As part of activities marking the 2014 Independence Day celebration, the Cross River State Government, Wednesday honored four of its outstanding citizens who have distinguished themselves in their chosen fields of endeavor and subsequently contributed to the development of the state.
Those honored were Chief Owali Ilem, for his Industry, Prof. Etetim Etim Asuquo, Humanitarian Service, Chief Wilfred Oden Inah, Public Service and Prof. Arikpo Bassey Arikpo, in Education.
Speaking at the ceremony held at the Peregrino Banquet Hall, Governor’s Lodge, Calabar, Wednesday, the state Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke, asserted that, “Today is very important to me that we honor are sons and daughters who have distinguished themselves in their chosen endeavors.”
Justifying the conferment of the awards on the beneficiaries, Governor Imoke maintained that “with the evolution of the society and with our experience in governance, we thought there was need for us to understand the essence of merit, bring it back and try to place it at the center of our governance processes.”
Lamenting the celebration of mediocrity in place of merit, Imoke said as long as excellence and merit are relegated to the back seat, society cannot get the full value of those who strive for excellence.
According to him, “Merit has become so secondary that anything else is more important than merit. Today, Education, qualification and capacity have now become secondary.
The failure to recognize merit in our society has done such a great disservice to our people and development.”
Continuing, Governor Imoke regretted: “What we now celebrate with due respect, in many instances is mediocrity. We celebrate ethnicity, we have become ethnic champions. We represent our communities, our ethnic group before we represent Cross River State.”
Recalling the processes that went into the selection of the four beneficiaries of the awards, the governor said: “This award was not based on man-know-man, rather, the public was requested to send in nominations. Yet we did not get the anticipated response. This was due largely to the fact that the public is losing confidence in government because they don’t believe we can actually do anything right on the basis of merit.”
While calling for plans to institutionalize the award, Governor Imoke said: “It is my prayer that the Cross River State House of Assembly will find it fit to put in place a law that allows us as a people to recognize our own.
“I’m hoping that subsequently, these great men and women will be honored in more ways than the merit award as we continue to build a society that recognizes hard work.” he restated.
Imoke who also used the occasion to re-echo his plan to zone the next governorship to the Northern Senatorial part of the state added, “Today, as we transit, we are going to transit to a new governor who would address you next October 1, 2015. That new governor will come from the Northern Senatorial District of the State.
“That new governor would have the task to sustain and to build. We have tried to unite our people, to get them understand that we have a common destiny. That also must be sustained.”
Responding on behalf of the four recipients of the state merit award, Prof. Arikpo Bassey Arikpo, who was filled with excitement and elated, said they were proud to be Cross Riverians, stressing that, “this is a state where merit is indeed recognized. We feel exceedingly humbled that the effort we were making quietly, even privately were been watched by the public as we went about our respective duties.”
He thanked the state government for deeming them fit for the prestigious award.
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