Nigeria: Osinbajo at 64, Our Women and a Nation Under the Bushel

9 March 2021

It is the 64th birthday of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Your excellency, Igba odun odun kan, sir! March 8 is also a memorable day that should be appreciated by anyone born of a woman - it is the United Nations Observance Day set aside since 1975 to honour women every year. While this vital day calls for celebration, we also cannot run away from the sad truth about Nigeria, as it offers us the opportunity to review and critically reassess our nation. Without sounding facetious, I dare say that we see Nigeria through our leaders as much as we see our country through our women.

Nigeria is a paradox of knowledge. As a matter of reconstruction, the resource-rich theory should now be reviewed further to cover the aspect of human resources to properly situate the tragedy of human capital in the context of the paradox of knowledge, as we have seen in Africa. How do you explain to the world that a country that boasts competent and celebrated brains in every area of human discipline globally is trapped in the gully of leadership tragedy at home? Nigeria suffered the misfortune of a nation stuck under the bushel and it is getting ensconced in the comfort of darkness.

However, no nation has excelled without fulfilling the timeless principle of the triumph of light over darkness, as further illustrated by our Lord Jesus Christ in the parable of the lamp on a stand: "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house." Matthew 5:14-15. In every great society, innovations, inventions, and exceptional leadership are the unusual lamps that have lightened the people and made a difference. Wise nations have been dutiful and deliberate in allowing their best over the rest to drive developments in every sector of their system. It is the only key to unlocking the abundance of human potentials.

With the prospects of greatness, Nigeria has its potentials in human and natural resources corralled under the bushel. Simultaneously, people with the love of ease and lacking in commitment to nation-building control the levers of power and occupy strategic posts, wasting our resources and achieving little or nothing. The present administration in Nigeria typifies this on two fronts: the seeming confinement of Vice President Osinbajo, and the regime's inability to appreciate women as a catalyst for development. Nigerian women are increasingly underrepresented in politics and governance. It has never been this worse for women's representation in government in terms of quality and quantity.

I am an open critic of the VP. I have my reservations about his role in the sharing of TraderMoni and MarketMoni close to some elections. As a relentless campaigner against vote-buying schemes, I had my suspicion. However, I also know that it is a delicate balance for public office holders to please their parties, governments and meeting the people's needs in this part of the world. That is why we need to build institutions and implement some far-reaching reforms.

But I must concede that our VP is a fine gentleman to the core and a purposeful one at that. Recently, I watched him speak to a solemn assembly via zoom at the launching of Kasie (a collection of prose and poems for healing hearts) and the unveiling of the Natasha Ilo Foundation with such a profound thought about the essence of humanity. You could feel the touch of leadership and wisdom in his remarks to a healing family and society in general.

The VP cannot run away from the blames for a faltering regime. The administration has not given a good account of the mandate given to it by Nigerians. The situation is deteriorating, poverty is deepening, and insecurity is rising. Still, when records are put into context, the periods he held sway as the Acting President, which aptly explain the context of this piece, he dared to be different. He is a light that shone. His denial is unsolicited, but it is public knowledge that the VP has been sidestepped.

As acting president, Prof Osinbajo dazzled and demonstrated leadership prowess as the true APC star-boy. He was up and about electrifying the nation, connecting the plugs, and lightening up the country, and it was indeed coming alive. He reached out to the North and South and made partisanship a nonissue. He tried to restore discipline in the system and made the most consequential sack of an erring public official in the last five years. Osinbajo sent the untouchable Lawan Daura packing as the Director-General of the Department of State Services.

We could have avoided the October 2020 #EndSARS protests and #LekkiKillings, if Osinbajo had had a few more weeks in the saddle as acting president, completing the process of addressing the incidents of SARS onslaughts in 2017. He had a handle on the matter. But this path was later abandoned by the Presidency when he returned to his position as the substantive VP. Like Joseph Sobran rightly observed, "politics is the conspiracy of the unproductive but organized against the productive but unorganized."

Nigeria does not only suffer from the resource curse (economic curse) postulation; we also suffer from the tragedy of the paradox of knowledge (human resource curse). Put it differently, Nigeria is a nation whose human capital potential is under the bushel - and it is worse at the country's leadership level. For whatever reason the APC administration star-boy has been made inactive cannot explain the implication of pushing your starlight under the bushel. It is simply unthinkable and unjustifiable, especially when you have not been able to do better or provide an alternative.

Nigeria is a country blessed with first-class brains who are excelling in different parts of the world. We also have Nigerians elected in several countries based on merits and are serving diligently. My position about 2023 has not changed: I believe in political justice, and I want to see a Nigerian President of Southeast extraction. But if the Southwest could have its way, they have outstanding quality in Osinbajo. None can boast of his pedigree among those so far touted from the zone in the APC. I believe the Southwest is sophisticated enough to settle for substance over subterfuge.

So I ask, shall we continue to hide our nation's lamps under the bushel so that the grace of development may abound? Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey) once said that "sleeping nations either die or wake up as slaves," but what shall we say about a nation whose potentials are continually trapped under a bushel? Do we have a chance in 2023?

Please permit me to wish Vice President Yemi Osinbajo Happy Birthday. To our women celebrating International Women's Day, you can always count on my support, as I have ever done since my days in ABU Zaria.

ATOYE contributed this piece from Abuja

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