By Abbas Jimoh & Muideen Olaniyi
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday told the recipients of the National Honours that the awards are not merely decorative, but a reminder of an important part of their responsibility, as citizens, to always endeavor to do their best for the country.
He spoke in Abuja at the 2022 National Honours Award Investiture Ceremony where 443 Nigerians and seven foreigners were recognised.
The president noted that nation building involves a lot of sacrifice by the citizenry, stressing that citizens who contribute to national development deserve to be encouraged and appreciated.
He said it was based on this premise that he reconstituted the National Honours Award Committee chaired by the Emir of Lafia, Justice Sidi Bage Muhammad I. (rtd), to recommend suitable Nigerians and our friends for appropriate recognition.
Buhari affirmed that the committee diligently went through over 5,000 submissions before coming up with the names of the awardees.
He said the screening and selection of the nominees for the awards, as always, followed established broad criteria in accordance with the National Honours Act 2004.
He listed the criteria as 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.
He listed other yardsticks as 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; and service with integrity.
Buhari noted that this was the first time his administration singled out individuals and friends of Nigeria for the National Honours, except for the Special Investiture Ceremony in honour of the presumed winner of the 1993 presidential election, Late MKO Abiola; Baba Gana Kingibe and the late human rights lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi, whose ceremony was specially carried out to right the wrong of the past as well as the nation’s athletes also honoured recently for their spectacular performances in several competitions.
He said the patriotic Nigerians and the nation’s friends being honoured had distinguished themselves in various ways for the purpose of recreating a new Nigeria through respect for the rule of law, image laundering, transparency and accountability in management of scarce resources.
He said those recognised from the private sector had also “creditably discharged themselves in business, entertainment, hospitality, transportation and other forms of human endeavours to transform Nigeria.
He asked other Nigerians yet to be recognised to be patient and understand that their efforts in nation building were appreciated and would similarly be recognized at the right time.
The president 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 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.”
He congratulated all the awardees and commended the non-Nigerian recipients, assuring all that his administration would continue to provide the enabling environment for them to undertake their lawful businesses to allow them to sustain their efforts towards contributing to Nigeria’s development.
The president said his administration would continue to eliminate 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,” he stated.
Thirteen persons were honoured posthumously, including a former Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari (CFR); a former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru and an Aircraft Man Matthew Oyedepo.
Awards in perspective
The awards in order of importance are: Order of the Federal Republic, consisting of Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (GCFR), Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR), Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR), and Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR).
Also, in the Order of the Niger, are Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON), Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) and Federal Republic Medal (FRM).
The GCFR and GCON are customarily reserved and bestowed on former President and Vice President of Nigeria, including former military heads of state of Nigeria and Chiefs of General Staff.
The GCON is also customarily bestowed on the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and the President of the Nigerian Senate during their first year in office, while the CON is customarily bestowed on Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
The 2022 list includes politicians, public officers, security officials, diplomats, academia, businessmen, traditional rulers, religious leaders and legal practitioners among others.
The six conferred with GCON are Senate President Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan; the Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola; the immediate past CJN, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad (Rtd); a former Minister of Finance and currently Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala; a former Minister of Environment and currently UN Deputy Secretary General, Ms Amina J. Mohammed and former President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Prof. Tijani Muhammad-Bande.
Also honoured were Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives; Deputy Senate President Lawan; Senator Ovie Omo-Agege; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Folashade Yemi-Esan; former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and former president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami (Retd) among others.
Others were the 19th Emir of Zazzau, His Highness Ahmed Nuhu Bamalli and Registrar of JAMB, Prof Is-haq Oloyede among others.
Seven persons were given FRM I and FRM II respectively.
The seven foreigners recognised were Pierre Vandebeek, late George Stavros Coumantaros (Posthumous), Deepak Singhal, Dr. Attia A. Nasreddin, Chief Nabil A. Saleh (JP), Faysal M. El-Khalil and Ronald Chagoury would be honoured with OFR.
Awardees pledge commitment to greater Nigeria
Speaking on behalf of the awardees, Senate President Ahmad Lawan thanked Buhari for the honour, saying it was an encouragement to more work and a call to duty to serve Nigeria with renewed strength, loyalty and honesty.