Speaking against the background of agitations and conflicts in various parts of Nigeria, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has challenged the elite to work towards consensus building and mediation of conflicts and competition in the country.
Osinbajo spoke on Thursday evening at the 2020 Leadership Conference and Award held at the International Conference, Centre, Abuja.
Admitting that Nigeria’s system is not perfect, he stated that there are ways by which discontent could be channeled through constitutionally guaranteed rights to vote, to associate, to protest and to express ourselves.
“Thus, while the current system is not perfect, it can only be improved as more of our people engage it.
“In a country as diverse as ours, the diversity of opinions and persuasions is not only to be expected; it is to be welcomed.
“The aim of our national conversations should be to promote a consensus for progress rather than to promote discord and disharmony.
“Our national union was forged through dialogue and negotiation as our founding fathers traded compromises in the process of making our country.
“Over the years, our union has been renewed through dialogue. We must be committed to continuing this tradition of renewing our nation through the tried and trusted means of conciliation, compromise and consensus,” he explained.
Prof. Osinbajo disagreed with the argument that the problem of state fragility in Africa is on account of the colonial origins of her nation-states.
According to him, “the notion that Nigeria is a hastily and arbitrarily cobbled together patchwork of mutually alienated kingdoms,” which is often cited as the reason for the internal tensions, “is not the whole truth”, even if popular.
“Indeed it is my view that the colonial beginnings of African nation-states do not constitute the sort of immutable obstacle to nation-building that it is made out to be.
“After all, colonialism was a historical global phenomenon that spawned nation-states everywhere across the world from Europe and Africa to Asia, North America and South America.
“We have examples of many of such nation-states that are successful. Colonial origins are therefore not necessarily a predictor of national prosperity or state failure.
“There is a lot of scholarship and research that shows that our ethnic nations share a long history of trade, diplomacy, migration and conflict – all of which ensured that by the time the colonialists arrived, they were not strangers to each other.
“And if we were not strangers to each other then, then we are most certainly not strangers to each other now.
“The truth, therefore, it seems to me, is that the external reasons we cite as reasons for our problems cannot thrive without severe internal weaknesses in our society.”
Vice President Osinbajo pointed out that the chief weakness in the Nigerian system is “a human one.”
He put the blame for and the widening fault lines among the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria on the political, economic, and religious elite that “has so far proved to be socially irresponsible, i.e. one which either by selfishness, negligence or ignorance or a lack of self-awareness has so far been unable to build the institutions and more importantly the social and political consensus upon which a just and orderly society can stand.”
Chairman of the event, the Sultan of Sokoto, Dr. Sa’ad Abubakar III, urged Nigerians to always look at “issues that really bind us together than the little ones that separate us.
The Sultan said that most Nigerians have been so close together that they would not be able to survive if they go their separate ways.
“God Almighty can never and will never make mistake; whatever he has done, that is his will and must be obeyed.
“So bringing us together as Nigerians is not a mistake, and that’s what God wanted; if he wants anything else, he will do it in no time.
So, we have to accept our religious beliefs as good Christians, as good Muslims; as bad Christians, as bad Muslims, we all know we are from one source, one creator.
“I think it is important for us to realize that and see how we can close ranks and help one another.”
The Sultan said that he was a joint recipient of the Leadership Award in 2012 with the former Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, for the work they had been doing in for unity and peaceful coexistence of the adherents of the two major religions in Nigeria.
“Since we started working with Cardinal Onaiyekan, we have never looked back, trying to bring everybody together, make Nigerians realize that religion is between you and Almighty God.
“You don’t worship God for me because when you die and go to Almighty God, he will not call me to answer for your queries; so religion is an individual’s problem.
“Those who are trying to fan the embers of hatred, division and whatever through religion we definitely fail because we will not succumb to their atrocities; we will not give in; we will continue to work for the betterment of our great country Nigeria.”
One of the recipients of the 2020 Leadership Award was President, African Development Bank, ADB, Akinwumi Adesina.
He spoke through Zoom, stating that the ADB has secured 400million doses for Africa.
Adesina also said that the bank would provide $3billion dollars to pharmaceutical companies in Africa to produce vaccines to ensure that the continent does not continue to be short-changed in vaccine distribution.
Six Nigerian governors were among those who received different categories of awards at the event.