President Muhammadu Buhari has conferred on Prof. Olufemi Obafemi the 2018 Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) Award and pledged to continue to promote excellence and merit to enhance rapid development and national unity.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that conferment of the NNOM on the recipient by the president was held on Wednesday at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, .
President Buhari, who congratulated the recipient of the award, said Nigeria needed the knowledge and expertise of the awardee.
The President said he believed that Obafemi and others, who were previously honoured with the award, would be remembered and would serve as motivation and encouragement to future generation of Nigerians.
“Our country needs the knowledge, expertise and contribution of today’s recipient to help boost and improve its intellectual development.
“It is for this reason that the approved statutory cash prize of N10million is attached to the Award for the recipient.
“As envisaged, this prize will inspire young generation of researchers to follow in their footsteps.
“The recipient of today is admitted into this admirable, respected and distinguished class of Nigerians as the 76th member of the body of Nigerian National Order of Merit Awardees.
“He has made Nigeria proud with his remarkable achievements drawing global attention to our nation.
“It is my hope that you sustain your interest in writing and research and strive to new levels and remain a source of inspiration to all Nigerians.
“This government will not only study the recommendations in the communiqué of the 11th Annual Forum of the laureates, we will also continue to support your initiative, efforts and solutions to major problems in the country,’’ he said.
According to the President, the report of the committee on the activities of the Nigerian National Merit Award will also be studied by the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation for full implementation.
He also pledged to look into the financial and other challenges facing the Nigerian National Merit Award (NNMA) with a view to addressing them.
He said government would particularly look into the budgetary allocation and funding of NNMA to make it discharge its responsibilities diligently.
In his remarks, the chairman of the Governing Board of the NNMA, Prof. Shekarau Aku, said the 76th recipient of the Award for 2018 who, by outstanding research work and service to humanity, had undoubtedly printed his name in gold.
“This recipient has successfully scaled the buddies and is thus worthy to be conferred with the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM).
“Obafemi is a multi-talented and many-sided personality, playwright, poet, novelist, a great scholar and translator.
“A public intellectual per excellence, he is morally committed to promotion of social justice in our nation and elsewhere, also promotes building bridges of understanding across the contentious gulfs of class, culture and race.
“This Laureate is indeed a source of pride to Nigeria and the Nation is indeed blessed to have such a distinguished teacher whose potentials should always be tapped for the growth and sustainable development of the country,” he said.
According to the NNMA Board Chairman, Obafemi’s efforts will continue to blaze new trails of academic excellence for the progress of Nigeria.
Aku also implored the President to urgently address the dire financial straits that the NNMA had found itself in, stressing the need for a major re-endowment for the NNMA.
In his acceptance speech, Obafemi expressed appreciation to the President and the board for selecting him as the 2018 recipient of the award.
The recipient said he did not take the honour for granted considering the number of nominees from among whom he was picked for the Award.
Obafemi, who narrated his life’s journey, said: “It compels me to take a deep reflection on how I arrived at this point in life.
“The story of my life’s journey provides instruction on the value of merit in the attainment of possibilities for individuals, groups and societies.
“In 1963, I gained admission into two missionary-run colleges in the then Kabba Division in today’s Kogi State. The fees of the institutions were simply beyond the means of my parents- peasant farmer and a food vendor.
“I had to wait until the following year when I passed the Common Entrance Examinations and gained admission into one of the Northern Nigerian government’s Provincial Secondary Schools, sited, equitably, in the Fourteen Provinces of the Northern Region.
“Even at that, the relatively small school fees of Thirteen pounds a year could only be paid after my father had sold his cocoa/coffee plantation and my mother the finest of her few clothes.
“It was not until the third year when, by government policy, the Provincial colleges in the region became full-fledged Government colleges, that my parents were marginally able to sponsor my Secondary education with less hardship.”
According to him, a combination of good mission, regional, state, and federal education policies of the sixties and seventies opened access and opportunities to qualified pupils and students to obtain sound education.
“This has affirmed my conviction that merit is a veritable credo of governance and I propose that it is forever good to stick to what is just and right.
“What remains is for our governments to adhere to the Merit principle as the objective condition for national transformation.”
He dedicated the award to his family, his teachers and mentors, living and deceased, and all his students in the past five decades.