1. It gives me great pleasure to once again perform the function of honouring our deserving citizens with National Honours for 2013 and 2014. The conferment of these honours is a yearly undertaking in conformity with our laws. The National Honours ceremony is an annual ritual of renewal in which our society constantly connects with its higher values.
2. A nation is void and soulless if she does not have those sacred values it holds dear and individuals who project them. It is in such men and women that you find the authentic inheritance of the generations and their nurturing. That is why a nation is poor that is not rich in people who carry noble values that are transferred from generation to generation.
3. No great nation will toy with honours that constitute her trans-generational character code. This was why I insisted last year that our National Honour must never be seen as a piece of paper or garland round the neck which individuals not worthy of honour can pick up and continue to project wrong values that diminish our heritage.
4. I also directed the National Honours Committee to always cast their net wide to ensure that all strata of our society where honourable Nigerians are excelling should be brought into the honours’ fold.
5. I want to use this opportunity to urge all Nigerians to actively participate in the nomination process so that the worthy get their recognition. For only the nominated can stand the chance of being honoured by our great country.
6. Very distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I am happy to note that going through this year’s list of honourees, there is a broader and more salutary spectrum. This demonstrates clearly that our nation is rich in men; rich in women; rich in youth; rich in the professions!
7. Indeed, we have many individuals who stand out in service accomplishment and dedication in their fields of endeavour.
8. I believe, one of the reasons why our society is not at ease is because we have neglected our ennobling traditional value system. There was a time in our country that when you were honoured with traditional or religious titles in any community, you were deemed to personify the highest ethos of that community.
9. It was a period when a teacher was the hallmark of the most honourable values in a settlement. The Bank Manager in any community was a man of high probity in whose care people trusted their money and were rest assured.
10. It was a period when people kept quiet and walked gently when they approached a place of worship for the fear of God in their heart, not now that people throw explosives in places of worship.
11. We must get back those time-honoured values that shaped us for good so that we can live right. This is what the National Honour in its truest essence seeks to do. To identify and celebrate men and women whose lives depict the very essence of societal existence. Therefore, at all times, our honourees must be sincere men and women who point society in the right direction and mirror the possibilities of greatness unlimited.
12. I congratulate all the awardees and enjoin you all to realize that the honour your country bestows on you today is an additional responsibility to continue to demonstrate the strength of character that has brought you to the hall of fame. Your lifestyle must be exemplary and reflect that of a truly honourable man or woman who at all times projects the noblest of virtues.
13. To all our country men and women, my challenge to you is to strive to do the best in whatever endeavour you are in, that would recommend you for the recognition of your nation. It really does not matter what you do.
14. Take Mr. Ime Usuah, the Taxi Driver whose daily income was not more than ten thousand naira. A passenger forgot eighteen million naira in his taxi, and went away.
15. The man did not have Mr. Usuah’s name or his phone number. The honest Nigerian spirit in Mr. Usuah led him to go hunting for the owner of the eighteen million naira and he delivered it to him, intact. This is how it should be.
16. For many of you in Abuja or who visit our Nation’s capital, you must have seen a hard working traffic warden who does his job with great dexterity, glee and happiness. As a traffic officer, he delights in entertaining commuters by graceful gyrations and gesticulations as he efficiently directs traffic.CPL Solomon Dauda carries on his job with evident pride and dignity!
17. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we all enjoy Nollywood, but one man experimented with the idea of telling stories in ways that have revolutionized the movie industry in Nigeria. His name is Kenneth Nnebue. Through him, many stars including those whom we have honoured, stand tall on the global stage of acting today.
18. Democracy Campaigner, Joe Okei – Odumakin, Environmental Activist Nnimmo Bassey, and Mr. Michael Isaac Onuh, a very dedicated steward who has served every Head of State loyally since President Shehu Shagari (it is quite a feat for a steward to have survived nine Heads of State and nine First Ladies) – are all here to receive honour for their hard-work in service of our Nation and humanity.
19. Looking at the list of honourees today, you will see among them some who are Nigerians not by birth but by naturalization; and some others who are non-Nigerians: they have distinguished themselves in the realm of private enterprise and are demonstrating their faith in Nigeria by contributing meaningfully to the growth of our economy and creating jobs for our youth. We appreciate them all.
20. It is with great pleasure that I, on behalf of the Government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, induct this year’s outstanding honourees: men and women of great character from Civil Society, the Military, the Judiciary, Civil Service, Enterprise, Academia, sports, entertainment, the traditional institution and all other walks of life.
21. While congratulating them all, it is my hope that their richly deserved recognition will inspire other Nigerians and non-Nigerians in our country to recommit themselves to dedicated service to our Fatherland and our common humanity.
22. Let me now at this point specially appreciate three of the awardees: the taxi driver, Mr. Ime Usuah, the traffic warden, Cpl Solomon Dauda, and the steward, Mr. Michael Isaac Onuh, and ask that they should step forward and come to the stage. I read a story in The Vanguard on Sunday yesterday in which Michael Isaac Onuh was described as a pauper in the State House. You can see that those who take to criminality do not necessarily do so because of poverty; it is possible for people to be poor and live a life of honour and dignity, because some of you here and myself know where we are coming from. We have passed through stress, but we did not take to criminality. It is also why we appreciate these three gentlemen: Onuh, the taxi driver, Usuah, and Corporal Dauda. In addition to the national honours already bestowed on you, I hereby direct the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory to give you a gift of a flat each.
23. And by the same token, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation should ensure that another awardee who has contributed so much to the history of this country, the person who designed the Nigerian flag, Pa Michael Akinkunmi is placed on the salary of a Special Assistant to the President.
24. I thank you all.