By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Mr. Festus Keyamo was unusually reticent yesterday after his appointment as spokesman of the Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation was formally announced.
Contacted on his appointment, the normally chatty lawyer was unusually restrained, saying “I welcome the appointment and will make a formal statement tomorrow (today.)
A rights activist who won fame for his defence of the helpless, Keyamo got his appointment essentially based on his antecedents.
The word about Keyamo’s strategic role in the evolving campaign was first let out early February when the South-South caucus of the All Progressives Congress, APC converged in the Abuja residence of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the immediate past governor of Edo State. It was at that meeting that Buhari was endorsed for a second term.
At that meeting, Director-General of the Buhari Campaign, Rotimi Amaechi who came to the meeting quite late because of a cold was said to have let out the word on the appointment.
Justifying the appointment, Amaechi was quoted as saying “he has a civil rights background, he is a young man and is an activist,” a source at the meeting confided in Vanguard.
Before joining the APC at its formation in 2013, Keyamo had formed the Delta United Front, DUF, a group that was at that time perceived as aimed at destabilising the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP government in Delta State.
His first baptism of fire was when he made a futile bid to take the Senate seat left open by the well-loved Senator Pius Ewherido who died in June 2013. He lost the primaries to Olorogun O’tega Emerhor and shouted murder on the basis of alleged conspiracy by national officers sent to conduct the primaries between him and his rival. Following that outing, Keyamo was said to have removed himself from the radar as he worked harder towards achieving professional recognition, which materialised last year when he was admitted to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN. After clinching the silk, Keyamo, who went off the political radar, has now rebounded.
Since then, he has worked underground for the schemes of the Buhari administration especially in the prosecution of cases related to politically-exposed persons.
He was recently called out after associates of the Deputy President of the Senate; Senator Ike Ekweremadu fumed that the Buhari administration had set partisan members of the APC into a panel to take over the job of the Code of Conduct Bureau.
Keyamo, however, cuts a different picture from the 2015 Campaign spokesman, the quiet but efficacious back-room operator, Mallam Garba Shehu. Keyamo also cuts a different picture from fellow lawyer, Lai Mohammed, the veteran opposition spokesman who combined tact and persuasion in projecting his negative narrative of the immediate past administration.
Keyamo, however, has his new job well cut out for him. He is expected to market a tested product that is now in clear deficit of what it was four years ago.
He is expected to exchange the fervour with which he battles in the courtroom and with which he engaged past governments for persuasion as he joins the fray of condemnations of the 16 years of PDP rule as the reason for the nation’s woes.
How he sells such an argument among a people battered by insurgency, tortured by herdsmen everywhere and burdened by economic deprivation is a job that is bound to test the skills of the young silk. Is he going to be an advocate of Change?