By: Alkali Tsoho
The COVID-19 pandemic has created several opportunities for varied things, good and bad. There has been a drastic change in socio-economic relationships. New terminologies or vocabularies have been introduced – social distancing, face masks, lockdown, stay safe and other phrases.
The Federal Government of Nigeria, as part of an effort to reflate the economy and stimulate activities to engender recovery from the recession, has initiated a programme to cover the 774 local government areas in the country. This programme originally conceptualised in conjunction with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is domesticated by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE). It was to be operated as a “dry season/off-season job programme” for the rehabilitation/maintenance of public and social infrastructure. It was envisaged to run for three months. The reward for the participants is a modest stipend of N20,000 paid monthly per itinerant worker.
The supervising ministry being the Federal Ministry of Labour, Employment and Productivity, has designated the Minister of State, Festus Keyamo, SAN as the coordinating Minister. In line with section 16(1) of the NDE Act, special committees have been set up for each state of the federation for the purpose of selecting and collating recommended names of the 1,000 persons from each of the local government areas in the states to be engaged for the programme.
The Akwa Ibom State committee includes Catherine Udi – Chairman; Inyang Unyah -Vice Chairman and Ekah Bassey – Secretary and 17 others including Islamic and Christian clergymen.
A considered look at the composition seems to show an old animosity playing out. At the inauguration of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in 2019 during President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term, Festus Keyamo was appointed as Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs Ministry with Senator Godswill Akpabio as the lead Minister. A few weeks into their working together, Keyamo was re-deployed by the late Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, while the President was overseas for medicals.
Many questioned the rationale as the President was not in the country. Some suspected bad blood between both Ministers especially given the background of the learned Silk in social and legal activism. Keyamo has had the record of being a prosecutor for EFCC, the anti-corruption agency. This was especially so when the need for a forensic audit of NDDC was already mulled. Keyamo seemed to have departed the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs (MNDA) and accepted his new position with equanimity.
Today, by virtue of his position as Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Productivity, he has been mandated to midwife the national programme- the 774,000 jobs creation for itinerant workers, a responsibility greater than overseeing a regional programme for intervention in the nine Niger Delta States.
Committees have been constituted for the 36 states and FCT. The composition for Akwa Ibom State seems to reflect a near-absence of Senator Akpabio’s input as a cabinet Minister. Rather, the influence of Akpabio’s erstwhile Secretary to State Government when he governed Akwa Ibom, Mr. Umana Okon Umana, who currently is the Managing Director of Oil & Gas Free Zone Authority, Onne, Rivers State is preponderant. Could this be a way of Keyamo getting back at Akpabio as politics is a game of numbers and is patronage driven?
There have been instances of how governorship elections had been decided by less than 500 votes in Osun and Sokoto States in 2018 and 2019, many thanks to the use of Card Reader and other electoral reforms.
Of interest, however, to the emerging political scenario is the new-found romance between Mr. Umana Umana, the MD of OGFZA, Onne and his kinsman and a former associate, Governor Udom Emmanuel. For several years, Emmanuel, as a staffer of several banks and financial institutions including Diamond and Zenith Bank had courted the favour of Mr. Umana whose career trajectory from Director of Budget to Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance to Commissioner of Finance under the administration of Obong Victor Attah gave him the pedestal to become the Secretary to State Government under Godswill Akpabio’s administration until his forced exit in 2013 under circumstances that dismayed many watchers of the administration. Some mischief-makers and conspiracy theorists had postulated that Governor Emmanuel may have betrayed Umana Umana and became rewarded with the office of the Secretary to State Government which paved way for his ascendancy to the Hilltop mansion.
Question is: will the passage recorded in the Bible, Luke 23:11-12 And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate. And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves” be repeated?
There are speculations and insinuations that Umana Umana may towards the end of 2021 return to PDP to garner the support of Governor Udom Emmanuel to run for governorship as some perceive that the governorship lot supposedly returns to Akwa Ibom North-East (Uyo) Senatorial District. It is alleged that he may leave his present position on health grounds and family pressures to treat himself, but will surreptitiously register in his Ward so as not to require a waiver.
The muscle-flexing by National Assembly that the Labour Ministry should open up its employment tactics does not perturb Keyamo. As a legal activist, he may see his emergency assignment as a means to settle some scores- good or bad. And may not like to spare the non-Buharists- the supposed conformists to corrupt practices and other ideals. Whether Buhari performs well or not is not his headache but a plus to wink his courageous fangs. Though the Federal law-makers try to extend the greeting beyond the elbow, Keyamo’s hard stance on keeping it to his chest is like dancing skelewu dance. He knows the musical style, masters its dexterity and displays modern dancing steps to match the contemporary musical scene.