African viewpoint: Are Nigeria's honours devalued?
In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Nigerian writer Sola Odunfa argues that the ruling class is abusing the system of national awards to satisfy egos.
When a fowl scatters rubbish on the dung heap, it gives no thought whatsoever to where the rubbish lands. That, it seems, is the character of Nigeria's political and business elite when it comes to dispensing honours or encomiums.
The media reaction to last month's distribution of national honours by President Goodluck Jonathan would suggest that the exercise was largely anything but reflective of the expected high standard.
Legislators and other politicians, serving and retired civil servants and business executives dominated the list of recipients.
In more discerning times, few of them would be considered deserving of prestigious honours.
The saying, 'Speak no evil of the dead', was probably coined to enable Nigerians to indulge in their penchant for unmerited adulation”
One was not surprised that once again internationally acclaimed novelist Chinua Achebe rejected the Commander of the Federal Republic award, Nigeria's second-highest honour.
He said the issues he raised when he refused to accept the award in 2004 - corruption, poverty and violence - remain unresolved.
His thunderous voice drowned out that of Femi Gbajabiamila, minority leader of the House of Representatives.
He rejected an award because he believed that he had not done enough to merit it.
Merited or unmerited, others donned their flamboyant gowns to go to Abuja for the presidential handshake and decoration.'Great Nigerian'
When it comes to spraying honours and praise, hardly any nation can beat Nigeria, especially when it concerns the dead.
The saying, "Speak no evil of the dead", was probably coined to enable Nigerians to indulge in their penchant for unmerited adulation.
A few years ago, a former minister died while standing trial on corruption charges. There was speculation about the way he died.
In the days leading to his funeral, obituary writers had transformed him into an embodiment of the greatest virtues on earth.
Decent Nigerians could only watch the charade in amazement.
Reasoned tributes are few to come by. One notices history being re-written.”
In the past few weeks, Nigerians have been mourning two public figures who heavily influenced the social and political development of Nigeria, the most populous state in Africa.
The first to go was Alex Ibru, businessman, politician and founder of Nigeria's The Guardian newspaper.
In the 1990s, then-military ruler Gen Sani Abacha's assassins only missed Mr Ibru by a whisker.
He was a decent man who gave to his country but took nothing in return.
Tributes paid by visitors to his home so far are regarded to be truly reflective of his life and service.
The second was Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
Ask any Nigerian in their teens and you will be told that he was the founder and leader of secessionist Biafra, not much more.
But obituary writers are now telling us that he was the unrivalled Nigerian patriot of his time and, according to Senate President David Mark, "one of the greatest Nigerians that ever lived".
It seems here that friends of Mr Ojukwu, especially politicians, are dusting up newspaper cuttings to find epithets with which to eulogise him, whether appropriate or not.
Reasoned tributes are few to come by. One notices history being re-written. The fowls are at work with their feet!
In the current climate, decent people need to sympathise with the relatives and friends of those valiant men and women who lost their lives in the struggle to preserve the unity of Nigeria as the Biafran secessionist war raged from 1967 to 1970.
If you would like to comment on Sola Odunfa's latest column, please use the form below.