Besides, Jonathan will on Wednesday lead a Federal Government delegation on a three-day official visit to France.
The visit is part of a series of meetings of the Honourary International Investor Council (HIIC) from November 23 to 25, 2011.
The HIIC comprises prominent investors from around the world that work with the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council and advise the Nigerian government on matters pertaining to the country’s economic development including reducing political corruption, helping Nigeria to become Africa’s biggest oil producer, attracting investment in the country from the private sector and from foreign countries, and making Nigeria more competitive in the global economy.
It was first established in 2004 with the former British Minister for the International Development, Baroness Lynda Chalker, as its coordinator, but with successive Nigerian presidents as chairmen. President Jonathan is the chairman of the HIIC.
It holds two meetings per year, rotated between Nigeria and Europe.
Explaining that the award was given to Dangote because he was the highest private sector employer of labour in the country, President Jonathan added that the claim that the honour was previously reserved only for vice presidents was erroneous.
According to the President, “before Aliko, over 75 distinguished Nigerians received the GCON,” while Chief Obafemi Awolowo received the GCFR (Grand Commander of the Federal Republic), “though he was never President of Nigeria.”
President Jonathan said “criticism and opposition were normal,” adding that “every leader who has made significant contributions to his people has faced stiff criticism and opposition.”
He, therefore, called on Nigerians to continue to pray for the nation.
Jonathan spoke while celebrating his 54th birthday at the State House Chapel, Presidential Villa Abuja.
Jonathan, who cut a cake during the church service to celebrate the birthday, also said that “God has been faithful to me.”
The President told the congregation: “I thank God for keeping me alive to discharge the responsibilities of my office. When I decided to contest for the position of Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, I prepared my mind for any eventuality. And God has been faithful to me.”
He regretted the tone of politics in Nigeria, stating that most national issues were unduly politicised.
According to him, Nigerian politicians believe they can only succeed if they bring down the occupant of the office they want to occupy.
But he said that what was surprising was that “those who deliberately politicise issues are aware of the right thing.”
Jonathan gave as example the politicisation of the national honours presented to 355 deserving Nigerians and foreigners last week, especially the GCON awarded to Dangote.
By Madu Onuorah, Abuja
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