Nigeria has tremendous human capital and talents across all its region, and we must ensure that we provide opportunities on a mass scale to enable all of our citizens actualize their highest potential.
These were the words of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, at the Nigerian National Merit Award (NNMA) Dinner held on Tuesday at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.
Osinbajo spoke at the event organized in honour of the 2020 and 2021 Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) recipients – Prof. Olayinka Olurotimi Olutoye and late Prof. Charles Ejike Chidume (2020); and Prof. Godwin Osakpemwoye Samuel Ekhaguere (2021).
The three distinguished Nigerians had earlier been conferred the prestigious Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) award by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The event was not held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Dr Olutoye was honoured for his unique contributions in the field of fetal surgery, Prof. Ekhaguere was awarded for pioneering new approaches in the branch of Mathematical Physics known as Axiomatic Quantum Field Theory; and Prof. Chidume was honoured posthumously for his outstanding contributions in Mathematics, Physics and Engineering.
Speaking at the Awards dinner, Osinbajo was of the view that the idea of merit and representation (by regions) are not mutually exclusive concepts, because “the Nigerian genius for achievement” can be found nationwide.
“Often in our national discourse, we tend to juxtapose the idea of merit with that of representation as though they are mutually exclusive concepts and it is suggested that there is an inherently natural disparity in the geographical distribution of talent.
“Yet what the distinguished array of laureates from all over our country that have been assembled over the years shows us is that the Nigerian genius for achievement can be found in every corner of our country,” he said.
The VP stated that opportunities must be provided on a mass scale to enable “all of our citizens actualize their highest potential.”
Emphasizing on Nigeria’s human capital potential and the need to pay more attention to the education of the girl-child, the VP stated that “in so doing, we will renew our pantheon of world-beating achievers in every generation and continually rediscover the human capital for perpetual national growth.”
In the same vein, the Vice President noted that the Awards’ representation over the years was a telling reminder of the need to pick Nigeria’s ‘first eleven’ for national tasks, irrespective of federal quota, tribe or religion.
According to him, the glittering cast of Nigerians that have received this Award over the past four decades was reflected more, not only by the variety of achievement, but also by their diversity of origin.
“The Award selection process is entirely indifferent to the confessional persuasions, ethnic origins or partisan allegiances of the recipients. It is sensitive only to the rarity and quality of their accomplishments,” he said.
This is the more reason why the VP emphasized the essence of rewarding hard work and talent, rather than sentiments and favouritism, in public service and every area of national life, in order to build a more advanced nation.
“Today’s awardees and their predecessors represent the zenith of accomplishment; their exploits tell us what we are truly capable of as a people, and the heights to which we would soar if we would set ourselves free from the gravitational pull of parochialism and prejudice,” he stated.