Who Deserves A National Honour?

by Peter Claver Oparah

The nation is about to engage in another worthless ritual of bestowing national honours on a select crop of its citizens, mainly drawn from the government and corporate circle, with a sprinkle of few others from outside those circles. Much has been said about this yearly ritual to the effect that it excels in honouring those that have excelled in prosecuting the present leviathan we are slaving in. Nigerians are almost coming to the unanimous agreement that the yearly national honours list is a pot pourri of people who have a feel on governance, who have had a feel on governance as well as their collaborators in the private sector. Between these two groups lies the foundation of the profound national calamity that has befallen Nigeria since independence. Between them lies the stubborn ennui that hunt and track Nigeria so badly that the country is presently seen as a failed nation and a huge disappointment to human race, especially the black race that looked up to Nigeria for leadership at the earlier stages of our nationhood.

Some years ago, the legendry writer, author and world renowned novelist, Prof. Chinua Achebe was so riled by the duplicity surrounding the award of the so called national honours that he threw back to then President Obasanjo the award with a stern rebuke that he does not need such. Achebe questioned the then president’s noxious unleashing of a bevy of touts and vandals (you can bet they might have been lumped together with Achebe for national honours) on his dear state, Anambra on one hand and the award of national honours to him. He couldn’t locate the moral sinew that should guide the choice and award of such honours so he firmly threw the then president’s award to the swine, where it had been dragged into by the succession of vandals that have dominated our leadership in recent times.

This year again, Femi Gbajabiamila, the Minority Leader in the House of Representative rejected the award. Though he did not cite Achebe’s charge of presidential duplicity, he humbly believed he has done nothing to merit such award. Though less forceful than Achebe, Gbajabiamila’s version was a more indicting verdict on the award and the criteria used to arrive at who gets honoured. In essence, he was saying that selection of those that get the award is faulty and if this is faulty, then the award is useless. Most Nigerians share Gbajabiamila’s view about an award that should have been employed to encourage those that have made laudable imprints in all facets of national life but has been devalued to a plaything for ethically knocked and amoral politicians and their standpatters.

Besides these, Nigerians are shocked as the award of national honours has become a reward to all manners of economic pests and rodents; scoundrels, pimps, knaves, vandals, clowns, electoral robbers, etc. The only thing linking them is their attachment to government such that were such known criminals like Oyenusi, Shina Rambo, Anini alive today, and with the mercurial manner power is accessed in Nigeria, gets close to power, they would have been bestowed with national honousrs! It is indeed a tragedy of governance as well as that of statehood.

I am of the opinion that at a time like this, Nigeria’s best candidate for national award is the ordinary Nigerian. I feel that if we desire to honour anybody in this twisted enclave that devours its inhabitants, it is the ordinary Nigerian that is at the receiving end of endless assault and blitzkrieg that masquerade as governance. His survival instinct is second to none and his degree of tolerance is incomparable. A national award should go to the Nigerian who sleeps and wakes at the mercy of hounds and criminals while government looks in suppressed admiration. The Nigerian who goes on from day to day, albeit he does not know where the next meal will come from, who goes on even when his future has been looted and salted away by prebendal leaders deserves national honours more than his persecutors, who are the main target of the award. Nigerians that sleep under bridges and scavenge the waste bins for survival in a land of plenty deserve the national awards more than the most audacious thieves, as is the case.

Nigerian national honours should rightly belong to the ordinary, poor and harassed Nigerian who survives the predilection of his leaders to plunder every resources and even sell his future upfront. The ordinary Nigerian who is made to scratch through school and come out and remain unemployed despite the huge oil wealth of the country deserves national honours for his staying power. The Nigerian who is made to endure the kind of bizarre chance taking called leadership in Nigeria, with the attendant vicissitudes deserves a national honour more than a cache of the rotten system.

The ordinary Nigerian that must source his own power, his own security, his healthcare, his education, his road, his water while those in government appropriate trillions of Naira for these, deserves national honours. He deserves national honours for surviving in a land where millions die yearly due to preventable diseases, want and penury. The ordinary Nigerian deserves national honours for surviving in a country where life expectancy shrinks by double digits each year and where epidemic ravages the citizenry with great gusto. The ordinary Nigerian that has survived unending spates of persecution, who has endured the grand folly that has replaced officialdom, who has been forced down the nadir of hope deserves a national honour for his resilience, staying power and perseverance. The ordinary Nigerian deserves a national honour for surviving the programmed effort to keep him down and ensure he never gets to enjoy the basic necessities of life.

I know that Nigeria is a land of countless absurdities but I believe we have reached a turn where the ordinary Nigerian needs to be garlanded for his courage and valour in the face of mankind’s known worst conditions. The ordinary Nigerian citizen needs to be honoured for how he had been able to come thus far, in the face of the tragic human condition he has been forced to survive in. He needs to be honoured for gaining a further day in a land where life has been made brutish, short and snappy by fellow human beings who have constituted themselves into immutable disasters in a well endowed land bereft of natural disasters.

So, my belief is that instead of recycling known felons and vandals and mocking them annually with so called national honours, the award should be saved from certain devaluation by awarding it each year to the ordinary Nigerian who has been made not to see any reason to thump out his chest to proclaim his Nigerianness. I believe the best way to save what remains of Nigeria’s national honours award is to award it en mass to the ordinary Nigerians that have stayed on despite the array of life threatening experiences he has been subjected to. It is him, that rare breed of humanity that deserves a national honour and not thieving politicians and their cahoots.

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