Politics: VP Osinbajo’s Tour of Tech is commendable, but you cannot ignore its political undertone

Politics: VP Osinbajo's Tour of Tech is commendable, but you cannot ignore its political undertoneVP Osinbajo's Tour of Tech is commendable, but you cannot ignore its political undertone

Osinbajo has been the presidency’s ‘innovation ambassador’, the youthful vice-president interfacing with tech communities, social empowerment initiatives and leading the economic team

On Tuesday, April 17, 2018, Nigeria’s vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, visited a number of tech startups and hubs around Lagos in what is tagged ‘#VPTourOfTech’.

This tour took him to Co-Creation Hub, Venia Hub, and the offices of Paystack, Flutterwave, Andela Nigeria, and Farmcrowdy, among others. He was accompanied by the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, and the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami.

Osinbajo spent the time listening to the startups share their stories and explain what they do. This tour didn’t happen in isolation. Osinbajo’s recent sojourn has taken him through the southern part of the country. He was in Anambra State on April 12 for the 13th Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Clinic. Later that day, in Umuahia, he launched the Abia State Government’s tele-health initiative.

Osinbajo, the ‘innovation ambassador’

Since the commencement of President Buhari’s first term 2015, Osinbajo has been the presidency’s ‘innovation ambassador’, the youthful vice-president interfacing with tech communities, social empowerment initiatives and leading the economic team.

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It is commendable what he is doing. His ‘Tour of Tech’ gives more validation to the Lagos Startup community, if it really needs it. The current administration has been teasing the tech community since it came into power, promising it support through a plethora of initiatives. However, very little help has gone out from the government to these tech communities. This recent visit looks more like a political campaign and PR move for the administration than anything else.

2019 elections in sight

The 2019 elections are around the corner and a government that has so badly failed its people needs to save face. The economy is slowly recovering, but too slow to have significant impact on the lives of the common man, the very people who have been hit hardest by the recession and crash of the Naira’s value. Prices of goods have gone up and stayed there without a corresponding rise in earning power. Foreign currencies have been harder to come by. The tech community, like any other business ecosystem, has been hurt by the state of the economy.

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Proximity to the vice-president was a big opportunity for some of the tech entrepreneurs to make their concerns known in the strongest way possible. It would be disappointing if no one reiterated the plight of the people and reminded the vice-president of the need for this administration to step up. When the fanfare dies down, when the vice-president is back to Aso Rock, what then would have been the point of all this? That is the most important question.

Aso Villa Demo Day 2016

Let’s go back to 2016 when Mark Zuckerberg visited Lagos. A few days later, the federal government invited him to the Aso Villa Demo Day, a exhibition of some of the brightest minds and tech innovations out of Nigeria. However, since then, very little progress has been made. The event has not held again since 2016 and has been weighed down by reports of mismanagement.

It really is hard to believe, based on historical behaviour, that any good thing the Nigerian government does a year before the elections does not have political motivations. The question is, if this didn't happen last year or two years ago, why is it just happening now?

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