In a circumstance where societal or governmental institutions are not strong enough to propel individual behavior such that it progresses for the benefit of all, spirituality and obligation to such qualities as social justice and transparency are important.
According to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, “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, 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.”
This was one of the zeniths of the interaction between the Vice President and a gathering of Harvard Business School students who visited him on Friday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Numbering around twelve, the students who are presently on an African excursion made inquiries about leadership, faith, spirituality, government policies in education, health, economy, and national image, among others.
In his replies, the VP explained his personal commitment to the virtues of integrity, transparency, and social justice, which are additional virtues exhorted in the various beliefs and religions in the country.
He said, “for me, 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 different faiths, they are not necessarily restricted to 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,” Prof. Osinbajo submitted.
Discussing Nigeria and its acumen in the international community, Prof. Osinbajo clarified for the postgraduate students, some of whom are Nigerians, that it is in understanding the size of Nigeria that the international community can better appreciate the enormity and complexity of some of the country’s challenges.
According to the VP, “first, there is a need to appreciate the size of the country, which is crucial to understanding what the issues are.
“For instance, Borno State is about the size of the whole of the United Kingdom plus Sweden or Denmark. So, when it is reported that there is violence in Nigeria, it is probably an incident in one remote area of the country, and many people in Abuja and Lagos may hear about it on social media, such as the size of this country.
“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.”
Answering the question about some inaccurate portrayal of Nigeria in sections of the international community, the Vice President said, “it is 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 characterization.
“This is why some of the work around the Ease of Doing Business etc. 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.”
Talking about creativity in governance, the Vice President said, “my view is that there needs to be more innovation in governance and policy. You get that kind of innovation in business. People are disrupting business every day but there is very little disruption going on in government. I think there is a need for much more thinking in government.”
He also spoke about education, educating people and wealth creation, and providing resources so that more people can move up.
“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.”
The list of the Harvard students’ delegation also included 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.