“Let me specially appreciate these people, the taxi driver, Imeh Usuah, Corporal Solomon Dauda, presidential steward, Mr. Michael Onuh. Those who take into criminalities 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.”

With the above words this Monday, President Goodluck Jonathan himself captured the top highlights of the National Honours Awards of this year while garlanding the 313 (originally 305) Nigerians and others who were deemed to have made significant contributions, through personal labours, to the development of Nigeria.

The three gentlemen specially appreciated by the President, with the designer of the national flag, Pa Michael Taiwo Akinkunmi, also specifically acknowledged for having “contributed so much to the history of this country”, are the poster guys for this year’s awards ceremony because they are just ordinary Nigerians doing /who did extra-ordinary things.

It is note-worthy that for the first time in many years, it appears that ordinary Nigerians, not only politicians, top technocrats, powerful though corrupt individuals and money bags, can also considered for such national recognitions. While the taxi driver returned a princely sum of N18 million forgotten in his car by a passenger, the presidential steward survived “about nine Presidents and nine First Ladies”, since the time of Shagari, a miracle of a man indeed!

There is no doubt that the Honours Award Committee this year did a marvelous job for which the President deserves commendation. The thoughtfulness of the diverse selection is remarkable and that framework should be made to endure. As a matter of fact, hardly would any previous edition surpass the quality of the current 2013/2014 honours, as symbolised by the four men mentioned and many others, since the award was instituted in 1963 through the Order of Dignity Act.

However, what would have made the honours perfect was the oversight engendered by the exclusion of the late Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevo and Nurse Justina Ejelonu. The argument that the awards are not given posthumously is hollow in a situation where the “doctrine of necessity”, which incidentally brought President Goodluck Jonathan to power, would have been re-invoked to celebrate the two ladies who sacrificed their lives so that we would not all die of Ebola Virus Disease. No one would blame the Government for taking recourse to that “doctrine”.

It is to the personal credit of these professional Amazons, especially Dr Adadevo, that the rampaging Ebola has been contained in Nigeria and for which the international community, for the first time in many years, was obliged to commend us for doing something right: the response to Ebola. Supposing the two women of honour did not take the risk they took at the critical time that it mattered, maybe the regional pandemic would have become an epidemic in Nigeria, something even beyond the Liberian proportions.

Apart from names previously mentioned, another striking thing is the prominence of the University of Ilorin in the awards list. This prominence is underscored by the conferment of the Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) and Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) on the immediate past Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Is-haq O. Oloyede, and the current Vice-Chancellor of the University, Prof. Abdul Ganiyu Ambali, respectively.

It is phenomenal that of the seven universities (out of 129 universities in the country) whose affiliated personalities were honoured, only the name of the University of Ilorin appears twice through the names of its former and incumbent Vice-Chancellors. Both Professors Oloyede and Ambali richly deserve the awards for the personal labours they had expended in evolving a University to beat.

For more than a decade now, the University of Ilorin has carved a niche for itself as the most peaceful and stable public university in Nigeria. It is therefore not surprising that apart from being the first University to be ranked within the best twenty in Nigeria, first in 2011 (by the ranking web of world universities or webometrics), then in 2014 (by For International Colleges and Universities), the University has raised the bar of excellence and remains the most beloved University in the country.

Based on the data from the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), the University of Ilorin emerged in Nigeria from being the 8th most preferred university in 2011 to the 5th most preferred in 2012. The University became the 2nd most preferred University last year and the most preferred this year, with no fewer than 105,000 applicants, placing the University of Benin at a distant second with 74,000 applicants.

This quantum and progressive improvement is due to the quality of leadership the University has, as symbolised by the personal labours of the honoured duo and the institutional efforts to make the University first among equals. The awards are richly deserved.

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE, HAPPY SALLAH!

If weeks were to compete for honours, this week would win gold due to three major phenomena that characterise it. Apart from the colourful awards ceremony that made Abuja to stand still on Monday, Nigeria also became 54 years old as an Independent nation two days ago, precisely, October 1, 2014.

Though only little is there to cheer about on how Nigeria has been managed by its successive leaders till date, that the country remains one, despite the daunting challenges it faces, is still notable. The commemoration of the day, which has lost its usual colours, two days ago was another opportunity to hope Nigeria would, in a not-too-distant future, be able to unleash her full potential and occupy a pride of place in the eyes of her citizens and the rest of the world.

The week of celebrations will peak tomorrow with the big Sallah or Eidul Adha, the celebration of which has even made the Federal Government to declare next Monday and Tuesday public holiday.

In his Sallah message conveyed on the Independence Day, the Secretary General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Prof. Is-haq O. Oloyede, felicitates with the Muslim Ummah and urges them to demonstrate the faith of Prophet Ibrahim, whose sacrifice the whole festival symbolises.

According to the release, “this Ibrahimic faith will be reflected in the unflinching commitment to Islam, despite the powerful forces massed against it in Nigeria today; patience in the face of unprecedented adversity befalling the ummah of Muhammad worldwide and sacrifice with the belief that Allah rewards and replenishes as He wishes.”

“While felicitating with Muslims and urging them to reflect on the fact that neither the flesh nor the blood of the sacrificial animals reach Allah but our piety,” the Council urges the Ummah to continue to pray that Allah continue to expose and humiliate all those who terrorise Nigerians with the instruments of politics and religion.

Happy Independence Anniversary in arrears; Happy Sallah in advance!

 

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