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Nigeria’s VP Osinbajo cannot blame the country’s implosion on the ‘silence of the elite’

Kasirim Nwuke
By Kasirim Nwuke

Economist with more than 25 years of experience at the national and international levels. He works and writes on economics, science, technology and innovation, and society with special focus on the digital economy.

Posted on Monday, 3 May 2021 13:11

Yemi Osinbajo, Vice-President of Nigeria, attends a panel session during the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)

Nigeria's Vice President Osinbajo blames the elite for not speaking up against what is going wrong in the country, but is this fair, considering he is both a part of the elite and a part of the government?

Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo charged Nigeria’s elite to speak up and “tell the truth that what is going on in the country is wrong” on 27 April, as reported in the local newspaper Premium Times.

He said: “If we keep quiet, if we say nothing and hope that things will just normalise, we may be wrong. And we may find ourselves heading for something much worse than we are seeing today. If the political elite does not speak up, if we don’t see anything wrong in what is going on, if we allow it to continue to slide, we will endanger ourselves and endanger the future of our country.”

He goes on to urge those with influence to speak up, saying: “I know that every conflict is a result of elite failure, the elite failure to speak up and tell the truth to their communities, that’s the cause of every one of these civil conflicts. So, I would urge that we speak up. I would urge that we stand for something. Sometimes it’s dangerous to stand for something. But the greater danger, of course, is to keep quiet.”

I found his speech to be vacuous and problematic. Vacuous because he blames the failure of the government he is a part of on the elite. And problematic because most of whom have been denied a voice in the affairs of the country was based on account of religion, ethnicity, politics, or all three.

This is the only government in my adult life that has not sought to hear from the ordinary Nigerian through a national conference or other such avenues. No, Mr VP, it is unfair for you to rope in and blame the elite for the failure of your government.

Why the elite?

The elite, as a general rule, continue to live “cloistered” in their air-conditioned mansions partying on the deck while the Titanic called Nigeria sinks.

Is it Mr Osinbajo’s view that truth and wisdom reside in the elite only?  That leading the country in the correct direction is or should be an elite conspiracy? That the voices of those of us who are commoners – the voices now ringing loud and clear in our streets through the violence and insecurity –  do not matter, do not count? That #EndSARS was not the voice of our people? 

Is it the VP’s view that the elite are not really speaking? Really? Does the VP not read the op-ed pages of Nigeria’s newspapers and commentaries and essays by Nigerians in non-Nigerian publications? Does he not listen to Nigerian talking heads on Nigeria TV? Is he so cocooned and out of touch? Or is he being dishonest and/or disingenuous?

What difference will speaking up make?

Does the VP have any assurances from the powers that own and control this country that they are ready to listen to those who choose to speak out? Does he know that they will act on what they have heard?

The VP also wants the elite to tell “the truth about what is wrong with what is going on.” How does the VP define “what is wrong with what is going on?”

Is it the incompetence of the federal government? Is it the nomadic herdsmen that have terrorised and humiliated parts of the country for the past six years? Is it the near obvious treatment of southern Nigeria as conquered territory and southerners as conquered people by some in the current leadership of our country?

Is what is wrong stem from the fact that we have a government that does not recognise some Nigerians and the part of the country they come from? Is it that all these actions taken by the current government is to circumscribe the full citizenship rights of most Nigerians? Could it be the rapid immiseration of the Nigerian people under this regime? What is the “wrong thing” the VP sees?

What is the truth?

And what really is the truth as our VP sees it? Is it “truth” as defined by him and the government that he is a member of?

Or the objective reality that we all see and live every day: the unbridled impunity of action, the corruption, the protection of known terrorist sympathisers (including one in government), the refusal to arrest and prosecute the herdsmen killers against the speed with which Odua, Niger Delta Militants and Biafra sympathisers are arrested or at times killed like they are not Nigerians with full citizenship rights, the abominable sectarianism of the federal government?

The clear marginalisation of certain parts of the country? The fact that the only right conceded to citizens from certain parts of this country is the right to agree with the ruling clique? The violent and murderous campaign of one religion against another, of one sect within the same religion against another? What is the truth according to the VP?

Bottom line

In my view, there is nothing else left to be said about Nigeria.

Silence too is speech. Nigeria is imploding due to an abominably incompetent and parochial leadership at the centre.

Osinbajo is part of that leadership. He knows full well what the truth is and what the wrong is: he is a professor; he is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria; he is the second most powerful man in the country.

He is part of the elite and certainly can speak up, but he lacks the courage to do so. No one will do it for him. He was elected to be faithful to our constitution and to defend Nigeria. He should not shirk his responsibility or deflect. Osinbajo should speak the truth, even if it means his losing his job, if he believes that Nigeria is worth saving from implosion.

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