Employment for the youths – Finetuning the Keyamo Initiative

The Minister of State for Labour and Employment Festus Keyamo, SAN
The Minister of State for Labour and Employment Festus Keyamo, SAN

That is what it has become – the Keyamo initiative. 

The man sitting in the driver’s seat takes the credit, especially if he actually acts on an initiative and gets results.

No policy is perfect. Neither is any implementation 100%.

That is my position on these matters.

I recently had a discussion with a friend about Senator Stella Oduah, to whose credit we can add the repositioning of a number of airports in Nigeria, which were refurbished from their 1950s position to something more modern in her tenure as Minister.

A few of them still have leaking roofs, rickety conveyor belts, and the occasional flooding, but they certainly are not where they used to be.

Perhaps it is that we are so used to nothing happening at all for decades, that mediocrity seems like something.

That is true.

But I believe governance is tough in these parts and there should be a point when criticism gives way to pragmatism.

We have seen many instances where the worst critics perform woefully when given the chance.

We should try not to be fall into that trap.

So we heard some months back that the Federal Government intends to employ a thousand youths per local government who will be charged with cleaning gutters and sweeping markets.

The program seemed to tie with the COVID-19 season because this is a proper time for government to be thinking about how to put money in people’s pockets (Keynesianism), though I reckon the idea had been in the offing before this global crisis descended on all of us.

I have seen many scathing criticisms of the idea –  including the fact that such a program could be easily hijacked by politicians or is in fact an avenue for slush fund for Keyamo and his 2023 political ambition; the fact that others similar to it have failed in the past and also the clear and present danger that such numbers cannot be controlled.

Others have dismissed the idea as one that will be taken over by street gangs, while others believe that it is an open sesame for ghost workers, or the sharing of freebies for political thugs.

All these are valid points.

But for several reasons I believe we should rather hanker down and insist that government makes this idea work.

This is for our own good, for the good of our youths, and for our mental rebalancing.

I will hereby articulate how and why this project should work, in no particular order:

1. The Environment is Absolutely Important – Any project that directs attention to our environment is great.

Nigerians must start to appreciate and understand the value of a sane environment.

Most of our cities are chaotic, dirty, heavily polluted and absolute cacophonic to behold.

A friend, Ettu Mohammed shared pictures of plastic pollution in a plush area of Surulere last week.

Plastic is burying us in Nigeria.

Our villages are a bunch of disorganized ramshackles falling where they stand.

By all means we should start organizing ourselves and anything we can do to get this done, is great.

2. We Need an Elite Corp of Youths – The idea behind an elite corps of youths who will take Nigeria as their own and groom a nation that they would like to see goes beyond cleaning gutters and sweeping markets but I favour starting somewhere.

I have studied a lot on this subject and I see that the difference between us and many of the nations we run to for everything is actually in the imagination that goes into planning our environments.

Our youths are now far more exposed to the world than our leadership class is – forget that the leaders travel everywhere on the bill of the people.

The youths should be given a chance to paint a different Nigeria on the canvases of their minds and bring same to reality.

3. To this extent, the remit of this team that Keyamo is putting together should extend to tree-planting, fighting desertification, fighting erosion, having a hand in serious environmental management, urban landscaping, beautifying the streets by painting bridges and other infrastructure, doing beautiful creative graffiti, and also protecting the work of their hands by working in enforcement.

There is a lot to enforce in Nigeria. Let us not deceive ourselves. The ‘developed’ countries are developed, partly because they know how to set rules and enforce them.

If you plant trees and someone uproots them there should be a price to pay. If people soil and deface the streets, and cause nuisance, there should be fines to pay too.

In short, the life of this country is in the hands of our youths.

Nigeria needs to rejig youth reorientation now more than ever.

A number of those to be redeployed from core civil service roles should be designated into functions in orientation.

This project should last for more than the 3 months I have been seeing in some places.

It is a lot of hard and dirty work and we must do the work ourselves.

We need MAMSER back, only bigger and better.

Reorientation of the Nigerian youths will take several dimensions.

One of it is to let them know that their country, their nation, is what they make of it.

Our ancestors used to say it is he who sweeps the floor that first admires his own handiwork.

The youth of this country must start building the nation that they have fantasized about for too long on social media.

Reorientation will also be achieved by getting busy.

An idle hand is a workshop for the devil himself. And we are what we do constantly.

Getting our youths busy is a great way of reorientating them because every day’s duty writes an important information on the hard drives of their minds.

This project should be targeted at secondary school leavers and the indigent ones who find it hard to continue.

I had written about the imperative of such an idea in my third book ‘Change is Going to Come’.

That was in 2015, and indeed all the ideas in the book were forwarded to the Presidency.

After a number of follow-ups, I decided to write the idea in a book just to solidify and document them for another day.

In 2015 as I wrote the book, I also thought about the downsides.

It may be difficult indeed to prevent politicians from nominating their people, but how do we get them to work?

How do we get beneficiaries to have a pan-Nigerian mindset?

How do we ensure that the project is not filled with party thugs, whom we cannot control and who are more likely to abscond and be truant?

I wrote my book in the context of when Buhari just came into government and more than a few Nigerians were ready to reshape. It would have worked like magic then.

It will be less effective now, but no less important.

I have documented in the past, how the N-Power program was fraught with all sorts of loopholes.

I recall that during the campaigns in most of the public schools I surveyed all over the country, the usual refrain was “we have one, or two N-powers but he no dey come.”

How will the Keyamo Babes be disciplined?

How will we ensure they don’t end up like N-Power, a program that is presently unraveling?

How do we ensure Nigerian youths don’t game this one the way they usual do?

For starters I suggest the use of biometric systems.

Clock in, clock out.

Each person’s hours of work will determine how much they get paid.

Maybe if something strong was put in place it will send a signal that this time the government is for real.

We must not miss it.


First published on June 14, 2020

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