Osinbajo criticises suppression of voters in general elections

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Instances of voter suppression during the most recent elections were denounced by Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo in some regions of the nation.

It was wrong to deny Nigerians their constitutional right to vote, according to the Vice President, who objected to political actors taking advantage of societal tensions.

He asserted that in the struggle for control, the nation’s ruling class must refrain from playing with stereotypes that alienate or split different groups of the population.

In a statement released by his press assistant, Laolu Akande, Osinbajo said that at the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Plateau State, during the inaugural Policy Making and Good Governance Lecture Series.

He made the point that in order to create a new Nigeria with justice, equity, and shared prosperity, the elites must act with a high sense of responsibility.

Before they affect political campaigns, he said, deliberate measures must be taken to address ethnic profiling and prejudice.
In his remarks, Osinbajo said

The political actors who participated in these elections took advantage of people’s worries and fears about ‘outsiders. He declared that “there can be no stronger condemnation for any attempts to deny people the right to vote in any locality on the grounds that they don’t belong there.

The vice president added that “we are confronted with a lethal potentially destructive situation” whenever “ethnic or religious prejudices are weaponized for political purposes.”

He continued, saying that “historically aware and patriotic elites all recognise that, beyond what the letter of the law asserts, there are lines that cannot be crossed in the pursuit of political power.

The deliberate exploitation of sectarian sentiments and the invocation of ethnic animosities to mobilise a political constituency are examples of such lines. It poses a risk because it aims to mobilise by sowing discord and animosity.

The Vice President said in a speech that also addressed the future of creating a new Nigeria that “the most prosperous places are countries that have learned to harness diversity while building ever more inclusive institutions.”

According to his statement, “most legal codes, including our own Constitution, expressly condemn discrimination against people based on their identity.”

The old Nigeria as perceived by a generation more accustomed to political mobilisation on the basis of identity and the new Nigeria as understood by that generation are at odds. But we have to elevate and legitimise the Nigeria that our youth are consciously or unconsciously constructing. We want this to be the future.

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

In addition to denouncing all forms of discrimination, the vice president stressed that “if we are truly committed to economic growth, then we must also be committed to creating inclusive communities and enhancing social cohesion. In other words, poverty is the only thing that thrives in an environment where there is tribal animosity. This is why pursuing justice, finding healing, and reaffirming the principles of integration are so crucial.

Prof. Osinbajo continued, “Where the forces of primordial division and polarisation are harnessed for the sake of electoral gain, the venom of such devices remains and continues to poison communal relations, setting neighbour against neighbour. The political weaponization of prejudice has had disastrous results, as we have seen in places like Rwanda.

The importance of political elites was emphasised by Prof. Osinbajo, who stated that they “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 compete carelessly and unrestrainedly, they encourage the idea that anything goes, which breeds instability. In our history, we have repeatedly witnessed this dynamic at work. Our democracy is threatened by a competitive model that disregards all moral constraints and bounds. Politicians must conduct themselves ethically and with integrity in their campaigns.

In addition to calling on Nigerians to draw lessons from the approximately one million fatalities in the Rwandan genocide, the Vice President noted the number of victims in Nigeria’s civil war, which he said was fueled by prejudice and what he called the “exploitation of prejudice and the incitement of hatred against ethnic communities.”

He said, “We talk about the civil war, but we seem to ignore the fact that it is the manipulation of ethnoreligious sentiment that ultimately boiled over into that tragedy. We pay the price of that healing process every day because the demons freed by that bloody conflict among brothers have not yet been fully contained. We should never allow the events of this particular chapter in our history to repeat.

Prof. Osinbajo stressed the necessity of inclusion and unity across tribes and political divides, saying that the nation’s elites and citizens must act quickly to prevent the tragedies fueled by prejudice and bigotry.

The VP noted that “the Rwandese took deliberate steps to ensure that that tragedy would never be repeated, including even a memorial to the dead,” and advocated the implementation of laws to protect society from the harmful manipulation of ethnic sentiments.

A number of laws that criminalise divisive attitudes and behaviours, as well as strict enforcement of laws prohibiting the use of rhetoric that is racially or religiously charged, are more crucial. Additionally, we need to put in the effort necessary to develop and put into practise a system for dealings among our people that is just, fair, and unified.

Additionally, he noted that “people do not suddenly start hating each other during elections.

“While political actors may appeal to ethnic or sectarian sentiments during an election, these social and cultural hostilities still exist, just below the surface. We must also take into account the prevalence of racial profiling and other forms of daily discrimination as we consider the lessons learned from this election cycle moving forwards.

Prof. Osinbajo noted the distinctiveness of Nigeria and emphasised the need to use the nation’s diversity for good rather than selfish ends and political gain.

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While sociocultural diversity is a fact of life, it is now acknowledged that it is neither a strength nor a weakness. Nations that have mastered utilising diversity while constructing even more inclusive institutions are those that are the most prosperous.

Because of her diversity, Nigeria, in my opinion, neither stands out nor is exceptional. I strongly disagree with the body of academic work and political discourse that criticises our nation’s wide diversity of racial and religious backgrounds and paints it as a serious flaw. It is actually a blessing and an asset that we are diverse; it is neither a liability nor a curse, he said.

Then, Professor Osinbajo urged for a just, fair, and inclusive society, stating that “prosperity depends on inclusion.”

“So, can we overcome prejudice based on race or religion and create a strong national identity? Yes, it is, but it’s a journey, not an event, and it’s possibly the most significant issue in nation-building, he emphasised.

The vice president referred to nations like Singapore, Tanzania, and Rwanda that had dealt with and conquered national prejudices, noting that Nigeria could do the same to address the underlying issues brought about by all types of prejudice in our society.

“Leadership has been critical in all the countries that have been relatively successful in the journey to overcoming prejudice,” he asserts. He made a special point to emphasise how these nations’ elites behaved.

“The ruling classes in both nations understood the need to actively prioritise and pursue cohesion and peaceful coexistence. Leadership in our nation faces this challenge. To prevent the fabric of our communities from being torn apart, elites have a responsibility to exercise self-control in the pursuit of their political goals and in the use of their power.

It is important to understand that everything will be lost if political partisanship is sacrificed in favour of peaceful coexistence.

The Vice President said, “In the 21st century, the true wealth of nations is human capital,” in reference to the relationship between a nation’s diversity and shared prosperity.

“This means that places that have mastered the art of luring and keeping the most diverse pool of skilled human resources are eminently successful”

According to Professor Osinbajo, diversity “also provides a broad range of cultural, philosophical, and intellectual approaches for solving problems.

“A state’s capacity to grow will be influenced by the amount of high-quality capital it can draw in; additionally, the greater the human capital pool at a state’s disposal, the greater the amount of taxes that state will be able to collect to support social programmes and governance. Because it will only alienate the human capital that a state sorely needs for growth, in this scenario, politics of division and tribalism will only breed poverty.

The Vice President suggested solutions, pointing out that advancing the nation required fairness and justice.

The Vice President also urged the media and civil society to exercise responsibility when projecting particular narratives, in addition to the political elite’s obligation to promote unity.

“Civil society as a whole and perhaps most significantly the media bears this burden. Two responsibilities lie with the media. It has to be extremely aware of the narratives it is projecting and how it frames disputes, especially in our multicultural and heterogeneous contexts, he said, because it is an institution that has a particularly strong influence on how the public perceives and feels.

To support his argument, Prof. Osinbajo cited the surgery performed on his right femur in a Nigerian hospital in July 2022.

“I had surgery on my right femur at a hospital in Lagos on July 16, 2022,” he said. I naturally considered that I would be completely at the mercy of the surgeons, the paramedics, and the anesthesiologist as I lay on the operating table and prepared to be put under anaesthesia. My life had to be entrusted to them.

“One of the team members was from the South East, the team leader was from Delta State, and some members were Christians and some Muslims. I believe one of them did not even believe in God. Nevertheless, it didn’t seem to matter. The professionals, they were.

“Somehow, when we make choices that have the biggest impacts on our lives and the lives of our children, we are able to set aside prejudices based on our tribe or religion. To create the country of our dreams, we must always have this mindset, he said.

Prof. Osinbajo responded to enquiries from participants during the interactive session with the NIPSS faculty and course participants. Participants had questions about, among other things, how to reduce ethnic and religious prejudice, maintain continuity in policy, and the necessity of creating a new Nigeria.

The vice president was thanked for his commitment to raising the academic standards at the National Institute by the governor of Plateau State, Hon. Simon Lalong, and the HRM of Gbong Gwom Jos, Jacob Gyang Buba, in separate speeches. They noted that since he assumed office as vice president, the institution has advanced significantly.

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The inaugural Policy Making and Good Governance Lecture Series is one of the many innovations of the institute, according to Prof. Ayo Omotayo, Director General of NIPSS, who also cited Prof. Osinbajo’s wise counsel and visionary leadership as inspirations.

He reaffirmed to the Vice President that the management was committed to upholding the high standards set for them, particularly in making the institute the premier think tank in Nigeria and all of Africa.

Following the lecture, the Vice President and other dignitaries opened the Institute’s recently constructed residences for Nigeria Army participants.

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Jos, Prof. Tanko Ishaya, the Deputy Governor of Plateau, Prof. Sonni Tyoden, the Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly, Hon. Yakubu Sanda, the General Officer Commanding, 3 Armoured Division, Nigeria Army, Maj. Gen. Abdul Khalifa Ibrahim, who was in attendance in the capacity of the Chief of Defence Staff, and others were also in attendance.

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