Four Nigerians get double honours, as three receive houses, national flag designer placed on salary for life
As part of the activities for the 54th independence anniversary, four Nigerians who distinguished themselves in their line of duty, honesty and dedication received double honours at yesterday's conferment of national awards on eminent Nigerians and foreigners, just as the national flag designer was placed on salary for life.
The special awardees included Mr. Imeh Usuah, the taxi driver, who in 2007 returned N18 million left in his cab by a foreigner who hired him from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja; Mr. Onuh Isaac Michael, the Chief Steward of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, who served nine Presidents and Heads of State right from the Second Republic, Corporal Solomon Dauda, a traffic warden stationed at a strategic location in the Federal Capital Territory and Mr. Taiwo Akinkunmi, the 77-year-old designer of the national flag.
Besides the various categories of national awards, the three recipients got three-bedroom flats in the FCT, while Akinkunmi is to receive the salary of a special assistant to the president for life.
Akinkunmi was awarded the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR); Usuah got the Member of the Order of Federal Republic ( MFR); while Onuh and Dauda received the Member of the Order of the Niger ( MON).
The president directed the Minister of the FCT, Bala Mohammed, to immediately make available the houses to the trio whom he specially called to the podium. The president further directed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, to place septuagenarian Akinkunmi on a lifetime salary of a special assistant to the president.
The two other beneficiaries of the house largesse were Usuah and Dauda. Dauda was recognised for his exceptional dedication to duty at his post in Abuja.
Speaking yesterday at the event, President Jonathan expressed the hope that the recognition accorded all the recipients would inspire other Nigerians to rededicate themselves to rendering services to the country and humanity.
'No great nation toys with honours that constitute its national code of ethics. A national honour must never be seen as a piece of paper or garland that could be obtained by persons of questionable character,' he stated.
He therefore urged Nigerians to actively participate in the nomination process whenever it is advertised in the media, and noted that the broader spectrum exhibited in this year's award was an indication of a wide search conducted by the Honours Committee.
'A nation is void and soulless if she does not have those sacred values it holds dear and individuals who project them. It is in such men and women that you find the authentic inheritance of the generations and their nurturing. That is why a nation is poor that is not rich in people who carry noble values that are transferred from generation to generation.
'No great nation will toy with honours that constitute her trans-generational character code. This was why I insisted last year that our national honour must never be seen as a piece of paper or garland round the neck which individuals not worthy of honour can pick up and continue to project wrong values that diminish our heritage.
'I also directed the National Honours Committee to always cast their net wide to ensure that all strata of our society where honourable Nigerians are excelling should be brought into the honours' fold.
'I believe one of the reasons why our society is not at ease is because we have neglected our ennobling traditional value system. There was a time in our country that when you were honoured with traditional or religious titles in any community, you were deemed to personify the highest ethos of that community.
'It was a period when a teacher was the hallmark of the most honourable values in a settlement. The bank manager in any community was a man of high probity in whose care people trusted their money and were rest assured.
'It was a period when people kept quiet and walked gently when they approached a place of worship for the fear of God in their heart, not now that people throw explosives in places of worship.
'We must get back those time-honoured values that shaped us for good so that we can live right. This is what the National Honour in its truest essence seeks to do. To identify and celebrate men and women whose lives depict the very essence of societal existence. Therefore, at all times, our honourees must be sincere men and women who point society in the right direction and mirror the possibilities of greatness unlimited.
'To all our country men and women, my challenge to you is to strive to do the best in whatever endeavour you are in, that would recommend you for the recognition of your nation. It really does not matter what you do.
'Let me specially appreciate these people, the taxi driver, Imeh Usuah, corporal Solomon Dauda, presidential steward, Mr. Isaac Michael Onuh. Those who take to criminality because of poverty are not quite right because myself and some of you here knew where we are coming from. We passed through stress but we didn't take to criminality. For these gentlemen, we appreciate you. FCT minister give one flat each to the three of them.
'A very dedicated steward who has served every head of state loyally since President Shehu Shagari. From Shagari till today, to have survived about nine presidents and nine first ladies, you must be a great man.
'As someone who contributed so much to the history of this country, the person who designed the Nigerian flag, Pa Michael Taiwo Akinkunmi, who was also honoured here, you have to place him on a salary of special assistant to the president forever,' President Jonathan explained.
The highest honour for this year – Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR) went to Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, Lt-General Kenneth Minimah, Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin, â€ŽAir Marshal Adesola Amosun, Acting Inspector General of Police Suleiman Abbah, Justice Bolarinwa Babalakin, Justice Chukwuma Eneh, National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki ( rtd) and Alhaji Bukar Goni Aj, immediate past Head of Civil Service of the Federation, among others.
The President of the Court of Appeal, Zainab Bulkachuwa (CFR) on behalf of the recipients, said the honour would serve to ginger the awardees to do more for the nation.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, recalled that the annual awards were instituted by the Order of Dignity Act of 1963. The ceremony was, however, suspended during a greater part of military rule in the country, and it didn't take place last year, thus making this year's event a combination of 2013 and 2014 â€Žaward ceremonies.
'That is why the Golden Eaglets who lifted the FIFA Under-17 World Cup last year, have now been formally honoured with Member of the Order of the Niger (MON)', Anyim explained.
The Chairman of the Honours Award Committee and former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Alfa Belgore, said a rigorous screening process was used to select persons of honour and impeccable character deserving of the awards.
A total of 4,737 persons have received all categories of the national honours from 1963 to date, disclosed Belgore as he declared that the number (313) honoured for 2014 indicated the stability of the polity.
Belgore noted that the recipients were carefully selected for the award for the recognition of their invaluable contributions towards the actualisation of the success of the nation.
'The scheme is designed as a catalyst for development of the spirit of nationalism, selfless service to humanity and as an instrument of reward for those identified to have made meaningful contributions towards the nation's greatness and achievement.
'The National Honours Award recipients emerged through a very rigorous and painstaking selection by a screening process which was carried out by the National Honours Award committee set up by the president.
'The process was carefully designed to ensure that only credible individuals, men and women of impeccable characters and those who have contributed positively towards our continued efforts at attaining greatness as a nation were being considered for the prestigious National Honours Award,' he said.
He said since the inception of the scheme in 1963, more than 4500 Nigerians and friends of Nigerians had been honoured with a breakdown as follows: 15 persons have received the award of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic ( GCFR); 35 persons have so far been conferred with the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger ( GCON); 283 persons have so far been conferred with the Commander of the Federal Republic ( CFR) and 508 persons have been awarded the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).
He said 889 persons had been conferred with the Officer of the Federal Republic ( OFR) award; 1,218 have been conferred with the Officer of the Order of the Niger ( OON); 871 persons have been conferred with the Member of the Federal Republic award, while 708 persons have received the Member of the Order of the Niger ( MON); 140 persons got the Federal Republic Merit ( FRM)1 and 72 persons have received the Federal Republic Medal ( FRM) 11.
In attendance were Senate President, â€ŽDavid Mark, Ike Ekweremadu, Emeka Ihedioha, Alooma Mukhtar, Adamu Muazu, Tony Anenih, governors, ministers, and family members of awardees.