By Lawrence Olaoye
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday conferred the 2017 Nigerian National Merit Award (NNMA) on a notable Nigerian scholar, Professor Adesoji Adesina and a celebrated artist, Mr. Bruce Onobrakpeya at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Osinbajo, who made the conferment on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, who is on a two-day official visit to Kano, lauded the research and intellectual qualities of the recipients, promising that the federal government would continue to support research innovation in the country.
The Vice President said posterity would not forgive government functionaries if they fail to provide support for research activities, just as he added that every winner of NNMA was unique, describing the recipients as “milestones of Nigeria’s checkered history.”
Submitting that the duo bear awesome responsibilities, Osinbajo hailed the recipients for the intellectual feat they attained as he challenged them to further deploy their huge experiences to advance the course of the society, recalling the words of Bernard Baruch that “man can’t retire his experience but must use it.”
While praising the Governing Board of NMA, Osinbajo said so far, the board had identified 75 recipients of the award, observing that the award “epitomises the finest of Nigerian innovation” as he welcomed Adesina and Onobrokpeya into what he described as the “prestigious league” of Nigerian National Order of Merit Investiture.
Extolling the sterling qualities of the recipients, Osinbajo observed that the works of Adesina in engineering and technology span over three decades in various fields including mining, defence, manufacturing, among others, with over 400 publications and competitive research grants.
Osinbajo also said Adesina had trained a number of students including 42 PhD holders whom are now professors, executives in petro-chemical industry and captains of engineering designs in various parts of the world.
“To date, Prof. Adesina is credited with nearly 450 refereed publications, patents and books. He has supervised more than 100 graduate students to completion, including 42 PhD alumni with a truly global hue. Among these former students are university professors in highly-ranked institutions, executives of the petrol-chemical processing industries, government dignitaries and captains of engineering design and consulting firms located throughout China, South-east Asia, Middle East, Europe, USA, Canada and Australia. He has won over $15 million in competitive research grants from government and industry sponsors,” Osinbajo said.
Similarly, the Vice President said the works of Onobrakpeya in arts and humanities have spanned six decades, even as he described the celebrated artist as a painter, initiator of art, author and philantropist.
According to him, Onobrakpeya had received over 30 awards and appointments in recognition of his excellent and intellectual contributions to humanity as well as lifetime awards.
He further described Onobrakpeya as a social commentator, whose works of art date back to 1957, the period he described as the early development of arts in the country. He further described him as an advocate of social causes who focuses on social developments.
Furthermore, Osinbajo said Onobrakoeya’s art works included painting on divine prayer for help. According to him, his works also address political instability, sociological problems while his contemporary works border on the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and broken pipes.
Responding on behalf of the recipients, Adesina said they were thankful for being recognised at the highest level of government award and described the episode as memorable. He also expressed appreciation for all the efforts made by the Governing Board of the Nigerian National Merit Award towards the success of the award.
Born in April 1952, Adesina obtained first class honours in Chemical Engineering in June, 1980 at the University of Lagos, later obtained PhD in University of Waterloo in Canada in 1986.
He left the University of Port Harcourt as a lecturer in 1989 for the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia and became a professor in 2004. He initiated and developed an internationally renowned group in reactor engineering and technology.
Onobrakpeya, on his part, was born in August 1932 and obtained Diploma in F.A. of London University and post graduate Art Teachers’ Certificate in Zaria.
He has participated in over 68 exhibitions in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America with his works found in the most prestigious museums and galleries such as the Vatican Museum in Rome, Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC., the Suomi in Finland and Victory Museum in Baghdad.
His works are used to decorate notable places in Nigeria such as the office of Nigeria’s President in the Presidential Villa, Abuja and Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.