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National Merit Award and reward for excellence

The unique occasion of December 6, 2018 where President Muhammadu Buhari decorated the sole winner of the 76th Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) Award 2018, Olufemi Obafemi, a Professor of Literature from the University of Ilorin, definitely represents a positive development. The award, no doubt is commendable and there is the need to celebrate the recipient nationwide so as to encourage other citizens especially the young ones to develop passion for research and academic excellence in their various fields of endeavours.
NNOM is Nigeria’s national bard which is held by tradition and popular acclaim to represent the identity, beliefs and principles of our national culture. The national poet as culture hero is a long-standing symbol.
NNOM is the highest award for intellectual academic and creative achievement given by the Nigerian state on the statutory fixed date – first Thursday of December every year.
It is instructive to note that the 2018 award was conferred on Obafemi by President Buhari on Thursday at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
President Buhari further urged the awardee to hold high the intellectual work, assuring that his administration would continue to promote excellence and national unity.
The Chairman, Governing Board of the Nigeria National Merit Award, Prof Shekarau Aku Yakubu, also said that members of the board were very proud to present the 76th recipient of the award for 2018 to Mr President.
Yakubu described Prof Obafemi as a true embodiment of the noblest ideas of Nigerian citizenship and genuinely committed to social crusader, a nation builder and pathfinder.
“Obafemi is a multi-talented and many-sided personality, playwright, poet, novelist, a great scholar and translator and a public intellectual per excellence. He is morally committed to promotion of social justice in our nation. 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.
His efforts will continue to blaze new trails of academies excellence for the progress of our nation.
In is acceptance speech, Prof Obafemi expressed profound gratitude to President Buhari for accepting the decision of the Board of the Nigerian National Merit Award to confer NNOM Award 2018 on him.
The Kogi State born laureate also disclosed that with good educational policies combined with merit, the children of the poor with humble and lowly parentage can rise to stand before the President to receive the Nigerian National Order of Merit, the highest honour and recognition for ‘academic and intellectual contributions made by citizens of Nigeria’.
He also thanked the Board for finding him deserving of the Award. “I must say that I do not take the honour for granted at all, considering the number of nominees from among whom I was picked for the Award. It compels me to take a deep reflection on how I arrived at this point in life,” the recipient said.
It is significant to note that Obafemi told Buhari that “with the Change philosophy of your government, added to your proverbial and nationwide personal reputation for integrity and commitment to national development, peace and national security, the time is now to utilize the merit inherent in these institutions and other similar institutions in this potentially great country, with the bubbling energies of its teaming youths, whose future depends on today’s envisioned governance.”
Obafemi also disclosed that his undergraduate and graduate studies were financed through the Kwara State Government Scholarship and the University of llorin Staff Development Schemes as two critical lessons emerge from this narrative.
He said, “It is time for us to open participation space for the production, distribution and exchange of the nation’s mammoth endowments-material and ineffable in order to take the nation to where it can, and should be, as the country on whose shoulders the destiny of the Africa continent rests.
Dedicating the award to his family and other stakeholders, Obafemi acknowledged their roles “as represented here by my wife and children, and to my larger family of teachers and mentors, living and deceased, as well as all my students who have crossed my path in the nearly five decades of my academic and intellectual journey-without whom I will not be here today.”
We are of the opinion that Obafemi, the recipient of this year National Merit Award, represents the true spirit of dynamic and articulate Nigerians who are breaking new grounds and excelling in any human activities. We also submit that there is the need to ensure that the award is turned to enviable national prize that will make every Nigerian youth to aspire to win, thereby promoting critical research and development in different academic field.
In a situation where only one person was found worthy of the prize in a country of two hundred million people, definitely NNOM is not a prize anyone can buy with money but exceptional knowledge. We therefore call on the federal government to increase the prize for the winner to make it very competitive and a national pride.
We salute the heroic performance of Prof Obafemi and we urge Nigerians take a cue from him.

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