By Donald Ugwu
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday decorated two prominent Nigerians, Prof Adesoji Adesina and and reknowned artist, Mr Bruce Onobrakpeya with the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM).
NNOM is an academic award conferred on distinguished academicians and intellectuals who have made outstanding contributions to the academic, growth and development of Nigeria.
The event which took place at the executive chamber of the Presidential Villa was performed on the President’s behalf by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Adesina was recognized for his research work in engineering technology while Onobrakpeya was honoured for his creativity in arts and humanities spanning more than 60 years.
The President noted that the awardees distinguished themselves in their various disciplines adding that the award was the highest bestowed on any individual by the country for intellectual achievement of national and global importance.
He noted that the awardees brought to 75 the number of such recipients since its introduction 38 years ago.
According to him, the recipients epitomized the highest degree of innovation and creativity.
He noted that while Adesina developed many chemical materials as well as trained many graduates including 42 PhD alumni now professors in highly ranked institutions and petrochemical industries.
He added that Onobrakpeya since pre-independence projected the African personality, propagated the concept of natural synthesis and advocated important social causes through arts.
The President noted that Onobrakpeya had shown that the artist was not just an entertainer but also a social commentator.
“Every winner of the NNOM is unique and on behalf of the President and the people of Nigeria I congratulate you both on this great achievement.
“You are not just national treasures; you are now important milestones in the chequared history of Nigeria’s upward trajectory.
“Your stories and attainments now inspire the future; it is on the steady shoulders of your achievements that the coming generations of Nigerian artists and scientists will stand with confidence and hope.
“This is the awesome responsibility that you bear,’’ the President noted.
The President commended the board of the NNOM Awards and the assessors for a job well done and urged them not to rest on their oars.
Meanwhile, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has congratulated Onabrakpeya.
In a congratulatory message issued on Thursday in Abuja, the minister said that the award to the octogenarian artist was a great boost for the Creative Industry.
The minister said the recognition and honour accorded Onobrakpeya by the Federal Government would go a long way to inspire young artists in particular and the entire Creative Industry in general.
He said the conferment of the great award on Onobrakpeya had put him in the same league as other great creative minds like Prof. Wole
Soyinka, the late Prof. Chinua Achebe, Mr Laz Ekwueme and the late Ladi Kwali, were all past winners of the award.
“There is no doubt that Onobrakpeya over the years, has been a towering figure and a great inspiration to young artists, but this award marks the highest point in his career as an artist”, Mohammed said.