The news came like a bolt from the blue. I had been slated to receive National Honours Award in the rank of Officer of the Order of the Niger, OON.
Who, me? I almost couldn’t believe it.
Astounded is the word.
But the person telling me was neither flippant nor frivolous.
And a short while after, I had the letter in my hands, duly signed, bearing the good news in cold print. I still asked: who, me? Yes, it was me. Emi lo kan. It was truly my turn, and no mistake.
On Tuesday, October 11, 2022, the deed was done.
I was among 450 people (443 Nigerians and 7 foreigners) who turned out at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, to be decorated with National Honours by no less a person than President Muhammadu Buhari himself.
He was on his feet for about four hours, personally festooning winners and handing out the honors.
He took only a few minutes interlude twice, so that cultural troupes could perform. At 80 in two months, God is extremely kind to our President.
The National Honours Award was established by the National Honours Act number 5 of 1964 “to honour deserving citizens who have contributed to the development and progress of the country in any field of endeavor.”
What then qualified me? I didn’t know.
But the Committee in charge had found me proper and worthy, and there I was, being decorated as Officer of the Order of the Niger.
I wanted to ask again; who, me? But it was past questions at that time.
It was reality, crystal clear. Come had come to become (apologies to colorful politician, Kingsley Ozumba Mbadiwe).
On award day, I had suddenly found myself awake at 1.19 am. This was the real wee hours, when people do different things, both good and bad.
I love my sleep, but here was I, wide awake.
And the kaleidoscope of my life began to play before me.
Son of two teachers, I was barely two years old when I was frogmarched to school.
Amazing that I can vividly remember the day, with my oversized school uniform, particularly the knicker, which me and my siblings later named ‘sokoto yambari,’ a jocular Yoruba word for massive, outsize.
And that knicker surely was. The man who called himself a tailor must have been a carpenter in his former life.
But the Committee in charge had found me proper and worthy, and there I was, being decorated as Officer of the Order of the Niger
Father was principal at St Charles Grammar School, in Osogbo, then in Western Region.
And school was St Claire’s Nursery School, where I bounced cheerily to, barely visible in my sokoto yambari.
Work took my father to Notre Dame College, Usi-Ekiti, some years later. And school continued at St Joseph’s Primary School.
I had grown taller, and sokoto yambari was gone.
And then in 1971, my father decided to retire from service, just in his mid-40s.
We headed home, to Ipetumodu, in present day Osun State.
Schooling continued at St Augustine’s Primary School, then to Origbo Community High School, and to the then University of Ife, and on and on.
Professional career. Marriage. Fatherhood. Climbing the ladder, becoming MD/Editor-in-Chief of The Sun Newspapers.
Till President Buhari made me his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity in 2015.
I watched the film of my life in those wee hours. From beginning till now.
Will it be like that on Judgment Day, when the film of our lives would be shown to us? Well, this was no judgement day, so let’s not scare ourselves.
It was Honours Day. And I began to sing, praise God, and pray. Did I also cry? I won’t tell you, lest you make jest of me.
So, Femi Adesina is now OON. The boy from Ipetumodu.
A television reporter had asked me how I felt about it later that day. And I replied: delighted.
If I had been object of so much abuses, excoriation, flagellation, from evil hearts, wailing wailers, simply because I came to serve my country, headed by a man I’d always admired, and I took everything in my strides, why shouldn’t I take this one, too?
Why shouldn’t I, in the words of the song by Kizz Daniel and Techno, begin to buga. “Let me see you dey buga, go low low low, go low low low, buga won.”
I was landing and landing softly on the sofa floor, courtesy President Buhari and Members of the National Awards Committee, chaired by His Royal Highness, Justice Sidi Bage, the Emir of Lafia.
The National Honours and Award Investiture Organizing Committee is headed by Sen. George Akume, Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs. I thank them all.
I have seen the good side of Nigerians with this award.
From all walks of life, I have received congratulatory messages, through newspaper advertisements, phone calls, text messages, and on all social media platforms where I’m active.
I thank my Kabiyesi, Oba Gbenga Joseph Oloyede, the Apetumodu of Ipetumodu who placed a phone call to me, Oba Adedapo Tejuoso, who placed a full page newspaper advert on behalf of Oke-Ona Egba Dynasty Trust Foundation, my friend, Niyi Adesanya, a Leadership and Business Re-Engineering Expert, who also placed a full page newspaper advert, Prof Amidu O. Sanni, Vice Chancellor of Fountain University, Osogbo, who sent in a personal congratulatory letter, my General Overseer, Rev Sam Aboyeji of the Foursquare Gospel Church, my pastor, Rev Ayomide Abraham, and thousands and thousands of people of goodwill. Friends, loved ones, relations, and even complete strangers.
This country is not just filled with wailing wailers, who see no good in others. I have seen the Lord’s goodness, His mercies and compassion…
How about my own professional association, the Nigeria Guild of Editors, of which I was a past President?
They hosted me to a dinner on Tuesday, alongside other media people that were given awards. God bless you all.
I thank my friends from the South-East, under the auspices of Igbo Friends of Femi Adesina, led by Rev Austin Ifeanyi Epunam. They paid me a congratulatory visit at State House, coming with a cake which we cut together. Ndeewo.
Can I possibly mention all? ‘Imposicant,’ as we say in local lingo. Thank you, thank you, thank you everyone.
Make you see me dey buga, go low low low, go low low low, buga won.
If you don’t believe, ask my wife, who I told after the investiture: “henceforth, when you call me, you must add OON, FNGE (Fellow Nigeria Guild of Editors) FCICMC (Fellow Chartered Institute of Corporate Mentoring and Coaching), Nwanne di Namba, Ugomba, etc. Otherwise, I won’t answer.” With my shoulders up. I don become a case.
Hahahahahaaaaaaa. Let me see you dey buga, go low low low, go low low low, buga won.