- Category: Politics
- Published on Tuesday, 15 November 2011 16:35
- Written by Admin
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Frontline industrialist, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, has become the first private- sector person to be conferred with the second highest national honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of Niger (GCON) as President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday presented 355 distinguished Nigerians with various national honours. Jonathan, who personally presented the awards to all the recipients, also justified his decision to bestow the GCON honour on the business mogul.
"You can see today that we have recognised Aliko Dangote with the highest on the GCON series because we must recognise enterprise. This is a man who has been able to employ thousands of Nigerians as we heard from the citation. " Today, I am having the GCFR, the highest in the land by virtue of the fact that I am the President of this country, but if I am not the president, another person must be the President of Nigeria, but if Aliko did not have that business acumen to build that empire, probably we wouldn't have had somebody to employ thousands of Nigerians.
"So, those who by their innate abilities and creative energies have been able to make impact in our society even deserve more honour than those of us holding political offices. So, we would continue to encourage enterprise, creativity and Nigerians who have excelled in whatever form", he said. Jonathan acknowledged that criticisms have trailed the selection process for the national awards, saying that he had directed the appropriate quarters to note the concerns being raised with a view to improving in the future.
He spoke further: "One thing I am aware of is that there have been criticisms of the National Award nominations and selection process. I have since directed the appropriate departments to note the concerns that have been expressed and to take steps to ensure further improvement so that the National Honours award can continue to serve its purpose. "National Honours are not merely decorative; they remind us of an important part of our responsibilities as citizens. We must always endeavour to do the best for our country even as we realise with deep humility that all human beings are fallible, we must look forward with confidence and hope that our country through each and every one of us can indeed put its God-given endowment to the best possible use. The President also took time to explain how people are recognised by the Federal Government.
"Let me re-emphasise again, how some of the people are selected because there are comments from very young people who are a bit confused about how people are selected for National Honours.
"The Nigerian National Merit award is meant for scholars and not just scholars but scholars with distinction. The President plays almost no role in selecting who wins the merit award, because that is for academic division.
"But the National Honours criteria are different. It is based on what an individual has contributed to his community, his state, his country and how you have projected this country outside. It does not depend on how many certificates you have, it does not even depend on the status you have in the society", he clarified.
In his welcome address, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, stated that this year's ceremony is combined with that of 2010, which he said could not hold last year because of preparation for the 2011 general elections.
Anyim also posited that the recipients emerged after a careful and rigorous screening by the National Honours Award Committee chaired by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore.
Also speaking, the Committee chairman, Justice Belgore, said the recipients were selected based on their contributions to their communities, states and to national development.
Speaking on behalf of the honourees, Dangote said his resolve to invest heavily in the country was borne out of his conviction that Nigeria is a great country.
While thanking the President for finding them worthy of the awards, the business mogul, who is worth about $13.8 billion, assured that they would continue to contribute to the growth and development of the country.
With yesterday's ceremony, about 4,275 Nigerians have so far received national honours since inception on 1963.
A break down of the awards shows one Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), 65 Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), 38 Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR), 74 Officer of the Order Federal Republic (OFR), 69 Member of the Officer of the Order Federal Republic (MFR), 71 Order of the Niger (OON), 28 Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), two First Class Federal Republic Medal and three Second Class Federal Republic Medal.
Top on the list of recipients were the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, CFR and nine governors- Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, Peter Obi-Anambra, Liyel Imoke- Cross River, Adams Oshiomhole- Edo, Patrick Yakowa, Kaduna, Ibrahim Shema, Katsina, Aliyu Babangida Niger, Rotimi Amaechi Rivers, Sule Lamido Jigawa as well as nine former governors.
Others are former Ogun Speaker, Mrs Titi Oseni, former Head of Service of the Federation, Prof Oladapo Afolabi, Oba Otudeko, the Chiefs of Army, Navy, Air Force and the Inspector-General of Police.