For the first time in recent times, all living former heads of government of Nigeria on Friday gathered under the same roof to join President Goodluck Jonathan in celebrating the 100 years of the nation’s amalgamation.
The venue was the Presidential Villa, Abuja where the centenary anniversary presentation and award night/dinner was held.
100 persons, both living and dead, believed to have contributed meaningfully to national development, were honoured at the colourful event.
The well-attended programme was witnessed by Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd.), former President Sheu Shagari, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (retd.), Chief Ernest Shonekan, Gen. Abdusalam Abubakar and former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Buhari, Babangida, Abdusalami and Obasanjo were on Thursday absent at the international conference tagged “Human Security, Peace and defelopment Agenda for 21st Century Africa” held in Abuja as part of activities marking the centenary anniversary.
The tone for the night was set by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who reviewed a book, “The reforms that have transformed Nigeria 2010-2013.”
According to her, the book contains the various achievements the present administration had made in making the lives of Nigerians more meaningful.
Such feats, she said, included massive road construction and rehabilitation, intervention in the power sector, repositioning of the aviation sector and the reforms in the agriculture sector among others.
Jonathan later presented the book.
The President apologised to Nigerians who he said were eminently qualified to be honoured but were not captured in the list. He said over 500 persons were in that category.
While saying it was not an easy task for his government to arrive at the list of 100 honourees, Jonathan promised that his administration would continue to look for other ways of honouring deserving Nigerians.
The awards were segmented into three major categories: Governance, Politics and Leadership; Entreprenuership and Endeavour; as well as Personal Sacrifices, Patriotism and Activism.
Under the first category, recipients who were recognised included contributors to the making of Nigeria, heroes of the struggle for Nigeria’s independence/pioneer political leaders, promoters of democratic transition in Nigeria, accomplished pioneer public servants and outstanding contemporary public servants.
Under the second category were pioneers in professional callings/careers, pioneers in commerce and industry, heroes in global sports competitions, accomplished contemporary entrepreneurs, distinguished academics and internationally acclaimed artists, literary icons and journalists.
The last category had outstanding bravery and public spiritedness, outstanding promoters of unity, patriotism and national development as well as exemplary service in the promotion of peace and moral values as sub-categories.
Highlight of the presentation was when Jonathan presented the the nation’s former leaders with their awards amidst standing ovation and loud applause from the audience.
All award recipients were presented with medals and certificate.
No representative was available to receive the awards on behalf of Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti; Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Chinua Achebe.
Wole Soyinka was also absent at the event despite the fact that he was nominated under the internationally acclaimed artists, literary icons and journalists category.
Ransome-Kuti was nominated under the heroes of the struggle for Nigeria’s independence/pioneer political leaders category for being a Nigerian teacher, politician and woman activist who pioneered women activism in modern Nigeria.
Anikulapo-Kuti was nominated under the internationally acclaimed artists, literary icons and journalists.
Fawehinmi was nominated under the outstanding bravery and public enterprises.