Only merit should determine political appointments, says Osinbajo

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Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has said for the country to attain economic growth and development, the dominant principle when appointing people into public offices should be merit rather than federal character.

He stated this amid grievances in some quarters over the lopsided appointment of persons into national offices by the current administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Osinbajo spoke at a webinar on Saturday organised by the Nigeria Leadership Initiative, led by a former Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Olusegun Aganga.

The Vice-President, who was the keynote speaker at the webinar monitored by our correspondent, spoke on the theme, ‘Rebuilding our national value system.’

He said the country’s value system must be established in such a way that it would reward talent and enterprise towards economic growth and sustainable development.

He said, “A value system rewards talent and enterprise, and it is talent and enterprise that will drive sustainable growth. I need to make this point because time and time again, we get arguments around whether the appointment of persons into public institutions should be based on federal character. The dominant principle should be merit.

“Federal character is essentially affirmative to create a balance, but even if we are to create that balance, it should still be based on merit. For example, if we are to reserve an office for a particular zone, that zone should be able to produce the best (candidate).”

Osinbajo said the values that needed to be instilled among the citizens include integrity, dignity, national responsibility and unity, and patriotism – adding that this was why the President recently launched the National Ethics & Integrity Policy.

“The point to be noted is that practically all discussions on our national odyssey so far centre around development, and for good reasons, this is by far the most important dynamic in measuring individual or communal success.

“I am focussed on the existential role of values in the socioeconomic development of any nation. The value system we need is the one that promotes our economic development. It must also be capable of engendering unity. The end result will be the creation of a happy society,” he added.

The special guest of honour at the event, Gen Yakubu Gowon (retd), said history was replete with the stories of societies and nations that succeeded under shared common values, and those that floundered due to the lack of those values.

He said, “The most profound example of an institutionalised well-grounded value system is the military. We are trained on the critical values of discipline, loyalty, patriotism, commitment, seeking the common good, justice and equity, and defending the territorial integrity of our country without prejudice.

“In my view, any progress made by a nation through the exercise of political power without a value system is unsustainable. Therefore, we need to have a value system that is shared by every component of society. The society of today is different from the one we grew in where values such as patriotism, integrity, honesty, contentment, refusal to steal either privately or publicly, good neighbourliness, commitment to community, and seeking the common good were the order of the day.”

Gowon also called for the reintroduction of history and civic education to schools, adding, “the National Youth Service Corps scheme should also be reengineered as originally envisaged to serve as a programme during which value-based leadership principles are discussed and encouraged.”

Also speaking, a former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and the patron of NLI, Dr Christopher Kolade, said a national dialogue on value system was long overdue.

“We cannot achieve sustainable economic growth and development unless we build on a solid foundation and develop people who are community-spirited and who consistently live on agreed national values,” he said.

The event – which was co-moderated by a public administrator, Prof Tunji Olaopa, and media consultant, Mrs Eugenia Abu – featured panellists, including the Senate Speaker, Dr Ahmad Lawan; Chairman, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Mrs Ibukun Awosika; Chairman of Channels Media Group, Dr John Momoh; and Rhodes Professor in Race Relations at Oxford University, Wale Adebanwi.

Lawan said in spite of the country’s diversity, the value system should unify everyone for sustainable development.

Momoh said the media played an important role in promoting the value system as an institution that shaped popular opinion and perspectives.

Awosika said educational infrastructure should be able to deliver the right human capital for economic development.

In his opening remarks, the Chairman of the Organising Committee, NLI Webinar Series, Mallam Yusuf Ibrahim, said the objective was to start a national conversation on value-based leadership.

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