For first time, Buhari excludes ex-Senate President Saraki from national honours


President Muhammadu Buhari disregarded a well-known convention and practice for the first time in the socio-political history of Nigeria by disqualifying Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, a former president of the Senate who presided over the National Assembly from 2015 to 2019, from the national honors awards at an event scheduled to take place on October 11 at the State House in Abuja.

To earn the prestigious national honors for 2022, 437 Nigerians are listed for national awards, including politicians, public servants, security personnel, businesspeople, traditional leaders, academics, retired public servants, religious figures, and musicians.
After the names of the candidates were revealed last week, there were some indications that Saraki may not have been included on the list of recipients, which led to certain people intervening prominent Nigerians, who said the president should not deviate from the convention, especially, when Saraki was worthy of the award.
The convention and practice had always been for a vice president, senate president, and CJN to be given the title either on the assumption of office or when national awards were being generally bestowed on recipients.
It was, however, believed that Saraki was not conferred with GCON, because Buhari had hitherto not conferred the awards on anyone. But, with the full list out and the date of investiture announced, it became clear the president might have deliberately left out Saraki, perhaps, because of their political rivalry.

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Sources contended that ordinarily, the nomination process was a responsibility of the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), but that, since the assignment was handed to different people this year, the deviation from convention, norm and practice became inevitable.
According to the source, this year’s nomination process was jointly handled by the Justice Sidi Bage Committee, and the Ministry of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, headed by Senator George Akume, a former governor and senator expected to know better.

According to sources, Saraki’s case was a major debate among the committees, as some members reminded them of the importance of not jettisoning convention, but a few other “powerful members” were said to have brushed it aside and insisted he should be excluded, with the intention that the decision would please the president.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Ozekhome, recently spoke on the development and urged Buhari to make right his obvious mistake before the date of the event.
Ozekhome explained thus: “By protocols and convention, Vice President and Senate President are usually conferred with the national honour of GCON. I want to believe that the President’s attention was not drawn to it. He can still amend the situation by including his name before the date of the award because this is beyond politics.
Also, Nigeria’s former High Commissioner to Canada, Professor Iyorwuese Hagher, who believed Saraki deserved the award on merit, said, “I believe that in keeping with the hallowed tradition in the conferment of the honourable awards, all former senate presidents deserve the title of GCON, Dr. Bukola Abubakar Saraki inclusive.

“Buhari should convoke a ceremony for such awards quickly to redeem his image as the father of the nation and not a mere patron of political bias.”
On his part, Executive Director of Adopt A Goal Initiative, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, urged the federal government to jettison the plan to exclude deserving citizens from the awards as reported in the media.
In a statement, Atoye said that Saraki’s absence may paint the Buhari administration as “petty, nasty, and vengeful.”
Meanwhile, the list of the honorees, which was made, also showed that the former Chief of Staff to the president, the late Abba Kyari, is to receive the posthumous distinction of the CFR award. On April 17, 2020, Kyari passed away due to COVID-19 problems.

Others listed for posthumous recognition include the late elder statesman, Chief Anthony Enahori, who would receive CON; the late former Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru, CFR; the late scholar, Bala Usman, OFR and; the late activist, Gambo Sawaba, MFR.
Buhari also included his nephew Mamman Daura, his personal assistant Sabiu Yusuf (Tunde), his in-law, the Emir of Bichi, Alhaji Nasir Bayero, and the national president of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Comrade Chris Isiguzo, who is a staff member, on the list of recipients of the National Honours Awards.
Others close to Buhari, who were nominated for the award, included State House Chief of Protocol, Lawal Kazaure; the president’s aide on domestic affairs, Sarki Abba; his spokesman, Femi Adesina; personal physician, Sanusi Rafindadi; and State House Administrative Officer, Abubakar Maikano.
Daura would be decorated as Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), while Bayero and Kazaure are to be awarded Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR).

Yusuf (Tunde), Adesina, Rafindadi and Abba would be awarded Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON), while Maikano would receive MON.
Others so recognised on the honours list also were Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Kayode Arowoola, and UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed.
The two were among the five nominees to be conferred with the second highest national award of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON).
The other recipients of the GCON were Senate President, Ahmad Lawan; former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad; and former Minister of Finance and current Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala.

The Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR) had 54 nominees; Commander of the Order of the Niger (CFR), 67 nominees; Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR), 64; Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) 101; Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR), 75; Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), 56; and Federal Republic Medal had eight award recipients.

Some of the prominent recipients for CFR included Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila; Chief of Defence Staff, Lt Gen Lucky Irabor; former Speaker, Hon Yakubu Dogara; President of Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongbam-Mensem; and former Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen. Tukur Buratai.
Others were Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali, his predecessor, Mohammed Adamu, Emir of Lafia, Alhaji Sidi Bage, and Tor Tiv, James Ayatse, among others.

Some serving state governors, including Mai Mala-Buni of Yobe State, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, Simon Lalong (Plateau), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Babagana Zulum (Borno), and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) will receive the CON.
Other nominees in this category included Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Idris Wase; Minister of Works, Babatunde Raji Fashola; finance minister, Zainab Ahmed, and Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Professor Ishaq Oloyede.
Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), Mele Kyari; Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Bishop Ignatius Kaigama; and a legal scholar, Dr. Muiz Banire, were shortlisted for the OFR award.

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National Assembly members, including Hon. Alhassan Doguwa, Hon. Muktar Betara, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, Hon. Nkiruka Onyejeocha, a former Permanent Secretary, Sunday Echono, and Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President Yakubu Maikyau.
Grammy winner, Burna Boy, and late DIG of Police, Joseph Egbunike (posthumous) were to receive MFR award while 2Face Idibia, Shehu Othman, and another entertainer, Teni, were in the category of those to receive MON.

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