ELEVATING NATIONAL HONOURS AWARD
Like some others before it, this year's National Honours Award was a mixed bag of the high and the low. While Nigerians applauded some of the award recipients for being deserving of the honour bestowed on them, they merely winked at the honour bestowed on some others because they believe that they were given for the sake of it.
This mixed feeling has been pervasive over the years. The received notion is that the national ritual that commenced one year after Nigeria attained republican status has gradually but steadily diminished in importance and significance.
Rather than be reserved for Nigerians who have rendered outstanding services in their various fields of endeavour as was originally conceived, the award, at some point, became an instrument for political patronage.
That was why some public office holders were, in the past and even now, rewarded with national honours. Yet, the only distinguishing attribute that qualified some of them was the fact that they held or were holding public offices. The consideration, strictly speaking, was not based on the valuable contributions that these public office holders had made or were making to national development. This has been a major drawback in the perception of the National Honours Award.
It is significant to note, however, that President Goodluck Jonathan took ample note of this blight in the honours award when he remarked at this year's event that government had taken good notice of some of the criticisms that trail the award and would ensure that they are addressed in future. We look forward to an early correction of the observed lapses so that the award does not become a mere annual ritual that must take place whether there are deserving honourees or not.
Regardless of this drawback, we note with satisfaction that this year's exercise paraded some individuals who are truly distinguished both in the private and public sectors. But we also note with disappointment that there is nothing to commend some of the award recipients for.
This may have accounted for the disdain which some Nigerians have for the exercise and their support for those who, for one reason or the other, rejected the awards. Our expectation is that the criteria for such recognition should be tightened a little bit more so that we will no longer have an infiltration of names that could lead to a deluge such as we witnessed this year. A situation where there was shortage of medals because of the large number of recipients is not tidy enough.
In this regard, we expect more efficiency and diligence on the part of the National Honours Award Committee. The membership of the committee should be broadened to go beyond politicians and civil servants some of whom may be tempted to nominate and recommend their cronies for the award.
Professional bodies should be made part of the selection process. Their input will go a long way in conferring dignity and respectability to the award.
While we congratulate the nation for honouring some distinguished Nigerians, we note that the award is an invaluable asset whose recipients must cherish and respect. By the award, they have become national icons. The expectation therefore is that they should be good ambassadors of the country and work assiduously to better its lot.
The award is also a wake -up call on other Nigerians. It provides an avenue for them to aspire to greater heights and engage in acts and ventures that will elevate the image of the country. Nigeria needs more distinguished people whose integrity can be relied upon and emulated by the younger generation. The honours award mirrors all this and more. There is therefore the need to elevate it to a higher order of events so that Nigerians will continue to look up to it as a model for individuals to aspire to and a vehicle for national greatness.