How Keyamo Got it Wrong – By Niran Adedokun
Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo’s insistence on holding on to his confrontation with the National Assembly is unnecessary, politically immature and unhelpful to the Buhari regime. It rubs mud on the face of the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, indicates that the ministry has no capacity for coherence and puts more questions on the ability of members of this regime to agree on a common good and pursue the same without distraction. In addition, it gives Keyamo away as yet unable to distinguish between his old posturing as a rights activist and the high office of minister of the Federal Republic.
That is not to say that the National Assembly goes without blemish in the issue under discussion though. If there is anything we know, Nigerians including those in the executive arm of government, have since 1999, seen enough to conclude that the country’s legislature is populated by a mixture of characters, whose motive is always almost pecuniary to the detriment of the very people they represent. Yet, even that does not detract from the importance of this institution and how much this regime needs its cooperation in the very urgent task of building the country.
If you recall the perpetual confrontations between the regime and the 8th National Assembly and repeated claims by functionaries of the first tranche of the ongoing Buhari era, you will appreciate the importance of having a peaceful executive/legislative environment. Forget unfolding events concerning the suspended acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, which seem to justify the refusal of the last Senate to confirm his appointment, but Nigerians must remember that this, amongst so many other disconnects between the two arms of governments, is said to be responsible for the failure to optimise the opportunities of those first four years.
This, of course, does not mean that the two arms of government can forever be in agreement. In spite of the incredible compromises that Buhari has made to this National Assembly and the reciprocal promises made by Senate President Ahmed Lawan to do whatever the President wants, the nature of their individual assignments and the question of interests invite confrontations. But when politicians understand that politics, public office and governance are principally about service to the people, negotiations and the attainment of compromises would guide their affairs. This is more so when a political party is privileged to control these arms of government as is in Nigeria currently.
This is the base of the Keyamo error on Tuesday. The junior minister was part of a delegation led by Ngige. While at that meeting, Ngige acknowledged last week’s misunderstanding between Keyamo and the joint committee of the National Assembly, apologised for it and urged that the old slate be wiped clean for a new beginning.
It is possible that Ngige was massaging the egos of the legislators for a variety of reasons-two of which I will try to be hazard here. One, he was one of them and possibly knows the therapeutic import of such public adulation and submission, himself a man of patently big selfdom. Two, there is a chance that Ngige saw true value in the apology and the impact it could have on the execution of the regime’s public works intervention in the 774 local government councils of the federation. Even though this is ultimately tokenistic, it is an unprecedented initiative that could make people at the grassroots feel the impact of the Federal Government.
The recruitment of 774,000 Nigerians, you may recall, was pronounced during the Democracy Day speech of the President on June 12, 2020. It is part of the strategy of the regime “to create jobs in reducing the effect of COVID-19 on our youths.” It is a three-month programme, which should start as soon as realistic. Not just because the world cannot wait to see the end of COVID-19 but more importantly because Nigerians are in dire need of this intervention! Ngige may share the passion of the President and wants to do everything to get this programme to take off!
Whatever may have inspired that apology however, Keyamo, even if he did not agree with Ngige, erred by giving an alternative view immediately after the meeting. Why? That disavowal sends the signal that this very important ministry cannot speak as one! It further accentuates public perception that the Buhari regime does not have its house in order and diminishes public trust. Keyamo holds on to the fact that his authority derives from the President but Ngige’s authority also comes from the same source. It is disrespectful to the donor of this authority that both ministers cannot speak with one voice on this issue.
What should he have done? He should have gone back to the ministry to slug it out with the minister, who is actually his boss. The ministry should then have agreed on a position, which they should take back to the presidency, the legal coordinator of public administration, initiator of this programme and an institution that does have the respect and an unwritten cooperative agreement with the National Assembly.