Mrs. Kemi Adeosun is a beauty to behold any day. She also has brain. The combination of beauty and brain apparently made President Muhammadu Buhari to saddle her with the responsibility of managing Africa’s largest economy. As finance minister, Adeosun attracts the admiration and trust of many Nigerians. This is why the controversies surrounding her alleged fake National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) exemption certificate trouble the heart.
An online newspaper, Premium Times, had reported that Adeosun forged her NYSC exemption certificate. She reportedly graduated from the Polytechnic of East London, now known as the University of East London, in 1989 at the age of 22. She could not do her compulsory youth service because she was out of the country then. But in September 2009, Adeosun allegedly obtained the said exemption certificate. It was signed by the director-general of the scheme, Yusuf Bomoi, now late, who allegedly retired from service eight months earlier than the date of issuance of the certificate.
The man who was the director-general when Adeosun obtained the certificate, Maharazu Tsiga, has said he couldn’t have signed such a certificate. According to him, NYSC has what is called a strong room, where they could have easily identified the status of the certificate.
The law establishing the NYSC requires that every Nigerian below 30 years must serve his fatherland, even if it is 30 years after your graduation. But you are exempted if you happen to be above 30 years upon graduation.
Adeosun didn’t fall within this exemption category. So, how did she obtain the exemption certificate? Why has she not come out to defend herself amid all the allegations?
What emerged as a defence was a vague response from both the authorities of the NYSC and the Federal Government. The corps said she indeed applied for an exemption certificate, but that it would investigate the authenticity of the certificate she allegedly obtained. Some weeks after, Nigerians are still waiting for the outcome of the investigation, which ordinarily should not take more than one day.
Rather than take a decisive action, the Federal Government decided to prevaricate. According to information minister, Lai Mohammed, government is not two. NYSC is an agency of the government; so, Mohammed noted, the government stood by the position of the corps.
Who is fooling whom? Adeosun and the government she serves obviously know that Nigerians have short memories. We make a lot of noise about an issue. After a few weeks, more troubling events occur and we forget the previous issues under discussion.
But we cannot continue to sweep things under the carpet. If we are serious about fighting corruption, as this government has professed, then we must be ready to investigate and punish every proven corrupt act, especially from public office-holders.
I don’t understand, for instance, how security agents would discover a whopping N13 billion in a flat in Ikoyi, Lagos, yet nobody has told us who owns the money. Nobody has been prosecuted. Government has given some percentage of the money to whistleblowers. Didn’t those who blew the whistle know or mention some likely owners of the money?
In Nigeria, the more you look, the less you see. The less you look, the more you see. At the just-concluded election in Ekiti State, both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) allegedly gave money to voters. As usual, they denied the allegations. But, so far, there has not been any serious investigation to unravel the truth.
Last week, the national chairman of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Ralphs Nwosu, alleged that the APC and President Buhari’s team were sharing N50 million to some members of opposition parties in order to cause crisis within the parties. The major response we got was a denial from the national publicity secretary of the APC, Bolaji Abdullahi. No serious investigation. No threats to arrest the culprits from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. And we say we are fighting corruption!
It is mainly when allegations of corruption involves an opposition party member that the anti-graft agencies bare their fangs. Immediately the announcement came that the PDP lost the Ekiti election, the EFCC started threatening to deal with Governor Ayo Fayose when he leaves office. I am not against investigating Fayose. My point is that the measure given to a Fayose should also be the same measure given to an Adeosun or even to the hidden owner of the Ikoyi cash.
In serious societies, Adeosun should have either resigned or been booted out. Recently, officials of ethics and anti-corruption commission (EACC) arrested a serving governor in Kenya for corruption. Governor Sospeter Ojaamong of Busia County faces charges ranging from abuse of office to conspiracy to steal public funds. The case is reportedly based on evidence of suspicious procurement practices for a solid waste management system project, which was never completed.
Kenya is not even a good example of how to tackle corruption and impunity. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government has undertaken to give the fight against graft in a renewed push. But so far, the fight, like Nigeria’s, is feeble.
Nevertheless, a serving governor in that country is facing charges. This will never happen in Nigeria, where governors are protected by immunity. It would have been understandable if Adeosun were a serving governor. You could then argue that she was protected by immunity. But she is not. President Buhari appointed her like other ministers. He is at liberty to remove any of his ministers who has any skeleton in his cupboard.
Many Nigerians voted for Buhari in 2015 because they believed he would be committed to accountability and transparency. So, why the President has not done the needful in this matter remains a puzzle that may not have any useful answer. Even the minister of youth and sports, Solomon Dalung, who had promised to brief Nigerians on the matter after obtaining valid information from the NYSC boss, Brigadier-General Suleiman Kazaure, has remained mute.
It is pertinent to note that giving false information or obtaining the NYSC certificate illegally is a criminal offence. Section 13(4) of the NYSC Act stipulates up to three years jail term for such offenders. The same section also stipulates 12 months imprisonment and/or N2,000 fine for any eligible candidate who skips the service.
So, why should an important minister hesitate to clear her name from such grave allegations, if she is innocent? What moral right has the incumbent government got to arrest and prosecute anybody for contravening the law of the land? Why did the National Assembly confirm her appointment, if it actually did a thorough job of screening the minister? And where were the ubiquitous security agencies when Adeosun was made a minister? Did they screen her at all?
As usual, many questions, few answers. What is at stake here is public trust. If Adeosun were to be doing her private business, nobody would know whether she served her fatherland or not; nobody would poke nose into her business or life. But she is serving the Nigerian public in a very high capacity.
This is why she must speak up now. If she fails to do so, she should be ready to take the Salisu treatment. Remember Salisu Buhari? He was one-time young and handsome Speaker of the House of Representatives. He claimed to have graduated from Toronto University in Canada. He also claimed to have done the compulsory NYSC scheme. But because it is difficult to sustain a lie for too long, his cookie crumbled sooner than he imagined. Toronto University denied him. He resigned ignominiously from office in 1999. So, what is Adeosun still waiting for?
Celebrating Peter Obi @ 57
Former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, marked his 57th birthday last Thursday, July 19, 2018. It is an opportunity to draw attention once again to the legacies of this man who every current and intending leader should understudy.
In this era of certificate forgery, budget padding, acute corruption and profligate governance, Obi comes across as a man who should be emulated by all and sundry.
As governor of Anambra State, he ran the most accountable government in Nigeria. He not only did not borrow a dime to run government, he also left behind about N75 billion in cash and investments for his successor.
His love for education is unrivalled. During his tenure, Anambra started emerging tops in external exams in the country. Even after leaving office, he has continued to impact on the lives of many students. He has visited many schools in the country and on each visit, he donates at least N1 million for development. On a day when many others in his shoes would have thrown lavish parties, Obi decided to mark it with students.
In spite of his pedigree and success, he has remained humble and easily accessible. It is a man like this that Nigeria needs at this period of national confusion.
- First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, July 23, 2018