I am delighted to join you at this investiture dinner in honour of our two new Nigerian National Order Of Merit Laureates: Professor Adesoji Adediran Adesina, NNOM, who is honoured for his outstanding work in Engineering and Technology; and a living legend, Mr. Bruce Paul Obomoyema Onobrakpeya, NNOM, who is honoured for his exceptional work, spanning decades of Nigerian history in the Arts and Humanities.
But also this evening, we have the privilege and pleasure of the company of some of the laureates of previous years. They include:
1. Prof. E. M Essien, NNOM
2. Prof. (Mrs.) Paulina K. Makinwa-Adebusoye, NNOM
3. Prof. Tanure Ojaide, NNOM
4. Prof. A. O. Anya, NNOM
5. Prof. B. O. Nnaji, NNOM
6. Prof. Hilary Inyang Inyang, NNOM
7. Prof. E. J. Alagoa, NNOM
8. Prof. Ayo Bamgbose, NNOM
9. Prof. J. P. Clark, NNOM
10. Prof. A. O. E. Animalu, NNOM
11. Prof. P. O. Ebigbo, NNOM
12. Prof. Oyewale Tomori, NNOM
13. Prof. A. F. Oluwole, NNOM
14. Prof. B. A. Osofisan, NNOM
15. Prof. Oladipo Adamolekun, NNOM
16. Prof. C. E. Nnolim, NNOM
17. Prof. A. O. Esogbue, NNOM
18. Prof. U. B. Ahmed, NNOM
19. Prof. T. O. Odugbemi, NNOM
20. Prof. Idris Mohammed, NNOM
21. Prof. J. K. Olupona, NNOM
22. Eze (Prof.) V. C. Ike, NNOM
23. Prof. L. A. Banjo, NNOM
24. Prof. S. C. Ohaegbulam, NNOM
We are immensely proud of your outstanding contributions to knowledge and to the development of our nation and our world.
Permit me to reflect briefly this evening on two strands of thought with which I have been occupied for a while, but which the events of today brought to the fore: The importance of merit, and the centrality of the humanities.
This morning in the Federal Executive Council Chambers, we were honoured to witness one of those special moments in our national life. The recognition of exceptional talent, years of consistent industry and the conferment of deserved accolades on merit.
We are reminded on such occasions that the greatness, fame and glory of nations largely rely on the hard work, creativity and service of its best talents. And this is the best case that can be made for the promotion of a culture of merit and for policies that as a rule prefer the best and then make provision for quotas for the disadvantaged by reason of geography, gender or other factors.
The best in our midst in their individual fields, in sports, science, technology, the professions, academia, the arts, and entertainment are given to societies to provide services and insights that only they can. In them lie the keys to the leaps from one level of knowledge to another
Consequently, any society that favours exigencies of any kind over merit has chosen to function at its sub-optimal level and greatness must, by the force of principle, elude it. High attainment, whether it be for individuals or nations, is a function of the priority given to merit, which brings me to the other issue, the growing tension amongst policymakers, some who take the position that our emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math should mean discouraging the humanities and arts.
Indeed, at a recent meeting of policymakers, a distinguished academic argued that private universities should not be registered to offer courses in the humanities and arts, but to focus on STEM. While it is sometimes easier to see the contributions of scientists to development it may require deeper introspection to recognize the arts as a rampart of the human spirit, and the bridgehead to meaning and understanding that it truly is.
Understanding, said Drew Faust, derives from both what is measurable and what is unmeasurable – it is enhanced by scientific insights and mathematical proofs, by philosophical puzzles, and by literature and art that transform the heart as well as the mind.
Education must encompass all of these as it seeks to fashion, not just employees and employers, but human beings who can help create a better future for themselves and for the world.”
Today, we honour two of our best in the sciences and in the humanities. This happy convergence recognizes that it is not really a choice between one or the other. Science and technology carry us farthest on the wings of the refined thinking, imagination, visioning and disciplined introspection of the humanities.
I have read the communique which has been presented by the distinguished laureates and I must say that I am personally impressed by the scope of the issues covered. Permit me to say that we are on the threshold of turning around our economy and polity irreversibly.
For me, the incredible revelation of the past few years is the realization that if we can deal with corruption and abuse of power we would have resolved the most malignant our problems. There is no way that a nation whose resources are looted by its custodians can succeed.
It is important that we bear in mind that as we tackle the issue of corruption, we must do so by way of process. The truth is that the easiest part is the arrest and apprehension of persons who have committed crime against the state. The more difficult part of it is in reforming those institutions that have been corrupted by years and years of neglect and the promotion of impunity. It is those institutions that we must strengthen and it is those institutions that are important in being able to carry forward all of the reforms that we are putting in place, that is by far a more difficult exercise.
But I want to assure you that President Muhammadu Buhari is completely committed and determined in ensuring that this country’s fortunes are turned around irreversibly. In conversations with him, he has said that it all that he has devoted the rest of his life in doing, and I am completely convinced that God spearing his life, we will see this turn around.
Our special thanks go to the Governing Board of the Nigerian National Merit Award, under the Chairmanship of Prof. Shekarau Yakubu Aku, and members of the Board’s four Specialized Committees of Assessors and External Assessors for the excellent work they have done.
To the eminent laureates please accept again hearty congratulations on behalf of Mr. President and the government and people of Nigeria.
May your path from here on shine even brighter in Jesus name.
Thank you for listening.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity
Office of the Vice President
08 December 2017