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Distinguished Nigerians who have rejected National awards

The Nigerian National Honours is a set of mandates and decorations vested upon Nigerians every year. This ceremony began in the First Republic of Nigeria,…

The Nigerian National Honours is a set of mandates and decorations vested upon Nigerians every year. This ceremony began in the First Republic of Nigeria, under the establishment of the National Honours Act No. 5 in 1964, the main agenda of this program is to honour Nigerians who have been of great service to the country and have yielded benefits to the nation. Such benefit to the country is when an individual has done something exceptionally good for the nation which makes the country proud.

For instance, a citizen may receive a national honour for inventing something useful that profits other citizens; an artiste who has made a large impact in music both at home and abroad could also be a recipient. Also, a government official who has done an exceptional job or an author who has written a brilliant book, as well as many others who have distinguished themselves in their fields, are qualified for the award.

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This set of recipients are chosen by the Nigerian government, and years back, various discussions have stirred on this national honours ceremony — one of the major topic discussed is how some Nigerians have declined to receive these awards.

Daily Trust highlights some Nigerians who have rejected national honours:

1. Chinua Achebe

Late Professor Chinua Achebe is one of the prevailing figures of contemporary African literature. He was a Nigerian novelist, poet, and critic. The writer was one of the major and resourceful writers that emerged from Nigeria.

His first novel, “Things Fall Apart” which was published in 1958 is regarded as a magnum opus and has remained the most widely reviewed, translated, and read African novel. Asides from being famous as a writer, Chinua Achebe is also known for boldly rejecting the offer of the national award on two different occasions, the first being from former President Olusegun Obasanjo during his tenure in 2004, the second, from former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in 2011.

Achebe who has been awarded several national awards formerly gave reasons why he had rejected the award. In 2004, the professor asserted that he was disappointed in Obasanjo’s style of leadership. He said his homeland in Anambra State had turned into a “bankrupt and lawless fiefdom by a small clique of renegades,” allegedly with the complicity of the presidency.

Also, in 2011, Achebe who rejected the award again handed out a statement revealing that the reasons for rejecting the first offer when it was made had not been addressed.

2. Professor Wole Soyinka

Professor Wole Soyinka is known to be an outstanding literary giant and a noble laureate. The playwright has an endless escapade to the continent of Africa and beyond, with a superabundant amount of awards in literature, he is also known to be the first Nigerian to win a Nobel Prize.

Professor Wole Soyinka also stirred several reactions after rejecting the Centenary award under the rule of former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014. The professor’s rejection was regarding the fact that the late former Head of State, General Sanni Abacha, was also posthumously awarded during the event.

This particular move did not sit well with the Nobel Laureate. In a report by Soyinka which was titled, “The Canonisation of Terror,” Soyinka briefly phrased his reluctance to share the award with Abacha whom he described as a “murderer and thief of no redeeming quality.”

3. Chief Gani Fawehinmi

Late Chief Abdul-Ganiyu “Gani” Oyesola Fawehinmi was a Nigerian author, publisher, philanthropist, social critic, human and civil rights lawyer, and politician. He held the chieftaincy title of the Lamofin of Ondo. The late chief was an advocate of the masses, fearless and fierce in championing the rights of the powerless in society.

In 2008, the late President Musa Yar’adua conferred the late lawyer with the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR), which was one of the highest national honours that could be conferred on a citizen by the Nigerian government but Fawehinmi rejected it, as a method of his dissatisfaction against the bad governance since Nigeria’s independence.

In part of his reasons, he said; “Today, I am seventy years and eight months old and I am struck down by lung cancer for which I have been receiving medical treatment outside my country because my country Nigeria has one of the poorest medical services in the world but one of the richest countries in the world in terms of oil revenue,”

“My decision to either accept or reject the national honour of the award of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) will depend on how far the Nigerian nation through Nigerian governments tried to achieve some listed goals.”

4. Tam-David West

Former Minister of petroleum Tamunoemi Sokari David-West was an outspoken and contentious critic of Nigerian government policies. He was one of the prominent faces who had declined the national honour during the rule of former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2010, West had declined the national honour of Commander of the Order of Niger (CON) which was conferred on him as part of Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary on October 1, 2010.

One of his justifications was on the government’s wasteful N10bn budget, West also cited the fact that the CON was not appropriate for a citizen of his status who had performed meritoriously in government at various degrees, He also asserted that he was qualified for a national honour of at least Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR).

5. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian writer whose works aren’t limited to Novels, Short stories, and nonfiction writing. A few of her notable works include the popular novel Purple Hibiscus(2003), Americanah(2013), Half of a Yellow Sun(2006), and a few others.

On Friday, 14th of October 2022, the Ngozi rejected a national award from President Muhammadu Buhari. it was gathered that she declined the honour in private as she does not want disproportionate publicity.

The writer’s communication manager, Omawunmi Ogbe who confirmed the action to Guardian said:

“Following the recent conferment of national awards by the President, there have been conflicting reports about one of the announced recipients, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Some social media users say the award-winning writer rejected the award, while others say she accepted it.”

“The author did not accept the award and, as such, did not attend the ceremony. She, however, did not want to create undue publicity around it, so her non-acceptance was conveyed privately.”

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