The Gap

7 prominent Nigerians that rejected national awards and their reasons

7 prominent Nigerians that rejected national awards and their reasons

Who doesn’t want to receive a national award from the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? It’s a great honour to be recognised by the highest office in the land for your achievements and contributions to national growth and development. But as you already know, some people, distinguished people for that matter, don’t really care and have rejected national awards.

The national award in Nigeria was established under the National Honours Act No. 5 in 1964. The main aim of the award is to honour Nigerians who have positively contributed to the growth and development of Nigeria through their service and careers. Thousands of Nigerians have received this award over the years, but some have rejected the national award for various reasons. Let’s take a look at them and why they took their decision.

Prominent Nigerians who have rejected national award and their reasons

There are 7 prominent Nigerians who have rejected the national award, and they are:

7. Femi Gbajabiamila

Femi Gbajabiamila

Olufemi Hakeem Gbajabiamila has served as Nigeria’s Speaker of the House of Representatives since 2019. He was also the Minority Leader of the House and leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) caucus in 2011.

Gbajabiamila rejected the national award of the Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) under President Goodluck Jonathan’s government in 2011. He cited that he had not done enough to merit the award and criticised Jonathan’s government for doling out national awards as “presidential favours” to those who don’t deserve them.

Gbajamialia queried the government’s criteria for nominating recipients, arguing that only those who have made concrete contributions to the country’s development should be conferred.

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6. Alhaji Gidado Idris

Alhaji Gidado Idris

Alhaji Gidado Idris was the Secretary to the Government and Head of Civil Service of the Federation from 1995-1999, during the military regime of General Sani Abacha. He was also one of the longest-serving public servants in Nigeria, serving in very responsible positions for five complete decades.

Following the death of Abacha, Alhaji Idris, as the SGF, was the brain behind the council meeting that produced General Abdusalami Abubakar as Nigeria’s new Head of State. He maintained his position under Abubakar’s brief regime until he eventually retired in 1999. Also, Alhaji Idris contributed to the production of the 254-page 1979 constitution without reconvening the Constituent Assembly, a feat that earned him the national honour of CON awarded to him by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

However, he rejected the Commander of the order of the Federal Republic (CFR) conferred on him by the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua-led federal government in 2008. His reason was that he had already been awarded GCON in 1998 by General Abubakar, and accepting President Yar’Adua’s award would be like passing a vote of no confidence on the Abubakar-led government.

5. Tam-David West

Tam-David West

Former federal minister of petroleum and energy, Tamunoemi Sokari David-West, prominently known as Tam-David West, was a Nigerian academic and social critic known for being outspoken about Nigerian government policies. He criticized the unconstitutionality of the advisory council established by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2010 and was strongly against Nigeria opening its doors to the United States government.

Tam-David West rejected the national honour awarded to him by former President Goodluck Jonathan. The award was Commander of the Order of Niger (CON) which was conferred on him as part of Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary on October 1, 2010. His rejection stemmed from protesting against the government’s wasteful N10bn budget. West also called out the government for awarding him CON instead of the more distinguished Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) due to his meritorious service to the government in various degrees.

4. Wole Soyinka

Wole Soyinka

We all know who Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka, popularly known as Wole Soyinka, is. In summary of his profile, Wole Soyinka is a Nigerian playwright, novelist, poet, and essayist in the English language. In addition to his outstanding career with a long list of awards, Soyinka is the first African writer to be awarded the distinguished Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986.

Apart from his writing career, Soyinka is well known for being an open critic of the successive Nigerian government. His outspokenness has landed him in trouble with the government, including serving jail time. But that hasn’t stopped his zeal to criticize the government through his writing.

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Part of Soyinka’s protest against the Nigerian government was rejecting the Centenary award when he was named a recipient by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014. His reason was that the former Head of State and dictator Abacha was post-humously awarded in the same event. In an article titled “The Canonisation of Terror,” Soyinka described the late Abacha as a “murderer and thief of no redeeming quality.”

3. Chimamanda Adichie

Chimamanda Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian novelist, non-fiction writer and feminist. Her prominent works include  Purple Hibiscus (2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), Americanah (2013), The Thing Around Your Neck (2009), and We Should All Be Feminists (2014). Adichie was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant in 2008 and the PEN Pinter Prize in 2018.

Like Soyinka, Adichie is an open critic of the Nigerian government. She is also a strong advocate of feminism in Nigeria, using her works to demonstrate the plight of women. Adichie rejected a national award from President Muhammadu Buhari on October 14, 2022. The rejection was private, as she did not want undue publicity.

However, her team was forced to make a public statement when news started circulating that she had accepted the award. They confirmed that she indeed declined the honour in private and did not even attend the ceremony.

2. Chief Gani Fawehinmi

Chief Gani Fawehinmi

Chief Abdul-Ganiyu “Gani” Oyesola Fawehinmi, GCON, SAN, was a  Nigerian author, publisher, philanthropist, social critic, human and civil rights lawyer, and politician. The late chief was a fearless champion of the masses and a great critic of the Nigerian government. Very few people, especially from the Gen-Zs down, will deny that they didn’t know Fawehinmi.

The fearless lawyer rejected the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR), one of the highest national honours that could be conferred on a citizen by the Nigerian government. He was awarded by the late President Musa Yar’adua in 2008 but rejected the honour because he was dissatisfied with bad governance in Nigeria since 1960.

In his words, “my decision to either accept or reject the national honour of the award of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) will depend on how far the Nigerian nation through Nigerian governments tried to achieve some listed goals.”

1. Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe

World-acclaimed Nigerian literary giant and author of Things Fall Apart, Professor Chinua Achebe, was one of the best things to happen on the African continent. Things Fall Apart alone, published in 1958,  is regarded as a magnum opus and has remained the most widely reviewed, translated, and read African novel globally.

Apart from his outstanding works, Achebe is known for being an open critic of the Nigerian government. Indeed, most of his works, especially the last published one before his death, There Was A Country, around the corruption of the Nigerian government since the pre-colonial era.

Part of showing his dissatisfaction with the government was by rejecting the national award twice – in 2004 and 2011. In 2004, Achebe was awarded the Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) by President Olusegun Obasanjo, which he rejected, citing his dismay at events happening in Nigeria, particularly his home state, Anambra State where “a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom.” Achebe accused the federal government of conniving with the renegades with their silence.

In 2011, Achebe was listed in the national honour of Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) under President Jonathan’s regime. He rejected the award again because of the reason he rejected the previous award in 2004 and continued under Jonathan’s regime.

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Nonye is a Thespian, screenwriter, creative writer and an unapologetic lover of books, great movies and sports. She has over 10 years experience in content writing on entertainment, movies, sports and lifestyle. Nonye is currently a content writer at Blackdot Media and founder of litafrik.com

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