Osinbajo: From Vice President to African Peace Icon

Emameh Gabriel writes about former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s rising profile and engagements on the global stage.

Nigeria’s former Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, is not new to the global stage, being a highly respected member of the Nigerian legal profession. He had served as a member of the judicial division of the United Nations Operations in Somalia (UNISOM 11) and subsequently as a member of the United Nations Secretary General Committee of Experts on Conduct and Discipline of UN Peace Keeping personnel around the globe in 2006. 

Little wonder, since he completed his eight-year tenure as Vice President, Osinbajo continues to feature in international and global circles with one assignment here, and another recognition there. 

For instance, last week he was named among 100 peace icons in Africa. 

Founded over a decade ago, Peace Ambassador Agency Worldwide (PAAW) seeks to address ethno-religious conflicts in Nigeria and Africa. PAAW seeks to propagate peace and foster unity. 

Explaining why Osinbajo and others were being singled out for recognition, Project Director of the group, Ambassador Kingsley Amafibe, said the peace icons were being recognised due to their dedication in promoting peace and calm on the continent. 

According to him : “By sharing their narratives, our intention is to amplify the ripples of their endeavors, produce a collective resolve to foster a more calm and prosperous Africa.”

Osinbajo’s selflessness and pursuit of peace, dialogue and diplomacy have never gone unnoticed, which was why his selection as one of those who foster peace in Africa and across the world didn’t come as a surprise. 

As a peace advocate, Osinbajo has often sought negotiations and dialogues as means of resolving differences and when he is not on a peace mission as demonstrated in the Sierra Leone general election where he led the Commonwealth team, he is seeking to empower Nigerians irrespective of their language, culture or religion. 

Who can forget how as Acting President Osinbajo gathered leaders of thought and traditional rulers together at different meetings at the State House, Abuja to rally the nation at a time of ethnic antagonisms and tension? He has indeed earned his peace laurels.

That Osinbajo reinvented the Office of the Vice President in his eight years at the helm is an understatement and when he completed his tour of duty on May 29, 2023 many analysts debated what his next moves would be but they didn’t have to wait for long. First it was the Commonwealth, and then the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) announced that it had appointed Osinbajo as its Global Advisor to guide their mission to accelerate clean energy deployment in emerging economies.

While in office as Vice President, Osinbajo was very vocal about what Africa could achieve in clean energy, greenification, and other related fossil fuel issues. He was at many continental and global fora advocating for Africa as the world pushes for a safer environment. 

Several times, Osinbajo had spoken flawlessly about Nigeria’s energy transition and how the global narrative should focus on Africa’s perspective on climate change. 

For example, at the 7th Annual New York-based Columbia University Global Energy Summit, he stated that Africa was committed to a net-zero future, especially given its vulnerability to the adverse effects of climate change. He added that the continent has expressed commitment to their national development contributions under the Paris Agreement. 

But his main thrust had always been the fact that in the course of the transition to the net-zero emission targets, Nigeria for instance should be able to tap from its gas-rich potentials in order to improve energy access for its people and industrialise the economy.

One of his many informed ideas in climate change advocacy was in 2022 when he proposed in the US at a public lecture for a global Debt-For-Climate Swap deal to advance net-zero emission targets, facilitate energy access and development for African countries. 

In his proposal, Osinbajo had said, “Debt for climate swaps is a type of debt swap where bilateral or multilateral debt is forgiven by creditors in exchange for a commitment by the debtor to use the outstanding debt service payments for national climate action programs.”

He was possibly positioning African governments and others from developing countries from the global South to focus more on climate change issues, something many African countries have not paid adequate attention. 

In fact, it was Osinbajo who led Nigeria to become the first African nation to develop a comprehensive energy transition plan.

The former Vice President put things in perspective when he reacted to his latest appointment by GEAPP.

 “There are several conversations that have highlighted the need for a global energy transition from fossil-fueled based products to more sustainable and ecologically-friendly energy options,” he said, noting that energy transition is not efficient if it is not inclusive.

He continued: “that being said, it would be remiss of us to ignore the current inequities developing countries face concerning energy access at different levels. Africa could lead the way in tackling climate change by leveraging its renewable energy potential, young workforce, green technologies, carbon removal and green manufacturing.

“In other words, Africa can provide jobs for millions of its young people, prosper and lead in the fight against climate change by becoming perhaps the first green or carbon-free civilisation. And we have the comparative advantage to do so. But building this climate-positive growth future in the context of a just energy future that includes energy access at all levels and drives economic growth in developing countries requires international consensus, collaboration and investment,” he said.

His advocacy is beyond energy. As Vice President, Osinbajo had demonstrated enviable and vast knowledge in climate change, economy, monetary and fiscal policies, innovation technology, education, etc. 

Speaking of technology and education, Osinbajo reiterated his commitment to the Nigerian youths by partnering with UNESCO International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (IESALC) to boost education challenges facing developing countries. 

Through his newly formed organisation, Future Perspectives, Osinbajo is seeking to deepen innovation in education training especially through the use of technology. 

The organisation, which has a strong focus on Africa, is convinced that in order to shape the future of the world, the voices of African youth must be prominently woven into global conversations. 

Their involvement and activism will not only have a significant impact on the region, but will also bring Africa’s priceless perspectives to the world stage.

“Education must respond to the dynamism, speed of development, and massive changes in society, and educators must be trained to understand the skills required to take full advantage of a world dependent on technology,” Osinbajo said on his quest to produce the best educators.

The far reaching, all encompassing initiative began with consultation process in July 2023. The upskilling training provided to Innovation to Transform Education Training (ITET) will take place in November, 2023 with 50 young people from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds and different connections to education in Nigeria. 

The support for the new organisation from the UN agency actually shows Osinbajo’s wide appeal. He is without doubt one of Nigeria’s biggest exports to the world and this is the beginning of a global chapter that will leave lasting legacies at home and abroad. 

Professor Chidi Odinkalu, a former Chairman of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), in an op-ed titled, Osinbajo Is an Oasis of Competence in Buhari’s Presidency said “When he emerged as Vice-President in 2015, Osinbajo arrived with an intellect and record more accomplishments than any previous occupants of the office since Dr. Alex Ekwueme in 1979. It was a record built on an ethos of empathy, clarity, relentless application, timeless values, and a stubborn belief in the better angels of human nature, all of which have been severely tested in eight years at the most rarefied levels of Nigeria’s public life and politics. 

The expectations were unrealistically stratospheric and he may, in hindsight, be surprised at how quickly many in and around the government dispensed with the platform on which they were elected”.

So it seems a settled point that Nigeria’s immediate past Vice President who managed to carve a tremendously positive niche for himself under the past Buhari presidency will still go farther in the eye of the public both at home and abroad.

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