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Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo on Monday said the conversation around political leadership at the centre and across Nigeria should be about putting only the best minds forward to lead the country, and not on the basis of age, gender, and other considerations.
Osinbajo spoke in Abuja at the formal presentation of “Politics That Works: What Schools and Seminars Won’t Teach You About Winning Elections,” a book co-authored by Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojodu, and a young Nigerian, Alex Adekunle James.
According to the Vice President, Nigerians must fight any attempt to defy the tenets of liberal politics, insisting that there should be no discrimination either on the basis of age, gender, or political persuasion.
He said the very basis of liberal democracy dictates that everybody is invited to the table and that there is a level playing field for all participants.
“Frankly, I am of the strong view that everyone must be invited to this party. The important thing is to ensure that we have a level playing field. We must ensure that we remove the barriers as much as possible to ensure that there is a level playing field,” he said.
Speaking on his personal experience working with both young and some elderly people as Vice President, Osinbajo said he had since found out that the quality of contribution was not necessarily defined by age.
According to him, “I have so many brilliant young people who work with me and they are not intimidated by anybody older than them sitting at the table. So, the youngest person working with me is 22-years-old. She came out of the university and she is extremely brilliant and very assertive. She knew her onions. I also have Ahmad, a 37-year-old who is the Special Adviser on Infrastructure, as well as 60-year-old Special Adviser on Political Affairs, Babafemi Ojudu and Ambassador Dipeolu.
“For me, we must focus our minds on what people bring to the table. I don’t engage on the basis of age. I think this country needs the best minds. If you look at all of the variety of talents that we have, we have all that it takes to be a great country but it is the coming together of like minds that will help us.
“I repeat, this country can be great but we need the coming together of the best minds – men, women, and young people. For me, my central concern is how to get the very best people to work in the interest of this country.”
He admitted that the process of partisan politics could sometimes discourage brilliant minds from joining the fray, but that it was not enough to stay away.
“We must continue to make the sacrifice that we can to be able to get our views across. We can’t give up; we can’t say things are so difficult to enter the space and give up. If we keep at it, one day we would get the right results. The truth is every country deserves excellent leadership and we deserve the best we can get,” Osinbajo said.
In his opening remarks, Ojodu said the time was ripe for the Nigerian youths to deploy their intellects, ingenuity, skills, and talents to rebuild Nigeria, adding that the younger generation must not allow crooked elements to take over power.
He said the idea of the book was to offer practical insights as to how young people can participate in the electioneering process and take over leadership, adding that a mentorship program had also been launched to provide training and other supports for the youth in preparation for the politics of the future.
Also speaking, former Minister of Budget and National Planning Senator Udoma Udo Udoma said the future belongs to the young people, and that they have to do what it takes to secure their future.
The book launch was attended by eminent Nigerians including Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola; former Governors of Kano and Zamfara states, Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau and Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima; former National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole; Senator Gbenga Obadara; Hon Shina Pellar; former Lagos State Commissioner for Homes Affairs, Dr. Abdul-Lateef Abdul-Hakeem; Chairman, Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board, Hon. Wahab Alawiye-King, among others.