The list of recipients for the 2010/2011 National Honours Awards is unique in so many respects. Not only did it break with tradition by selecting a non-top government functionary to be honoured with the second highest award in the land in the person of Alhaji Aliko Dangote, chairman and founder Dangote Group of Companies, having been accorded the coveted Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger.
The conferment of the nation's second highest award on Dangote, an honour hitherto reserved for vice presidents, senate presidents and chief justices of Nigeria, marked a remarkable departure from the norm in the exercise that was instituted with the enactment of the National Honours Act No. 5 of 1964.
Notably, the National Honours Award Committee was also introspective enough to recognise the contributions of wide array of individuals ranging from retired armed forces personnel, academics and scholars to serving and retired civil servants, and Nollywood actors and actresses, who have made their mark in different spheres of life.
Among the retired military officer who will be decorated with medals of Commander of the Order of the Nigeria (CON) are Lt. Gen. S. Ibrahim, former Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral A. A. Madueke, former Chief of Naval Staff; Vice Admiral P.S. Koshoni, former Chief of Naval Staff; Air Marshal A.M Daggash, former Chief of Defence Staff; Air Marshal N.E. Eduok, former Chief of Air Staff; Air Vice Marshal I. Yisa Doko, former Chief of Air Staff; Alhaji Muhammed Gambo Jimeta, former Inspector General of Police; General D.Y. Bali, former Chief of Defence Staff; and Air Vice Marshal I.M. Alfa, former Chief of Air Staff.
Others are Air Vice Marshal C.A. Dada, former Chief of Air Staff; Maj. Gen. M.C Alu, former Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral S. Saidu, former Chief of Naval Staff; and Lt. Gen. Jeremiah Useni, former FCT minister.
Undeterred at the possibility of another rejection, the committee for the second time in seven years included literary icon, Professor Chinua Achebe, who again was honoured with the Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR).
This latest honour comes after Achebe in 2004 rejected the same honour bestowed on him by the administration of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo. He did not only turn down the award, he, in strong terms, criticise what he referred to as "the dangerous state of affairs in the country."
In his two-page letter rejecting the award in 2004, Achebe was most critical about the situation in his home state of Anambra.
Also on the list of 364 Nigerians and foreigners that will receive the National Honours Awards are nine state governors, mainly on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, except the governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of the Action Congress of Nigeria and Mr. Peter Obi, governor of Anambra State who belongs to the All Progressives Grand Alliance.
PDP governors who were honoured are Senator Liyel Imoke (Cross River), Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa (Kaduna), Alhaji Ibrahim Shehu Shema (Katsina) Dr. Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Chief Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom) and Alhaji Sule Lamido (Jigawa) who will all be conferred with CON awards.
However, one name that was conspicuously missing on the list of serving governors was that of Lagos State governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who is roundly acknowledged as one of the best serving governors in the country. The feeling among observers was that Fashola's name was omitted for political reasons.
The 2010 and 2011 national honours list also recognised the contributions of other Nigerians from various sectors of the nation's socio-economic and political life, including deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, who will receive a CON.
Other notable recipients include Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, a scholar, diplomat and former Minister of External Affairs (CFR); Mr. Kanu Agabi, former Attorney General of the Federation (CON); Maj. Gen. Mamman Tsofo Kontagora, former minister (CON); Chief Akin Olujimi, former minister and Attorney General of the Federation (CON); Chief Bayo Ojo, former minister and Attorney General of the Federation (CON); Mr. Basil Omiyi, first Nigerian managing director of Shell (CON); Prof. Emeritus John Festus Ade Ajayi (CON); and Chief Osayande Omotayo Akpata (CON).
The list also includes other accomplished Nigerians such as Mr. Arumemi Johnson, chairman, Arik Airline (CON); Dr. Tim Menakaya, former Minister of Health (OFR); Prof. Grace Alele-Williams, former Vice Chancellor, University of Benin (OFR); Prof. M.A. Daniyan (OFR); Alh. Muhammed Manga III, the Emir of Misau (OFR); Chief Olusegun Osunkeye (OFR); and Mr. Tunde Lemo, deputy governor Central Bank of Nigeria (OFR).
Other distinguished Nigerians to be honoured include Dame Comfort Chinezerem Obi, publisher and commissioner in the Police Service Commission (OON); Engr. Makoju Joseph, former managing director National Electric Power Authority (OFR); Sir Festus Remilekun Ayodele Marinho, first managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (OFR); Mrs. Amina Sambo, former president of National Council of Women Societies (OFR); Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, publisher and industrialist (OFR); Mr. Reginald Ihejiahi, (OFR); Prince Arthur Eze, (OFR); Mr. Kase Lawal (OFR); Mr. Demian D. Dodo (OFR); Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa (OFR); Dr. Bright Okogwu, director general Budget Office (OON); Mr. Umaru Hamza, DG NDLEA (OON); Ms. Aruma Otteh, former Vice President African Development Bank, DG Securities and Exchange Commission (OON); and Chief Mrs. Eniola Ajoke Fadayomi, former Attorney General Lagos State (MFR).
For the second time in a row professionals in the entertainment industry made a respectable showing on the list of honourees. At least six Nollywood actors, actresses and producers were selected as recipients of the Member of the Federal Republic (MFR) award. They are Kanayo O. Kanayo, Iheme Osita, Amaka Igwe, Olu Jacobs, Stephanie Okereke and Genevieve Nnaji.
Also, among those who made the list are many serving and retired civil servants, including Dr. Granville Inya Inya-Agha, a retired civil servant (OON); Mrs Rhoda Nguhemen Tor-Agbidye, a former civil servant (MFR); Alhaji Hanafi Musa Moriki, civil servant (MFR); Mrs Georgina Murako, civil servant (MON); and Mr. Ekok Oyama civil servant (MON).