The buzz from my mobile phone distempers my precious silent time. A time I scoop up all the extraneous fall out from my chequered day’s activities. Cursing furiously under my breath, I stuttered towards my mobile phone, detach it from the charger and lift it with ennui towards my ear, wishing the caller had called some other time.
“Hello’’, I whispered in a gruffly voice that brooks no pretence of my apathy to the receiver.
“Hello, Good evening’’, a sweet voice unmistakably that of a belle wafts out from the other end.
“Good evening’’, I quickly replied in a pleasant baritone voice in abrupt deviation from my initial grumpiness, pardon my chivalry, “who are my on to?’’, I asked
“This is from the Directorate of National Awards’’, she hummed, “Congratulations, Sir, I have been directed to inform you that you have been awarded the national honour of Member of the Order of Niger(MON) in recognition of your outstanding…’’, she continued amidst protest from me that it was probably a wrong line. Seemingly not aware of my addled protest, I hung up on her. As I made my way to my table, the implication of that minute conversation dawned on me and I reeled off into realm of uncontrollable spurting laughter.
That is the extent to which the Nigerian national honours had reached. It is now so cheap, I mean as cheap as sachet water, popularly called “pure water’’ in Nigerian street parlance. If an unwaged graduate like me from the hinterland of Lagos innermost city could be contacted for national honours, regardless of my contribution to the national goals, then any non-deserving but coveting jobber could as well have it. Swiftly, I delved into the online national archive to glimpse the criteria to becoming a recipient of such national award. Soon afterwards a million thoughts swish swash my mind in criss-cross patterns. Dilly dallying, I remained in this pendulum state for hell knows how long. Gradually, a paralyzing feeling of regret stealthily creeps up and threatens to overshadow my initial aplomb. Then a familiar remorsefulness came over me, as I dialed and redialed the initial number that called earlier. The only response was that the user on the other end was busy, who ever that is. Why do I so demean myself? One mind was telling me I deserved the MON, at least. The federal government may have recognized the meritorious service to my fatherland during my NYSC, after all; a stint that only won me a letter of recommendation for state award. Who knows, the protest I led alongside some colleagues of mine in my workplace against bad welfare which eventually led to my dismissal, could have earned me such a call?
Well, all these are too obscure, and in no way at par with criteria to merit the national award. Criteria! What criteria? I could have the national honours if Genevieve could, just by merely flaunting of her soft-selling endowment down the alley of Nollywood: a coinage that underlines the dearth of creativity in our film industry, as they and their Indian counterparts equally with a less inspiring acronym (Bollywood) could only managed to tether their reins to that of the more established and world famous Hollywood, an upshot of exertions from overwhelmingly churning out movies week in, week out. God bless Naija! We all laughed it off with banters and back pats. Hmmn! What a great people, great nation! Joke apart, the national award was a nude joke. What else can one call it, if Aki, then Pawpaw; those diminutives thespian bolls, could run away with the national medals just by basically running over the whole place disturbing the peace of their socially conscious peace loving neighborhoods with their silly little tricks only good for Disney-addicted kids? Then we had better given it to the non-descript guy who created the popular sing along Indomie advert for the kids-Mama you too good ooooh! – Anyone seen that advert? At least we can encourage him for his ingenuity. Pardon me if I sound like a sexist, which I am not. I mean the creator of that advert could be a She, and then she deserves the award too. By the way, has D’banj Tuface and 9ice been given too? If not, we need to give them, ASAP! A co-joint medal would do for the three, though. Ha! Ha!! Ha!!! I love the sound of that, “May I introduce, please, the koko doctor, Mr. D’Banj (MFR) to the stage’’. I can just imagine the frenzy as he swagger his koko frame towards his cheering fans!
Don’t get it twisted, these people are better and deserving recipients than those obscure politicians drafted from each states of the federation to make up the list. Trust me, some of them has done nothing more than building a 3-classroom block with tax payers money and had spent a juicy part of the allocation chasing media propaganda to continually brainwash their paid sycophants and commoners. Uncle Jo and his National Award Committee also love the feel of news tabloids awash with one “Senator, Alhaji, Otunba, Chief, Eze, Hon, Engr, Dr, and other self adopted title’’ commissioning and re-commissioning a community project or a “Dr (Mrs.), Chief (Mrs.), Alhaja, Senator (Mrs.), Her Excellency the first lady of the local council, state and federation’’ commissioning a pet project and an NGO. These truly to the president, the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces (GCON, GCFR, G something…) were the yardsticks of their achievements, national acceptance and contribution to the sovereign wealth.
In my apparent sentiment, I waited gallingly for the roll callers to list out the names of the slain corps members; the true heroes and heroine of our new democratic dispensation, who were dastardly massacred in the course of national duty during the general elections, and with utmost sense of appreciation, bestow on them through their families, the national awards post humously. My wait was condemned to be eternal from the outset, as the president felt the derisory 2 Million Naira paid as consolation to the families of the slain corps members was enough barter to trade their souls. What a pity! Yet to think that, Bode George who was convicted of stealing billions of Naira from confer of the NPA had a national award. Bankole Dimeji the erstwhile speaker of the house of “Represent-the-thieves’’, who is currently facing charges of misappropriation; that according to government’s diplomatic dictum, but to us, ‘stealing of public funds’, also holds a national award. So why blame Prof Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and Gani Fawenhinmi for turning down the awards? The naked truth is that light cannot cohabit with darkness. Imagine these two mentioned earlier hanging the same medals as Prof Wole and Achebe, what an antithesis of reality and descent into the abyss of barbarism that would have been? The exemplary lives of these illustrious citizens who turned these awards down is glitteringly in contrast to those of political hunters who would do anything to be invited to Abuja to even grace the occasion. Henceforth, let’s strip those who betray the public trust of whatever national honour we must have bestowed on them in the past and address the issues raised by these eminences, and then we might not have to beg anyone to take the medals up. If not, it will get to a point we would hire marketers or relationship managers to market our national awards for us. Then it will be a free for all comers, guess Ghanaians, Nigeriens and Chaldeans would have their turn then.
Frankly speaking, the 350 recipients cannot all be empty baskets that hold no water. Some truly deserve the award, while the majority does not. I am looking forward propitiously to the day we would award research scientist, an inventor or an innovator and people oriented activist of global repute. We can take a cue from international awards such as the Nobel’s, only truly then, we would have made our awards into honours worth dying
for. My fear however is that, Mr President only surrounds himself with those who only tell him what he loves to hear. These cronies playing to the gallery of sycophancy will not tell the president to sit tight and combat the hydra-headed challenges the nation is facing and put pending to the national merit awards, which we all don’t deserve now! We will get the award when the work is done.
Since nothing ever get serious in Nigeria, I imagined myself walking up to the podium, compromising the unspectacular securities, pressing the microphone closer I announced ,“Ladies and gentlemen, at this point we may have to pair the awardees due to shortage of medals. Please bear with us, this is Nigeria, a round of applause as we pair Madame Genevieve (MFR) with Prof. Bashir Garuba(MFR) in the Lagos “Molue’’ style(*winks*) In case it may interest you to know, the medals initially presented to all the awardees herein present are farce. Now the real national merit awards goes to the women, who goes about their chores in Oshodi market, Idumota,Gbagi, Aba market, Kpata market,Kurmi market and other markets in Nigeria not mentioned due to non-symmetrical enumeration. The unemployed youths in their millions who went through the peanuts days of NYSC, either killed or maimed by reactionaries or who survived to chase shadows in the irksome bog called the labour market, roaming from one streets to the other in search of the Golden Fleece; they suffered the humiliation of being robbed by non-existing recruitment agency, the follies of nepotism and labour’s neo-slavery all in the name of staying on the right course. To the undergraduate youths of our broken-down tertiary educational system and their parents who had to pay through hardship, cut-throat tuition fee, to obtain a degree that had turned snippets in the junkyards. To the children dying of hunger, neglect and diseases everyday, for whom the future looks bleak. In all, to the Nigerians citizens, who through this insidious insecurity had to sleep with one eye opened, is this the Nigerian Dream?’’ I noticed everyone present blushing with embarrassment; obstinately I still managed to continue, “These medley; the Nigerian masses, are the true people deserving these national merit awards, in whatever category, bordering on the extent of their long suffering, for displaying high level of endurance, of patience, unequalled to none in the world. For the display of hope that stirs them in their grave. For the display of inter ethnic tolerance and hospitality, for by now they ought to have been driven apart from flimsy reasons that have ripped well structured empires apart. If they were to be Tunisians, Egyptians, Syrians, Sudanese, Ethiopians, Libyans, by now we would be picking dry skulls as medals to hang on our craggy necks as national merit awards. Then I think there won’t be shortage of medals. Mscheeww! Nonsense!
Come on; don’t tell me you don’t know how the whole story would play out. I would be hurdled into the Black Maria and taken to Abuja maximum security, labeled a terrorist and charged with treasonable felony!