Nigeria will make the desired progress despite the current economic challenges if the energy of the youth and the resilience of the private sector are combined with the right policies by the government, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has said.
Osinbajo stated this at the closing session of the 27th Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja (NES #27) in Abuja on the theme: “Securing Our Future, the Fierce Urgency of Now.”
The Vice President praised the strong will of the average Nigerian, saying: “We can see that there is a will to do things, there is energy, resilience, resourcefulness. My take is that this country is waiting to happen. It will take all of our resources, and all of our effort to make it happen, and it will happen.”
He urged Nigerians to focus on what this country offers, in terms of all the resources we have, human, natural and everything – the will, the energy, the innovativeness of the average Nigerian.
“This country, with all that we have, can simply not fail, and it is only a matter of getting things right and moving a few things around, and we will be well on the way to the kind of progress that we ought to experience as a country,” he said.
Despite the limitations by the COVID-19 pandemic, among other challenges, the VP said the government was working hard to address defects in the system, noting that recent results were indicative of recovery across different sectors of the economy.
“I believe very strongly that all of the great ideas we have, the young people waiting to unleash their energy and resourcefulness on the world, all of those are just waiting to happen.
“I believe very strongly that this country affords us the opportunity and the space to achieve great things. We should keep our focus,” he said.
Osinbajo spoke of the effort by the Buhari administration to ramp up the growth in different sectors to improve development and the economy.
Urging state governments to do more, especially in the area of education, the VP stressed the need to emphasize more on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM).
This, he said, is the area where a curriculum was currently being redeveloped to take care of basic education – primary and secondary, which are under the control of the states.
Citing the work being done by the National Economic Council in developing the country’s human capital, the VP said at the level of the NEC, one of the things members try to do with human capital development was to boost performances in the states.
What the Federal Government tries to do, he said, is to set the standards and support in whatever way possible, particularly in focusing on the curricular and teacher training.
The commitment of the Buhari administration in ensuring inclusive growth through education leveraging technology, he said, was in value addition.
Government business, the VP said, must be to just take care of the macro issues – access to capital and good training, citing the example of the N-Power programme, where computer tablets loaded with material for entrepreneurial training were given to beneficiaries.
The programme, he said, had opportunities for training and getting a lot of the young people into that space, with the Buhari administration prioritizing investment in social amenities, social welfare, and development of the health sector.
Social amenities, he noted, were crucial, not just for attracting investment, but even for the standard of living of people who live there.
The VP reiterated the importance of the national health insurance scheme, saying “without compulsory health insurance, we simply cannot bring together the resources required to provide decent healthcare for over 200 million people, growing by 5 million every year.”
On developing the health sector and government’s ongoing reforms, the VP said the country was at a point to look at all these options with the healthcare reform committee, to ensure this will work.
“So, there are huge revolutionary changes that need to be made and I believe that they are entirely possible. And we are at a point where these things are accessible to us. With time, we can do these things. I am certainly looking forward to some of the reforms that is possible.
On the successes recorded so far in public health in the country, Osinbajo said we were able to set a standard for public health, seen in the country’s COVID-19 response.
The country’s response to the pandemic, a major public health challenge, he said, was probably one of the best anywhere in the world.
The VP explained that the country developing a public health system that was able to deal with Lassa Fever, Malaria, and Polio, although clinical health was an area we have a deficiency.”
What the hospital was able to show us is first of all the sheer number of doctors in the diaspora who are experts in their own fields and are coming home to work. The doctor who comes home to work is still available for work elsewhere.
“Even the way medical services we able to deliver today have been so radically different from the way it used to be. It is possible now to get the best of help, while we were there in one theater, we were able to communicate with some other expert who was in the US and was able to talk to us. So, even telemedicine is possible, it is available, and there is a lot that we can do.”
In addition, the Vice President highlighted the government’s efforts in creating the environment for the growth of technology and creative industry, noting the need for more investment in these areas.
“We have the best advantage, which is that we have young people, the majority of our population over 60 percent are under 25, they are energetic, creative and are ready to go. What we need to do is to see how we can support them, access to capital, training, and all of that,” he said.
He acknowledged the contributions of the private sector, noting that “the private sector in Nigeria (in terms of resilience and coping with challenges), has done very well, with what we have learned, even coping with the post-pandemic issues (business after the pandemic), the private sector has done well.”
“For example, transport went down 49%, and now they are back with 77%. The construction sector went down by almost 40%, and has returned to a much more modest positive,” Osinbajo explained.
On Climate Change, the VP said Nigeria’s position must be re-echoed at all fora of negotiations, with emphasis on fairness and justice in the transition from fossil fuel to gas.