Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo has underscore the importance of merit in the nation’s reward system.
He said that preferring a quota system ahead of merit could be detrimental to the progress of any society.
Osinbajo stated this in at the dinner and investiture ceremony of this year’s winners of the Nigerian National Order of Merit , Professor Omowunmi Amoke Sadiq, an environmental scientist, and Professor Tanure Ojaide, a poet and literary critic.
The Vice President, who quoted from works of past and current winners of the award, noted that the award recipients demonstrated that Nigeria was blessed with tremendous talents, who are world class.
He commended the laureates for their intellectual accomplishments and urged them to remain mentors for the younger generations.
The Vice President, however, observed that the individual greatness of citizens was yet to correlate with that of the nation.
According to him: “the difficulties facing the nation today are in part, the result of an elite failure to accept the responsibility that privilege confers and the responsibility of shaping the right values for the society. We must define clearly what is lofty, noble and deserving of honour and how these values can be sustained, preserved and enforced.”
Professor Osinbajo said that there was a burden that comes with privilege and that was “to create the moral and philosophical premises for integrity in the public service, fidelity to the rule of law and the creation of meritocracy as a rule.’’
The Vice President then urged the Nigerian elite to join in the building of a new society where merit would be placed above other primordial considerations.
“Placing quota before merit does not work, I am yet to meet a Nigerian who for example needs medical surgery and is insisting that only his ethnic stock should perform it, in such a situation the only question is whether the surgeon is the best available,” he said.
“To build a new Nigeria, we need a new tribe of men and women of all ethnicities, of all faiths, committed to a country run on high values of merit, integrity, hard work, justice and love of country. A tribe consisting of professionals, businessmen, politicians, religious leaders and all of those who believe that this new Nigeria is possible. This requires a new way of thinking, a new leadership corps, a new tribe,” Professor Osinbajo stated.
He also said: “The challenge for us today is that of finding a society where everyone especially those of us who lead in every aspect of leadership agree that this country is worth fighting for, that this country can truly be great. And the evidence we have seen today is that this country can truly be great and so may I just challenge us today that it is time to populate that new tribe.’’
Responding after her investiture, Profesor Sadiq thanked the Nigerian government for the award and gave the assurance that it would spur her to greater contributions toward national growth and humanity.
She noted the fact that the Buhari-led government had focused attention on things that matter to the people sending a serious message to the rest of the world.
Also Professor Ojaide commended the organisers of the award for the recognition adding that the award was the most important in his life, coming from his country.
Dignitaries at the event included the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engineer Babachir David Lawal, whose office oversees the planning of the NNOM and the Governing Board Chairman of the Merit Award Professor Moses Essien.