Vice President Yemi Osinbajo says Nigeria’s public institutions must be equipped to provide opportunities, regardless of tribe, religion or gender as the primary criterion must be merit.
A statement issued on Sunday in Abuja by Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, quoted the Vice President as saying this in a keynote address at the Nigeria Leadership Initiative (NLI) webinar series.
The theme of the webinar is, “A National Conversation on Rebuilding our National Values System.’’
The Vice President said that Nigeria’s desire and pursuit of economic growth and sustainable development would be best achieved through embracing merit as a national value
“Meritocracy is crucial as a value in and of itself; the moment that we depart from meritocracy, we cannot tie our value system to development in any meaningful way.
“Our public institutions must be equipped to provide opportunities, regardless of tribe, religion or gender, but the primary criterion must be merit.
“The nation’s value system must provide a causal connection with our economic development; in other words, we must be able to say that these sets of values conduce to economic development in a particular way.
“And it must also be one that is capable of showing us that a happy society, a community of people that are prepared to live and work together, is possible on account of this value system.
“While inequalities may be addressed by affirmative provisions such as Federal Character, the primary consideration should be merit,’’ he said.
Osinbajo also spoke on the arguments around the question on whether the dominant principle in appointments to public institutions should be Federal Character.
He said the dominant principle should be merit, and Federal Character was essentially affirmative.
According to him, what the Federal Character seeks to do is to create a balance.
“But even if we are to create that balance, it should still be based on merit.
“For example, if we say that a particular zone should produce a particular candidate for whatever position, that zone should be able to produce the best.
“ What you find, repeatedly, is the situation where the choices are not based on merit, and everything goes around the question of trying to create a balance.
“For purposes of national unity, for example, we must accept that unity and peace are important outcomes, but the condition predicate for both unity and peace is justice – both legal and social justice.
“So, in our context, justice includes the notions of fairness, equity, and equality.’’
According to him, the Nigerian Constitution was replete with references to these themes.
The Vice President said that Nigeria’s Constitution affirmed that the Federal Republic of Nigeria should be a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice.
“It also asserts that the State Social Order is founded on ideals of Freedom, Equality and Justice.
“ So, it is obvious that the mandates of our public institutions must be to transparently ensure that there is fairness in the availability of opportunity to all regardless of tribe, religion or gender, or any other considerations,” he said.
On his part, former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retired) emphasised the need to re-engineer the National Youth Service Corps scheme and reinvigorate the studies of History in schools, to reclaim lost values in the society.
He said the nation’s reward system should be linked to a renewed national value system, noting that Nigerians should be defined by established core values.
In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, pledged the support of the National Assembly in ensuring curriculum alignment to the value rebuilding processes and called for a re-engineering of family ethics to support the entire reconstruction process.
Other speakers at the event included former Nigeria High Commissioner to the UK, Dr Christopher Kolade, Chairman of First Bank, Nigeria, Mrs Ibukun Awosika, among others. (NAN)