Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has urged young Nigerians to get involved in politics.
He said this was necessary because transforming a society depended largely on those who occupied public offices.
His spokesman, Laolu Akande, said the vice-president made the submissions at a virtual session where he interacted with Nigerian fellows of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.
The interaction included a question-and-answer session where Osinbajo was engaged on issues ranging from education to health and to youth inclusiveness.
“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, government still holds the ace in terms of capacity and resources to bring social goods to the largest numbers.
“Being deciders rather than being a pressure group 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,’’ Akande quoted Osinbajo to have said.
Osinbajo also told the session that African nations and especially Nigeria, could not afford to have their best minds and most committed social activists remain only in the civil society space.
“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.
“There are many who will not be involved in politics, but those that are inclined should, and there will be many challenges even in the winning or getting heard in politics.
“I want to say to you that it should be an objective that you should set for yourselves, to get involved at whatever level of politics so that you can make the difference on the scale that is required,’’ Osinbajo also said.
The vice-president described the efforts of young African innovators as Africa’s most exciting story – the story of a present and future that could be steered by the continent’s incredibly talented and optimistic young men and women.
He commended the innovation and creativity of the fellows.
“Within any generation, only a few wholeheartedly take on that challenge – the challenge of building a society.
“Most believe that the task is for someone else and that such endeavours cannot pay the bills,’’ he noted.
Osinbajo recalled his days in civil society engagements and later in politics as Lagos State Attorney-General.
He said it took public office for him to be able to get the scale of change that was required to make a difference.
“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 are; 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, which still exist today and they function out of Abuja and Lagos.
“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,’’ he stressed.
Responding to concerns about the International English Language Testing System, Osinbajo said relevant government ministries and agencies would work on making things easier for Nigerians.
He said that as English-speaking people, Nigerians should get some concessions as opposed to being compelled to write the same test every two years, especially for those that had passed it previously.
The Fellowship is the flagship programme of the U.S. government’s Young African Leaders Initiative.
Since 2014, nearly 5,100 young leaders from every country in Sub-Sahara Africa have participated in the Fellowship.
The U.S.A ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Leonard and the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Mrs Maryam Uwais, also participated in the session.