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Osinbajo says prejudice, threat to democracy

Osinbajo

…condemns attempts to disenfranchise people in last elections

By Ukpono Ukpong

Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, has said that in the contest for power, leadership elites must not toy with prejudices that alienate or divide any section of the country.

Osinbajo said that rather they should conduct themselves with a high sense of responsibility in order to build a new Nigeria where there is justice, equity and shared prosperity.

Besides, deliberate efforts have to be taken to deal with ethnic profiling and prejudices before they influence political contests.

These were some of the highlights of the speech delivered by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, at the maiden Policy Making and Good Governance Lecture Series of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Plateau State.

According to the VP, “the leadership elites have a duty to conduct themselves with a high sense of responsibility even as they prosecute their contest for power.”

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Explaining further, he noted that, “historically conscious and patriotic elites all recognize that, beyond what the letter of the law asserts, there are lines that cannot be crossed in the pursuit of political power.

“One of such lines is the willful exploitation of sectional sentiments and the invocation of ethnic antipathies to mobilize a political constituency. It is dangerous because it is an attempt that seeks to mobilize by fostering division and hatred.

Prof. Osinbajo outrightly condemned reported attempts in some parts of the country that denied some Nigerians their right to vote in the last elections.

“These elections witnessed the exploitation by political actors of the fears and anxieties of people about so-called outsiders. Any attempts to deny people the right to vote in any locality on the basis that they do not belong in that place is condemnable in the strongest possible terms,” he stated.

The Vice President also noted that “when ethnic or religious prejudices are weaponised for political purposes, we are confronted with a lethal potentially destructive situation.”

In a speech that also addressed the way forward in building a new Nigeria, the Vice President noted that “the most prosperous places are countries that have learned to harness diversity while building ever more inclusive institutions.”

He observed that “discrimination against people on the basis of their identity is explicitly condemned by most legal codes, including our own Constitution. But there is still a tension that exists between this new Nigeria and the old Nigeria as understood by a generation that is much more accustomed to political mobilization on the basis of identity. But we must ennoble and validate the Nigeria that our young people are consciously or unconsciously building. This is the future we want.”

According to him, “let us never forget that although we may speak different languages, belong to different tribes and profess diverse creeds; we are bound, above all else, by the language of a shared hope, by our common humanity as Nigerians, and a supreme faith in the possibility of our country.”

Speaking further against any form of discrimination, the VP noted that “if we are truly committed to economic growth, then we must also be committed to creating inclusive communities and strengthening social cohesion. Put another way, the only thing that grows in a climate of tribal hatred is poverty. This is why justice, healing, and a stronger commitment to the ideals of integration are so important.”

Continuing, Prof. Osinbajo stated that “where the forces of primordial division and polarization are harnessed for the sake of electoral gain, the venom of such devices remains and continues to poison communal relations, setting neighbour against neighbour. We have witnessed the catastrophic consequences of the political weaponization of prejudice in places such as Rwanda.”

Emphasising the role of political elites, Prof. Osinbajo asserted that “elites have a responsibility to discipline themselves in the pursuit of their political ambitions and exercise of power to ensure that the fabric of our communities is not rent asunder.

“When elites fail to compete responsibly and moderately, they foster a sense that everything goes, which breeds instability. We have seen this dynamic play out time and time again in our history. A model of competition that recognizes no ethical limits or boundaries is a threat to our democracy. It is incumbent upon politicians to act and conduct their competition responsibly.”

In separate remarks, Plateau State Governor, Hon. Simon Lalong, and the Gbong Gwom Jos, HRM, Jacob Gyang Buba, thanked the Vice President for his steadfastness and interest in the upliftment of academic standards at the National Institute, noting that since his assumption to office as VP, the institution has grown in leaps and bounds.

On his part, the Director General of NIPSS, Prof. Ayo Omotayo, said the inaugural Policy Making and Good Governance Lecture Series is one of the many innovations of the institute that is inspired by Prof. Osinbajo’s visionary leadership and useful recommendations.

He assured the Vice President of the management’s commitment to always maintain the high standards set before them, especially in making the institute Nigeria and Africa’s foremost think-tank.

After the lecture, the Vice President accompanied by other dignitaries inaugurated the newly built quarters for Nigeria Army participants at the Institute.

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Ihesiulo Grace

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