Desmond Ike-Chima: Buhari, Keyamo, National Assembly and 774,000 jobs

Recently at the National Assembly, Festus Keyamo, fiery human rights activist and Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, took a position on the side of the masses and gave a good account of himself on the raging issues around the pending 774,000 jobs at the grassroots.

Keyamo, in defense of the downtrodden, challenged the lawmakers as they sought to determine Nigerians to be employed under the federal government programme. At no time in this digital age did Keyamo receive so much praise and admiration from Nigerians who still remember his vigorous campaigns to bring about political change and accountability during the military rule.

Keyamo, who has spent the last thirty years fighting for common good, excited Nigerians with his eloquence, courage and revelations at a joint sitting of National Assembly members. It was one of Keyamo’s finest hours under the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government.

His disclosure gave an insight into our realities. The lawyer and Senior Advocate exposed to the world the greed and desperation of members of our parliament even in a matter involving young unemployed citizens at the local government level. This doesn’t surprise followers of the politics of our legislature.

To Nigerians, service is far from the minds of some legislators, a recurrent decimal. It is unfortunate that people elected to make laws and carry out oversight functions are always looking for personal gains. In this instance, it is obvious that they are trying to take over executive duties.

Nigerians expect more from lawmakers earning the highest salary and allowances in the world. Nothing has changed since the revelation. These days, they no longer hide their avarice and this is understandable. We have seen photos of hundreds of exotic cars waiting to be delivered to them even as hunger, unemployment and hopelessness continue in the land.

What exactly is this ongoing controversy between the legislature and the minister? Keyamo had appeared before lawmakers to present a work plan ahead of the recruitment of 774,000 Nigerians. The National Assembly appropriated N52billion in the 2020 budget for the programme. But when Keyamo discovered the glaring dissonance between the executive and the legislative as regards the implementation, he was unhappy.

The minister expressed his displeasure over what he described as an attempt by the lawmakers to sabotage the project even after reportedly receiving 15 percent job slots. Because he stood his ground, the National Assembly insisted that it is the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) that has the power to execute. They accused Keyamo of hijacking the project from NDE. He fired back, maintaining that the lawmakers are actually the hijackers.

I am happy that even after the intervention of Chris Ngige, Keyamo’s senior minister, the radical lawyer still holds out. If lawmakers are actually serving the interest of Nigerians, they must serve with knowledge and integrity. They should read the NDE Act, this will aid resolution and proper understanding of all the outstanding issues. It is never too late to beat a retreat. We cannot continue to do the same thing the same way and expect a different result.

We must all support Keyamo, one of the youngest appointees in the Buhari administration. It is gratifying to note that the minister publicly told powerful people that Nigerians, who made them ‘Distinguished Senators and Honorable House Members’, must remain top priority. He may be not be used to Nigeria’s brand of grubby politics but has proven he is for liberty, equality, good governance and accountability.

Desmond Ike-Chima, a public affairs analyst writes from Lagos

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