By Olumide Ajanaku
EVEN by his now familiar record in kindergarten sophistry either as a “veteran journalist” or spin doctor of Lagos PDP’s twice failed governorship campaigns, Felix Oboagwina plunged deeper into comicality in his latest outing against the All Progressives Congress in an article published in The Nation on July 9. The article in question was entitled “Beyond cutting Keyamo to size”.
Reading through the piece, which substantially dwelt on personal attacks on Festus Keyamo, SAN (who had acquitted himself as an effective spokesman for APC Presidential Campaign in 2019), it is very clear the writer had not overcome the bitterness of the crushing defeat PDP suffered both at the national and Lagos levels in the last general elections.
To be sure, it may be paramount at this juncture to clarify my own interest. I am neither a member of APC nor the paid publicist of the Minister of State for Labour and Employment.
Rather, I am only his fan, one who has followed his progressive trajectory in the last three decades, first as a lawyer with social conscience and later as a political activist with the courage of a lion.
Hence, my decision to pen this rejoinder in the defence of truth and integrity against the pettiness of envy and mendacity.
First, a content analysis of the article would reveal a disproportionately high ratio on matters totally extraneous to the headline.
The magisterial pen-warrior spent more time abusing the hell out of the APC-dominated National Assembly for, according to him, being an appendage of the executive in the past five years.
Maybe, Oboagwina expected the APC members there to constitute themselves into a cog in the wheel of progress against their own party.
For the purpose of argument, let us even concede to him the right to mis-title his own writing in the spirit of academic licence.
But, apparently, a sore Oboagwina had been itching for the slightest opportunity to “give it to” Keyamo. Alas, the patient attack-dog found a golden chance in the minister’s recent face-off with the federal lawmakers over the 774,000 jobs plan.
However, Oboagwina shamelessly abandoned the football to kick the leg. What malicious adjectives did he not deploy against the Minister of State for Labour and Employment in the article under reference?
He used phrases like “infantile petulance”. Blinded by malice, he even took liberty to insinuate that Keyamo was re-deployed from the Niger Delta Ministry almost immediately the cabinet was sworn in because he was “too arrogant” to work with the “senior” Minister (Senator Godswill Akpabio).
Well, such is the hallmark of a half-baked journalist peddling bias as facts. For, even secondary school students know that Keyamo had to be redeployed from the Niger Delta Ministry for “political balancing” as it was felt that two indigenes of Delta State could not simultaneously occupy two prime offices in the Niger Delta Ministry and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) at the expense of Ondo State which is also oil-producing state. Hence, someone from Ondo State took the office.
The writer must be very petty indeed. For only that could explain his barely concealed malice in comparing the “50-year-old” Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) with folks who, in his estimation, epitomized erudition like Gani Fawehinmi, Olu Onagorunwa, Rotimi Williams, Priscilla Kuye et al. But pray, did Keyamo ever compare himself to anyone?
In any case, by receiving the coveted SANship at the relatively young age of 47, Keyamo could not be said to have done badly in his chosen profession.
Oboagwina’s sanctimony would therefore have made more sense if he had tendered any evidence of having equal – if not more – professional accomplishments in his own profession (journalism?) at circa 60 years of age.
Certainly, SANship is not attained by being the hyperactive spokesman of serially failed governorship campaigns in Lagos or peddling falsehood under the guise of “veteran journalist”.
Oboagwina’s ignorance of the real issue vis-à-vis the 774,000 jobs was all too evident. Even more alarming was his suggestion that Keyamo should have easily surrendered to intimidation and blackmail by accepting the lawmakers’ invitation to enter into a dark room to cut a deal at the expense of transparency and accountability.
I think Keyamo’s fight or refusal to compromise here is on behalf of the ordinary folks whose interest would be mortgaged under such opaque circumstances.
So irreverent, one of the “almighty” lawmakers even hauled a missile (a microphone) at Keyamo at the public hearing that day after the minister insisted that proceedings should continue before television cameras and not behind closed doors.
By now, the avarice of the so-called lawmakers is already public knowledge. We are all witnesses to the perennial fraud euphemistically called “constituency projects”.
Against all known principles of corporate governance, lawmakers would inject projects in the budget submitted by the executive.
They then blackmail the executive to incorporate same; otherwise they would not pass the Appropriation Bill. Once the bill is assented to as law, they would also want to nominate contractors to execute the projects!
At the end of the day, shoddy jobs are done whilst the bulk of the funds released end up in private pockets! This is the sad reality of our democracy today.
In any case, I strongly believe that legislative powers under section 88 of the 1999 Constitution is only limited to investigations but not to give any directive to the executive. That is the spirit of separation of powers as espoused by Dicey.
Violation of this principle is partly the reason our democracy has not been working for the ordinary people in the last two decades of uninterrupted civil rule.
It is only unconscionable and unreasonable folks like Oboagwina who would write to defend the perpetrators of this blatant rape on our common patrimony.
In the present case, what the lawmakers would have preferred is also for the whole process to be handed over to them to decide and determine who gets what in their respective constituencies.
They were not satisfied with the concession of 15 percent of the job slots already made to them by the minister.
Like Oliver Twist, they thought they deserve more than 116,000 out of the 774,000 slots available, simply because they wield legislative powers!
What this simply means is that anyone or those not in the good books of the lawmaker representing their constituency would be edged out. In that situation, it all becomes another “jobs for the boys”.
I thought President Muhammadu Buhari meant well by proposing these jobs as an emergency intervention as part of measures to mitigate the deleterious effects of Covid-19.
Whether we want to admit it or not, the ongoing pandemic has started resulting in a colossal loss of jobs across all sectors of the economy.
So, any measure to get people – particular the most vulnerable folks in the society – engaged should not only be applauded but also fast-tracked.
Again, I thought the selection process proposed by Keyamo is most bi-partisan, by involving all stakeholders at the community level. They include CAN, NSCIA, NURTW, Market Women, CSOS, Youth organisations, traditional rulers, etc.
By the original timetable, 1,000 Nigerians are to be engaged in each of the 774 local government areas in the country between October and December this year. Each lucky beneficiary will be paid N20,000 monthly to carry out public works.
Rather than vilification, Keyamo deserves the solidarity of all right-thinking Nigerians in his fight for the interest of the ordinary folks.
Ajanaku, a public commentator, is based in Abuja.