By Angula Jessica
In a coincidence with this writer’s decision to pen this article, the Punch newspaper in its online version published the story “Buhari fails to award national honours in two years” to draw attention to deserving citizens that should be honoured for their contributions to Nigeria’s benefit.
The objective here is not to delve into why the National Honours have not held since the present administration came into office but to rather make a case for holding the event in the immediate future while ensuring that those that have contributed to what matters to us most are included on the list of awardees.
It is apparent that the most critical area that the administration has made the most tremendous mark is in the area of security. In the two years that the award has not held, Nigeria has had the chance to keep its security challenges under control and is possibly well on the way to eradicating the threats to the nation’s peaceful existence. The military under these service chiefs have further been able to prevent other threats from cropping up or from assuming new dimensions that could have comprised the safety of all citizens.
A testament to the sterling qualities of these great men was the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to extend the tenures of the Chief of Army Staff, COAS, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, his colleagues in the Air Force and Navy with the Chief of Defence Staff. While the extension of service is itself a sort of reward for the hard work that has gone into ensuring Nigeria’s security, acknowledging the great work they have done, it is most deserving that the National Honours is thrown in as the final seal of approval of the work they have done.
One may therefore ask the question of its just a National honour for the fun of doing so. The award of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger [GCON ] comes to mind for several reasons. Past Service Chiefs have been in the past decorated with Commander of the Federal Republic [CFR] which is one of the highest in the land. But considering the efforts, sacrifucaes and rare leadership qualities demonstrated by this set of Chiefs who came on board at a time that the country was on the precipice are good icing on the cake for the government to do the needful. The current adminstration would agree that by every available benchmark of assessment, it has really done well in the area of security particularly the campaign against terror being championed by the Nigerian Army where Lt. Gen TY Buratai holds ways as the anchorman.
There are immediate and long term benefits according the service chiefs the deserved honour. The soldiers under their command would be encouraged to further commit themselves to ending the heinous existence of Boko Haram terrorism once they know that the country appreciates their sacrifices. This would debunk the wrong impression that has been created to the effect that Nigeria does not care about those fighting for it’s territorial integrity.
Even more important is the message that would be sent to the foreign interests that have been hell-bent on hatching problems for Nigeria. They have at every turn promoted the lies that the military is a problem in the quest to route terrorism out of Nigeria when in reality the Nigerian Army has been the only buffer between a full-scale descent into chaos and the secured country we enjoy today under President Buhari. Bestowing National Honours that attest to the patriotism of the service chiefs therefore becomes the best avenue for telling the distracting foreign interests that the perspectives to the challenges we are dealing with are not lost on us as a people.
In addition, the awards, coming after the two years hiatus, would be consistent with the present government’s argument that it does not want to recognize mediocrity. The service chiefs have had two years during which the government has been able assess the contributions they have made. Naming the service chiefs as recipients as recipients would validate the assertion that only those that have made meaningful impact are getting recognized and that the wait for this next round is worth the while.
Angula is a public affairs commentator and contributed this piece from the United Kingdom.