Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo has urged Nigerians to defuse the potential perils of diversity by continuing to pursue measures that promote social inclusion and national cohesion.
Delivering the 70th Anniversary Lecture of the Lagos Country Club on Tuesday in Lagos, the vice president said that the main challenge of every diverse society is the assurance of the protection of basic rights and freedoms.
Professor Osinbajo, whose lecture was titled: “Promoting National Cohesion for Progress and Prosperity,” said that one of the most important factors that ensures national cohesion is the guarantee of fundamental freedoms.
According to him, the right to life comes with it the duty of governments to ensure peace and security, freedom of movement, freedom of Worship, and the rule of law.
“Everyone must be reasonably assured that their lives and livelihoods will be protected by government, that their disputes will be fairly and justly resolved regardless of their ethnicity or faith.
“Our challenges as a nation basically centre around these issues: religious conflicts, farmer herder clashes in the North Central and many parts of the North West; boko haram insurgency in the North East, and militancy in the Niger Delta.”
Pointing out the need to strengthen institutions, Professor Osinbajo said one of the dangers inherent in weak institutions is that it creates opportunity for divisive narratives.
“By that I mean that where, for example, the security agencies do not speedily apprehend criminals or the criminal justice system is slow, then there is room for people to say, Oh! they don’t arrest and prosecute Fulani herders when they kill because the law enforcement officers are often not resident in the communities where they are posted for policing duties.
“It is easier to promote doubt about their commitment to ensuring the safety of the communities they police.
“Where the quality and integrity of judges is in doubt it is easier to find parochial reasons for unfavourable decisions.
“The answer to these issues is simple. In diverse societies we must do all that is necessary to strengthen the institutions of law enforcement, security and the rule of law.
“The challenge is dynamic and our approach must also be dynamic.”
State Police is imperative
Vice President Osinbajo said that it has become imperative for Nigeria to have state police to enable it tackle insecurity in the country.
He said this would require constitutional amendment and would be a “product of consensus of our legislators.”
He said the federal government has, in the interim, approved the community policing option.
“The IGP (Inspector General of Police) recently announced the plan.
“An important component is that of the new approach to police recruitment.
“Police men will be recruited in each local government and after training will be required to remain in their local governments.
“The plan also involves interfaces between traditional rulers, state neighbour hood watch or vigilante programs and the police.
“The security architecture is now being re-engineered for greater use of technology and more integration of the use of security platforms.”
Insisting that Nigeria’s diversity is not enough to negate national cohesion, the vice president said Nigerians must recognize the extent of their shared values.
“We all esteem the extended family and its corollary notions of welfare and social obligation above unbridled individualism.
“We share a socio-cultural emphasis on solidarity, kinship and community values which promote the collective interest.
“All over this country, if we look, we will recognize ourselves in each other because we share the same fundamental aspirations.”
Arguing that the problem of Nigeria is not merely in its diversity, Professor Osinbajo said the issue lies mainly in the allocation of access to social, economic and political opportunities.
“The problem is not ethnic or religious differences by themselves; the problem is the struggle for opportunities on the basis of those differences.
“We see this when Nigerians are denied opportunity on the basis of their state of origin or because they are ‘non-indigenes.’
“We see it when a Nigerian that has been resident in a state all his life is suddenly excluded from admission into an educational institution or an employment opportunity because he is not considered an “indigene.”
Professor Osinbajo noted that disintegration has not resolved conflicts resulting from ethnic diversity, reminding Nigerians of the strife in South Sudan after it was granted independence from Sudan in 2011.
Professor Osinbajo commended the Lagos Country Club for promoting cohesion and peaceful coexistence by providing a recreational haven for people of different creeds and cultures.
President, Lagos Country Club, Tajudeen Akande, said the theme of the lecture was “coming at a time that our dear country, Nigeria, is facing serious security challenges and ethnic restiveness.”
Akande said that Professor Osinbajo was most qualified to speak on the topic, and thanked him for accepting to deliver the lecture.
The Lagos Country Club was founded in 1949 and has the promotion of inter-ethnic and inter-racial understanding among people as one its objectives.