The first and only time I recommended anyone for national honours was in 1980 when as the Deputy Editor of the Sunday Concord, I did so in an article published in the National Concord, a newspaper established that year by late Chief Moshood Abiola. That was when Green Eagles, as the country’s senior soccer team was then known, won the African Cup of Nations in Lagos for the first time in the history of the continental competition which started in 1957 and which Nigeria joined in 1963.
President Shehu Shagari accepted my suggestion and honoured each member of the team, those who played and the reserves, with the title of the Member of the Order of Niger (MON) and a storey building in FESTAC Town in Lagos.
Late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, who was then the Special Adviser on Political Affairs to President Shagari revealed that it was my article that made his boss to honour the members of the Green Eagles. He made this known in Niamey, Niger Republic, to those of us in the entourage of Shagari during his three – day state visit to that neighbouring country in 1980.
So, those who were there and alive can testify to it that my article made President Shagari to act. It is, therefore, my hope that as he did 39 years ago, that President Muhammadu Buhari too would react positively to my suggestion that he honours Barrister Allen Onyema, the Chairman of Air Peace airline and John Mikel Obi, the immediate past captain of the Super Eagles.
This is because of the extraordinary display of patriotism by the two great Nigerians. I was pleasantly surprised two weeks ago when I heard that Onyema had voluntarily free of charge provided his Boeing 777 aircraft to go to South Africa to evacuate any Nigerian willing to return home as a result of the xenophobic attacks on them in that country.
I was taken aback because I did not know we still have such selfless persons as late Chief Moshood Abiola who was the only Nigerian who I thought could do such. Another wealthy Nigerian might have asked the Federal Government part of the money.
Barrister Onyema who is to spend N300 million for the rescue exercise on Monday on The Morning Show of Arise News Television said he was ready to release his aircraft for as long as there are Nigerians to be brought back home.
Onyema whose airline was established in 2013 said he had rendered other humanitarian services in the last six years, including assistance to militants in the Niger Delta and that his latest effort is to encourage other wealthy Nigerians to come out to offer free services to their compatriots when the need arises.
I am recommending Mikel Obi for three reasons. The first is that like Rasheed Yekini he too played in the national team for as long as 14 years. Yekini from 1984 to 98 and Mikel from 2005 – 19. Only Kanu Nwankwo who played for 17 years (1994-2011) surpassed them.
My second reason for making a case for Mikel is that in 2016 he chose to represent the country during the Olympics against the order of his manager at Chelsea Football Club not to do so. For disobeying him the chief coach decided not use him in his team again and thus frustrated him to leave the club. Only a true patriot would have chosen his country above his club.
The third reason was for the patriotism Mikel displayed during the World Cup in the Soviet Union in 2018 when his father was kidnapped by hoodlums (gangsters). In spite of this terrible situation Mikel did not leave camp. He remained and played in all the matches Nigeria took part in and performed outstandingly.
How else can anyone show patriotism higher than what Barrister Onyema and Skipper Mikel Obi have done? I am recommending that they be honoured with the Grand Commander of the Order of Niger (GCON), the second highest title in the country, because that is the type of award they deserve. Apart from dying for the country in a war, or being murdered in an attack for being a Nigerian, no greater sacrifice can be made or offered than what Onyema and Obi had done.
What’s more, they are the first in the country to make the type of sacrifices they have displayed. There is also the fact that Onyema is a major contributor to the nation’s economy and an employer of huge labour. As he disclosed on Arise News television The Morning Show programme on Monday, he has three thousand people of different ethnic groups working in his companies.
As an alumnus of the University of Ibadan I also recommend that our Alma Mater should bestow Onyema with honorary Ph.D award.
With regard to Mikel, sport is an aspect of life that for years has been bringing huge revenue and glory to the country, than most of the other professions. So, if politicians, military officers, academics and others can be honoured with GCON award, why not a sports’ person? Let Mikel be the trail-blazer in the sports profession. God bless Nigeria!
Why God discusses the bible with me (3)
The second of the three reasons is that the Ancient of Days was fed up with the false and misleading interpretation many a pastor in Nigeria have been giving to the stories and statements in the Holy Book. What they say is their perception on issues in the Bible, but they come out to claim that God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit gave them the information they spoke about.
Whereas what they are doing is take advantage of the statement of Jesus Christ in John 16:13 – 15 that after his demise, the Spirit of truth will come to guide his disciples. Because the Spirit would take what he gives him and tell it to them.
It was to let people know the truth that made the Heavenly Father decide to explain issues in the Scriptures to me. So that I can write about them and let everyone have correct information and better understanding of the stories and statements in the Holy Book.
To be continued next Wednesday
Last week, I made the mistake that Mrs. Oyinade Tomori was born in the early 1950s instead of 1963. And instead of Oladejo I had it that Engineer Alabi’s birth name was Lekan. I regret the error and the embarrassment I had caused them.