He emphasised on Nigeria’s human capital potential and the need to pay more attention to the education of the girl-child.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo says Nigeria has tremendous human capital and talents across all its region and opportunities will be made to enable all citizens actualise their highest potential.
Osinbajo said this at the Nigerian National Merit Award (NNMA) Dinner held on Tuesday at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.
"The representation of the NNMA is a reminder of the need to pick Nigeria's 'first eleven' for national tasks," he said.
Osinbajo said that the idea of merit and representation by regions were not mutually exclusive concepts, because the Nigerian genius for achievement could be found nationwide.
"Often in our national discourse, we tend to juxtapose the idea of merit with that of representation as though they are mutually exclusive concepts and it is suggested that there is an inherently natural disparity in the geographical distribution of talent.
"Yet what the distinguished array of laureates from all over our country that have been assembled over the years shows us is that the Nigerian genius for achievement can be found in every corner of our country.''
Osinbajo said that opportunities must be provided on a mass scale to enable all citizens to actualise their highest potential.
He emphasised on Nigeria's human capital potential and the need to pay more attention to the education of the girl-child.
"In so doing, we will renew our pantheon of world-beating achievers in every generation and continually rediscover the human capital for perpetual national growth.
"The awards' representation over the years was a telling reminder of the need to pick Nigeria's 'first eleven' for national tasks, irrespective of federal quota, tribe or religion.''
Osinbajo said that the glittering cast of Nigerians that had received the Award over the past four decades was reflected more, not only by the variety of achievement, but also by their diversity of origin.
"The Award selection process is entirely indifferent to the confessional persuasions, ethnic origins or partisan allegiances of the recipients.
"It is sensitive only to the rarity and quality of their accomplishments.''
"Today's awardees and their predecessors represent the zenith of accomplishment; their exploits tell us what we are truly capable of as a people, and the heights to which we would soar if we would set ourselves free from the gravitational pull of parochialism and prejudice.''
He said that if the pantheon of Order of Merit laureates reflected a representative meritocracy, it was also possible to apply the same standards in selecting those that were choose for leadership at all levels.
Osinbajo congratulated the award laureates and their families, as well as the chairman and members of NNMA governing board and associates and also recognised some past NNOM laureates present at the event.
The dinner organised in honour of the 2020 and 2021 Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) recipients – Prof. Olayinka Olurotimi Olutoye, late Prof. Charles Ejike Chidume (2020) and Prof. Godwin Ekhaguere (2021).
The three distinguished Nigerians had earlier been conferred the prestigious Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) award by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday.
The event was not held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Olutoye was honoured for his unique contributions in the field of fetal surgery; while Ekhaguere was awarded for pioneering new approaches in the branch of Mathematical Physics known as Axiomatic Quantum Field Theory.
Chidume was honoured posthumously for his outstanding contributions in Mathematics, Physics and Engineering.
Others are Prof. Augustine Esogbue (2006 NNOM Award Recipient in Engineering/Technology), Prof. Oye Gureje (2008 NNOM Recipient in Medicine) and Prof. Samuel Ohaegbulam (2012 NNOM Award Recipient in Medicine).
In his remarks, Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs, Sen. George Akume, congratulated the awards laureates for their overall economic, scientific and technological contributions to the nation's development.
On his part, the Chairman, Governing Board of NNMA, Prof. Shekarau Abu, said the awards recipients had done exceptionally well in their various fields of endeavour.
"The awards are in recognition of Nigerians who have made national and global impact in their various fields.
"We are very proud of their outstanding contribution to knowledge, to the development of our nation and the world at large," he said.
Ekhaguere was present at the dinner, while Olutoye was represented by his brother, Air Commodore Dr Olufemi Olutoye Jnr (retired) and late Chidume was represented by his son, Mr Okechukwu Chidume.