•Jonathan also honours taxi driver, traffic warden, State House cook
At last, honour has come the way of Pa Michael Akinkunmi, the designer of the national flag. President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday ordered the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, to place him on the salary of a Special Assistant to the President for life.He also announced house gifts for a taxi driver, Mr. Imeh Usuah; a traffic warden Corporal Solomon Dauda; and a steward, Mr. Onuh Isaac. The President gave the order at the 2014 National Honours Award investiture held at the Internatinoal Conference Centre, Abuja. The gesture was in addition to Akinkunmi’s national honour of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic. The gifts were besides their national awards of Member of the Order of the Niger (MON).
The President also directed the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator Bala Muhammmed, to make the houses available to the recipients in Abuja.
While Usuah was honoured for returning N18million which an expatriate forgot in his car, Dauda was rewarded for the skilful and dedicated way he had been controlling traffic in the FCT. Isaac, who is the Head of the Presidential Stewards, was honoured for serving successive heads of governments meritoriously since the Shehu Shagari administrationv(1979 – 1983).
Jonathan said he honoured the four recipients specially because of a media report that described the steward as “a pauper in the State House.”
He said the lives of the steward, the taxi driver and the traffic warden had further confirmed his position that people who say poverty drives one to criminality are wrong.
He said: “I want to specially recognise these three gentlemen: the taxi driver, the traffic warden and the Head of the Presidential Stewards. “They have further confirmed my position that those who claim that people go into criminality because of poverty are not quite right. I and some of you here knew where we are coming from, we passed through stress, but we didn’t take into criminality.”
The President also paid special tributes to the National President of Campaign for Democracy, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, who was honoured with Member of the Order of the Federal Republic of her contributions to the entrenchment of democracy. He expressed the hope that the national recognition given to all the awardees would inspire other Nigerians to be patriotic and contribute more to national development.
The President said he remained committed to ensuring that the awards are not seen as a mere piece of paper and garlands worn by individuals not worthy of them.
He urged Nigerians to be involved in the award’s selection process by nominating those they consider worthy of the honours, saying members of the honours committee are not magicians.
The President said, “I urge you (the recipients) to realise that the honour bestowed on you is an additional responsibility to encourage you to continue to demonstrate the strength of character that has brought you to the Hall of Fame.
“My advice to all our countrymen and women is to thrive to be your best in your endeavour that would earn you recognition. It is my hope that the recognition bestowed on these awardees would encourage other Nigerians to recommit themselves to the service of their fatherland.”
Jonathan said one of the reasons the society was no longer at peace was because of the dearth of people with noble traits. He recalled that there was a time that people would walk quietly when passing places of worship in reference to God, regretting that nowadays, people throw explosives into places of worship. He said the nation must return to those days when people fear and reference God.
Earlier, the Chairman of the National Honours Award Committee, Justice Alfa Belgore, said the recipients were carefully selected to be honoured in recognition of their invaluable contributions to the success story of the nation.
Belgore said they emerged through a rigorous and painstaking screening process carried out by the committee to ensure that only credible people with impeccable character were considered. He urged the recipients to continue to make the country proud and contribute to the success of the administration’s Transformation Agenda. He said all the things necessary for peaceful coexistence and prosperity are present in Nigeria.
According to him, “all the things needed for peaceful coexistence and prosperity are present in Nigeria. All we need is stability which God will surely give us. If there is stability for 20 years, Nigeria will prosper and be among the seven leading countries in the world.”
The investiture brought to 3,737, the total of the national honours so far conferred on individuals since its inception in 1963. Twenty-five individuals got Commander of the Order of Federal Republic; 60 were honoured with Commander of the Order of Niger; 54 got the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic; 63 received the Office of the Order of the Niger; 53 were presented with Member of the Order of the Federal Republic; and 56 got Member of the Order of the Niger.
One recipient each got the Federal Republic Medal (First Class) and Federal Republic Medal (Second Class) respectively. Among those who got MON were members and officials of the 2013 National Under-17 Football team that won the World Cup, medalists at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the highest goal scorer in the 2014 Under-20 FIFA Female Football competition, Asisat Oshoala, while Blessing Okagbare, Emmanuel Amuneke and Nduka Ugbade, however, got MFR. The trio were absent at the investiture.
The event was attended by Senate President David Mark; Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukhtar; Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu; Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha; National Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu; Chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih, members of the National Assembly and ministers, among others.