Anambra State government has commended the award of the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM), the country’s highest honour for intellectual and artistic achievement, on Professor Charles Chidume at State House Abuja.
A statement signed by the Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr C. Done Adinuba, said that Professor Chidume, an internationally recognized mathematics professor, beat over one thousand, two hundred contestants and received the honour last week, alongside Professor Oluyinka Olutoye, a medical scientist, who was also announced a winner the same year, as well as Professor Godwin O. Ekhaguere, a scientist, who got the 2021 award.
An indigene of Nimo in Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State who trained at the University of Nigeria at Nsukka and Queen’s University in Canada as well as the Ohio State University in the United States, Professor Chidume died at the age of seventy-four last October 7 while serving as the acting President of the African University of Science and Technology, Abuja, after a successful long period at the UNN as an outstanding scholar.
Though the NNOM honour is, like the Nobel Prize, awarded annually only to living individuals and organizations, Chidume received it from Buhari last week because when he was selected as a laureate in 2020, he was still alive.
The awards could not hold last year on account of the lockdown arising from the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Commissioner, Governor Willie Obiano in a letter to President Buhari said that by being among the three most recent NNOM laureates, Professor Chidume helped to elongate the list of winners of Nigeria’s most prestigious award for academic excellence from Anambra State.
Professor Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart, and Africa’s most successful novelist, raconteur, essayist and social critic, was the first recipient of the honour when it was established in the late 1970s by the departing military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo.
He noted that apart from Achebe, winners from the state include Dr Pius Okigbo in economics, Professor Chukwuedo Nwokolo in medicine, Professor Laz Ekwueme in music, Professor Alex Animalu in physics, Professor Chukwuemeka Ike in literature and Professor Ben Nwabueze in law.
He said that Governor Obiano has said that this award was not conferred on such world-class scholars from Anambra State as Professor Kenneth Onwuka Dike, the first vice chancellor of the University of Ibadan who went on to Harvard as a distinguished history professor, Professor Chike Obi, the preeminent mathematician, Professor Ben Obumselu, the most scintillating literary scholar in Africa, before their deaths.
Anambra and Ekiti states are states with the largest numbers of the seventy-nine persons who have received the NNOM since inauguration forty-three years ago.
According to Commissioner Adinuba, all the NNOM recipients from Anambra State will be among indigenes of the state to be honoured at the ceremony marking the state’s thirtieth anniversary which would have held last August 27 but for the November 6 gubernatorial election in the state.
Mr Adinuba expressed optimism that with Professor Chukwuma Soludo, a globally respected economics professor, assuming office as governor on March 17, Anambra State will become far more competitive in education and other sectors.