I have read with great amusement some opinions in the orthodox press and the social media questioning the decision of our own dear indefatigable Festus Keyamo, SAN, to accept to serve as the Director of Strategic Communications and Official Spokesperson of President Muhammadu Buhari re-election campaign. They have hinged this on his long-standing history of fighting for the downtrodden in the country, which they argue is inconsistent with his present position. They have tried to justify their position by drawing attention to the attributes of his late boss, the inimitable Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN of blessed memory. Some have said the masses had long viewed Keyamo as their “new Gani Fawehinmi”, but are now disappointed by his present support for President Buhari. Let me pause here to lecture such fellows with this kind of opinion on how they got it all wrong, both in perspective and in history. For ease of writing, let me refer to them here as the anti-Keyamo fellows.
Firstly, when you are fighting for the masses, you are struggling to protect their interests. In doing this, one should be prepared to go to any length to achieve this. The mistake the anti-Keyamo fellows are making is that they are equating “fighting for the masses” to opposing and abusing every single government in power. How that mentality came about in Nigeria, I do not know. This is because, shorn of all politics, would any reasonable person question the steel and determination that the Buhari regime has employed in going after those who have stolen our common patrimony? Would anyone who is sincerely patriotic frown at the humongous recoveries of stolen monies this government has made? Do these recovered monies not belong to the masses of this country? Is President Buhari recovering those monies on behalf of himself or on behalf of the Nigerian people? So, sincerely, do the anti-Keyamo fellows now expect people like Mr. Keyamo to lend their voices to those who oppose the recoveries under the guise of some warped theories of human rights, rule of law or “selective probe”?
Unfortunately for the anti-Keyamo fellows, since they decided to use Chief Gani Fawehinmi as a standard bearer for lampooning Mr. Keyamo, then they have destroyed the very essence of their arguments and fatally cut the ground from under their own feet. If the anti-Keyamo fellows have read the Press Release by which Mr. Keyamo accepted the offer to serve, they would not even pick their pen to write. Let me recall what Mr. Keyamo wrote:
“In doing this, I take a cue from my revered late boss, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN who mentored me. Throughout his career, he also consistently and fiercely engaged every government in Nigeria and suffered as a result. Guess what? THE ONLY GOVERNMENT HE FULLY SUPPORTED THROUGHOUT HIS LIFETIME was that led by General Muhammdu Buhari in 1984 – 1985; and that was to the chagrin of some of his professional colleagues and fellow “radicals”. However, he saw what they did not see at that time, because when that government was overthrown by General Babangida, what followed was the worst era in our history in terms of institutionalizing corruption and political chicanery in Nigeria. In the 2007 Presidential election, my late boss again endorsed General Buhari in the following words: “When we talk of anti-corruption war, there is no way you will exclude General Buhari. I don’t want to hear what a political party is going to do, whether ANPP or PDP or NDP or which other political organization. Tell me who is leading the party, tell me who is leading the government, that’s my concern. It’s a matter of leadership. This is a serious election, very serious one”.”
Let me further educate the anti-Keyamo fellows on what they do not know about Chief Gani Fawehinmi that they have constantly used as a standard bearer for Mr. Keyamo. All his life, in the fight against corruption by any Government, Gani supported the use of any means possible, even when there was a perceived breach of the rule of law. When he supported Buhari’s regime in 1984/85, he got into trouble with the NBA because he supported the use of Military Tribunals to try and jail politicians and he refused to boycott those Tribunals on the directives of the NBA. He was blacklisted as a result. Again, during the Ribadu tenure as the head of EFCC, Gani supported the removal of Governor Dariye of Plateau State from office on the grounds of corruption by less than one-third of the members of the House of Assembly (just six of them) after the other members sympathetic to the Governor were hounded by the EFCC, arrested and suspended from sitting. He gave the same support to the removal of Ayodele Fayose from office in 2006 under the same circumstance as Dariye. In one of his famous response, when reminded of the Rule of Law in the fight against corruption, Gani, thundered, “Rule of What?!”.Fayose and Dariye are still alive today to confirm what I am saying for those who forget history so easily. A simple google search will also give you the result.
It is for this reason, Gani (the standard bearer for the anti-Keyamo fellows) supported Buhari till his death. When Gani lost his dear mother in 2003, the ONLY past Head of State or President he invited to the burial in Ondo State was Buhari and Buhari obliged him and attended. If anyone does not know this side of Gani, just ask any editor old enough, and you would be educated.
I have read some very funny articles since Mr. Keyamo’s acceptance saying if Gani were to be alive, he would have been turning in his grave and changed his mind on Buhari and bla bla bla. Rubbish! We are here talking about what Gani ACTUALLY DID and you are there saying WHAT YOU ASSUME HE WOULD HAVE DONE!.
What people do not know is that to Gani, in the fight against corruption, all was fair. Therefore, in reference to the release of the looters’ list by this Government, the exposure of Ekweremadu’s assets by some unconventional means etc, are all consistent with the use of all means possible to fight corruption. The very funny thing the anti-Keyamo fellows cannot easily recall is that during Obasanjo’s regime, there was a weightier thing that happened than the release of the looters’ list. It was a list of “corrupt persons” just compiled and released by EFCC, (not for public consumption alone like this one) but with a directive from Government that they were banned from running for any kind of office. Guess what? Some of them were not even invited at all by the EFCC to answer to any allegation nor did they know they were being investigated. Again, the anti-Keyamo fellows’ standard bearer, Gani, came out fully in support of that move. The younger ones are free to google all these facts or simply make their research in any old library with old newspapers. It was that kind of list that was used to disqualify people like Peter Odili, Rotimi Amaechi and Rahman Mimiko from running for office under the platform of the PDP.
Therefore, Keyamo’s open support for President Buhari is even a milder form of the kind of support Chief Gani Fawehinmi gave him. We can then see that Mr. Keyamo has not deviated one single inch from the path he laid out for himself from the beginning and from the path set by his revered late boss, Chief Gani Fawehinmi. There is no single strand of inconsistency in the rich history of Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN. True to his training, he has been consistent, unbending, unyielding and uncompromising. His latest exploits as the Director of Strategic Communication for President Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation is borne out of a desire to be on the opposite side with those who have looted our common patrimony and who seek to return in 2019. He realizes there is only ONE REAL opponent to the President and that opponent consist of those who partook of the grand corruption of yesteryears. So, even with all the human foibles of President Buhari, Mr. Keyamo cannot afford to switch sides and begin to act or speak on the side of these looters. His natural inclination is to find himself in bed with the man (President Buhari) that has been acknowledged globally as an honest leader. If you google to find any such description of any past leader in Nigeria, nothing comes up.
It would also be nice to remind the anti-Keyamo fellows about what some other “heroes” of the masses and those who fought for our democracy did in the past and are still doing today. Our own revered Professor Wole Soyinka was invited by the Military regime of General Babangida to be the pioneer head of the Federal Road Safety Corp. He accepted and served meritoriously. Our own Tai Solarin was invited by the same Military regime of Babangida to come and be the pioneer Chairman of the Peoples’ Bank. Tai Solarin accepted and served meritoriously. In both cases, they reasoned rightly or wrongly that they were protecting the interests of the masses by their roles. Do not tell me that those roles are different from that of Keyamo now. You cannot say you do not eat beef but you eat the soup cooked with beef.
There are others, too numerous to mention, who fought so hard for our democracy and are today teaming up with Buhari’s Government or his party in different capacities. There are journalists like Babafemi Ojudu, Bayo Onanuga and Kayode Fayemi. There are great student leaders like Opeyemi Bamidele. Then there are the NADECO leaders like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. I have tried to research to see whether these anti-Keyamo fellows campaigned for Gani they so love in 2003 when Gani ran for President and the result is blank.
Let me also remind the anti-Keyamo fellows that this Government was voted in by 15 million Nigerians. It is not a military regime like the ones other people served. It was democratically elected by the masses of this country. Mr. Keyamo stands with those masses. It is only INEC that can tell us in 2019 whether that support has dwindled or increased, and not some self-conceited fellows in their bedroom.
Finally, Mr. Keyamo is not a coward like many others who hide behind one finger and try to campaign for their preferred candidates or parties using all kinds of innuendoes. They should be bold enough to name their candidates. Most of them are uncomfortable with the choice of Mr. Keyamo as President Buhari’s re-election Spokesperson. That was the same way a PDP thug in Awka also reacted sometime in April after Mr. Keyamo’s appointment. I doubt whether it is true that Mr. Keyamo was attacked in Awka. Let me recall here what Mr. Keyamo told Premium Times after the incident:
“First of all, the report was wrong; nobody attacked me. There was no such thing. I went to do my normal legal work in Awka; I went to defend some persons in Awka. When I was coming out of court, there were large number of people and they were all congratulating me and were very happy with me. Then one known PDP thug in that area who is not a businessman, a known PDP thug, was at a distance. He was just shouting that they will not vote for Buhari, they will not vote for Buhari. And some of the members of the crowd said ‘Vote for your own choice now’. It was as simple as that. That was what happened and then I entered my vehicle and left. There was no such thing at all.”
Mr. Keyamo owes nobody any apologies or explanation for his personal decision to stand by the man the corrupt elements and looters love to hate. Mr. Keyamo will only add to their nightmare. And that is consistent with his position with the masses. He will only stand taller with the people after this assignment.