After 55 years Pa Micheal TaiwoAkinkunmi is awarded ‘Officer of the Federal Republic’ Honour
Notwithstanding the usual criticisms revolving around the selection of the individuals for this year’s National honours as the list is said to rife with government cronies and loyalties according to some Nigerian dailies, one recipient everyone would be delighted for is Pa Michael Akinkunmi who designed the Nigerian national flag about 55 years ago as Nigeria gained independence.
In addition to the OFR honour conferred on Pa Akinkunmi, he was also placed on an automatic Special adviser’s salary for life.
There have been articles and documentaries not least of which was one on NTA newsline years ago which showed the 78 year old living in shabby conditions with meagre allowance or recognition from government.
Promises have been made by subsequent governments in the past to reimburse and compensate the man who entered a competition in 1958 to while he was studying in England to design a flag for his country which was about to become independent.
Akinkunmi said he only heard about the competition ‘by chance’ while browsing in the library. After his studies in Norwood college in London, where he bagged a degree in Engineering, he would return back to Nigeria in 1963 to join the civil service where he worked until he retired in 1994 from the department of Agriculture in Ibadan.
Our dear country isn’t particularly known for extolling its citizen’s virtue especially when they have no political affiliations, but even for a country like Nigeria, it’s shameful that a man who designed the flag the country’s flag- it’s main emblem with which it is recognised globally and which it flies proudly on all occasions was left without recognition or aplomb for 55 years.
We are very poor at celebrating our own in Nigeria and on several occasions, it’s taken international media and organisations to highlight outstanding individuals of Nigerian origin and heritage even if they’ve been doing amazing and commendable things right in our backyard.
It is wrong that Mr Akinkunmi had to wait till the ripe old age of 78 to be honoured for something he did when he was only 23. It is right, however that President Goodluck Jonathan has finally seen it fit to right this wrong and God knows this strategic decision couldn’t hurt his credentials and possible re-election bid for 2015.
Pa Akinkunmi was not the only great citizen awarded at the ceremony which took place in Abuja aheadof Nigeria’s 54th Independence ceremony on October 1st, a taxi driver who returned N8 million that was left in his cab by a passenger was also given National honours as well as a residential property in Abuja.
Actresses Joke Silva and Omotola Jalade Ekeinde were also honoured for their contribution to the Nigerian entertainment industry.