FROM THISDAY NEWSPAPER
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).
FROM THISDAY NEWSPAPER
Professor J. F. Ade Ajayi is 80
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Professor J. F. Ade Ajayi, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Ibadan is 80 years old. Professor Ajayi is a distinguished Nigerian, African and a world citizen. He was born on May 26, 1929 in Ikole, Ekiti State to parents who by the standards of those days belonged to the elite of Ikole. His father was a post master while his mother engaged herself in buying and selling. They were one of the early Christians in Ikole and this early conversion was to leave permanent effect on young Ade Ajayi.
At a very tender age he was put in School and when he had reached the end rung of the ladder in a Christian School in Ikole, he was sent to the famous Central School in Ado-Ekiti which later metamorphosed into the famous Christ’s School. He lived with one of his father’s friends who looked after him while he was in school. In return, he served the latter as a houseboy as was expected in those days of service deserving its rewards. It was from Christi’s School that he took the entrance examination to Igbobi College Lagos where he stayed from 1940 to 1946. Throughout his years in Igbobi College he only came second once out of 12 semester examinations. He was the school librarian in his last year which was an attestation to his academic brilliance.
He gained entry into the Yaba Higher College in 1947 which was the only Higher Institution in Nigeria then. This was a sop to the nationalists who wanted a University type institution in Nigeria to satisfy the educational yearnings of the young and upcoming Nigerians. This institution established in the 1930s did not satisfy the demands of the people for higher education because the certificates issued were inferior to degrees even from Fourah Bay College in Freetown which was an overseas College of the University of Durham in England. Eventually the British granted the request of the nationalists and a proper university was established in Ibadan in 1948 to cater for the educational needs of West Africans. The young Ade-Ajayi was one of the pioneer students of this first attempt at higher education in tropical Africa.
Ajayi was one of the select few to be enrolled in Ibadan. He graduated in 1951 with a general degree in History, English and Latin. He could have become an administrative officer or an assistant district officer like some of his colleagues who graduated with him but right from the beginning he had planned for himself an academic life. He was determined to go for higher degrees abroad. He first set his eyes on Cambridge, but due to the short notice he had to mobilize funds that opportunity slipped away from his hands. He later went to Leicester University College of London to do an honours degree in History. He made a first which was rare and is still rare in the liberal arts.
With this academic distinction, he gained admission to the PhD programme of the University of London. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on Christian Missions in Nigeria, the emergence of a new western educated elite. This thesis was published in a seminal book of the same title. He returned to the University of Ibadan in 1958 and worked with Dr. Kenneth Onwuka Dike to radically change the direction of historical scholarship in Ibadan, Nigeria and Africa. Within a period of five years and at a relatively young age, Ajayi became a Professor. This was to be the beginning of years of further academic and administrative achievements in a life spanning 80 long years.
Ajayi can be said to be the founder of the Ibadan School of History and helped many former students and colleagues to revise their dissertations for publication by Longman Group as part of the Ibadan history series. This writer was a beneficiary of Ajayi’s editorial expertise. My 1970 PhD thesis on Nigeria in the First World War submitted at Dalhousie University in far away Canada was subsequently published as part of the Ibadan history series. Professor Ajayi has many publications to his credit and edited several books to advance the study of African history.
Before Dike, Ajayi, Roland Oliver, Richard Gray and others, Africa was dismissed as a continent without history. Some racists said African history could only be the activities of the Europeans in Africa. The absence of written documentation in most of Africa was used to condemn the entire continent as not being worthy of study. These euro-centric critics forgot to realize that Egypt the home of civilization was in Africa. They forgot Ethiopia and the Nile Valley with their written documentation in Geez was in Africa. The Saharan and Sahel part of Africa were not without Arabic and Ajami documentation. Even the rock paintings in the Namibian desert and the Nsibidi signs of the Ekoi in Cross River could be deciphered.
The absence of written documentation did not mean the absence of history. Oral history preserved by family and palace historians and griots were authentic sources of history. In societies without written documentation there were people specially charged to memorise ported history of the Kingdoms, and failure to recite this properly sometimes cost them their lives. Ajayi and others were able to marshal these points and also to engage in inter disciplinary effort with sociologists, anthropologists, economists, linguists botanists (ethnobotanists) zoologists (serologists) and archaeologist to unravel the past of Africa.
We owe Ajayi a debt of gratitude that he and others cultivated a nationalist historiography that helped give pride and confidence to nationalists in many African countries. Africans were made to realise that they were inheritors of the great civilizations of Egypt, Meroe, Axum, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Songhai, Zimbabwe, the various pre and post Arab Kingdoms of the Maghreb and of course Oyo, Hausa land, Ancient Borno and Benin.
Ibadan was turned into the Mecca of African studies. Professor Ajayi’s expertise was greatly sought after in Europe and America where at different times he spent Sabbatical years. His country noticed him and between 1972 and 1978 he was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos and he more than any one built the University of Lagos whose reputation had been ruined by tribal conflicts that undermined the first years of its foundation. Ajayi also served as a member of the council of the United Nations University in Tokyo from 1974 to 1980 and for two years in 1976 and 1977 he served as its chairman. He and others helped to write the UNESCO general history of Africa and he edited the Volume VI.
The University of Leicester was so proud of his achievements that it conferred on him LL.D Honoris Causa in 1975. In 1984, the University of Birmingham followed suit with another D.Litt Honoris Causa. A grateful nation recognized Ajayi’s academic prowess by giving him a National Order of Merit (NNOM) in 1986.
At 80 Professor J. F. Ade Ajayi can look back and give glory to God. He is blessed with a wonderful wife who loves him dearly and without whose support he would never have had the peace of mind and encouragement for his stupendous achievements. He is blessed with a son, a physician, and four wonderful daughters who have excelled in their own different ways. It is a matter of joy to see a man so distinguished and venerated at home and abroad live a fulfilled life. This icon of academic distinction has not only made history, he has written history and lived history. Future generations would certainly know that a J. F. Ade Ajayi passed through this world in spite of having been born in a peripheral part of it.