Without public office, I wouldn’t have been able to make changes Nigeria required — Osinbajo


Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo says without getting involved in politics, he would not have been able to make changes required to make the country better.


According to a statement by Laolu Akande, his spokesperson, Osinbajo spoke on Wednesday at a virtual forum where he interacted with Nigerian fellows of the Mandela Washington fellowship for ‘Young African Leaders’.


The vice-president said the way to transform the society is largely dependent on the actions of those who occupy public offices.


He advised Nigerian youths to get involved in politics in order to make a significant difference in the development of the country.


“It took public office for me to be able to get the scale of change that is required to make a difference,” Osinbajo was quoted as saying.


“Without public office, I would have remained a pressure group activist; I would have done some nice things, but I wouldn’t have been able to make the changes that my country required.


“I was once where you were. I was part of several civil society groups at the time. I joined the first civil society group when I was 24, I was teaching at the time. I also co-founded the anti-corruption group, Integrity, and then Convention on Business Integrity.


“I was chair of the Legal Research and Development Centre, where we worked on civil rights issues and legal defence for the poor. We did a couple of legal defence initiatives; we got funding from donors and tried to do the best we could.


“If I count the number that we did all the years, it will be around maybe a hundred or so. We achieved some good, but compared to the scale of the problem, it was really a little.


“But in 1999 came politics, and I was appointed attorney-general of Lagos. With that platform, we took on corruption in the Lagos judiciary and set a model. We reviewed the issues of corruption in the Lagos judiciary and how to address it from remuneration to discipline, and we were able to put in place an anti-corruption framework that has lasted several years.


“The reason why I make this point is that other states, after what we did in Lagos, copied that very example. So many states improved remuneration and a wide variety of things.”


Osinbajo also commended the innovation and creativity of the fellows, saying youths need to show “wholehearted” interest to take on the challenge of building societies.


“You need to go the extra length if you are not already involved. Get involved in politics. While a lot can be achieved in civil society, the government still holds the ace in terms of capacity and resources to bring social goods to the largest numbers,” he said.


“Besides, being deciders instead of pressure group at the table in policy formulation are hugely different positions. The consummation of our great ideas to transform our societies ultimately will depend on ‘those politicians’ as we sometimes derisively describe them.


“African nations and especially our country cannot afford to have its best minds and most committed social activists remain only in the civil space. No, we simply can’t afford it; you have to get involved in politics. You have to be in the position to make the difference on the scale that is required.”

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