The Nigeria's biggest award for distinguished citizens is the National Productivity Merit Award. The 2008 awards honoured four personalities from Plateau State. Architect John Alkali, a retired civil servant and presently a politician who was also a candidate for the gubernatorial seat in Plateau State was among the four persons honoured.
For Alkali, his distinguished career as a civil servant was the merit that earned him the award. He was honoured with the member of the Order of the Niger(OON). His civil service career started with the Plateau State Civil Service where he rose to the position of a Director. He moved to the Federal Civil service. There he was an Executive Director of Public Buidings at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). He later became a Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Housing and Environment. He moved on to become the Permanent Secretary of Manpower Development. In 2006 he retired voluntarily to join politics.
More than 200 personalities were honoured out of which no single journalist was featured making the awards to carry the semblance of an exclusive party of civil servants despite the sacrifice journalist have made to ensure the return of democracy, in some cases loosing their lives. Alkali responded to this with an encore of a comment he made in a forum that was organized by friends to thank God for the award by quoting the late President of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan which reads that 'at the gates of every industry, in every school, in many work places there different heroes that are silently toiling and doing great things without people identifying them'. Those awarded, according to him may not necessarily be the only ones deserving recognition. He agrees that there are many journalists who have given their lives for the truth and enlightening people and many others who distinguished themselves in different endeavors. The fact that they have not been recognized does not change their status as heroes. He said journalism is one of the most recognized professions as a result of its role in checking the excesses that would have been otherwise perpetrated in the different sectors of the nation’s life