Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday said Nigeria’s elite play a major role in aggravating the security challenges besetting the nation.
Professor Osinbajo stated this in his keynote address at the Leadership Conference and Awards – with the theme National and Regional Insecurity: The Role of Political and Non-Political Actors in Stabilization and Consensus Building – held in Abuja.
The Vice President believes “the external reasons we cite as reasons for our problems cannot thrive without severe internal weaknesses in our society”.
He added that “the chief weakness is a human one – our elite, our political, economic, and religious elite”.
According to him, insecurity in the country is promoted through ethnic and regional sentiments, activities, and utterances of the elites that have so far proved to be socially irresponsible.
Prof Osinbajo said the elite’s criticism of the activities of government without consideration has become a basis for insurrection and insurgency.
“So, where are we today? On a nationwide and region-wide scale, we are seeing challenges to national order driven by a profound and pervasive sense of exclusion and marginalisation.
“And I do not speak of ethnic or religious marginalisation which is really another elite dog whisper to acquire more for themselves in the contest for booty. I speak of a division between the have- nots who have no hope and the haves who seem to have it all.
“So, the attacks we see on law and order are themselves symptomatic and they are driven by emergent critiques of the fabric of order itself.
“These critiques are manifesting as insurrections and insurgencies along various axes of identity. These rejections of formal institutions may be driven by conceptions of religious obligations, ethnic identity and generational antipathies but that is only superficial.
“What they have in common is that they are patterns of solidarity of those who have no stake in an orderly society because such society offers them nothing, and are fundamentally violent and implacable opposition to a system that appears to favour only a few,” he submitted.
While proffering solutions, Osinbajo said Nigeria’s elite must reach a consensus with other citizens and act in solidarity to settle contending issues in the nation and enlarge the circle of opportunity, especially for the young people.
He also argued that to tackle insecurity, the nation’s political, economic, and religious leaders must shun divisive narratives so as to bring all Nigerians together, heal rifts between communities and build bridges across divides.
Compromise Not Forced Silence
Although he acknowledged that the country is going through times of trial and testing, he said it is understandable for discontent to emerge and inspire agitation.
He explained that in a democracy, agitation as an act of making a peoples’ voice to be heard is entirely legitimate. But he stated that what is profoundly problematic is when “we employ destructive and illicit means in pursuing agitation”.
Osinbajo warned that the people must resist the temptation to see their sympathy with legitimate causes blind them to the destructive and illegitimate means employed by those that pursue the causes.
Prof Osinbajo encouraged the citizens to continue in the tradition of understanding like the founding fathers who forged the national union through dialogue and negotiation, and traded compromises in the process of making the country.
The former Lagos State commissioner, however, warned that that the call to continue this tradition does not suggest that 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. For instance, communities can be mobilised to participate more fully in civil life and drive movements that seek greater accountability across all levels of government.
“While there is indeed a serious contention for the future and a battle for the soul of this nation raging, the weapons of our warfare are necessarily different. The tools with which we will build a new country and the weapons with which we will fight for her posterity are of a different order,” Osinbajo stressed.
Quoting the famous words of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, he added: “Destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends,” urging Nigerians to contend for the soul of the country by promoting civilised values.
He asked them to uphold a culture of life and refuse violence in any guise even by those who claim to be using it in response to attacks.
According to him, the nation needs an inter-generational, ecumenical, and pan-Nigerian coalition willing to uphold the value and sanctity of life above and beyond all causes and differences.