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Standoff with National Assembly: Why We Support Festus Keyamo’s Principled

The Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) has been following with keen interest, the diverse narratives around the standoff between the National Assembly and the Honourable Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN). There is no doubt that the bone of contention is the modality for the selection of candidates for the 1000 jobs per Local Government Area (LGA), which translates to 774,000 jobs across the country. While we maintain our position as canvassed in previous interventions that the Federal Government should adopt a more sustainable approach to achieve the goal of eradicating unemployment, CHRICED in the meantime commends Hon. Keyamo for standing up for the ordinary citizens of this country.

For too long, many of the failed politicians in the National Assembly who are unable to represent their constituencies expertly have made it their birthright to hijack the few opportunities created through government-run employment programmes. Despite the apparent corruption in their discredited methods, many members of the National Assembly insist on getting slots for employment in government agencies or whenever empowerment schemes are being designed. They then distribute these slots to friends, cronies and political hangers-on, while short-changing the ordinary people who have no political connections.

This corruption-prone approach, driven by the urge to compensate godfathers, friends and political cronies, results in the distortion of the objectives of such government employment and empowerment schemes. Limiting opportunities to only those who know, pledge political allegiance or have connections to federal lawmakers, is unjust, unfair and creates grievances, which would in turn fuel political violence. It is also disheartening that apart from appropriating a considerable chunk of national resources as the annual budget for themselves, members of the National Assembly would stop at nothing to grab opportunities meant for ordinary citizens.

By courageously standing up to members of the National Assembly, who in effect tried to intimidate him into ceding control of the programme to them, Keyamo deserves commendation and support of all well-meaning Nigerians. Principled public servants like Festus Keyamo are the kind of people we need in government. Nigeria desperately needs civil servants who will not roll over at the slightest pressure, but those who have conviction and are willing to defy the odds to advance the ideals of justice, equity and fairness. By insisting that all Nigerians, irrespective of partisan affiliation should be given equal opportunity to apply for the jobs, Keyamo has effectively challenged the rotten status quo built on nepotism, favouritism, and cronyism. And by firing a warning that he is willing to leave the position than engage in shady deals, which would short-change the ordinary Nigerian, the Hon. Minister has blazed a trail, which many other government officials should follow.

CHRICED is of the view that if we have a few more substantial and principled officials like the Minister of State, the policies and programmes of government will have a better effect on long-suffering citizens at the grassroots. In the end, one of the critical lessons all Nigerians should learn has to do with electing credible, principled and compassionate leaders. The latter would care about all citizens irrespective of partisan, sectarian or primordial consideration. It is a trite fact that a significant number of the so-called lawmakers in the National Assembly are there to represent their stomachs, their godfathers and friends. As such, they have no iota of empathy for the ordinary citizen suffocating under the burden of bad governance, especially at this time of COVID-19 pandemic. Part of their anger against Keyamo stems from the effort made by the Minister to remind these legislators that the country does not belong to them alone. Citizens also have a responsibility to support the likes of Keyamo in this daunting task of speaking the truth to corrupt power.

Comrade Dr. Zikirullahi, is Executive Director at CHRICED.

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