Osinbajo made this known at an event organized in honour of the 2020 and 2021 Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) recipients – Prof. Olayinka Olurotimi Olutoye and late Prof. Charles Ejike Chidume (2020); and Prof. Godwin Osakpemwoye Samuel Ekhaguere (2021).
The Vice President noted that the Awards’ representation over the years is a telling reminder of the need to pick Nigeria’s ‘first eleven’ for national tasks, irrespective of federal quota, tribe or religion.
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According to him, there is the need to reward hard work and talent, rather than sentiments and favouritism in public service and every area of national life, in order to build a more advanced nation.
“Democracy grants us, not only the right to freely choose our leaders, but the opportunity to choose the best of us irrespective of any sectional or sectarian considerations,” he said.
Speaking further at the Awards dinner, Prof. Osinbajo was of the view that the idea of merit and representation (by regions) are not mutually exclusive concepts, because “the Nigerian genius for achievement” can be found nationwide.
“Often in our national discourse, we tend to juxtapose the idea of merit with that of representation as though they are mutually exclusive concepts and it is suggested that there is an inherently natural disparity in the geographical distribution of talent.
“Yet what the distinguished array of laureates from all over our country that have been assembled over the years shows us is that the Nigerian genius for achievement can be found in every corner of our country,” he said.
The VP stated that opportunities must be provided on a mass scale to enable “all of our citizens actualize their highest potential.”
Emphasizing on Nigeria’s human capital potential and the need to pay more attention to the education of the girl-child, the VP stated that “in so doing, we will renew our pantheon of world-beating achievers in every generation and continually rediscover the human capital for perpetual national growth.”
According to him, the glittering cast of Nigerians that have received this Award over the past four decades was reflected more, not only by the variety of achievement, but also by their diversity of origin.
“The Award selection process is entirely indifferent to the confessional persuasions, ethnic origins or partisan allegiances of the recipients. It is sensitive only to the rarity and quality of their accomplishments,” he said.
“Today’s awardees and their predecessors represent the zenith of accomplishment; their exploits tell us what we are truly capable of as a people, and the heights to which we would soar if we would set ourselves free from the gravitational pull of parochialism and prejudice,” he stated.
Continuing, Prof. Osinbajo noted that, “If the pantheon of Order of Merit laureates reflects a representative meritocracy, is it not possible to apply the same standards in selecting those that we choose for leadership at all levels?
“If we are to truly make their standards of accomplishment a mainstream phenomenon and our defining national trait, then we must apply the same principles that informed their selection in recruiting those that will represent this nation in every endeavour, whether it is in sports or the public service.”
The three distinguished Nigerians had earlier been conferred the prestigious Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) award by President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday.
While Dr Olutoye was honoured for his unique contributions in the field of fetal surgery, Prof. Ekhaguere was awarded for pioneering new approaches in the branch of Mathematical Physics known as Axiomatic Quantum Field Theory; and Prof. Chidume was honoured posthumously for his outstanding contributions in Mathematics, Physics and Engineering.
Congratulating the Award Laureates and their families, as well as the Chairman and members of NNMA Governing Board and associates, the Vice President during his speech also recognized some past NNOM laureates present at yesterday’s event.
They included Prof. Augustine M.O. Esogbue (2006 NNOM Award Recipient in Engineering/Technology); Prof. Oye Gureje (2008 NNOM Recipient in Medicine); and Prof. Samuel Ohaegbulam (2012 NNOM Award Recipient in Medicine).
Also speaking, the Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs, Senator George Akume, congratulated the Awards Laureates for their overall economic, scientific and technological contributions to the nation’s development.
In his remarks, the Chairman, Governing Board of the Awards, Prof. Shekarau Yakubu Abu, said the Awards recipients have done exceptionally well in their various fields of endeavour.
“The awards are in recognition of Nigerians who have made national and global impact in their various fields. We are very proud of their outstanding contribution to knowledge, to the development of our nation and the world at large,” he stated.
Prof. Ekhaguere was present at the Awards dinner, while Prof. Olutoye was represented by his brother, Air Commodore Dr Olufemi Olutoye Jnr (retd.); and late Prof. Chidume was represented by his son, Mr. Okechukwu Chidume.