empty, looking at my criticism in the attempt to make his government better rather to ruin his government or bring it down. So, by agreeing and actually giving me the one of the biggest honours, Commander of the Order of the Niger, I thank Mr. President, but I want to thank God Almighty, the maker of the universe for bringing me this far from my humble beginning and putting me where I am today.”

Berating the federal government for removing Saraki from the list, which he described as not only wrong but also political, Ozekhome said, “It’s wrong! Wrong! National honour should not be based on politics; it should be based on merit, particularly, on precedents. It is on record that senate presidents are usually awarded the rank of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger like the Vice President.

“For Saraki, who headed the senate, which till tomorrow is the best senate ever in the history of Nigeria right from the time, I would have believed that no matter what partisanship or qualities, Dr. Bukola Saraki ought to have been given the award. What is done today, which is wrong, will be righted by another government. Read my lips, that one I can assure you of.”

Samuel Eyitemi Arobo Ogulu, who received the Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) award on behalf of his son, Damini Ogulu, also known as Burna Boy, described the honours as elating for his son.

Asked how his son received the news, Ogulu said, “I’m elated and grateful that his hard work and dedication have been recognised, finally, and I think there’s still a lot for him to do. He’s just starting. This will encourage him to do more, and encourage all those behind him to follow suit.”

Another recipient of the MFR honour, Linus Okorie, describing his feeling, said, “I just feel energised, feel excited, because it’s 27 years of the work that I’ve done for leadership development in Nigeria and having your country recognise you is the greatest honour I can imagine.”

Lawan: Our National Honours Award, Additional Call to Duty

President of the Senate and one of the awardees, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, said the conferment of national honours on him and others was an additional call to service.

Lawan was conferred with the national honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON).

He spoke on behalf of the other 446 awardees at the event.

The senate president said the award was an additional call to service, a call to duty and an invitation to realise that citizens’ efforts would not be in vain.

He said, “We are, therefore, inspired, motivated and admonished to keep up our inputs, as stakeholders in the building of a virile nation. This is why I call on awardees to be steadfast, considering the responsibility that comes with the honours.

“This obligation is one of leadership, more work and the provision of inspiration to others,” Lawan said, while thanking President Buhari for the honour done to them through the awards.

He said, “The careful and painstaking selection is another evidence of Mr. President’s readiness to recognise excellence and service to nation-building, in line with his zeal to inspire citizens and to encourage as many others as possible for the future.

“The task of building a nation is obviously a continuous and collective effort. It is continuous because it is a never-ending process that needs increasing energies irrespective of the level of development that has been attained.

“Today’s event is one more instalment in this process of acknowledgments, which Mr. President has methodically carried out. I, therefore, thank Mr. President on behalf of all the awardees, as we are most excited at the privilege of the prestigious honour.”

PDP Salutes Okowa, Elumelu, Others on National Honours

The leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) congratulated its vice presidential candidate and Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, and other leaders and stakeholders of the party on their well-deserved conferment of national awards by the federal government.

In a statement by the PDP national publicity secretary, Debo Ologunagba, the main opposition party said, “Our party salutes Enugu State Governor, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, and his Taraba State counterpart, Arc. Darius Ishaku, CON; the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, OON; Senate Minority Whip, Sen. Chukwuka Utazi, CON and other PDP leaders.”

PDP described the awards as resounding recognition of the recipients’ patriotism and commitment to nation building in line with the manifesto of the party.

It stated, “Of particular note is the award of CON to PDP vice presidential candidate, Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, which is coming alongside the overwhelming nationwide acceptance by Nigerians of the Atiku/Okowa presidential ticket ahead of the 2023 general election.”

The party said the national honour on Okowa was also a reaffirmation of the confidence Nigerians reposed in his sterling leadership qualities and achievements in Delta State as well as his capacity to work with the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in the task of rescuing, redirecting and rebuilding our dear nation under a PDP administration.

PDP added that the award conferred on Ugwuanyi and Ishaku confirmed a national recognition of their unprecedented achievements alongside other PDP governors in human capital and infrastructure development with which they had transformed their states.

PDP congratulated all other well-meaning and patriotic Nigerians, who were also honoured, and urged them to see the national honours as a call to duty to redouble their efforts in the service of the country.

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