By Ikechukwu Amaechi
After pussyfooting for 69 days, the former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, finally did the needful by resigning her commission on Friday, September 14.
She was accused of parading fake National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) exemption certificate with which she secured employments contrary to the country’s extant laws.
NYSC which was set up by the General Yakubu Gowon administration on May 22, 1973 as a tool for re-building the nation and reconciliation after the civil war and backed up by decree No. 24 makes it an offence for any Nigerian who graduated before the age of 30 not to serve.
Section 13 subsection (1)(a)(b) of the NYSC Act states that any person “who fails to report for service in the service corps in the manner directed by the Directorate or as the case may be, prescribed pursuant to the provisions of this Act; or who refuses to make himself available for service in the service corps continuously for the period specified in subsection (2) of this section, is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of N2,000 or to imprisonment for a term of twelve months or to both such fine and imprisonment.”
Subsection (3) states that “any person who fails to comply with or who contravenes or causes or aids or abets another to contravene any provision of this Act (not being a provision relating to the calling up of members of the service corps) is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of N5,000 or to imprisonment for a term of three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”
Subsection (4) amplifies that. “Any person who (a) in giving any information for the purposes of this Act knowingly or recklessly makes a statement which is false; or (b) forges or uses or lends to or allows to be used other than in the manner provided by this Act by any other person any certificate issued pursuant to the provisions of this Act; or (c) makes, or has in his possession any document so closely resembling any certificate so issued as to be calculated to deceive, is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of N5,000 or to imprisonment for a term of three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”
So, Mrs. Adeosun erred on multiple fronts. She failed to perform the mandatory NYSC programme having graduated from the university before 30 years, forged exemption certificate to cover up the crime and committed perjury by lying on oath that the documents were genuine.
Yet, when the news broke, she was tightlipped, just as the government and APC. But make no mistake about it. Her silence was strategic. She had been around for so long to know how President Muhammadu Buhari operates, deploying silence even when it is not golden to wheedle and befuddle unwary Nigerians.
The goal was to ride the storm. And she almost did. But she didn’t reckon with the tenacity of the journalists who broke the story and opportunistic politicians who saw in her ouster a rare opportunity to serve the Buhari government a revenge so cryogenically cold.
Now, the former minister is down and out and may well have fled the country.
In her resignation letter, while admitting that the NYSC exemption certificate in her possession was fake, she, nevertheless tried hard to exculpate herself.
“I have, today, become privy to the findings of the investigation into the allegation made in an online medium that the Certificate of Exemption from National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) that I had presented was not genuine. This has come as a shock to me and I believe that in line with this administration’s focus on integrity, I must do the honourable thing and resign,” the minister wrote blaming unnamed “trusted associates” for her travails.
How Adeosun thought her alibi would be a breeze beats the imagination. Is it not said that ignorance of the law is not an excuse?
Yet it is on the basis of this self-exculpation charade that the presidency’s spin doctors went on overdrive.
But what I find most absurd is the claim by the APC that the minister’s resignation and “acceptance of same by President Muhammadu Buhari is an action of honour, strength, character and integrity.”
“Now that the report of the investigation is out, the right thing has been done, the honourable minister has taken the path of honour and resigned,” APC ululated.
When Dr. Farooq Kperogi, a Nigerian academic and media scholar, wrote in his Daily Trust newspaper column of July 14, 2018 that “Adeosun’s NYSC exemption certificate is as fake as Buhari’s integrity,” I thought that was rather harsh.
That was shortly after the news broke. I gave the minister the benefit of the doubt. She was too urbane and polished to be involved in forgery, I assured myself then. I also assured myself that President Muhammadu Buhari was not likely to sacrifice his “integrity” on the altar of a minister’s mendacity.
I was wrong. Kperogi was right.
So, last weekend when, weighing in on Adeosun’s resignation, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, said on the social media that: “Hypocrisy is when a man who could not find the original or copy of his secondary school certificate, fires you for using a fake NYSC exemption certificate,” I instantly saw the connection Kperogi was trying to make.
And his conclusion that, “Mendacity is when a man who could not find the original or copy of his secondary school certificate, fires his minister for using a fake NYSC exemption certificate while retaining as his asset recovery Czar, a man (Obono-Obla) who forged his high school certificate,” really got me worried.
Anybody who is discerning enough to read between the lines will appreciate that both Kperogi and Odinkalu were singing from the same hymn book.
Both men are profound, acerbic and didactic. But they are also patriots.
I would have had a hearty laugh over Odinkalu’s take on the Adeosungate but for the fact that the joke is really on all of us.
He was talking about people in the innermost recesses of power – the president, minister of finance and a special adviser – all of them potentially parading dubious credentials.
If there is an “operation show your certificate” today in Nigeria, the result will be scandalous.
Ours is a country where many in public office are not what they claim to be. They flaunt all manner of credentials and qualifications, which, to borrow an American cliché, are as fake as a three-dollar bill.
As I write, a very visible politician from Edo State claims to have obtained a First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC) supposedly from a primary school that had not even been built as at the time he graduated therefrom.
How incredible! But the truth is that such stories are common.
Back to APC’s claim that Mrs. Adeosun’s resignation further burnishes President Buhari’s integrity.
This is not true. The former minister was not asked to go because the Buhari government was conscious of its integrity. We are in the thick of the political silly season. Her continued stay in office was bound to become an issue particularly after former Vice President and PDP presidential aspirant, Atiku Abubakar, fired the first salvo recently in his response to the insinuation by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, that he was not addressing the issue of corruption.
In the Adeosungate, a crime was committed. The minister’s resignation does not mitigate the infraction. She should be prosecuted. That is what the law says. Even if it is true that she is a victim of her naivety as she claims, she must name those “trusted associates” who betrayed her confidence by procuring fake NYSC exemption certificate for her. They must be prosecuted.
That will be the authentic badge of integrity if APC is looking for one.