When National Honours Become Worthless

Not a few people will agree with me that it is a good thing to honour our citizens – those who have made invaluable contributions to national development. One good thing about doing this is that it will provide impetus for other people. It will serve as a source of inspiration and encourage a lot of people to also strive assiduously towards making meaningful contributions to the growth and development of our fatherland.

The demerit of this national honour however is when you handpick every Tom, Dick and Harry, every opportunistic criminal and bootlicker who have nothing to show in terms of positive contribution, no matter how minute, to national development and you confer on them national honours simply because they are holding one political office or the other. This is the charade we witnessed in Abuja last week in the name of national honour.

The fundamental question here is – what signal are you sending to the world when you confer honours on the very people who are responsible (through their corrupt activities and ineptitude in public office) for how we find ourselves in this sorry pass? And again, what message are you passing across to the younger generations? What you seem to be saying indirectly is that it pays to be corrupt and criminally in a society like ours. This is a nauseating situation indeed and it makes nonsense of the whole idea of national honour.

Let me not be misunderstood here. Amongst those that were honoured last week were Nigerians who are highly qualified to be so honoured. They are truly and genuinely deserving of the honours conferred on them. Amongst them are the former civilian Governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande; former Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa; the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu; Professor Ben Uwabueze. So is that woman of stellar achievement, the former Finance Minister, Ngozi Nkonjo-Iweala, whose life has served as a source of inspiration to many Nigerians especially our women folks.

You have that young talented artist, one of the diminutive Aki and Pawpaw brothers and also the former first lady of Lagos state, Chief (Mrs) Oluremi Tinubu who has been and still making positive impact on the area of children education through her NGO –New Era Foundation (NEF), to mention just a few. The aforementioned, no doubt, got their honours deservedly.

On the contrary however you have the likes of Olubunmi Etteh who, after a ferocious and unbeatable public pressure, following allegation of mismanagement of public funds against her, disgracefully threw in the towel as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Here is somebody who, in saner climes, ought to be charged to court and sent to prison if found guilty of the allegations against her. I am from the same state with Etteh and I know that she and all those who claim to be representing our state at the NASS today got there through hook and crook – courtesy of the 2007 ‘do or die election’ policy of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

They are the least qualified to represent Osun State and this is why you cannot see any of them contributing to debates on the floor of the House for the past three years. You can’t see or hear them pushing any pro-people bill either. I stand to be contradicted on this please; let anyone give me the name of any lawmaker representing Osun, either at the lower or upper legislative chamber who could be said to be really vocal on issues of national importance like does the Olorunnimbe Mamoras, the Gbajabiamilas, the Iyabo Obasanjos, the Ndoma Egbas of this world. Our so-called representatives from Osun only make their presence known by adorning the chambers with their glittering and tall to high heavens head gears. Quite a pity for Osun State.

Let me also add it here as information for those who may not know that the fraudulent judgment which upheld Etteh’s election as delivered by Justice Thomas Naron has been upturned at the Ibadan Appeal Court. Her election has been ordered for retrial. So, it becomes worrisome therefore to see the likes of Olubunmi Etteh being given national merit award. What is the yardstick, if one may ask? Also on the list of the dishonourable honourees is a former Minister and a PDP chieftain in the South-West who was accused of mismanaging police equipment fund and who, till date, has not been able to wash his hands clean of that allegation.

Aside from these two, many of those who made that list are people of questionable character and seedy antecedents. Conferring national honour on people like these stands logic on the head and it abuses the whole concept. It makes us (the leadership) look inane, frivolous and vacuous, especially during this period of our history when we are seriously faced with the challenge of rebuilding our battered image.

The question is – how would you convince the international community that you are serious about your re-branding project when you are busy conferring national honours on the very people who give the country bad image? Anyway, the re-branding thing itself is nothing but a gimmick to divert attention from the serious problems of corruption, poverty and underdevelopment. Only the fools can be swayed by it. I challenge the Federal Government to explain to the world how it intends to resolve the contradiction arising from honouring people of shady character and her re-branding project; over to you ma, our Information and Communication Minister, Professor Madam Dora (Re-branding) Akunyili.

Nigeria should take a cue from the advanced countries of the world where only those who have made meaningful contributions to societal development are given national honours. In saner climes, great contributors to the development of humanity in different areas of human endeavours are usually the recipients of national honours. They are chosen based on merit but not on the basis of political appointment and ‘paddy-paddy’ arrangement like ours.

Our governments must go outside politics to nominate people for national honours. There are thousands of patriotic Nigerians who have contributed immensely to the development of this country and who deserve to be given national honours. Our awards must also go to deserving teachers, academics, human rights activists, sports men and women, farmers, writers, journalists, artisans, hawkers, environmentalists et cetera.

Finally, the peasantry deserves to be given national merit award. Of course the poor man on the street deserves to be given recognition and honour for enduringly coping with the burdens of poverty, unemployment, lack of electricity, lack of shelter, bad roads, inability to send his children to good schools, etc. These are conditions that are not his own making but imposed on him by corrupt, inept and greedy leadership. So, why should we not honour the poor man too?
Kola Odepeju
Lagos,Abuja Nigeria.

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