What Osinbajo said in his lecture at Harvard

The invitation by Harvard University to Nigeria’s Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo served as a distraction of some sort to the media saturated news on the Fulani Herdsmen killing in some parts of Nigeria. While the latter has no correlation to his invite, the subject matter of the lecture centered on important complexities surrounding the African rising narrative.

Speaking on the topic “Africa Rising, Understanding business, entrepreneurship, and the Complexities of a continent”, the Vice President carefully navigated through dicey issues relating to politics, the economy and ethnicity by refusing to make casual statements in order to score cheap political points. Rather, by analyzing facts, he opted for a more critical approach towards the subject. Hence, the words that formed the conclusion of his speech, “Until our citizens have themselves acknowledged the rising, our work as governments and policy makers is very far from being completed.”

In his words: “Many of the ethnic and other parochial tensions that have tended to create insecurity and outright conflict time, and time again, are largely as a result of failure to deliberately undertake nation- building efforts,” As such, when a social infrastructure is provided for by the government, there is a huge tendency that the destruction of the social amenity is likely to result not from use but from ‘ethnic conflicts or parochial tensions’

Further, he attempted to discard the stereotypical belief of “African Exceptionalism – belief that African countries were in some way exempted from the rules by which other countries and continents have succeeded; that somehow Africa must not be judged by the standards and expectations that apply to other countries.” The dark reality, he explained is that nothing works faster than taking your life in your own hands. The truth is that when help comes it makes it faster.

Again, he explained that Africa is not a country. “Many – including Africans themselves – constantly need to be reminded that Africa is not a country. Policy-makers and development partners must understand that what worked in Rwanda or Zambia might not necessarily work in Ghana.” The key is to develop the policy solutions that are relative to individual states in the country.

Perhaps, the most important thing about the Vice President’s speech was his unwavering faith in the ability of a continent to transform her future by understanding and implementing the basic values and fundamentals of nation building.



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