The selection process for national honours in Nigeria, especially within the entertainment industry, has continued to attract criticisms.
The entertainment industry appears to have the most controversial selection of awardees, especially the recent one done on May 28, 2023, by the immediate past administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The legal basis for the National Honours is contained in the National Honours Act No.5 of 1964, instituted during the first republic to honour Nigerians and friends of the country who had rendered service to the benefit of the nation.
To get selected, according to the National Honours Act, the nominees must certainly have done something that the country is proud of. The award stands as a reward for selfless service rendered, such as inventions and performance in an important assignment, loyalty and patriotism to the country.
Considering these facts, the public are in position to analyse the process of nominations for the awards to ascertain how meritorious the awardees are.
From the administration of former presidents, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerians have expressed their displeasure to some individuals and celebrities accorded the honours.
Recall that former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014, honoured actress Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde (MFR); Kanayo O. Kanayo (MFR); Genevieve Nnaji (MFR); Osita Iheme (MFR); Pete Edochie (MON) etc.
In 2022 the Buhari administration awarded singer Teni with a Member of the Order of the Niger, MON; Innocent Idibia, aka 2Baba, got a Member of the Order of the Niger, MON.
Singer Damini Ogulu, popularly known as Burna Boy, was honoured with a Member of the Order of the Federal Republic, MFR, and Wasiu Ayinde, aka K1 de Ultimate, received Member of the Order of the Niger, MON, award among other 449 Nigerians.
In a recent development, DAILY POST recalls that former president, Muhammadu Buhari through the Ministry of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs on Sunday, May 28, 2023, listed singer Davido, comedian AY, actor Kunle Afolayan, Super Eagles and Napoli striker Victor Osimhen and other celebrities among 337 Nigerians to be conferred with national honours.
Criticising the national honours, singer Seun Kuti, who is the youngest son of the Afrobeat pioneer Fela Anikulapo Kuti, on his Instagram page on Monday said, “Next 31/2 years now we start the same dance again. What do you stand for?
“Let me reiterate, the national award is not by public opinion polls. It’s by the presidential committee, then the president will accept the nomination of certain people. In as much as it’s a national honour, it’s a presidential appointment.
“Half of the people criticising this government as the worst thing ever deh go collect awards for Abuja from the same government? No one will reject it on principle? Or is Buhari now legit?”
Reacting to this in an interview with DAILY POST, the Director of the Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts, ASSPT, Dr Sam Amadi, said many people considered entertainment not as dignified as politics or other professions.
“Entertainers on such lists will likely attract controversy because of the nature of their craft and their personality.
“Many people consider entertainment not as dignified as politics or other professions. So this mindset creates controversy or public uproar whenever entertainers are listed for such honour.
“But I think this is a wrong impression. Entertainment is a serious business and craft and so entertainers should be held in high esteem like other accomplished persons,” he said.
Speaking on what criteria should be used to select recipients for national honours, he said, “We should use the same criteria of national impact.
“A national honour is not a measure of how much money you have made or how popular you are. It should measure the impact you have made in society.
“You must have done something remarkable, not just that you have made money or achieved personal success. It is about promoting public goods in different ways, especially in a manner that promotes the image and glory of the country.”
A public interest commentator, Remi Adebayo stated that entertainers exercise tremendous influence on their listeners, and as such, those among them with messages that promote peace, unity and patriotism must be accorded national recognition they deserve.
“You can bet that most entertainers influence the society more than politicians, clerics or even other segments of the Nigerian society.
“No doubt, there are some among them whose image and identity run contrary to the ideals of society.
“Just like every other industry, the National Merit Awards, as the name implies, must have merit at its benchmark,” he said.
Also reacting to the development, famous music producer, Esosa Douglas Osemwengie better known as Sossick said, “we are entertainers but governed by our individual principle.”
“So, the only common ground is the entertainment that we all share. If by their individual principles they find it right to accept any of the awards, then it is entirely up to them.
“So, we leave it to the conscience of the recipients. The issue is just with those doing the awarding, the shared honour. I will leave it to their individual moral codes or principles.
“For me that’s not the most important thing in the country right now. I will suggest that the FG should attend to the most serious issues,” he added.