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The National Honours Award is conceived, in principle, as a way of recognizing and honouring certain individuals who have distinguished themselves in rendering selfless, meritorious service for the good, prosperity and upliftment of the Nigerian society. An appraisal of the list for this year's award highlights a composition which principally comprises: Service Chiefs of the Nigerian Military (i.e. Defence, Army, Navy, and Air Force), the Inspector General of Police, Director General of State Security Services, Controller General of Customs, Attorney General of the Federation, Head of Civil Service of the Federation, select members of the National Assembly, State Governors, as well as members of the Private Sector.

To put it more pointedly, the 2011 National Honours Award is basically a checklist of notable arrowheads representing the various hegemonic departments of the Nigerian ruling class, with few appendages such as a motley of Nollywood Actors whose incorporation is dictated by the need to create some semblance of populist appeal and outlook. Perhaps, a crucial question to ask in the light of the list of nominees for this years award is this: what spectacular or extraordinary performances can we ascribe to these awardees beyond the routine conduct of their assigned official duties? In what ways has the ordinary Nigerian on the street or even the remote countryside benefited from the supposed exceptional genius of any of these awardees?

Probably, it might be quite instructive to reflect on the above posers by dwelling on a few examples. The nomination of the Inspector General of Police for this year's award coincides with a period in the history of Nigeria when the country is practically sitting on a keg of gunpowder and virtually threatened by systemic, anarchic implosion. The ceaseless barrage of armed terrorist insurgency has transformed a significant section of the Northern region into a veritable human abattoir where citizens' lives are being roasted and wasted with reckless impunity through the aid of bombs and other lethal means of violence. The terrorist onslaught has been so audacious and utterly devastating that it has not only exposed the crippling dysfunctionality of the Nigerian Security Apparatus in the face of contemporary terrorism, but has also targeted the Police Force and turned it into a hapless casualty as evidenced by the bombing of the Force Headquarters at Abuja. As insecurity intensifies, the authorities of the Police Force, in concordance with the State Security Services, persist in the ritualistic dogmatism that “they are on top of the situation.”

In concrete terms, can we say that the Nigerian Police under the leadership of Hafiz Ringim, has provided watertight security for Nigerians, especially, those living in the trouble spots of Northern Nigeria? Can President Jonathan beat his chest to say that the Nigerian Police has been reformed to reflect the ideals of moral rectitude and operational efficiency as to warrant the conferment of national award on the Police boss? Does this award in any way suggests that the men in black uniform no longer extort “shandy” from transporters, harass innocent road users, and dispatch a few unlucky ones to “thy kingdom come” through extra-judicial killings? The travesty which this nomination connotes is further reinforced by another curious name on the list, namely: the Attorney General of the Federation! What exactly will be his citation at the award ceremony? Is it that he has distinguished himself in fighting official corruption or even strengthening the capacity of corruption-fighting agencies such as the EFCC – as against sponsoring their subtle emasculation through a dubious merger plan with a castrated and toothless ICPC?

It is a tragic commentary that the sanctity of the National Honours Award - like everything else - has been desecrated and turned into “a mammy-market jamboree” for purposes of patronage and power consolidation. It is, unarguably, a mark of atrocious and cold-blooded insensitivity on the part of the President that virtually all the Heads of the nation's security agencies are being lined up for decoration with national honours at a time when Nigeria is at its lowest ebb in terms of national security and ordinary Nigerians are paying dearly with their blood, their flesh and their vandalized properties in certain parts of the country.

Nonetheless, the consoling news is that Nigerians know who their true champions are and have refused to be enthused and distracted by the charade from the “corridors of power.” Nigerians recognize and salute as “a patriotic champion” the twenty-year old Victor Emmanuel who was brutally murdered by depraved, trigger-happy Policemen in Yenegoa, Bayelsa State, for daring to ask them why they should be extorting money from hapless bike riders on a Sunday. Young Victor Emmanuel exuded and exemplified uncommon courage, fearlessness, strength of character, empathy, forthrightness and patriotic zeal – qualities which, undoubtedly, are a scarce commodity in President Jonathan's list of awardees. What is more, this young Nigerian not only dramatized these qualities, but had to pay the ultimate price because of his belief that those who are paid and kitted by the sweat of the public should not turn around and become wolves unto the same public they are being paid to protect.

Nigerians acknowledge as a quintessential champion, Miss Eucharia Remmy – the young and delectable NYSC member serving in Yobe State and a graduate from University of Nigeria, Nsukka, who was callously killed by Boko Haram insurgents few days ago while she was distributing her church's devotional booklet along New Jerusalem Road, Damaturu. What about the rest of the other Corps members – and indeed, other Nigerians – who had to water the tree of democracy with their blood by meeting their untimely death in places like Bauchi and Maiduguri in the aftermath of the Presidential election early this year. It is on the foundation of their ultimate sacrifice that the entire edifice of the incumbent regime of political leadership is erected and their memories will always remain dear and refreshing in the fertile minds of Nigerians. They are indeed the real champions.

To those struggling Nigerians who are sentenced to a life of neglect and marginality, especially in the remotest parts of the country, and have had to endure all manner of social indignities and economic harshness, often with hardly any demonstrable benefit of citizenship, yet, they diligently persist in the hope and dream of a better Nigeria, they are truly the real sons and daughters of Nigeria. They are the indisputable champions deserving of a national honour. Anything less is just sheer counterfeit!!!

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Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Ugochukwu Raymond Ogubuariri and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Ugochukwu Raymond Ogubuariri