25 Sep 2012
After decorating 155 Nigerians with national honours as accomplished individuals respectively, President Goodluck Jonathan also added a caveat that anyone of them found wanting of credibility would be stripped of the honours thereafter. But Muhammad Bello, in this report, says doing enough security check before announcing the recipients would have saved the nation such an exercise and showed the degree of seriousness and importance attached to the annual ritual
The headline above captured the warning handed the 155 Nigerians decorated with national honours awards last week by President Goodluck Jonathan. Perhaps, reacting to insinuations that the exercise was no longer subjected to rigorous security checks, the president had quickly reminded recipients that it was not too late to strip them of the honours if anyone of them was found wanting in the area of credibility.
Over time, there had been reservations on the conferment of the awards which rank of beneficiaries is now estimated at 4,424 people- supposedly distinguished Nigerians. The argument had always been that many of the recipients were politicians and their lackeys, whom many believed had not genuinely added value to the progress and advancement of the country.
Thus, the 2012 awards were also not insulated from similar criticisms. Many Nigerians had thought that some of the awardees were not fit for the recognition. But President Jonathan defended his administration’s decision in this regard. For instance, while justifying the honour done on the Globacom chairman, he said: “Dr Mike Adenuga Jnr. has contributed immensely as a businessman and an entrepreneur to the growth and development of our economy. He worked hard to establish Globacom as an international communications company, which provides means of livelihood to over 100,000 Nigerians.”
“Today, across Ghana and Benin Republic, he has built a formidable brand, and is expanding footholds in Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal. We will continue to honour our businessmen who do us proud in the world of international business, while creating jobs at home,” the president said. Yet, that cannot be said of everybody.
That notwithstanding, observers contended that award of such importance cannot be bestowed on anybody or group of persons with tainted credibility. In other words, since such awards are considered permanent feature of a recipient’s resume, whether living or dead, thorough background check is sacrosanct. The most curious feature of such recognition is the proviso that they could be withdrawn at a later date.
This is why a high profile body, comprising of persons of exalted positions whose dignity is unassailable, is usually set up to look into the background and antecedents of the nominees of awards.
Ironically, observers believe that toeing this path is an indication a proper background check on each of the recipients had not been done before they were eventually honoured. Otherwise, the other possibility, observers say is that influence or pressure might have come to bear in the process of selection or at best, there had been political manipulations and scheming in favour of some and in some cases, rejecting others.
This year, however, the drama of who to axe started with Alhaji Sani Abubakar Danladi, deputy governor of Taraba State. At the last minute, his name was dropped from the list of those slated for the honours. Danladi is currently facing an impeachment threat back in his state. Danladi who had been listed as a recipient of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR), was believed to have fallen out with his principal, Governor Danbaba Danfulani Suntai, who was also honoured with the CON award.
Prior to Danladi’s rejection, other recipients like Mrs. Cecilia Ibru and Erastus Akingbola who had been convicted for fraud or were facing charges of fraud had been recommended to be stripped of their honours too following the submission of the House of Representatives ad hoc Committee on the Near Collapse of the Capital Market.
Others who may lose their coveted awards may be former Inspector General of Police (IG), Tafa Balogun, former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Deputy Chairman, Chief Bode George, and former Delta State Governor, Chief James Ibori.
President Jonathan had subsequently “directed the National Honours Committee to compile a list of persons conferred with National Honours but that their current credibility is questionable. If they are found wanting, our prestigious honours will be withdrawn. This is 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.”
No doubt, this pronouncement is a sign that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way and manner awardees are selected for the national honours. While the instances of affected persons above are clear cases of those who soiled their names after being honoured, that the background check often done on new recipients is not thorough is however worrisome. It therefore confirms observations in some quarters that many of those given the awards do not merit it. They are said to simply get it because they are protégés of the incumbent administration that is presiding over the award conferment.
Once that government is out of power or they fall out of grace with their benefactors, they are quickly rubbished and the credentials qualifying them for the award are subsequently tainted.
As things are now, the president’s directive for a list of invalids still adorning the honours’ awards may set a bad precedent. It may, also make the entire exercise a laughing stock or some kind of charade that honest and dignified Nigerians would distance themselves from in the future.
It is no wonder therefore that many Nigerians over the years had turned down the national honours on grounds that it was being issued arbitrarily. However, many still believe that it is not all that bad with the honours as being presented by cynics only that government needs to get more thorough and meticulous in the choice of recipients. That way, dignity might begin to return to the nation’s only way of honouring its outstanding citizens and their friends.