By Adelani Adepegba, Olalekan Adetayo and Friday Olokor/Punch
PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan on Monday sounded a note of warning to national honours awardees, threatening that the Federal Government would withdraw the honours from conferees that lacked credibility.
Already, the President said he had mandated the National Honours Committee led by a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore, to compile the list of awardees with questionable credibility with a view to stripping them of the honours .
Jonathan said, “The dignity, honour and respect of the national honours must never be tarnished.
“In the light of the foregoing, I have directed that the National Honours Committee compile a list of persons conferred with the national honours but that their current credibility is questionable.
“If they are found wanting, our prestigious honours will be withdrawn.”
The President spoke while conferring national honours on 155 Nigerians and friends of the country in Abuja.
Chairman of Globacom, Mike Adenuga, was awarded the nation’s second highest honour, the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger.
Jonathan said withdrawing the award from unworthy awardees had become essential “in ensuring that holders of national honours are truly worthy representations of our national values and honour, and especially are patriotic Nigerians or real friends of Nigeria.”
However, two of the recipients on the 2012 list of of awardees – Justices Andrew Obaseki and Kayode Eso – were absent at the event.
Obaseki and Eso, both retired justices of the Supreme Court, were billed to be conferred with the award of the Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic alongside six sitting Supreme Court Justices; the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Muhammad Abubakar; first Lagos State Governor, Brig.-Gen. Mobolaji Johnson; and the Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion.
No reason was given for their absence but the Masters of Ceremony at the event, said their medals would be given to Belgore to deliver to them.
Senator Abdulahmed Ningi was also absent at the event but his wife received his medal of the Commander of the Order of Niger on his behalf.
A major highlight of the event was the case of the embattled Deputy Governor of Taraba State, Alhaji Sani Danladi.
Members of the state House of Assembly had recently served Danladi with an impeachment notice.
He was listed to be honoured with the award of the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic alongside the state governor, Alhaji Danbaba Suntai, who was conferred with CON.
But during the decoration, the MCs jumped over Dalandi’s name which was listed as No. 51 in the investiture programme.
Another issue that elicited confusion during the investiture was the omission of the name of the Osemawe of Ondo, Oba Olasumbo Kiladejo, from the brochure.
Kiladejo’s name was on the list of recipients released by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation penultimate Sunday but his name was not included in the programme. Nevertheless, the MCs called the monarch’s name twice to come out for decoration but he was also absent. No reason was given for the mix-up.
Symbols of values
The President underscored the importance of the national honours as a very important part of the symbols of the nation’s values.
He said, “We are convinced that the national honours award is a very important part of the symbols of the country’s values and pride.
“Whilst government is always pleased to admit deserving persons into the ranks of those honoured by Nigeria, all holders must not fall short of our collective expectations.”
Jonathan said it was important that the nation recognised and appreciated the roles played by individuals in adding value to the building of the nation.
He observed that the greatness of a nation depended on the commitment, dedication, selflessness and passion of its citizens. He stressed that for the nation to sustain some of the gains of his transformation agenda, Nigerians must begin to engage in value-orientation and confidence building in the polity.
He said there was the need for all Nigerians to embrace positive attitudinal change in their collective resolve to make the country a great nation.
“For nothing can be greater that serving the nation with a strong sense of patriotism, honesty, integrity, pride and dedication.
“Whether in the public sector, educational institutions, civil society, press, sports, security agencies or our communities, we must celebrate achievers who labour selflessly for the good of the country,” he added.
Jonathan paid special tribute to one of the awardees, Mr. Muhammad Zakari, a Senior Information Officer on Grade Level 10 in the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation. He said Zakari showed “remarkable honesty” in returning over N6m paid to him in error in November 2011. That action, he added, was a commendable behaviour that should be emulated. Zakari was honoured with Member of the Order of the Federal Republic.
The President also extolled the virtue of Adenuga, who he said had contributed immensely to the growth and development of the nation’s economy.
He said the businessman had worked hard to establish Globacom as an international communications company which provided means of livelihood to over 100,000 Nigerians.
Applause for paralympians
Six Paralympians were honoured with the Member of the Order of Niger. The six stole the show at the event as resounding applause marked their decorations.
The athletes so honoured were Esther Onyema, Ivory Nwokorie, Loveline Obiji, Grace Anozie, Joy Onaolapo and Yakubu Adesokan.
Jonathan lauded the six whom he said had worked hard and lifted the hope of the country. He added that they, despite all odds, brought back six gold medals from the recently concluded Paralympics in London.
He described the athletes’ achievements as a demonstration that hard work, determination, tenacity and resilience were building blocks for greatness.
“We all face challenges in life. What is most important is our ability to rise above them and achieve greatness,” he added.
He promised that his administration would remain committed to promoting good governance, respect for the rule of law, due process, transparency and accountability in the management of public funds.
While describing a national award as among the greatest honours a country could bestow on her citizens, the President asked the awardees to see their honour as a privilege and not a right.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, in his welcome remarks said there was the need to reward success, honesty, brilliance and exemplary character in every progressive nation.
He said the job of selecting 155 Nigerians worthy of the awards from a population of 160million people had not been an easy task.
Belgore said Nigeria needed more extraordinary men and women to lead by examples. He described the awardees as extra- ordinary people who had done extraordinary things.
The ex-CJN urged the awardees to see the honours as a call to higher dedication to the nation.
He enjoined Nigerians to rally round Jonathan in the task of nation building.
“Let every Nigerian re-dedicate himself to the service of this nation,” he said.
Unlike last year’s edition of the investiture when there was shortage of medals, medals and certificates went round all the recipients of this year’s honour.
Our correspondents report that even the paralympians who were added to the list late on Saturday got their medals and certificates at the event.
The Federal Capital Territory was under a security siege on Monday while the conferment lasted.
Armed policemen were deployed in all strategic points and routes leading to the International Conference Centre, venue of the event. Vehicles were also prevented from accessing the centre.
The police anti-bomb squad as well as riot policemen were seen manning the streets leading to the venue.
Residents had a hectic time moving around the city as security agents blocked the major roads and forced motorists to use alternative routes.
Security agents used vehicles to block parts of Herbert Macaulay Way, the Central Business District, the Chelsea Hotel axis and the junction opposite the Central Bank of Nigeria headquarters .
The blockage around the FCT reportedly caused a traffic gridlock around Area 10 as vehicles heading towards the Radio House located opposite the award venue were re-directed.
Commuters coming to the city from satellite towns like Nyanya, Marraaba and others were made to disembark around Shehu Shagari Way.
A civil servant who identified himself as Daniel Nnamlong expressed frustration with the security arrangement which he said forced him to trek long a distance to the Federal Secretariat.
He said, “I don’t know why the security agencies have to subject Nigerians to this barbaric treatment; the investiture ceremony was being held at the conference centre which is about five kilometres away but all the major roads were blocked in the name of security.”
Some civil servants, who could not withstand the rigour of trekking to their offices reportedly went back home.