By Etim Etim
Prof Yemi Osinbajo’s declaration speech released early Monday morning is one of the most inspiring messages from a Nigerian leader in recent memory, and it reflects the depth of his thoughts, preparedness to lead and the scope of his experience in the Buhari administration.
Nigerians have come to admire the Vice President for his erudition and elocution, but his seven-minute broadcast this morning put him in a class away from the crowd. I commend the VP for answering to the call from millions of Nigerians to step forward and lead. But really, this is his own call.
Obviously, the VP plans to run on the theme of continuity, banking on his deep experience and expecting to extend the scope of and rapidly multiply the achievements of the government he has served so passionately in the last seven years.
He opened his speech with an unmistakable expression of admiration for his boss and approval of the work they have done together. ”For the past seven years, I have served as Vice President under a true Nigerian patriot, a servant of the nation in war and peace, and a man of integrity, President Muhammadu Buhari. We have, together, worked through some of the most difficult times in the history of our nation, but we have remained focused on securing the country, providing infrastructure and growing our economy”, the VP said.
Acknowledging your boss is one of the cardinal principles in leadership. You ignore it; you pay for it. In 2000, Al Gore, the US Vice President under President Bill Clinton, lost that year’s election to George W. Bush partly because the VP had distanced himself from the Clinton legacy despite the huge achievements of the administration. Al Gore had erroneously assumed that the Lewinsky scandal that engulfed the Clinton presidency in its last days would mar his electoral chances if he did not step away. He turned out to be wrong. Americans were willing to forgive Clinton because he did so well in office.
This morning Osinbajo presented President Buhari as one of the most successful leaders of our nation. It is notable that Osinbajo would not only be flaunting the achievements of the Buhari Presidency of which he is an integral part, but he’d also be ready to explain its shortcomings and offer plans to make amends. That’s the hallmark of true leadership. The tone of his message was assuring, uplifting and reassuring. He said “I have been to practically all local governments in Nigeria. I have been in markets, factories, schools, and farms. I have been in agricultural, mining and oil-producing communities in the Delta, in Kebbi, Enugu, Borno; Rivers, Plateau and Ondo; and in all other States of the federation, listening to the diverse experiences and yearnings of our people. I have visited our gallant troops in the North East and our brothers and sisters in the IDP camps. I have felt the pain and anguish of victims of violent conflicts, terrorist attacks, flooding, fire and other disasters. I have been in the homes of many ordinary Nigerians in various parts of the country. I have sat with our techprenuers in Lagos, Edo, and Kaduna, with our Nollywood and Kannywood actors; with our musicians from Lagos, Onitsha and Kano. And I have spoken to small and large businesses”.
None of the other aspirants, not even Atiku Abubarkar who was also a Vice President for two terms, has this type of credentials.
Many Nigerians would be glad to note that under the Osinbajo administration, there would be no abandoned projects as he will focus on completing ”what we have started, radically transforming our security and intelligence architecture; completing the reform of our justice system focusing on adequate remuneration and welfare of judicial personnel, ensuring justice for all and the observance of rule of law, rapidly advancing our infrastructure development, especially power, roads, railways and broadband connectivity. Providing an excellent environment for businesses to thrive; taking the agriculture revolution to the next level especially mechanization and developing the farm to table value chain”.
He noted that he would transform the government and ensure that the government, its agencies and regulators serve the business community, creating a tech economy that will provide jobs for millions, enhancing our Social Investment Programmes to a full-scale social welfare scheme, completing the promise of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within this decade. In addition, his administration would complete the task of ensuring that all Nigerians, male and female, attend school, reforming our educational system for relevance to the challenges of this century, completing the task of universal health coverage for all and strengthening the capacity of States and Local Governments to deliver on their respective mandates.
I am stunned that no other aspirant from the two parties has talked of lifting our people from poverty and sending our kids to school. Do they not know what is important in today’s world?
One of the fascinating aspects of Osinbajo’s declaration is his use of ICT to convey his message. Releasing his recorded video simultaneously on all platforms makes it the first time a Nigerian politician has taken to social media to launch his campaign. Recall that the VP is also the first Nigerian public official to use teleprompter regularly to make his speeches. His style is in tune with modern democratic practices around the world. In the last seven years, he has deepened the use of ICT in government. President Obama, Joe Biden and indeed many Western leaders declared through video messages. Donald Trump took it a notch higher in 2015 by declaring while riding down the escalator at Trump Towers. Packing people into a football stadium during this pandemic is not a very wise way to make a declaration speech, especially in a world where the social media connects us with lightning speed. The result has been outstandingly splendid. Four hours after the video was posted, it received over 450,000 hits and views across all channels. No stadium has the capacity for even half of that number.
The VP’s style is cost effective, more efficient and a smarter way to communicate in this modern age. In any case, the VP has to be very effective in the way he runs his campaigns because he has not stashed away huge sums of money like others.
I understand that millions of tech savvy Nigerian youths are alreading sharing and posting Prof Osinbajo’s video across all platforms. Nigerians in Diaspora are also excited in sharing the video. Had the event been held in a stadium, they would have missed out on it.
Again, I salute Prof Osinbajo for the clarity of his message, the modernity of his method and the hope of his coming. This is a man for this moment.