NATIONAL AWARDS: THE FALLING DIGNITY
Having taken ample time to read many prolific writers from all parts of Nigeria on the recent awards given to 355 Nigerians including many political office holders, it appears that the federal government may have lost focus of the noble cause of the exercise. It is saddening that political leaders whose track records are nothing to write home about were given awards. Since 1963 when the National Award was created to honour eminent Nigerians who had done well in their chosen endeavours, many have seen it as an idea that would make Nigerians take their career seriously.
However, most of the recent awardees did not merit it but were politically compensated for the last April elections. Prof Chinua Achebe rejected the National Award for the second time and personally highlighted political challenges facing the country, yet the former President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan did not see it as a reason to revamp the entire system but rather went on to honour some national thieves called leaders. The country is in dire need of security of lives and property while National Awards have become the priority of the sitting president. It is a shame that National Award Ceremony witnessed shortage of medals, which invariably signaled to Nigerians that the government was ill-prepared.
The literary icon meant well for Nigerians to restore the glory of the country. Many Nigerians have been bestowed with National Awards with no credibility. Many ex-governors were honoured whose cases are still pending in the EFCC, yet Jonathan gave the questionable characters awards.
Though the National Awards exercise is usually to honour faithful Nigerians in their field, the process of selection is archaic while the committee recommendations are often biased. The bureaucracy is at the mercy of God, which shows that the real honourable Nigerians are yet to be identified. The country no longer promotes excellence but mediocrity by which only political leaders are honoured. It is not a crime to honour great Nigerians that are doing extremely well in their careers but only the right people need to be given awards.
It is time for Jonathan to overhaul the screening committee and let the right people be given awards.
Odidi writes from Lagos.