By DAVID IORJA, Abuja –
Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has stressed the need for country’s policy elites to raise their voices loud enough in matters of national concern and public discourse, especially regarding issues of national unity.
He stated this when the Executive Council of the Alumni Association of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), paid him a courtesy visit at the Presidential Villa on Tuesday.
According to Prof. Osinbajo, while politicians will be in office for a time, the policy and intellectual elites would always be around and should not leave public discourse to politicians.
“I think that this question of national unity is one that we must look at very carefully and must proffer ideas and solutions to issues,” Osinbajo said.
The Vice President, who is also the Chairman of the NIPSS Governing Council, was emphatic on the need for the contributions of the nation’s policy elites to raging debates on issues of national development.
He said, “even if we are not in government, we as intellectual elites, are supposed to ensure that, in terms of direction, we are heard. It is up to us to advise and to be as vocal as possible, and we have so many channels to give advice.”
Speaking further about how members of the NIPSS alumni association can lead discussions on national unity, the Vice President stated that “if you look at the quality of debates or sometimes the acrimony with which debates on national unity are proffered, you will find that unless something is done, a time will come when it will be impossible to have any kind of decent debate and those who are extremists, will take over the public space, because those who have a stake in ensuring that the country is united are not saying anything.
“So, I think it is very important that we (as policy elites) develop a position. Because there is no question at all that if we keep quiet and nothing is said, the space will be taken over by those who have not had the chance of seriously considering the issues.”
Applauding the role played by the institute and its alumni in policy formation and contributions to reforms across sectors of the economy, Prof. Osinbajo said the absence of enlightened contributions to important public debates about what government has done and should do was worrisome.
“If you look at some of the work that have been done in NIPSS, you will see that a lot of thinking through have been done and you will know that issues are not just always white and black.
“You know all the contours, all the problems, the issues and all that, so you are able to approach issues from a much more nuanced and seasoned point of view.
“So, I think the institute especially the alumni association has a very crucial role to play in moderating public discourse and also in proffering ideas to solving problems,” he added.
The Vice President also spoke about efforts made by the Buhari administration to address poverty, insecurity and other issues confronting Nigerians.
He said a lot of the initiatives undertaken by the present administration especially under the Social Investment Programmes comprising the school feeding, the cash transfers, and others, are all geared towards addressing the issue of poverty in the country.
Earlier in his remarks, President of the NIPSS alumni association, and former Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Dikko Abubakar commended the Vice President’s interest in the progress of the institute and appealed for more support to enable the institute proffer more solutions to the nation’s challenges.