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The Vice President as a salesman

By Etim Etim
12 December 2022   |   3:10 am
In the immediate aftermath of the APC presidential primary early June, many Nigerians had pondered a bit on how the Vice President would be managing the rest of his days in office. Would he keep brooding over the loss or devote more energy to his duties? Will he join the APC campaign or stay aloof…


In the immediate aftermath of the APC presidential primary early June, many Nigerians had pondered a bit on how the Vice President would be managing the rest of his days in office.

Would he keep brooding over the loss or devote more energy to his duties? Will he join the APC campaign or stay aloof and watch the unfolding drama?

Not one to dwell on a setback, Osinbajo has moved on and added a new role to his hectic schedule: Nigeria’s leading salesman making a pitch for the country and promoting its investment opportunities. 

In November the VP had thrilled the audience at the United Nations World Tourism Organization Conference held at the newly refurbished National Theatre in Lagos when he gave his own rendition of Kizz Daniel’s hit song, Buga.

That performance, I suspect, might have shot up the number of sold copies of that song. It is no surprise that Daniel turned out to be invited to perform at the sideline of the ongoing FIFA World Cup competition. Osinbajo’s Buga dance reminds me of Magdalene Albright, the then US ambassador to UN, dancing to the ‘’macarena’’ hit song with a Botswana diplomat on the floor of the UN General Assembly in November 1996. Skilled diplomats often deploy arts to make their point.

But it was during Prof Osinbajo’s three-day visit to Vietnam early December that he brought his skills in salesmanship and diplomacy to a full display. His high-level bilateral engagements with President Nguyễn Xuân Phúc; Vice President Vo Thi Aah Xuan, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, other government officials and the business community provided opportunity for Osinbajo to sell Nigeria to this very strategic South East Asian country.

This reciprocal visit to Vietnam was designed to further strengthen trade and bilateral relations between both countries, and it came three years after then Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam, Vuong Hue, had visited Nigeria in October 2019, and met with Prof. Osinbajo, other senior Nigerian government officials and also interacted with the Nigerian-Vietnam Business Association.

Nigeria is Vietnam’s largest trading partner in Africa. Trade between both countries stood at $280 million in 2014 and increased to over $500 million in 2019. Although Nigeria and Vietnam have maintained long-standing diplomatic relations since 1976, Vice President Osinbajo is the second Nigerian high-ranking incumbent government official to visit the country after President Olusegun Obasanjo’s trip in 2005.

As soon as he arrived Hanoi, Osinbajo set the tone for the visit on Monday at the state banquet held in his honour by his Vietnamese opposite number, Madam Vo Thi Anh Xuan, at the International Convention Centre.

“Our friendship with Vietnam, which we cherish most dearly, is one that will develop, especially now that we have very anticipatory greater collaboration and; we are eager to nurture that relationship. We have so much in common that increased cooperation between Nigeria and Vietnam can only yield beneficial fruits for both of us,” Prof. Osinbajo noted, adding “our tropical climate, relatively high population and developmental aspirations have dictated that we pay serious attention to agriculture and manufacturing.” He observed that both countries have youthful populations of digital natives, and so cooperation in innovation and technology would be seamless.

The Vietnamese VP, Madam Vo Thi Anh Xuan agreed with Prof. Osinbajo and commended Nigeria’s efforts in leading West Africa on the path of progress, citing the country’s energy transition efforts as an example. She acknowledged that both Nigeria and Vietnam shared common challenges and developmental aspirations, citing her country’s economic development targets based on its Agenda 2045 as an example, assuring that Vietnam will continue to partner with Nigeria across different sectors, describing Nigeria a worthy partner. Prof. Osinbajo had earlier in the day held bilateral talks with country’s Prime Minister, Pham Minh Chinh, at his office in Hanoi, where both leaders agreed on the need for more high-level political engagements between the governments of the two republics.

In terms of market viability, Prof. Osinbajo made the point that Nigeria continues to rank very high. “Our people are renowned for being energetic and tech-savvy, with over 60% of the population below 25 years of age.”
Nigeria’s membership of the African Continental Free Trade Area has created incredible opportunities.  Investors in Nigeria will have access to Africa’s market of 1.3 billion people and a combined gross domestic product of $3.4 trillion using Nigeria as a gateway.

Earlier in the day on arrival at the FPT University and the FPT Software Company, Prof. Osinbajo undertook a brief tour of the facility led by FPT’s Senior Executive Vice President, Nguyen Khai Hoan, who later briefed the VP about the company’s portfolio, including its planned expansion to Africa.

According to him, the company, formed in 1999 is now making over $800 million in revenues and projected to hit $1billion next year. Osinbajo commended the innovation at the company and milestones reached within a relatively short period of time, describing FPT as a brand with a remarkable reputation across the world. He urged the company to invest in Nigeria, repeating our unique selling point as an investment haven: tech-savvy youth population and huge market.

At the Hanoi-based Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the vice president, in an interaction with top officials of the institution, spoke about potential collaborations between both countries especially in the area of improved seed variety production. He noted that “Vietnam has done that excellently well; we are greatly inspired and we look forward to collaborating with you to being able to do some of the things we need to do in the next few years in order to meet our food production targets.

“Already there is a plan by the Vietnamese and the Nigerian governments to work together in rice production; and I think that it is interesting for us to see how we can work with the Academy as well as the Food and Agriculture Organisation; and of course, the government of Vietnam to bring that plan to fruition,” the VP added. The Vice President was later conducted around facilities at the institution, including a smart farm where high-yield variety of vegetables are grown. He was conducted round the facility by the Vietnam Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Phung Duc Tien, and President of the Institution, Nguyen Hong Son.

The importance of the VP’s economic diplomacy vindicates President Buhari’s decision to excuse him from participating in the APC campaigns. It has turned out a blessing as the professor has been spared the embarrassing dramas we see daily at those events.

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