Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) has urged Nigerian elites to work in consonance for the nation.
In a speech at the Leadership Conference and Awards in Abuja on Thursday, Professor Osinbajo stated that despite the nation’s current challenges, citizens must avoid drifting towards vices that appeal to darker impulses but instead counter fear and foster solidarity.
He challenged the elites to act in solidarity and build a consensus to settle contending issues in the nation and enlarge the circle of opportunity, especially for the young people.
“As with all countries, newer realities keep fostering situations that could lead to misunderstanding and conflict.
“These contingencies challenge citizens and governments to build consensus around which resolutions of these conflicts can be promoted.
“The question that arises for us is whether as the elite, we are public-spirited and historically responsible enough to engage in the arduous process of consensus building and be conscientious custodians of our national institutions,” Osinbajo stated.
Earlier in the course of his keynote address, the VP explained that “the external reasons we cite for our problems cannot thrive without severe internal weaknesses in our society”.
According to him, “the chief weakness is a human one – our elite, our political, economic, and religious elite”.
He believes insecurity is being promoted in the country through ethnic and regional sentiments, activities, and utterances by an elite that has so far proved to be socially irresponsible.
For Osinbajo, the irresponsibility of the upper-class borders on their selfishness, negligence or ignorance or a lack of self-awareness which has “been unable to build the institutions and more importantly, the social and political consensus upon which a just and orderly society can stand”.
“And because dominance must be premised on some consensus, the elite depends on a dubious one, promotion of tribal and religious fault lines for legitimacy,” he stressed.
Prof Osinbajo claimed that the elite’s criticism of the activities of government without consideration has become a basis for insurrection and insurgency.
The Vice President also stated that the nation’s political, economic, and religious leaders must shun divisive narratives in a bid to bring all Nigerians together, heal rifts between communities and build bridges across divides.
“We must be able to say to the young men and women who say secession is the only way or that we should break up into little nations that that is the way of extinction, not development.
“We must, as religious leaders, be able to tell our adherents that people of other religions are not their enemies, they are brothers and sisters and that they must not allow those who will benefit by division and strife to tell them differently,” Osinbajo added.
The VP stated further that all Nigerians must endeavour to promote civilized values – including affirming the value and sanctity of human life, rather than violence, ethnic and religious fault lines to drive national change.
While he emphasized the need to reform institutions for law and order to thrive, the VP noted the importance of building consensus and mediating elite competition and conflict in “finding an acceptable ‘middle ground’ among contesting options to the resolution of issues.”
Emphasizing the importance of “corporate social responsibility, good corporate citizenship” and what he termed ‘transformational elitism’ in nation-building, the VP stated that, “in times of crisis, the elite must broaden its horizons beyond their specific disciplines and sectors.
“Accordingly, business leaders understand that it is not enough to focus on making profits; businesses need a healthy society within which to operate and make profits. This is why there are now such concepts as corporate social responsibility and good corporate citizenship,” he said.
Addressing how elites can drive national transformation, the Vice President added: “the media elite must recognize that they have a responsibility to exercise discernment in the deployment of their platforms and must reflect upon whether they are amplifying the most insensate, intemperate, and incendiary voices in our midst while marginalizing voices of reason.
“The political elite must accept through policies and actions, that the purpose of power must be to better the lives of those we serve and give the young great hope for the future. Once we put on the lens of social responsibility, different and higher imperatives come into play. This is what transformational elitism looks like.”
While calling for compromise and broad-based constructive engagements on national issues, the VP reiterated the need for Nigerians, regardless of tribe, ethnicity, or religion, to come together for nation-building purposes, stating that, “the recognition that the system is not working optimally for many of our people should inspire a broad-based movement for reform that works to recalibrate the present order and attune it more to the aspirations of our people.”
He urged Nigerians to resist temptations of being led astray by those with ulterior motives in pushing particular agitations.