Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo says society reformation is largely dependent on the actions and decisions of those in public offices.
He said this was a reason young people in Nigeria should get involved in politics.
Professor Osinbajo said this at an interactive virtual forum with Nigerian Fellows of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.
The interaction included a question and answer session where questions were posed to the Vice President on education, health, and issues affecting the youths.
Nigeria’s second citizen said; “You need to go extra length if you are not already involved.
Get involved in politics—while a lot can be achieved in civil society, government still holds the ace in terms of capacity and resources to bring social goods to the largest numbers.
“Besides, being deciders on the policy formulation table and being in the pressure groups are hugely different positions.
The consummation of our great ideas to transform our societies ultimately will depend on ‘those politicians’ as we sometimes derisively describe them.
The Vice President said that African nations and especially Nigeria could not afford to have its best minds and most committed social activists remain only in the civil space.
They must get involved in politics to make the difference on the scale that is required.
He described the efforts of young African innovators as “Africa’s most exciting story – the story of a present and future that could be steered by our continent’s incredibly talented and optimistic young men and women.
Taking the challenge
Commending the innovation and creativity of the fellows, Professor Osinbajo said within any generation, only a few wholeheartedly take on the challenge of building a society.
He recalled his days in civil society engagements and later in politics as Lagos State Attorney-General, the Vice President, explaining that the needed scale of change required to make a significant difference is in politics.
His words; ” Without public office, I would have remained a pressure group activist.
I would have done some nice things, but I wouldn’t have been able to make the changes that my country required.
I was once where you were.
I was part of several civil society groups at the time.
I joined the first civil society group when I was 24, I was teaching at the time.
I also co-founded the anti-corruption group, Integrity, and then Convention on Business Integrity (which is still existing today and they function out of Abuja and Lagos)”
The Vice President also spoke on other initiatives he embarked on to make a positive change in the sociopolitical environment of the country.
In his words “ I was chair of the Legal Research and Development Centre, where we worked on civil rights issues and legal defense for the poor.
We did a couple of legal defence initiatives, we got funding from donors and tried to do the best we could.
If I count the numbers that we did all the years, it will be around a hundred or so.
We achieved some good, but compared to the scale of the problem, it was really little”.
Professor Osinbajo also recalled what it took to fight corruption, improve judicial reform process especially in Lagos through the establishment of the Citizens Rights Department.
For the first time in the history of our country, a department was established in the Ministry of Justice for the rights of citizens.
The department named Office of the Public Defender was a concept borrowed from US States to do legal defence funded by government for thousands of citizens living in Lagos.
Making things easier
Responding to concerns about the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test, the VP said relevant government ministries and agencies would work on making things easier for Nigerians.
He said, “as an English-speaking country, we should be beneficiaries of some concessions as opposed to being forced every two years to take the same test, especially if you have passed it once before.
The Fellowship is the flagship program of the U.
Government’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).
Since 2014, nearly 5,100 young leaders from every country in Sub-Saharan Africa have participated in the Fellowship.
Besides the Fellows of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, other participants at the meeting were the United States of America’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard and the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Mrs Maryam Uwais, among others.
VP Osinbajo Tasks Leaders On Society Reformation