By Chijioke Okoronkwo, Abuja.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo says he places high value on the virtues of integrity, transparency and social justice.
Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, in a statement on Sunday in Abuja, said that the vice-president made the declaration when he interacted with a group of Harvard Business School students who visited him at the Presidential Villa.
Numbering about a dozen, some of the students are Nigerians.
The students, who are currently on an African excursion, asked questions about leadership, faith, spirituality, government policies in education, health, economy, and national image, among others.
Osinbajo said: “Just looking at these values, there is a great deal of unanimity about what is the right thing to do.
“The question is whether or not you will do those things, or whether you are motivated enough to do them, or whether you are compelled to do them.
“Spirituality helps in that sense to help you to decide what to do and what not to do; especially where institutions are not strong enough to restrain people from behaving in a particular way or not.”
The vice-president said that the virtues of integrity, transparency and social justice were also exhorted in the different faiths and religions in the country.
According to him, spirituality connotes values.
“I came into government with values about what I think is important, especially around transparency, social justice and justice, among others.
“You are almost always a product of the values you believe in.
“Fortunately, a lot of these values cut across the different faiths; they are not necessarily restricted to a religion or one faith.
“In societies that are more developed institutionally, you don’t need to be told that you shouldn’t do certain things because you could end up in jail.
“If you do and there is a good likelihood that you could be detected and the process will go through and you will be punished.
“I speak about corruption and all that; but where the institutions are weak, some people have reasons for not doing the right thing,” he said.
On the perception of Nigeria in the international community, Osinbajo said that it was in understanding the size of Nigeria that the international community could better appreciate the enormity and complexity of some of the country’s challenges.
“First, there is a need to appreciate the size of the country, which is crucial to understanding what the issues are.
“For instance, Borno is about the size of the whole of the United Kingdom plus Sweden or Denmark.
“When they talk about economy, we are often compared with smaller African countries, but there are 10 states in Nigeria that have bigger GDPs than those countries; it is a huge target market.”
The vice-president also responded to the question about some inaccurate characterisation of Nigeria in sections of the international community.
He stressed it was important to constantly engage the international community to “show them how we feel about the stereotypes.
“It comes down to the work we do, as government and people, about the characterisation.
“This is why some of the work around the Ease of Doing Business, among others, are all initiatives that have behind them. The whole idea that this environment is one that is welcoming to business, and people can come and do business,” he added.
Osinbajo also talked about creativity in governance and education.
“A lot of that is tied to education that is really something that interests me the most; just using an example of something we did in the Northeast.”
He recalled how the Learning Centres in Maiduguri were started.
“I visited Maiduguri, Borno, in 2015 and I saw many children whose parents had been killed by the Boko Haram insurgents and in a place where they were; I saw about 49,500 of such children.
“I had a conversation with the governor and other officials and the idea of starting a school for them came up, and we stepped in.
“The state government gave us land in Maiduguri that could accommodate 1,300 children, and these were children that could only speak Kanuri.
“We built a school that exposed these children to technology and values, and after five years, the children were able to speak English and Hausa, they were doing robotics, writing programmes and other things they were not able to do before then.
“What this showed is that with skills, any child anywhere can do everything, especially when you provide that child with education that is focused,” he said.
Besides, Osinbajo spoke about the economy, the Federal Government’s Social Investment Programme, politics, leadership, education, and energy transition, among others.
The students thanked the vice-president for the opportunity to visit him.
The Team Leader, Mr Daniel Jaiyeoba, said that they wanted to hear from the vice-president.
“We understand your private sector experience and now you are in the public sector.
“That is why we put this visit together,” he said.
The students were accompanied on the visit by the Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business, Dr Jumoke Oduwole, who had taught some of them as undergraduates.
Members of the Harvard students’ delegation include Maan Aldaiel, Dusty Register, Tomas Tussie, Connor Popik, Ruben Anzures, Scott Kimberlee, Thomas Cowan, Laura Romine, Lanre Ojutalayo, Oluwatoyin Ogundele, Etim Imoh and Abdul-Rahman Buhari.