By Femi Adesina
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in Abuja conferred National Honours on 450 Nigerians and non-Nigerians, who have distinguished themselves in the service of the nation and humanity, saying that citizens who contribute to national development deserve to be encouraged and appreciated.
Leading the 2022 National Honours Award recipients, in the category of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) are Senate President Ahmed Lawan, Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, immediate past CJN, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, Director-General, World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Deputy Secretary-General of UN, Amina Mohammed and Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Professor Tijjani Muhammad-Bande.
Speaking at the event, the President commended the National Awards Committee headed by the highly revered Justice Sidi Bage Muhammad I, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, the Emir of Lafia, for a great and patriotic duty by diligently going through over 5,000 submissions and coming up with these recommendations.
The President 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.
They include but not limited to: ‘‘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 are:
‘‘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 involves a lot of sacrifice by the citizenry, the President declared that citizens who contribute to national development deserve to be encouraged and appreciated.
He, therefore, 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.’’
Equally, the President added that those in the private sector have also creditably discharged themselves in business, entertainment, hospitality, transportation and other forms of human endeavours to transform Nigeria.
‘‘We have amongst the recipients today, Ambassador Professor Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, Doctor 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 of 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,’’ he said.
The President acknowledged that the list of awardees is justifiably long because the exercise has not been carried out since 2015.
He recalled that since the inception of this administration, there has not been such occasion like this where individuals and friends of Nigeria have been so singled out for investiture except for the Special Investiture Ceremony in honour of Chief MKO Abiola, Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe and Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN.
The President noted that the Investiture Ceremony for Abiola and others was specially carried out to right the wrong done in the past, to assuage our feelings and to resolve to stand firm now and in the future for the sanctity of the electoral process and our democracy.
In like manner, he said, the country’s athletes were also honoured recently for their spectacular performances in several competitions.
He appealed to other Nigerians who are yet to receive this recognition to be patient and understand that their efforts in nation building are appreciated and at the right time, would similarly be recognized.
‘‘This administration will continue to partner with 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 said.
President Buhari also used the occasion to remind the recipients and other Nigerians that National Honours are not merely decorative, saying:
‘‘They remind us of an important part of our responsibility as citizens. We must always endeavour to do our best for our country.’’
The President restated the commitment of the Federal Government, under his leadership, to root out all forms of banditry, criminality, terrorism and insurgency in the land.
He reaffirmed his solemn pledge in the Independence Day address to the nation of handing over a Nigeria that is free from insecurity to the next generation of leaders.
The award, which is in 10 categories, was 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 6 persons were conferred with GCON, 55 received Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR), 65 got the Commander of the Order of 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) respectively.
The seven foreigners honoured received the OFR Award.
Speaking on behalf of the Awardees, the Senate President thanked the President for the honour, pledging that the award is an encouragement to more work and a call to duty to serve Nigeria with renewed strength, loyalty and honesty.
@views exclusive rights: Femi Adesina
Special Adviser to the President, Media and Publicity, October 11, 2022.