THERE are awards and there are awards. Some awards are not worth the paper on which they are written while others are as valuable as diamond For Governor Babangida Aliyu, he has received many awards even before he became governor of Niger State for his philanthropic gestures and people oriented display of chanty.
As a governor between 2007 and now, the number of awards received by Governor Aliyu are numerous and they were given from across national divide and from different organisations including Youth groups, the academia, traditional institutions and political pressure groups.
Aliyu for instance is the prestigious recipient of the Agbayewa of the source a title bestowed on him by the highly revered traditional ruler from the South Western part of the country, the Ooni Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, the Ajagunla of Ekiti land received from the Ewi Ado Ekiti, the Sardauna Hausa by the Emir of Daura.
All these awards are given in recognition of the governor's contributions to the maintenance of peace and pursuit of development of all parts of the country and his frank and honest contributions to national discourse which has helped to cement peaceful living among the various ethnic nationalities in the country.
Aliyu is seen by these awardees as one person and politician who is totally detribalised and an individual who sincerely believes and is committed to the unity of Nigeria and is working towards achieving it.
However, the award of the Apostle of Peace and Bridge builder given to the Chief Servant by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is a new dimension to the catalogues of awards already received by Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu because it came from a very unexpected quarters, CAN, not known for giving awards to people no matter their performance or wealth.
Also because as a Muslim governor in a country where religious intolerance has taken the centre stage, the award by the CAN to Governor Aliyu deserves the rolling out of the drums for celebration.
CAN in giving the award said it has followed with keen interest the record of Governor Aliyu even before he became a governor and see in him a person with an accommodating large heart for people of diverse ethnic nationalities and religion.
The governor, CAN said on assumption of office, also displayed the quality by giving people of the two major religions in the state equal opportunities to aspire to the highest level in the state civil service and in political appointments.
It is to the credit of Dr Aliyu according to the Niger State CAN chairman, Reverend Musa S. Dada that he is the first governor in the history of Niger State to appoint a Christian as the Secretary to the state government. He is also the first governor to appoint as many as six Christians into his cabinet whereas previous Muslim governors had either appointed one or only two Christians into their cabinets.
Dada said despite glaring opposition from religious bigots in the state, Governor Aliyu went out of his way to approve the teaching of Christian Religious Knowledge in state public schools a matter that had been openly opposed by former governors m order not to allow Christian children to know the basics of their religion from the tender age.
He capped it up all by saying that since Dr Aliyu assumed the mantle of leadership in the state, he has encouraged Christians to go to Jerusalem and even sponsored them on annual basis, the last being the sponsorship of over 200 Christians to the Holy land during the last exercise.
'We are not politicians our action is not informed by political considerations but we believe that honour should be given to who honour is due and Dr Aliyu deserves this honour'.
Dr Emmanuel Martins from CAN Cross River State described the award to the chief Servant as 'a statement, a very big statement that every public office holder should understand because the chief servant has lived up to his words, to be fair to all religions in the state'.
The highly elated governor could notnide his feeling when he told the gathering that for me today is a very important day, for a group of people a very significant segment of the society to wake up and say for this little things we have been doing which is part of our duty, and recognise me, I am very happy'-
'This is one award I didn't know was coming and nobody told me' adding that whatever he has done to merit the award was done in line with the oath of office taken 'to do good to all manner of people without affection or ill will' promising also to continue to treat all manners of people equally regardless of their creed.
Aliyu used the occasion to criticise the ways awards are being given in the country saying 'some of the awards are unearned and even those giving the awards are not worthy to give the award they are giving'.
'When you buy an award you are actually deceiving yourself knowing full well that you bought it and you have not earned it, unfortunately that is what is happening in Nigeria today'.
The governor promised to build on these little achievements to achieve an egalitarian society where nobody will be oppressed on account of tribe or religion.