REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE 12TH BOLA TINUBU COLLOQUIUM, KANO, ON THE 29TH OF MARCH, 2021
May I join Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State and others to welcome you to the 12th Bola Tinubu colloquium. The colloquium has itself become an institution, an institution in honour of an institution Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
It was Barrister Ismaeel Ahmed at the 9th colloquium in Abuja, who said so insightfully and I quote there is “perhaps no Nigerian leader who has been as instrumental in raising as many leaders as Asiwaju.”
This explains why gathered here today is a serving Vice President, several governors, former governors, commissioners, and former commissioners, ministers, former ministers, local government functionaries, social agitators, top career journalists who can trace their careers and political trajectories to Asiwaju’s leadership. What is responsible for this phenomenon is Asiwaju’s leadership style, and it is an unusual one especially in developing democracies.
Central to that style is the following; first a belief that development, economic, social, political development depends on enabling a contest of ideas. Whether that is within a political party or its caucuses, a cabinet meeting or even just thinking through a problem.
By exposing his thoughts and ideas constantly to debate and contestation, he refines his views constantly and is at the cutting edge of issues as varied as artificial intelligence, vaccines, to even what sort of legal processes or arguments should be filed in a matter in court!
I remember once when he was suggesting to me that he thought it was better that we should contest jurisdiction in a particular case and so many other times when he had introduced his own legal thoughts to a matter. I have had to keep reminding him that he is not a lawyer! And I am sure others have had to remind him several times that he is not many different things.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, because he is not afraid of having his ideas scrutinized, criticized by even subordinates, he is able to lead a vast array of persons of strong, deeply held convictions, and a variety of ideologies.
The third in that leadership style is that he is completely comfortable engaging across ethnic, religious, and partisan divides.
It is his belief that national development is only possible where we, the leaders are constantly interrogating ideas, perspectives, and opinions which are what led some of us who worked with him through the years, to formalize our constant debates so that on his birthday we open up discussions on some issues or issues of national importance.
So, starting in 2009, the inaugural colloquium addressed the question of election integrity with the theme: “Every Vote Must Count.”
In 2010, our theme, similar to this year’s affirmed our belief in a united nation – “This House Must Stand.” Then, in 2011 we asked the question, “Nigeria: Why isn’t it working, how will it work?”
2012 was an exercise in retrospection and prognosis, “Looking Back, Thinking Ahead.” The 5th Colloquium examined the driving philosophy behind the imminent political phenomenon at the time; the creation of a new political party by a merger of existing political parties and its implications, the theme “Beyond Mergers: A National Movement for Change.” Then came the “Summit of the Common Man” in 2014, chronicling the everyday challenges of citizens and proposals to remediate these concerns.
By 2015, the theme was “Change: How will it work.” In 2016, the focus was on the sector that contributes the highest to our Gross National Product- Agriculture. The theme was “Agriculture: Action, Work, Revolution”. The Spirit of Nigerian enterprise was on display in 2017 with the “Make it in Nigeria” theme.
In 2018, it was “Investing in People” to examine the shape and substance of Africa’s largest social investment programme, the National Social Investment Programme. 2019 addressed the question of employment and productivity under the rubric, “Work for People.”
Regrettably, 2020 was meant to be a showcase of innovative ideas in education but was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are here today to engage at another of those crucial points in our national journey. At a time when a combination of challenges worsened by the fallouts of a global pandemic has created a storm of socio-economic problems. The default mode of some at times like this is to stoke tendencies viewpoints and opinions that threaten the federation and our unity.
But the colloquium, as usual, bets as always on Nigeria and its creative and resilient people. Our theme, “Our Common Bond, Our Common Wealth” focuses on peacebuilding and national cohesion. We intend to interrogate from a national and regional perspective innovative strategies for sustaining peace, and prosperity in a heterogenous society.
We believe that we now have an opportunity to increase the numbers of a new tribe of Nigerians; a tribe of men and women of all faiths, tribes and ethnicities committed to a country run on high values of integrity, hard work, justice, and love of country. A tribe of men and women who are prepared to make the sacrifices and self-constraints that are crucial to building a strong society; who are prepared to stick together, fight for equity, and justice side by side. A tribe consisting of professionals, businessmen, politicians, religious leaders, and all others who believe that this new Nigeria is possible and already we have built and are building the building blocks for this new Nigeria.
As I close, let me say how deeply indebted we are to His Excellency the Governor of Kano State, Governor Umar Ganduje. Only a few days ago, we were set to have a completely virtual colloquium with a hub in Lagos, the customary location of the colloquium, when Governor Ganduje graciously offered to host the physical aspect of the hybrid colloquium.
By this gesture governor Ganduje has helped us to tell two stories; this is the first time that the colloquium is being hosted outside Lagos and Abuja, the capital city. And it is befitting that Kano should be that place, this city of radical and progressive ideas and ideologies, a city whose leading political lights have been left of centre, which is the dominant tendency within our great party the APC.
Second, it helps us to underscore the point that this country and its people are stronger and more powerful together than apart. For the purveyors of breaking up into small components/countries, perhaps they should be reminded that we would not have been able to accept Governor Ganduje’s offer to come to Kano at short notice since we would all have needed visas to come to Kano.
Let me also thank our brothers, His Excellency, George Weah President of Liberia, and His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, former President of Sierra Leone who very kindly consented to participate and share their thoughts and experiences on the implications of conflict.
Asiwaju, may I, as I have done in the past 12 years, pray for you; the Lord God Almighty will help you, as your days so shall your strength, wisdom, and favour be with God in Jesus Name. Amen. God bless you.
God bless you all.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity
Office of the Vice President