by Stanley Azuakola
The last time President Jonathan handed out national honours in 2011, the biggest hitch during the event was the shortage of medals to decorate the recipients. The medals were not enough, even though the presidency compiled the list itself and knew how many Nigerians were expected to be honoured that day.
This year’s award would hold today (Monday) at the International Conference Centre, Abuja. Hopefully, there would be no shortage of medals. However, the organisation so far has been anything but smooth.
A Punch newspaper report says that “most of the recipients of the 2012 National Honours were stranded in Abuja on Sunday as the Federal Government failed to provide them accommodation as it was the practice in the past.”
This year, a total of 149 recipients will be conferred with national honours. The Chairman of Globacom, Mike Adenuga, is expected to receive the highest honour on the day – the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON).
Most recipients who arrived on Sunday evening from outside Abuja for the awards discovered that there was no provision for their accommodation and flight tickets.
When Olusegun Obasanjo was president, all awardees were each provided with accommodation or N50,000 in lieu of it. They also received the same amount of money for flight tickets.
A senior government official who spoke to The Punch on condition of anonymity, said, “You see, it is wrong for you to invite people from all nooks and crannies of the country to Abuja
without making any preparation for their accommodation, transport and even feeding.
“That is against the African tradition of entertaining guests. Many of these awardees have never been to Abuja before and therefore, they don’t know how to find their ways.
“The usual thing is to reserve accommodation for these distinguished Nigerians. But I don’t know why things are like this in this country.”
The office of the secretary to the government of the federation is usually saddled with taking care of these kinds of logistics.
A member of the organising committee who also pleaded anonymity, said, “There was no provision for accommodation for the recipients; flight tickets were also not provided.
“They are to take care of those things. There is no big deal about that though it (taking care of honorees) had been the practice.”
An awardee complained about the situation as he and his wife searched for hotel accommodation. He described the situation as sad.
“I am trying to secure my own accommodation, since they did not provide any for us. The situation is quite inconveniencing. I don’t live in Abuja and here I am, hours after I arrived, I am yet to settle down. I have not had a bath and I have not changed my clothes.
“The arrangement should have been better; it should not be just (about) collecting the award.”
Asked if his children would be around to witness the event, he said, “The invitation said only two guests; I can’t bring all of them. So I brought my wife and a friend along.”
The fact that most of the hotels around had also been fully booked added to the discomfiting situation for the award recipients and their invited guests.