As Nigerians, including public commentators reflect on the country’s journey to nationhood over the past 60 years, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN has called on the youth not succumb to the challenges confronting the nation, noting that young Nigerians hold the key to a more united, peaceful and prosperous nation.
Prof. Osinbajo also expressed disagreement on comments reflective of a bleak view of Nigeria’s history noting that “despite the onerous challenges we face, we have endured as a people and there is still so much that I believe should give us reason to face the future with hope.”
The Vice President made the remarks Thursday at the virtual edition of the NASFAT Global Youth Seminar themed: “A Unified, Peaceful and Prosperous Nigeria”.
According to him, “I urge you to guard your hearts and protect your capacity for idealism and creative optimism. These are the tools with which you will build the Nigeria of our dreams. We have a future worth fighting for.
“Your generation has what it takes to move us away from the destructive and unproductive rent-seeking attitudes that engender conflict and on to the terrain of enhanced productivity.
“Your generation has the tools to usher in a new age of abundance and wealth creation that will lift our society beyond the hunger-induced and poverty-inducing squabbles over a national cake that has ceased to exist. As Nigeria seeks to find her proper place in the world in the 21st century, you are our nation’s most important resource. It is because of you that a united, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria is very possible.”
Speaking about overcoming the challenges confronting the nation, Prof. Osinbajo said the youth’s capacity for innovation would come handy in an era of scarcity and unequal distribution of resources.
He said “Much of the discontent and tensions that we have are distributional conflicts ignited by the struggle for access to tangible and intangible resources. As resources become scarcer, identity-based claims to a share of the national patrimony become more aggressive and lead increasingly to conflict. Under these circumstances, we are liable to see each other as competitors and rivals instead of compatriots and eventually we begin to demonize each other as “enemies.
“With a population of about 200 million, and with our country on track to be the third most populous nation on earth in a few decades, the challenge for us is creating opportunity for the huge number of people that increasingly need education, food, healthcare, and employment. This is where your capacity to innovate comes in.”
Recalling efforts made in the past to promote unity among Nigerians and progress across different sectors of the economy, Prof. Osinbajo said Nigerians must not relent in striving for a progressive and united country.
“Inspired by constitutional imperatives, we created institutions such as Federal Government Colleges otherwise known as Unity Schools and the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to foster cohesion and solidarity amongst our diverse people. And we instituted the Federal Character principle to govern the democratization of opportunity, participation, and representation in our public institutions.
“We are therefore alive and here at a time in history when our society must complete the unfinished tasks of resolving issues of structural poverty, entrenched inequality, disparities in access to social and economic opportunities, fractured access to justice, and the diminishing faith in governing institutions – all of which create profound radical discontent with the social order,” the Vice President added.
Osinbajo then noted that “those of us who desire a united peaceful and prosperous Nigeria must confront the everyday injustices that mock our aspirations and erode our confidence in a shared future.”
His words: “It is important that we do not raise our voices only when we perceive the rights of our own group to have been violated. We must make common cause with other groups when they are injured because our rights are rooted in universal principles that cannot be selectively applied.
“We must also reject the idea that some Nigerians have to lose in order for other Nigerians to win, and that some Nigerians have to be deprived in order for some Nigerians to prosper. We can all win and we can all live in prosperity. Nigeria will work for each of us only when it works for all of us.”
Continuing, the Vice President said “we must resist the temptation to demonize whole groups by judging them by their most extreme fringes. We must resist the urge to portray communities in caricatures.
“As citizens, there are moral choices upon us. Are we using our influence to promote measured voices of reason or are we amplifying the voices of divisive hate-mongers? The choice before us is clear.”
The event featured presentations by Islamic scholars including Sheik Nurudeen Lemu, Mufti Ismail, Imam Abdul Azeez Morufu Onike, among others.