By NBF News

On November 14, 2011, a total of 364 Nigerians were given national honours by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for distinguishing themselves in their fields of calling and for offering patriotic and nationalistic services to the fatherland. Conditions for the award, as explained by Justice Modibbo Alfa Belgore, chairman of the national award honours committee, amongst others include the fact that the awardee must be a patriot, a nationalist and a super achiever in his field of human endeavour.

The awardee should have integrity and must be recommended to the committee which will sit and deliberate and make recommendation to the appropriate authorities. According to Belgore, the award honours professionals , serving and retired military officers, serving and retired judges and different professionals and different fields, who merit the honours.

Like all awards, Nigeria's national honours award has always been trailed with lots of criticisms over the years.

One of the most strident of them is the mode of selection of the awardees. Critics are of the view that the award is skewed to favour the political elites and their civil service counterparts, the military, police and other para-military, while other Nigerians, who have made their marks and contributed to the growth of the nation are utterly neglected and abandoned. The critics question the patriotic and heroic attributes of some of the awardees. They also question giving awards to the service chiefs at a time the nation is under the siege of Boko Haram insurgency. They question giving the awards to some people with questionable character and credentials.

Has the award committee forgotten the members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) that lost their lives in some states in the north while working for INEC during the April general elections? Are they not the heroes of our current democracy? I believe that these fallen nationalists deserved the national awards more than some that were honoured this year. It is a pity that the award does not recognize good farmers, teachers and writers in vernacular language, journalists and musicians.

As usual, some Nigerians declined the award, citing some reasons. Prof. Chinua Achebe rejected this year's offer of Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) just as he rejected it some years back during Chief Olusegun Obasanjo's presidency. The renowned novelist said that the same reasons that made him reject the offer some years ago are still extant. The presidency has faulted Achebe's thesis but Nigerians are more inclined to be on the side of the great man of letters.

The democratic space is still engendered with undemocratic tendencies. The malaise in Bayelsa State over party primaries in the ruling PDP and the embattled incumbent governor, Timipre Silva is a signal that the reign of impunity still subsists. That PDP wants to impose a candidate in Bayelsa with Abuja's remote control against the popular wish of the people is no longer in doubt. The currents in Bayelsa show that our democracy has inherent aberrations that distract from the ideal. Nigeria is still far from being the one of Achebe's dream.

Despite the shortcomings of the awards, there are many awardees that truly deserve them. Aliko Dangote is one of them. All the nine governors also deserve theirs. Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, Sister Comfort Obi, Osita Iheme and his group, Chief Tony Ezenna, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa and many others too numerous to mention in this piece, really worked hard for their awards. To these and others, please accept my warm congratulations. But this piece will pay tribute to two Nigerians that stand out among the crowd, in my own estimation, for the national honours. They are governors Peter Obi of Anambra State and Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State. They are among the serving nine governors that were conferred with the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON). Their other colleagues are Liyel Imoke (Cross River), Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Patrick Yakowa (Kaduna), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers), and Sule Lamido (Jigawa).

Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State remains an enigma. He has traversed many sectors, the academia, business and politics. Even in politics, some people still refer to him as a businessman. Before his foray into politics, Obi has been very successful in business, with his chains of businesses that transcend various continents. When he came into politics and pitched his political tent with the All progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) led by Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, not many people gave Obi chance of succeeding politically in a highly volatile state like Anambra. The state 2003 gubernatorial poll was essentially between the PDP's Dr. Chris Ngige and APGA's Peter Obi. At the end of the day, INEC declared Ngige the winner to the chagrin of Obi and his supporters, who felt robbed of victory.

Based on his conviction and hope in the judiciary as the last hope of the common man, Obi headed to the courts in search of justice despite advice to the contrary. In a matter like this, other people would have resorted to self-help but not Obi. He tacitly and tenaciously followed his case until victory was his. This journey took him three years and today the rest is history. He suffered impeachment and like the proverbial cat with nine lives, Obi bounced back and yet was not vindictive. He made history as the first governor in the state to be re-elected.

Obi deserved the CON award because he has demonstrated that governance can work in Anambra State through his multi-sectoral approach to development. His development paradigm encapsulated in his Anambra Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS) philosophy has helped in overall development of the state. He has tremendously intervened in roads, education, health, water, housing and other critical sectors of the state. After eight years of Obi, Anambra will never remain the same again. To whom much is given, much is also expected. Let the latest honour stimulate and ginger Obi to offer more good services to his people.

In Akwa Ibom State, Governor Godswill Obot Akpabio is a reference point in terms of developmental achievements and bringing government nearer to the people through people-oriented projects.

As a lawyer and seasoned administrator, Akpabio has demonstrated beyond all doubts that governance can still work in Akwa Ibom after years of lost hope. As a prudent manager of men and resources, Akpabio has transformed the state with his tremendous environmental renewal. With his many uncommon achievements, the people's governor has ably shown that somebody can really make a difference in the lives of a people.

As an avid reader of books and ardent follower of Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, Akpabio believes that one man can make things happen and change old ways of doing things in his state and country. That is exactly what the governor has been doing since 2007 he came into office as the chief executive of the state and he has not looked back. Apkabio met uncompleted projects when he assumed office and went ahead to complete them and initiated many new ones to the admiration of his critics. He built an ultra-modern Ibom Airport, Tropicana Entertainment Centre, Le Meridien Hotel, well-paved network of roads across the state, schools, hospitals, bridges and concentric flyovers, underground piling drainage system and many more. The state e-library is among the best in the world. He has built five specialist hospitals.

Akpabio has made the state a tourist destination of choice. Citizens of the state and even non-indigenes enjoy free education in Akwa Ibom. Old people, children under the age of five, women and pregnant women enjoy free health care services in the state. Many students from the state are trained abroad on scholarship. Women and youths are now empowered and trained in agriculture and given seed money to take off. Akpabio knows the importance of food security hence he has engaged in many agricultural projects targeted at making the state the food basket of the nation.

Akpabio really deserved the honour given to him because he has shown great patriotic and nationalistic zeal in governance. He has touched lots of lives with his numerous developmental projects in the state. After eight years of Akpabio in the state, it will never remain the same again. Other administrations after him will find it extremely difficult to match his records. Let this award propel Akpabio to do more for your people and the nation.