Reward and Punishment as Indispensable Tool for Nation Building

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Abuja-based lawyer and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress tasks President Muhammadu Buhari on the need to celebrate deserving Nigerians- soldiers, public servants and everyday citizens- who have aligned themselves to the mission to clean Nigeria’s Augean stables

As Nigerians and the rest of the world, cross the threshold of the past year into another new year- a year brimming with promises even as it is adorned with its own peculiar challenges, I am confident than ever that Providence has already blessed and equipped us with the wherewithal to determine our manifest destiny as the Giant of Africa and even more confident that through your leadership, the country is taking concrete steps through the darkness to the dawn that draws ever nearer daily.

It was with rapt attention that I watched you deliver the Presidential New Year speech in order to catch a glimpse of President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision for our dear country and I congratulate him on the prescient delivery of yet another message of hope to millions of Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora. As diverse challenges ripple and thunder across the world in the form of malevolent viruses, economic storms and growing insecurity that has spared no country, these are the times that call for leaders with the capacity to midwife a renewal of hope in the hearts of the citizens; the speech was therefore timely and well delivered.

The contents of the speech spoke to the consistency for which you are renowned, espousing unflinching commitment to your party and administration’s three-pronged mantra: Security, Economy and Anti-Corruption. If the policies are faithfully implemented, nothing will be able to hinder the breaking of Nigeria’s dawn for these three chosen pillars are present as missiles that, if accurately aimed at the heart of the Leviathan that has long bedeviled this country, will bring an end to this present darkness and usher Nigeria and Nigerians into the long awaited era of justice, peace and prosperity. Again, I pray that the Almighty will be your Strength as you work to deliver on the promise you made to Nigerians on that historic day when you were sworn into office in 2015.

Nevertheless, you will agree with me that the compass is a captain’s best friend and most prized asset as he navigates the tumultuous seas where storms often arise, sometimes without any warning. The compass’ uncanny ability to determine true North underlies the crew’s dependence on this humble yet very noble instrument that detects the slightest deviation from the charted path. Permit me, Mr. President, to use this analogy to point your attention to some detail which appears to have inadvertently escaped your attention even as your commitment to the peace and prosperity of the country you have been elected to lead remains undoubted.

It is a given that the doctrine of reward and punishment is an indispensable tool for social engineering and nation building. The Nigerian odyssey since 2015 is one that has been pockmarked by fierce battles in various fields of endeavor including security, economy and industry.

We all remember how it was that before you emerged as President, devilish insurgents straddled the North-east region, reigning imperiously as they perpetrated heinous acts of cruelty on hapless citizens and even expanding the reach of their devilish actions to the nation’s capital in Abuja. Not even the Police Headquarters or the Abuja office of the United Nations was considered unassailable by these fiends.

We cannot forget how the capital city was enshrouded in dark clouds of anxiety and tension as no one knew when or where the merchants of terror would strike. Security checkpoints and armored patrols dotted the streets, blighting the scenic beauty and peace for which Abuja had hitherto been known.

On the economic front, an epidemic of avarice-powered looting had ravaged the country’s vaults. The perpetrators were bold in their banditry, aided by powerful people in government. The national psyche had taken a rough tumble and morale was at an all-time low when you took over the reins of leadership. For the seeing eye and the discerning mind, it was no enviable task that you were saddled with as Nigeria, our Nigeria, was in dire straits, crying for reform.

It would take the emergence of a new administration and the efforts of valiant troops some of which have paid the ultimate price by laying down their lives to beat back the dark clouds, rout the denizens of terror back and halt their onslaught on the country. It would take the efforts of bold heroes in law enforcement to track, trace and repatriate significant chunks of these stolen funds back to the country’s coffers.

It is undaunted that it is taking the steely determination of men and women in public service to reform the Nigerian public service sector and to commit to ridding the civil service of rot.

Suffice to say, Mr. President, that the reform effort under your administration has been largely directed by your unflinching Spartan leadership and powered by the courage of a few good men. My question at this juncture is: whither the recognition and reward that is due this gallant ones- soldiers, public servants and everyday citizens- that have aligned themselves to your vision and the mission to clean the Augean stables that Nigeria is?

Mr. President, with utmost respect for your person and your office, I make bold to say it would be a grievous error to neglect the place of recognition and reward in the writing of the National story in the annals of history. The prevalence of negativity in the Nigerian airwaves and the tendency of some in the media space to celebrate carnage and corruption makes it even more necessary to tell the story of the courage in the face of battle on the part of these heroes who are the silver linings in the dark clouds of the Nation’s landscape.

Take for instance, the widely publicized case of the P & ID case in which courageous and patriotic public servants including the Attorney General of the Federation Abubakar Malami, SAN, the Solicitor General of the Federation Dayo Apata, SAN, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Zainab Ahmed, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Adamu and noble officers in thier respective legal departments rolled their sleeves and went to battle on behalf of a nation that, for all intents and purposes had been betrayed by her own for filthy lucre, much like Judas betrayed his Master for 30 filthy pieces of silver.

But for this valiant and indubitable men, Nigeria had already been set up to lose $10billion (N45trillion) to an unscrupulous company aided by treacherous elements in the country. Note also, Sir, that since the sum in question was even larger than the current national debt (N32trillion, according to the Debt Management Office), such an eventuality would have precipitated an economic catastrophe for our dear country. Granted that the alleged culprits might have their day in court and that the principle of justice forbids punishment without a fair trial, I will like to draw attention to the fact that there is no clause in our Constitution forbidding the recognition, celebration and reward of the courageous ones who rose to challenge the fraudulent plot to rob our country via a trumped-up law suit. Indeed, those who stood in the gap for Nigeria and beat back the ravagers deserve the honour and recognition that Nigeria can give them.

Another equally, if not much more, important instance is the unsung valour of our troops in the North-east. While some foreign media has been guilty of giving credence to the dastardly deeds of criminal groups including the Boko Haram insurgents in the North-east, the roving gangs of bandits and kidnappers in the Northwest and other regions in the country, little has been said of the bravery et gallantry of the men and women who constantly lay their lives on the line to repel and disperse the darkness that these criminals represent.

Space will fail me to mention names of traditional rulers, religious rulers, community leaders and Civil Society Organizations who have consistently advocated for peace and tranquility in the nation, professionals and academics who have displayed exceptional attributes of wits, patriotism and nationalism in thiervarious callings and judges who have courageously defended the Constitution and entrenched principles of rule of law without fear and favour.

Permit me to further bring to the attention of your Excellency, men of valour who have represented the good name of the country in the diaspora such as the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General of Alberta, Canada, Kaycee Madu, The United States of America’s President-elect, Joe Biden’s nominee as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo, Onyema Ogbuagu, the Nigerian Physician who assisted in developing Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine and host of several young Nigerians who bring honour and repute to the country’s image by the sheer beauty of their character, achievements and comportment in the international scene and have been entrusted with highest positions of trust. These are the often unacknowledged ambassadors of Nigeria.

When kept awake by the cogitations on Nigeria and her many challenges, I often wonder: 20 years from now, would anyone remember the exploits, bravery and sacrifice of these heroes? Would our children know them and tell the tales of their bravery? If they are not recognized, how would they be remembered?

Mr. President, I am writing you this letter from the United Kingdom where I retreated in essential pursuits of expertise and only few days ago, the Queens’ New Year Honour List for 2021 was announced on television, with everyday people including scientists, sportsmen and artistes being recognized for their unique contributions to the greatness of their country. The role that initiatives like these play in inspiring and stimulating values like patriotism, excellence and industry cannot be overstated. It leads to wonder, Sir: whither the Nigerian National Honours?
It is noteworthy that while more emphasis have been placed on the National Productivity Awards and Nigerian National Merit Awards since your assumption of office in 2015, scarce mention has been made of the conferment of National Honours in accordance with our law and national custom apart from the posthumous conferment of the GCFR honour on Chief Moshood Abiola, the winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election and the conferment of the GCON honour on his running mate, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, while the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi was also awarded the GCON title posthumously.

2.18 Although the explanations given by your aides state that the National Honours Award system was being reinvented to place emphasis on credibility and merit as against the large-scale distribution of medals and that the government is working to reinvent the system and imbue it with merit and credibility, it is necessary to remind you, Sir, of the role these Honour Awards play in assuring our heroes that Nigeria recognizes their efforts and contributions while also encouraging citizens to embrace patriotism and commitment to excellence in their respective endeavours.

Position of the Law

Mr. President, as an advocate of the realm, I am inclined in the circumstance to note that the National Honours Act was promulgated in 1964 to recognisethe patriotic efforts and gallantry of Nigerian Citizens who have made copious and exceptional contributions to the corporate existence of the country.

Section 1 of the Act gives the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria the imprimatur to make provision for the award of titles of honour, decorations and dignities.

More importantly, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is replete with copious provisions relating to the promotion of national integration and patriotism. Section 14(4) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) provides as follows:

The composition of the government of a state, a local government council, or any of the agencies of such Government or council, and the conduct of the affairs of the Government or council or such agencies shall be carried out in such manner as to recognise the diversity of the people within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the peoples of the Federation.(Underlining supplied for emphasis). Section 23 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) further provides as follows:

“The national ethics shall be discipline, integrity, dignity of labour, social, justice, religious tolerance, self-reliance and patriotism.”

Imperative to Reward Unsung Heroes

The world over, in life and in death, societies have recognized the cardinal role which the public recognition of individual demonstration of discipline, hard work, honesty, excellence, defence of shared values, and patriotism play in galvanizing the entire community towards a renewed determination to dedicate themselves as individuals, and as a group, to sacrificing their today in order to build a better society, not only for themselves, but also, for their children.

What is more, the National Honours award is particularly needful at this juncture as Nigeria wrestles with the challenge of “a single story” as tales of the criminal minority amongst the citizens threaten to seize the national and global consciousness. But for our negligence of the National Honours platform, of what significance is the story of Ramoni Igbalode aka Hushpuppi and his ilk among hundreds of thousands of upright and outstanding Nigerians working in Nigeria and beyond to show forth the excellence that Nigerians are known for?

Permit me to remind you, Mr. President that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the Number One promoter of the Nigerian brand and the National Honours Award is a veritable platform for such promotion. There is really no doubt that recognition of our heroes will accelerate the achievement of your stated goals as it would precipitate the emergence of even more heroes working to make our country great again.

I solemnly urge you therefore to look into this all-important task to wit, the recognition and reward of the men and women whose efforts and contribution to the rebuilding of Nigeria and the restoration of her glory are manifestly undeniable even as you continue with your own task which, in my own opinion is, ‘mid-wifing’ the birth of a New Nigeria.