WHEN NATIONAL HONOUR TRULY COUNTS
If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say' there lived a great street sweeper who did his job well'
-Martin Luther King, Jnr.
A country's national honours such as Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), Order of the Niger (OON) and Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) are the embodiment of it's values and aspirations. That is why only those citizens that uphold such values and aspirations are usually honoured with different types of national awards or medals. The aim of such awards is obvious: to inspire or motivate others into toeing the same path as the compatriot being honoured.
That, at any rate, was the situation here in our beloved country until our leaders lost their bearing and started to confer otherwise prestigious national awards on every Tom, Dick and Harry who is well connected or rich enough to 'capture' any award he or she fancied. In fact, at a stage, the situation degenerated to the extent that notorious 419ners, drug barons, treasury looters and convicted felons all had their picking of Nigeria's national awards.
Little wonder, President Goodluck Jonathan, while presenting this year's national awards to the recipients, assured that his administration would sanitise the entire process.
The aim, according to him, is to ensure that only those who deserve or quality for the awards would receive them, with a view to preserving the integrity and prestige of the national honour. In other words, Mr. president wants to bring back the lost glory the awards, so that they would no longer be for the highest bidder but for these who duly deserve them. By doing so Nigeria would have effectively drawn the curtain on the inglorious era when dubious politicians had their pick of national honours despite the damning question-marks hanging over their names following their well documented, infamous indulgence.
Against this backdrop it is heart-warming to note that among the recipients of the 2010 national honours are a number of men and women who are shinning examples in different areas of human endeavor. One of such recipients is Chief (Dr.) Sylvanus Mohammed Itodo, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in his home state (Benue) and Chief Executive of Boundary Plaza Hotel, Mararaba near Abuja. He was bestowed with the Member of the Order of Niger (MON) award not on account of his contribution to the success of PDP throughout Benue State, but mainly on account of his remarkable philanthropic and humanitarian efforts.
• Ogwa David is a freelance journalist based in Abuja