By Conde M. Powers
“…there is no doubt that our country is going through times of trial and testing. Many of our people are dealing with adversity on several fronts. It is understandable for discontent to emerge and inspire agitation.
“It is also understandable that we may find that some of these agitations resonate with us. We may consider them legitimate causes and identify with them as such.
However, the temptation is that our sympathy with legitimate causes blinds us to the destructive and illegitimate means employed by those that pursue these causes. This is a temptation that we must resist.”
Those were among views expressed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on Thursday September 9, 2021 at the 2020 Leadership Conference and Awards held in Abuja.
His intervention was in relation to some of the challenges facing Nigeria especially agitations in parts of the country. They were true comments of a genuine statesman concerned about the wellbeing and the future of majority of Nigerians.
It is therefore reckless for anyone to insinuate that the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo will preside over or recommend the extermination of any group or individuals on the grounds of secessionist agitations or call for the annihilation of any group of persons.
Clearly, his concern was borne out of love for country, but unfortunately it was twisted to satisfy the whims and caprices of elements bent on tarnishing the image of the Vice President at all cost.
Undoubtedly, Prof. Osinbajo is not known for make inciting comments or derogatory remarks about groups or individuals under any guise or any condition. His opinion about situations or challenges are always frank and devoid of personal interest.
Truly, in the words of Aisha Yesufu, a rights activist, the 10th September 2021 publication by the Midwest Herald online newspaper (by Erasmus Ikhide), titled “OSINBAJO’S GENOCIDAL EXTINCTION REMARK ON SECESSIONIST AGITATORS” cannot be an Osinbajo statement.
She had remarked, in defence of the VP in a post that, the one thing she can give Prof Yemi Osinbajo credit for is “knowing what to say at the right time to soothe nerve.”
As a matter of fact, in all his engagements, the Vice President has always sued for peace and unity, rallying all segments of society for the progress of the nation. This he has demonstrated several times since 2015 when the present administration assumed office.
For instance, at the resurgence of agitations in the Niger Delta, the VP in 2017 embarked on a tour of the region to calm frayed nerves, a move that birthed the now very popular Niger Delta New Vision – a blueprint for the transformation of the region.
At different times he has also held talks with leaders across different divides to find lasting solutions to crises in parts of the country.
Some of his engagements in this regard had been with community leaders from Southern Kaduna, southeast and northcentral Nigeria, among others.
So, to say that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was quoted out of context or misunderstood by the Midwest Herald online newspaper is simply to give the author and the online media outfit room to redeem its credibility (if they ever had any).
The Vice President’s speech at the occasion was centered around “National and Regional Insecurity: The Role of Political and Non-Political Actors in Stabilisation and Consensus Building. ” So, his remarks which received a stand ovation from the audience was more of a clarion call on the Nigeria elite.
Contrary to the impression created by the author on the extermination of a section of the country, the VP only acknowledged the fact that the country was going through difficult times and saw the need to raise national consciousness as he has always done. His comment was indeed a wakeup call on the elite.
According to him, “we are meeting against the backdrop of economic adversity, inflamed fault lines and social resentments.
“The insurgency in the Northeast, kidnappingsn and terrorist acts in the Northwest and threats of secession in the Southeast and Southwest.
“The highest office and duty of the elite is sacrifice, sacrifice, and more sacrifice. It means that we must be prepared to tell our constituencies the truth even if it hurts our political fortunes or our popularity.
“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.”
The Vice President’s call was for the elites (religious and political) to stand for the truth at all times, hence his appeal for leaders “to 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.
“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 our young ones great hope for the future,” the VP added.
Isn’t it ironic that the very region the author has accused the Buhari administration of exterminating played host to the President himself last Thursday.
The administration’s legacy projects in that same region that the author has labored pit the administration against is open for all to see. It is therefore wrong to assert that the VP, at the event, had reinforced the Buhari administration’s agenda to exterminateo Sutheast Nigeria.
The VP’s alleged silence on the issues of the farmer-herder conflict, VAT debate, and resource control is yet another attempt to portray the Vice President in bad light.
This is against the backdrop of the fact that the VP was spot on in his submissions on the myriad of challenges bedeviling our country.
In his words: “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.”
A practical example of the Vice President’s personal commitment in finding lasting solutions to the conflict between herders and farmers is his efforts in the National Economic Council (NEC) which led to adoption of the National Livestock Transformation Plan which is being implemented across the country. Indeed, he has backed words with action and not paying lip-service as being insinuated in the report.
Making reference to the need to curb violent acts, the VP noted in his remarks at the Leadership conference that “discernment today requires us all to recognise the various faces and guises of violence and extremism.
“It is tor ecognise the agents of anomie and hatred and to call them by their proper names even when they appear to speak the same language as we do or seem to worship as we do.
“To be clear, in calling for compromise and consensus, I certainly do not mean that our people should be lulled into a forced silence or a passive acceptance of whatever they find unacceptable. I mean that their discontent and energy can be channeled towards constructive and positive action,” the VP added.
On the issue of restructuring, it is actually a misnomer for anyone to fault the VP on the subject matter or refer to him as an opponent of the idea. His thoughts and concerns about restructuring and all its subsets (i.e. state police, resource control etc) over the years are no longer hidden. He clearly stands for true federalism and has spoken in support of it at different forums.
It is rather unfortunate that despite several efforts by Prof. Osinbajo to rally all segments of society including the media especially its elites, to build consensus for national unity and desist from fanning the embers of hate and division, the Midwest Herald writer is still bent on taking the path of destruction as evident in the article.
The VP had appealed that “the media elite must recognise 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 andi ncendiary voices in our midst while marginalising voices of reason.”
In conclusion, alleging that the VP and his party, the APC has avoided forums to speak on the “Nigerian project” is malicious and untrue because Prof. Osinbajo is one Vice President that has never been shy of public debates or conversations about the progress of Nigeria.
The VP has since 2015 honoured invitations from diverse professional, religious, political, and social groups within and outside Nigeria to discuss the past, present and future of Nigeria.
Every important national discourse (forum) in Nigeria has featured the Vice President more than once, so clearly, the author must have been on sabbatical, and probably oblivious of the realities on ground.
The author and his sponsors should know that the campaign of calumny against the person of Prof Yemi Osinbajo cannot weaken his resolve and desire for a better and prosperous Nigeria.
Like he noted in his speech referenced in the Midwest Herald report, “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.”
“To be sure, the cost of reforming the system is considerable, but it is certainly far lower than the cost of letting the system to be destroyed in the hope that it can somehow be rebuilt from scratch.” This fact is very important for detractors of
the VP and indeed the “Nigerian project” to note.
Powers is a journalist in Abuja