President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday presented Golden Jubilee Presidential Awards to 50 distinguished Nigerians for their contributions to national development.
The event, which was presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa in Abuja, was attended by some Nigerians and foreign dignitaries.
In his remarks, President Jonathan said that the ceremony was unique, as it enabled the nation to recognise the struggle of the nationalists who fought for its independence and those who had contributed in one way or the other to its development.
He noted that the process of selecting the 50 awardees for the honours was rigorous and competitive.
Dr. Jonathan said that five former Heads of State that were selected for the award was because of their individual, peculiar and unique contributions to the development of the country.
�We are not honouring them just because they are former Heads of State but because of their unique contributions, he said.
He noted that the selection of former President Olusegun Obasanjo was unique because he received Biafra�s instrument of surrender after the civil war, while he also voluntarily handed over power to a civilian government.
President Jonathan also lauded another former Head of State, Gen. Abubakar Abdulsalami, for handing over power to a civilian government after a year in power, even when he was under pressure to remain in power. �That feat is rare in Africa,�� he said.
The other ex-Heads of State that were honoured are the late Gen. Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, Gen. Yakubu Gowon and Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
Some of the nationalists who made the honours list are Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa and Ladoke Akintola.
Others include Aminu Kano, Anthony Enahoro, Ernest Ikoli, Jaja Wachukwu, Dennis Osadebey and Joseph Tarka.
The awardees under the academic category are the first Nigerian Professor of History, Prof. Kenneth Dike, and Prof. Ade Ajayi, a foremost historian who was commissioned to write a book to mark Nigeria�s independence in 1960.
Also in the academics� list are the first Nigerian professor of paediatrics, Prof Ishaya Audu, and a distinguished mathematician, Prof. Iya Abubakar.
Prof. Wole Soyinka, Prof. Chinua Achebe, Alhaji Abubakar Imam and a veteran journalist Alhaji Babatunde Jose, were also honoured as foremost Nigerian scholars.
Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, and Alhaji Ali Monguno were honoured as distinguished Nigerian diplomats.
Two distinguished traditional rulers who received honours are the late Oni of Ife, Oba Adesoji Aderemi, and the incumbent Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq.
Nigerians who are honoured for being icons in the legal profession include the late Justices Adetokunbo Ademola, Udo Udoma, Olawale Elias, Mamman Nasir and Chief FRA Williams.
The late Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Chief Margaret Ekpo and Hajia Gambo Sawaba received honours as Nigeria�s foremost women activists.
Those who received honours in the category of distinguished businessmen are the late Alhaji Al-Hassan Dantata, Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Chief Mike Adenuga.
Cardinal Francis Arinze was honoured as the most distinguished Nigerian priest, as he made history as the world�s youngest Roman Catholic Bishop at the age of 32.
Mr. Taiwo Akinkunmi was honoured for designing the Nigerian flag, while Hajia Ladi Kwali was honoured as Nigeria�s most celebrated potter.
The other awardees are Princess Alexandre, who represented the Queen of England during Nigeria's independence celebration, and Lillian Jean, a British woman who wrote the lyrics of the first national anthem.
Reports say that after the awards ceremony, there were variety shows and a fireworks display at the Independence anniversary tower.