Sunday, October 4, 2020 3:10 pm
*Our value system must conduce to development
Nigeria’s desire and pursuit of economic growth and sustainable development is best achieved through the adoption of merit as a national value, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
The Vice President made the remarks in a keynote address delivered at the Nigeria Leadership Initiative (NLI) webinar series themed: “A National Conversation on Rebuilding our National Values System”.
“Meritocracy is crucial in an economically viable value system because it rewards talent and enterprise. And it is talent and enterprise that would drive sustainable growth”, Prof. Osinbajo affirmed.
Stressing the point about the importance of merit to sustainable growth, the Vice President said, “Economic growth rests upon the substructure of values. The basis of the entire credit system as we know it, is trust. Indeed, the word credit is derived from the Latin word “credere” —to believe or to trust. For a credit facility to be extended to a person, trust is placed in the borrower and his or her willingness and ability to repay.
“When we say that there is a credit crunch, we are referring to a lack of trust. This has significant implications for the economy. Banks cannot lend to people when fraud is widespread, and enterprise and industry cannot flourish without credit.”
Explaining further, Prof. Osinbajo said “financial institutions may also be reluctant to lend because they cannot trust that the government will remain consistent with regulatory policies. For the same reason, investors may be discouraged from investing. When we speak of investor confidence, we are merely describing the level of trust investors are willing to place in an environment.
“Citizens who do not trust that their taxes will be embezzled due to official corruption are unlikely to see any value in paying their taxes. If people stop trusting the media, they are more likely to fall prey to merchants of fake news which can have a destabilizing effect on a nation. Where everyone is self-seeking there can be no trust and without trust, it is impossible to sustain an open society. The significance of trust for the workings of the economy and society are far-reaching.”
In a speech that clearly proposes that merit can also be worked into the implementation of the Federal Character Principles, the Vice President submitted that stakeholders must focus their attention on merit as a crucial factor for society’s economic survival, social justice and in having an economically viable value system.
According to him, “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 Vice President noted that 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 or the individual, 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,” Prof. Osinbajo noted.
Providing more insights, he said “time and time again, we get arguments around the question as to whether the dominant principle in appointments to public institutions should be Federal Character. The dominant principle should be merit, Federal Character is essentially affirmative. What it 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.”
Situating the values system in the context of society’s development aspirations, the Vice President said: “shaping our discussion on values as a fundament of development is also important because it helps to focus the individual and communal mind on survival especially economic survival which is dear to the heart of all.”
He said “the value system that we need is one that promotes national development, especially economic development and especially socio-economic development. And it must be capable of engendering unity and a shared vision. It must provide a causal connection with economic development. The end result is the creation of a happy society.”
Continuing, he maintained that “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.
Citing relevant portions of the Nigerian Constitution to explain the relevance of merit in a viable value system, the Vice President said: “in our context, justice includes the notions of fairness, equity, equality and it is significant that our Constitution is actually replete with references to these themes”.
“Our Constitution affirms that “the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice”, and 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.”
Underscoring the importance of the rule of law to the subject matter, the Vice President said “the administration of justice, is at the heart of the beneficial value system. The uncompromising prosecution of criminal activity, the fair and just adjudication of civil disputes, are fundamental to any notion of a strong value system.”
He noted that “institutions that must deliver these values, must themselves be deliberately invested in, both in terms of material infrastructure and the quality of personnel. Where the institutions for the resolution of conflicts and disputes are trusted and judicial outcomes are preponderantly fair and predictable, unity and stability are more likely. And this is very important especially with respect to judicial institutions.”
On his part, former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon (Rtd) emphasized 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 the same vein, the President of the Senate, Sen. 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 include former Nigeria High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr Christopher Kolade; Chairman of First Bank, Nigeria, Mrs Ibukun Awosika, among other notable Nigerians.