Last year, President Goodluck Jonathan promised to “sanitise” the process that produces the annual national honours awards after that year’s nominations were condemned by most Nigerians because of the choices he made and their number. It was expected that the sanitization would begin with this year’s list. Alas! When it was announced, it was very much of the same sham. To be fair, the President did try to give the list a veneer of respectability by putting a driver, a traffic warden and a cook on it. They were Solomon Dauda, a taxi-cab driver who returned N18 million a passenger forgot in his cab; Onuh Michael, a cook in the Presidency and Imeh Usuah, a driver in the Nigerian High Commission in Canada. Apart from these four cosmetic changes, the rest 301 awardees were men and women faithfully serving Jonathan, not the nation. To that extent, the phrase National Honours is a misnomer.
We begin with the President’s 5 military chiefs who he decorated with the Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) medal: Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh; Chief of Army Staff, Kenneth Minimah; the Chief of Naval Staff, Usman Jibrin; the Chief of Air Staff, Adesola Amosu; and Director of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke. These are the men “prosecuting” the government’s campaign to end the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east that has lasted over 4 years and consumed thousands of lives, this year alone. The military’s effort has been largely ineffectual and nothing headlines this dismal role more than the failure of the security forces to rescue over 200 schoolgirls seized by Boko Haram since April. What then did the President reward them for? Incompetence or loyalty or both?
As if to show that political partisanship was not a factor in the choices the President made, he picked the National Chairman of the opposition All Progressives Congress APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun for the award of Commander of the Niger (CON). But then, he rewarded Chief Tom Ikimi who jumped out of the President’s PDP into the newly formed and registered APC , only to jump back in after he lost the APC chairmanship to Odigie-Oyegun, with CON.
Not only that, Jonathan chose to give Deputy Governor of Kano state, Dr. Umar Ganduje, Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) but ignored his boss, Dr. Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso. It is obvious that this was a reward to Ganduje for remaining loyal to PDP unlike the governor who left for APC and has been a thorn in the President’s flesh ever since. Eight other PDP governors made the CON list. They were Chief Theodre Orji (Abia); Mallam Isa Yuguda (Bauchi); Mr. Sullivan Chime (Enugu); AlhajiSa’idu Dakingari (Kebbi); Senator IbikunleAmosun (Ogun); Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti); and Dr. Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo). The latter only recently left his old Labour Party for PDP. His exit has left the LP without a single state in its charge.
Clearly, the President has let slip through his fingers an opportunity to redeem an honours nomination process scandalized in the past by rejections from respectable Nigerians, including world renowned author, the late Prof. Chinua Achebe, the late human rights activist and constitutional lawyer Gani Fawehinmi and Nobel laureate, Pro. Wole Soyinka. Mr. President, you can restore respectability to the awards.