•President confers national honours on 443 Nigerians, seven foreigners
He made the reaffirmation after conferring national honours on 443 Nigerians and seven foreigners at an elaborate ceremony in Abuja.
“We will continue to root out all forms of banditry, criminality, terrorism, and insurgency in the land. As I stated earlier in my Independence address to the nation, I will hand over a Nigeria that is free from insecurity to the next generation of leaders,” he said.
Stressing that citizens who contributed to national development deserved to be encouraged and appreciated, he enjoined all Nigerians to always endeavour to do their best for the country.
Six persons were conferred with Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), They are Senate President Ahmad Lawan; Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Olukayode Ariwoola; immediate past CJN Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad; Director-General, World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations(UN) Amina Mohammed and Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN Tijjani Muhammad-Bande.
Fifty-five others received Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR), 65, Commander of the Order of Niger (CON); 77, Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR); 110, Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON); 74 Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR); and 55, Member of the Order of the Niger (MON).
There were four recipients each for the Federal Republic Medal I (FRM I) and Federal Republic Medal II respectively. The seven foreigners received the OFR award.
The President commended the National Awards Committee headed by Sidi Muhammad, a retired justice of the Supreme Court and Emir of Lafia, for diligently going through over 5,000 submissions and coming up the 500 honourees.
Emphasising that nation-building involves a lot of sacrifice by the citizenry, the President hailed the hnourees for distinguishing themselves in various ways.
He said they had helped in the recreation of ”a new Nigeria of our dreams through respect for the rule of law, image laundering, transparency, and accountability in the management of scarce resources.”
He specifically mentioned the likes of Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu (Burna Boy); Okonjo Iweala, Amina Mohammed, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for positively projecting Nigeria internationally as well as Ms. Josephine Agu, an airport cleaner, and Ogbanago Muhammed, a bank security man, for their integrity.
President Buhari said: “We have amongst the recipients today, Prof. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Ms. Amina . Mohammed and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, are doing our country proud on the international scene. Our dear sisters are a source of inspiration to our young women that through the dint of hard work and dedication, they can achieve greatness.
“We also have on the list, Imam Abdullahi Abubakar, a religious leader who hid over 262 Christians in his mosque from attacks in Yelwa Gindi Akwati village, in Plateau State. He is a good example of religious tolerance we preach amongst Nigerians. I am excited that he is being honoured today with Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR).
“Worthy of mention are our artistes, particularly our very own Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu (Burna Boy), who won the Grammy Awards in 2020. He along with other artists have repositioned the Nigerian entertainment industry and placed it on the global map. At the just concluded Dubai Expo 2020, Nigeria’s pavilion was a beehive of activities as our musicians entertained guests from around the world.
“Despite the present economic challenges, Nigeria still boasts of men and women of integrity; Ms. Josephine Agu, an airport cleaner returned $12,200 found in a toilet at Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos as well as Ogbanago Mohammed , a bank security man who found and returned $10,000.
“Today, we celebrate their dignity and strong strength of character by conferring National Honours on them. They are a shining example to our younger generation.
“I appreciate the non-Nigerian recipients and assure all of you that this administration will continue to provide the enabling environment for you to undertake your lawful businesses to allow you to sustain your efforts at contributing to the development of our nation, Nigeria.”
Buhari acknowledged that the list of awardees is justifiably long because the exercise has not been carried out since 2015.
He recalled that since the inception of his administration, there has not been such an occasion as yesterday’s where individuals and friends of Nigeria had been singled out for investiture.
Buhari however recalled the special investiture in honour of the late Chief MKO Abiola, Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe, and Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN).
He explained that it was done especially to right the wrong done in the past and assuage “our feelings and to resolve to stand firm now and in the future for the sanctity of the electoral process and our democracy.”
In like manner, Buhari said, the country’s athletes were also honoured recently for their spectacular performances in several competitions.
The President appealed to other Nigerians who are yet to receive this recognition to be patient as their efforts in nation building would soon be rewarded,
“This administration will continue to partner with Nigerians and friends of Nigeria with like minds in our efforts to build the Nigeria of our dreams where everybody will strive to excel in their chosen fields devoid of parochial sentiments”, he said.
Speaking on behalf of the Awardees, Senate President Lawan thanked the President for the honour, pledging that the award was an encouragement for them to work harder.
“This award is an additional call to service. It is a call to duty and an invitation to realise that citizens’ efforts will not be in vain,” he said.
“We are therefore, inspired, motivated, and admonished to keep up our inputs, as stakeholders in the building of a virile nation.
“This is why I call on awardees to be steadfast, considering the responsibility that comes with the honours.
“This obligation is one of leadership, more work, and the provision of inspiration to others,” Lawan added.
Samuel Eyitemi Arobo Ogulu, who received the award on behalf of his son, Burna Boy, described the honour as elating.
Asked how his son received the news, Ogulu said: “Elated and grateful that his hard work and dedication have been recognised. I think there’s still a lot for him to do. He’s just starting. This will encourage him to do more, and encourage all those behind him to follow suit.”
Another recipient, Linus Okorie, said he felt energised by the award.
He said: “I just feel energized, feel excited because it’s 27 years of the work that I’ve done for leadership development in Nigeria, and having your country recognise is the greatest honour I can imagine.
“So, there’s a sense of nostalgia and a re-commitment to continue to do the things that I’ve been born to do in driving the economy of this country, in terms of making real progress because leadership capital is the foundation for progress, prosperity, and growth of any systems or nation.”