President Muhammadu Buhari has conferred the 2017 prestigious Nigerian National Order of Merit Award (NNOM) on two Nigerians and celebrated artist, Bruce Obomoyema Onobrakpeya, and Professor Adesoji Adesina.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo decorated the two outstanding Nigerians on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari at the council chambers of the presidential villa, Abuja.

Speaking at the brief ceremony, President Buhari lauded the recipients and assured that the federal government will continue to support research and innovation in the country.

He said posterity would not forgive government functionaries if they fail to provide support for research activities, adding that every winner of the NNOM award was unique, describing the recipients as “milestones of Nigeria’s checkered history.”

The President also commended the award recipients for the intellectual feat they have attained and challenged them to further deploy their huge experiences to advance the course of the society, just as he tasked the duo to borrow from the words of Bernard Baruch that “man can’t retire his experience but must use it.”

While welcoming them into the “prestigious league” of Nigerian National Order of Merit, President Buhari who praised the Governing Board of NMA, said the board had, so far, identified 75 recipients of the award and added that the award “epitomises the finest of Nigerian innovation.”

While extolling the qualities of the recipients, Osinbajo observed that the works of Adesina in engineering and technology span over three decades in various fields including mining, defence, manufacturing, among others, with over 400 publications and competitive research grants.

Buhari also said Adesina had trained a number of students including 42 PhD holders who are now professors, executives in petrochemical industry and captains of engineering designs in various parts of the world.

“To date, Prof. Adesina is credited with nearly 450 refereed publications, patents and books. He has supervised more than 100 graduate students to completion, including 42 PhD alumni with a truly global hue. Among these former students are university professors in highly-ranked institutions, executives of the petrol-chemical processing industries, government dignitaries and captains of engineering design and consulting firms located throughout China, South-east Asia, Middle East, Europe, USA, Canada and Australia. He has won over $15 million in competitive research grants from government and industry sponsors,” the President noted.

In the same vein, President Buhari who said the works of Onobrakpeya in arts and humanities have spanned six decades described the celebrated artist as a painter, initiator of art, author and philanthropist.

According to him, Onobrakpeya had received over 30 awards and appointments in recognition of his excellent and intellectual contributions to humanity as well as lifetime awards.

He further described Onobrakpeya as a social commentator, whose works of art date back to 1957, the period he described as the early development of arts in the country.

Describing him as an advocate of social causes who focuses on social developments, the President further said Onobrakoeya’s artworks including paintings on divine prayer for help have also addressed political instability, sociological problems while his contemporary works border on the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and broken pipes.

Responding on behalf of the recipients, Adesina who expressed gratitude for the honour by the government, described the event as memorable.

He also expressed appreciation for all the efforts made by the Governing Board of the Nigerian National Merit Award towards the success of the award.

Born in April 1952, Adesina who obtained first class honours in Chemical Engineering in June, 1980 at the University of Lagos, later obtained PhD in the University of Waterloo in Canada in 1986.

He left the University of Port Harcourt as a lecturer in 1989 for the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia and became a professor in 2004. He initiated and developed an internationally renowned group of reactor engineering and technology.

Onobrakpeya, on his part, was born in August 1932 and obtained Diploma in F.A. of London University and postgraduate Art Teachers’ Certificate in Zaria.

He has participated in over 68 exhibitions in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America with his works found in the most prestigious museums and galleries such as the Vatican Museum in Rome, Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC., the Suomi in Finland and Victory Museum in Baghdad.

His works are used to decorate notable places in Nigeria such as the office of Nigeria’s president in the Presidential Villa, Abuja and Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.

‎Speaking to State House Correspondents one of the recipients, Onobrakpeya described the award as “a very high point” of his artistic career.

He said the federal government’s recognition and gesture “is something which I treasure very much and hope that it would inspire the younger people.

“Our art is going through a period of a renaissance, and we are asking that the president should facilitate this upward swing by doing a lot of things for the artists in Nigeria.

According to him, one of them, is the creation of an enabling environment for them to work in, provision of studios and befitting art villages, museums and galleries among others in every city.

“Also to ask that if there are ‎abandoned properties by the federal government, they should give them to the artists to use to create things. And the other thing I want to say is to ask the government to help to fund informal educational set up like the one I set up in Agbara-Otor which today is going to about 20 years old.

“That workshop empowers young people. They come there and selected professionals are there to guide them. They receive scholarships and when they come out whatever they do now gives them job to do. And so, that takes them out of parading the streets to ask for jobs. So, if it is funded very well, it also helps to repay the environment where such workshops are situated.

“It brings peace, it brings people from all over the federation, even from West Africa, and when they interact it brings in peace and understanding and well-being to the nation,” he said.

Prof Godwin Dara who accompanied the awardee ‎to the investiture said, “we are all co-winners in this matter because we are inspired by one of the greatest persons in the world to be honoured.

Dara who is Professor of Oral Literature and Folklore at Delta State University, Abraka, said “We have benefited so much from his own works, philosophies and ideas and his elevation of Urhobo folklore and traditions we feel so renewed now with this prize.

Also speaking, one of the 2016 recipients of the award, Tanure Ojaide who was also on hand to celebrate with the 2017 awardees, yesterday expressed pleasure that his kinsman was found worthy for recognition by the board of the NNMA.

“you know I was the winner last year. So, it is a great pleasure that somebody from close by, from the same Urhobo culture, could inspire such great works of arts that are recognized all over the world.

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