Niyi Osundare, professor of English language, poet and social critic is the 71st national merit award winner as President Goodluck Jonathan confers the honour on him at a ceremony in Abuja on Thursday, December 4
| By Olu Ojewale | Dec. 15, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT |
IT WAS a day of honour and recognition for Niyi Osundare, 67, professor of English, as he was conferred with the Nigerian National Merit Award by President Goodluck Jonathan, on Thursday, December 4. By the conferment, Osundare, a prolific poet and dramatist, became the 71st recipient of the national merit award since it was established in 1979. Apart from a certificate and a medal which came with the award, Osundare also received a cash reward of N10 million.
While conferring the award, President Jonathan described the ceremony as “the celebration of Osundare’s brilliance, hard work and dedication.” The president commended the 35-year-old Nigerian Order of Merit Award as “the highest and the most prestigious honour this nation bestows on its citizens at home and in diaspora for intellectual and academic contributions of national and international significance.”
Jonathan similarly commended the award committee panel for maintaining the high standard for which the award is known for. “It is encouraging to note that since its establishment 35 years ago, the integrity of this esteem award has been preserved through a rigorous and painstaking assessment exercise in the areas of science, engineering and technology, medicine, humanity and other fields of human endeavours. The award standard has never fallen below expectation.
“I have no doubt that Professor Niyi Osundare, our awardee this year, meets our nation’s expectation and like others who have received this prestigious award and hold high the banner of creativity and intellectual development, there is no doubt also that the knowledge, expertise and contributions of today’s recipient will be of immense benefit to our overall development agenda, in particular, the successful implementation of this administration’s transformation efforts.”
“Of course, listening to the chairman’s speech and the citation, we can say that we are very, very proud of Niyi Osundare. Professor Osundare, you are today admitted into this very admirable, respected and distinguished class of Nigerians as its 71st member of the body of the Nigerian National Order of Merit laureates,” President Jonathan said.
On the choice of Osundare, Etim Essien, professor of medicine and chairman of the governing board of the award, said the panel of assessors found the awardee worthy as the lone recipient of the award among the 22 nominees evaluated by the board and its four specialised committees.
In his acceptance speech, Osundare, a former Newswatch magazine columnist, said of all the prizes and awards he had received in his 40 years of professional and creative career, he held the national merit award at high esteem. “From near and far, the congratulatory messages pouring in the past one week have concentrated not only on the lucky winner of the 2014 Nigerian National Order of Merit Award, but also on the timing of the award and the country which is responsible for its bestowal,” he said.
Born in Ikere-Ekiti, Ekiti State, in 1947, Osundare was educated at the University of Ibadan, the University of Leeds, England, and York University, Canada, where he got his PhD in 1979. He became a professor in 1989 and was head of English department at the University of Ibadan between 1993 and 1997. He became professor of English at the University of New Orleans, United States in 1997. In 2005, Osundare and his wife were almost killed by Hurricane Katrina. They were stuck in their attic for 26 hours and were saved by a neighbour, who at the time was driving by in his boat, who heard their shouts for help. They stayed in many rescue shelters until they moved to Ringe, New Hampshire, where Osundare got a teaching job as a professor at Franklin Pierce College.
He holds several awards for his poetry, as well as the Fonlon/Nichols award for “excellence in literary creativity combined with significant contributions to Human Rights in Africa.” Osundare has several published works to his credit.