Tony Ailemen, Abuja
Vice-President Yomi Osinbajo has emphasized the need to elevate merit ahead of the Federal Character Principle if the nation must achieve its desired growth and development. The Vice President who stated this yesterday in Calabar, Cross River State, noted that respect for and rewarding merit as well as punishing negative baba ours were among critical values a country needs to grow. He stated these while delivering the 10th Year Memorial Anniversary lecture in Honour of late Justice Peter Odo Effiong Bassey, at the University of Calabar.
Speaking on the theme “Social virtues in the Nigerian Renaissance,” was organized by the P. O. E Bassey Foundation, the Vice President expressed worry over the apparent placement of the Federal Character principle as contained in the Nigerian constitution over merit, which he stressed should not be the first rule, emphasizing that it was an exception to the rule According to him “why we’ve had a lot of difficulty in getting quality people into government is because we insist first on federal character before we insist on merit. We must start with merit and then go to federal character.”
“In every successful system in the world you start by placing people first in order of merit, then you have a percentage for affirmative action, you have a percentage for federal character. You don’t start by saying lets have federal character first, and then merit.” He also identified the principle of consequence as opposed to impunity as another essential factor for national development adding that there must be consequence for negative actions and behaviours.
People should be punished when they are wrong and not celebrated, the VP asserted. Prof. Osinbajo said “when somebody commits an offense the rule of law kicks in and they face the consequence. The reason why we have the chaos in the past years is because there has been no consequence for wrongful conduct, people get away with anything, “ he lamented that this attitude is now becoming cultural.
He charged Nigerians to respect the rule of law saying that the “moral call we must make is that we must accept that at any time that judgement can come very close to home or home.” The Vice President also identified hard work, integrity and social justice as other essential principles a country needs to prosper.
According to him successful nations of the world were built on these sets of values, saying “a nation can only advance if it’s values are clear and settled, adding that it is by right behaviour, character and good virtues that a nation grows or develops.” There is no society that has developed today, wherever that society may be that has not kept to some core values and those values are captured in the words -social virtues or righteousness.
There is no nation in the world that has developed that can be considered great, considered successful that has not had to base its ideals and governance on these principles, “ Prof. Osinbajo said. Vice President Osinbajo who said the late Justice P.O.E Bassey was a professional to the core and an epitome of integrity commend his children for upholding his good name and virtues.
Speaking the Governor of Cross River State, Senator Ben Ayade congratulated the family of the late Justice for upholding his legacy and keeping his memory alive. Speaking on behalf of family members, the daughter of the late Justice, Prof. Ekanem Wokoma said the foundation promotes the law profession and education in general by awarding scholarships and building of libraries among other programmes and projects.