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Keyamo’s fallacy and the case for competence

Falsehood has always been an inherent element of politics. Many cant words of politics are simply evasion of reality. Because of vested interest, politicians have devised cunning and twisted ways of imposing power by evading real issues of substance through seductive rhetoric. It becomes more bewildering when this rhetoric defies simple facts and logic and complicates truth.

A prime example is the circular argument of APC spokesperson and minister of Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo SAN. In a recent interview on Channels Television, Keyamo alleged that because Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential flag bearer, has never held any “executive” office where he makes the ultimate decision, unlike the other two candidates, it then infers that he’s less experienced or “qualified” to rule the country.

Even at face value, I guess Keyamo himself doesn’t believe in the merit of his own argument. Assuming that he does and his statement holds true, the question would be, what difference does it make? When did executive office become the prima facie evidence for measuring competence? As a matter of fact, historical antecedents both from our nation and other nations of the world debunk the myth that an “executive experience”, as Keyamo put it, makes one more qualified or fit to lead a nation.

But the fact is that the assertion itself by Keyamo is not true. Thanks to the internet, an old video has surfaced showing president Obasanjo stating that he often delegated executive responsibilities to Atiku Abubakar during his absence, as stipulated by the Nigeria Constitution.

According to president Obasanjo, he didn’t really need to confer on Atiku the title “acting president” as it would be superfluous to do so since the constitution already stated that the vice president will assume the role of an acting president in the absence of the president. Keyamo, a lawyer and a senior advocate, should have read the constitution.

More importantly, the office or position of the vice president isn’t a ceremonial one as he purported in the interview. According to the 1999 constitution (as amended), the vice president is the head of the National Economic Council, the body of government responsible for advising, planning and implementing economy policies in the country.

Whatever economy woes facing the country, both the head of the NEC and the president as well as other relevant ministers saddled with fiscal and economic responsibilities are held accountable. Again, the head of NEC is not ceremonial. It’s an executive role!

Added to this, the National Economic Council is made up of the vice president, the 36 states governors as well as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Put differently, Atiku’s position as the head of NEC afforded him the opportunity to lead a body of other “executives”— including Keyamo’s candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was then the governor of Lagos State.

As pointed out by Reno Omokri in an interview with Arise TV when responding to Keyamo’s assertion, “The National Economic Council is composed the vice president as chairman and the thirty-six states governors as members as well as the governor of the Central Bank.

Between 1999 to 2007, when then vice president Atiku Abubakar held sway over the national economy council all the major participants—Bola Tinubu, Rabiu Kwankwaso and Peter Obi—served under him. So, he was one like boss of bosses. How can anyone then say that the people who served under him have more experienced than him? It’s not possible,” Omokri observed.

Keyamo’s assertion is not only factitious, but also fallacious. It’s a circular argument that holds no water in the glaring face of facts. Indeed, fact is a stubborn thing, and it doesn’t go away because we make up circular argument and narrative to justify our position.

To even say Atiku Abubakar hasn’t held any executive office politically therefore means that the other candidates are more qualified than him is to presume that holding an executive office is ipso facto the only metric for judging competence or experience.

The question is, what makes a competent or experienced president? First, it’s the ability to make difficult decision and deliver his promises to the people. While we are clamouring for issue-based campaign, arguments such as this shouldn’t be given any credence.

One should keep in mind that Keyamo was one of the people who campaigned for president Buhari in 2015 and 2019. He is even now one of the ministers in his cabinet saddled with the responsibility to resolve ASUU crisis. Under his own ministry, ASUU, the union body of the tertiary universities in Nigeria has been on an indefinite strike for the past five months. Keyamo hasn’t found a solution to that.

Any thinking Nigerian can’t even juxtaposition Buhari’s administration with that of Obasanjo’s adminstration, which Atiku served as vice president. Whether it’s economy or security or what-have-you, Obasanjo’s adminstration outshined this present adminstration at all fronts. It’s not a matter of debates.

Just look at the data. Inflation was in a one digit figure under president Obasanjo. Insecurity was curtailed. Foreign direct investment was in a record high. Nigeria was safer under Obasanjo-Atiku presidency than this present administration. Again, just look at the data.

The case to be made isn’t how many political offices a candidate has held, but how competent and trustworthy is the candidate himself. When Ronald Reagan was running for the presidency in 1979, a lot of people alleged that since he wasn’t a conventional politician, he wouldn’t be fit for the office.

Although Reagan had been previously elected as the governor of California, but for most Americans, his profession as a Hollywood star still resonated in their mind.

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Reagan turned out to be one of the best presidents America ever had. We should also not forget that the current president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, leading the fight against Russia’s invasion, was not part of the political establishment before he was elected the president. He was a comedian and sitcom actor.

Competence is not in the office, but in the man who holds the office. The Obasanjo-Atiku administration has shown us that Atiku Abubakar still remains the most qualified, most experienced candidate out of the three. Atiku was one of the brain boxes behind Obasanjo’s debt relief campaign that helped to stimulate our economy and substantially reduced Nigeria debt to GDP ratio! He has proven himself to be a true statesman, a visionary and a competent leader.

If we put all biases and prejudices aside and focus on the real issues such as education, economy and security, Atiku stands out from the other two candidates. Even before it became a sweet talking point for most politicians, Atiku has been campaigning for the devolution of power of the security architecture as well as state policing. In a recent interview he gave to Arise TV, we saw that his conviction on that still remains intact.

The insecurity problem in Nigeria isn’t rocket science. It’s a known fact that the federal security outfits are spread too thin. If we’ll ever make any progress, we need state policing. That’s the only position that works. And that’s Atiku’s position in 2007, 2015, 2019 and now 2022! That’s consistency. That’s competent.

Keyamo should try and sell to the Nigerian people his candidate on the basis of the merits of his ideas and manifestos.

Will Tinubu continue to consolidate Buhari’s wobbling economy policies if elected? Or will he deviate from it as president of Nigeria? Nigerians want to know. Nigerians deserve to know. We’ve heard Atiku Abubakar’s stance on virtually every issue that besets the nation. Let’s hear Tinubu’s also. Enough of fallacies. Let’s hear the facts!

. Ademola is a journalist and columnist, writes from Lagos via cyrusademola@gmail.com.

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