The recent story of what transpired between Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN (the Hon. Minister of State for Labour and Employment) and Nigerian music artiste, Eedris Abdulkareem, is a classic example of what goes on behind the scenes in the movie starring many Nigerian activists.

Although not a Judge, but for the purpose of the issues I intend to address, I might be tempted to adopt and accept as compelling, the uncontroverted facts as presented by the Hon. Minister, notwithstanding Eedris’ insistence that Mr. Keyamo has “Joined the cabal, he became inner caucus and held the steering wheel spiralling Nigeria into doom…

Mr. Keyamo stated the following as seen on his verified Twitter handle:

1.) Eedris Abdulkareem just released a song, ‘jagajaga reloaded’, where he waxed the following lyrics, “where Festus Keyamo sef? He don dey chop with cabal o”. I laughed out so loud and even danced to the rhythm too. But there’s a small story behind this poor attempt at blackmail.

2.) In 2018, when I was named the Director of Strategic Communications for Buhari Campaign Organisation Eedris waxed a song in support of Buhari & wanted to join us, albeit for a fee. He then made desperate efforts to see me through text messages from his phone no. 070xxxxxxxx

3.) When I finally met with him, I listened to the songs, but told him I had no budget for such or any for that matter. I explained that my job was voluntary. It was the same thing I told so many other so-called activists-by-day-and-hustlers-at-night who secretly approached me.

4.) He then switched to the fact that he wanted a loan to pay for his hotel bills to the tune of N1.3m & to cater for his ‘sick mum’. That was already running into more than N3m. However, one govt functionary called me to say he told him another story that his child was sick

5.) He begged me to introduce him to Malami (AGF), Amaechi & the SGF and to paint a good ‘PR’ for him. He pledged that he was with us in the campaign with his whole ‘body and soul’. But at this point, I knew he was a desperate hustler who could embarrass me, so I ghosted him.

6.) Shortly after this episode when he could not penetrate the system to get the money he so desperately wanted, he then endorsed Atiku and called Buhari a ‘fraudster’. See one of the links here… But we decided to ignore his weak voice of opposition.

7.) After our victory, he went berserk and joined every protests against the same Buhari whom he wanted to serve with his whole ‘body and soul’, but needed money to do so. He has been mentioning my name specifically at occasions as if I am the cause of all his troubles in life.

8.) Now, the latest is the ‘jagajaga reloaded’ that he has waxed to vent his frustrations at not getting into the system. His reference to me as ‘chopping’ reminds me of the gaffe of then Minister Sunday Afolabi who infamously said Bola Ige was invited to Govt to ‘come and chop’!

9.) I wish to assure Eedris and any who think being in Govt is tantamount to ‘chopping’, that for some of us (I can’t speak for others) it is just an honour to serve our country and an attempt to move from armchair criticism to a real participant in order to make a difference.

10.) Finally, we can all sit back and enjoy the ‘jagajaga reloaded’. One of the objectives of the song is to call me out since I ghosted him for attempted extortion – he has now succeeded. Another objective is to help promote the song by my reaction – that he has also achieved!

Things are never as they seem

Many Nigerian activists often set out with genuine intent and desire for a better Nigeria. But the system appears to habour Thorns which will choke you, bend you, bruise you, feed and resurrect the natural tendencies in every man. To quote the biblical prophet Jeremiah, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Mr. Keyamo is one man who loves Nigeria from his heart. Like his deceased master, the Late Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, he was prepared to lay down his life. His life chronicles a life of many battles to defend the rule of law and fight to ensure that every corrupt public official pays for his or her crime. He later decided to participate in Government. But he made his choices and decided in which tent to lie. Afterall, he cannot come and kill himself.

Many politicians in the corridors of power today were activists. So too, many Nigerians whom we regard as our heroes of democracy, fought for independence from the British but then hoped and worked for “colonizing” Nigerians for their selfish gains.

Buhari was a great activist. For many years, and, particularly towards the build up to the famous 2015 general elections, he passionately campaigned for good governance and critically analyzed the Nigerian situation, promising that he had the magic wand that could fix virtually everything. While some of us considered the holistic reform a herculean task, Buhari thought differently. He believed there was no big deal in solving the Nigerian problem. He said it was evil to import petrol when all we needed was to revive old refineries and build new ones to cater for the country. Today we still import fuel and could not completely deal with the darkness that pervades petrol importation. Buhari lamented that public officials have no business traveling abroad for medicals when all we needed was to reform the health sector. Today, Buhari has become a notorious medical tourist in the UK. Buhari identified that waste in government is a huge problem. Today, waste in government has assumed a whole new dimension. Buhari believed the economy would be diversified to reduce dependence on oil and improve the Naira. Today, Naira is a shadow of itself and inflation is cutting deep like the teeth of an angry wolf. Unemployment rate is still high, even when Buhari had argued that Nigeria is too blessed to be in such condition. Above all, Buhari promised to fight corruption to its knees, but corruption appears to have forced Buhari to bend the knee.

Nigeria’s problem is beyond what one man like Buhari can salvage. Behold, what we have today is a country with powerful people but terribly weak institutions; a failed system which is almost birthing a failed State.

By Mr. Keyamo’s narrative and definition, Eedris is indeed a personification of a Nigerian “activist-by-day-and-hustler-at-night.” “Day” represents all that transpires within public glare. “Night” represents all the events including dishonourable things that occur behind the scenes. There are many Eedrises in Nigeria whose voices of agitation may crack because of thirst. With little drops of water and oil in their throats, they might sing a new tune. Hypocrisy appears to define everything. For instance, in the mid-2010s, veteran Nigerian musician, Charly Boy, convened a movement called “Our Mumu Don Do” to push for good governance and rally the youths against the government of the day. However, shortly after the 2019 elections, he was accused by Deji Adeyanju, a popular human rights activist, of collecting money to support President Buhari while Adeyanju languished in prison.

Thus, Mr. Keyamo’s revelations mirror the many travails of an average Nigerian activist, whether outside or inside the corridors of power and influence. We must look beyond the rhetorics and still face the question – when are we going to build strong institutions for Nigeria?



Featured Image Credit: Dailypost.

Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a lawyer with expertise in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Technology Law practice. He is a Partner at Infusion Lawyers. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts on behalf of financial institutions, other corporate bodies and multinationals. He has advised a number of both established and startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.

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