It was appropriate that national honours were conferred on many deserving Ghanaians on Republic Day. We are fast becoming a nation of grabbers and self-seekers.
Too many people in high places are distinguished in the public mind by their acquisition of wealth through dubious means.
It is time to shout loud and clear that a nation is not advanced by self-absorbed leaders, but by those who render devoted service to the people.
We should honour such people and let others follow their footsteps. There are complaints that the number honoured is too large.
It is not. We should honour those who have distinguished themselves in service to the nation in all walks of life. At a time our streets and drains are filthy, if there is a street cleaner who has done his work zealously and faithfully over the years without asking for bribe to clean the street fronting the house of a citizen, we should honour him.
We should not honour personalities simply because they have achieved prominence despite their past or the means by which they have scaled the heights. One or two of the recent awards rightly raised eyebrows.
There should, however, be a criteria for selecting those to be honoured. There were rumours that some award winners were requested to send their C.Vs or biographies after they had been nominated! This is bad.
It undermines confidence in the selection. I hope it is not true.
As a former civil servant, I was not happy with the apparent administrative lapses. For example, even addresses which should be known were not identified and a letter to a recipient was sent to a foreign post which he had vacated years ago.
Even the brochure of the awards contained wrong descriptions and too many photographs were missing. Perhaps there was a rush.
But this is a matter which should not be rushed. It should be approached with care and diligence.
If we do not have a national awards committee, one should be constituted now.
Its membership should not necessarily be made public but it should cover all aspects of endeavours.
The civil service, if it is still relevant, should provide the secretariat and the committee should have representation from the larger public service, industry and commerce, agriculture, the service industry, education, health, the professions, the entertainment industry and the media.
There should be no politicians on this committee but its recommendations should be submitted to the President who will determine the list of those to be honoured.
My suggestion is not without problems. Years ago, President Nkrumah wanted to do something similar to what was recently done.
His office sent a request to ministries and institutions to submit recommendations. The lists sent were large. One institution submitted the names of all officers beyond a certain grade! I hope by now we are more mature.
I expect the head of an institution to recommend some-one for an honour he has not got, just as the British General recommends a private for the VC (Victoria Cross) of which he is not a recipient.
It should be helpful if the criteria for eligibility for each awards is clearly and carefully spelt out to the committee.
Such specification should enable those not so old who have made valuable contributions to receive award. It is understandable that since awards have not been organised and have not been regular, many old people were involved in the recent exercise.
Award winners should not necessarily be infirm and so old that they cannot walk unaided. People, especially the young, should know the winners and what they have done.
They will then be inspired to render outstanding service and achieve a lot when fairly young. The award winners should be recognised or known by the population for they would be role models for the largely young population of Ghana.
The highest honour, the Order of the Star of Ghana, should be jealously guarded. The award should command the highest respect.
I believe that the President should be the head of this Order. Towards this end, the Order of the Star of Ghana should be conferred on the President on his inauguration by the outgoing Head of State.
Our Constitution is run by the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. Therefore, following the President, the heads of the Legislature and Judiciary should belong to this Order.
The Speaker and Chief Justice should consequently be made members of the Star of Ghana on their appointment.
The recent awards seem to have this in mind.
The idea should be stated, otherwise political and other motives may be attributed to the conferment of honours on these leading personalities.
If the intention is clarified, omissions in the present list can be corrected in subsequent awards.
If national honours are to be valued to promote service without the expectation of reward then the selection should be careful and should earn public approbation.
The select committee should start working for the next honours now. Rushed nominations will defeat the purpose of the awards.
National Awards on Republic Day, July 1, should be a permanent feature of the Ghanaian calendar. There should be another one on Independence Anniversary Day, March 6.
One may be a major awards day and the other encompass fewer people. But whatever is decided, we should honour those who deserve honour.