By Muyiwa Adetiba
Those in my generation who grew up in the South-West and attended Awolowo’s elementary schools would be familiar with D.O Fagunwa’s books. They were fascinating books. The escapades of valiant hunters in one of the books captured imaginations. So did the mushy love stories in another. One particular book, ‘Ogboju Ode’ (‘Brave Hunter’) went beyond the classrooms into homes and even playgrounds as we recited portions that captured our fertile minds. Even today, some six decades after, I can still recite some portions.
My illustration today is from this famous book. Seven hunters, renowned for their bravery and prowess, got together and prepared themselves spiritually and otherwise, to enter a forbidden forest. In a particular section of the forest, they found themselves in an animal kingdom. The rules of the kingdom were written boldly and displayed for all wayfarers to see. Many of these rules made the hunters uneasy because they had to do with the rights of animals which they had serially violated in the human environment they were coming from. A particular one seriously discomfited them because the penalty was death. It said anybody who had ever killed an animal of any sort was to be killed instantly. Now, which child in the village would not have killed a rat, or a lizard, or a snake? And which hunter would not have killed a bush rat or an antelope? So they were all guilty and knew they had to defend themselves as one….
Mrs Kemi Adeosun, our erstwhile Minister of Finance, was said to be in possession of a fake NYSC discharge certificate. She is, in the eyes of the law, an offender. But the vituperations, the holier than thou condemnations are hardly called for. She was just a victim of a system that rewards incompetence and greed. A system, like the seven hunters, that has made offenders out of many of us. Anyone who is without sin of never having someone procure a document for them at any time, let them in all conscience cast the first stone. You could accuse Adeosun of carelessness. You could accuse her of not personally ensuring, like some people have said, that the proper thing was done. But given the circumstances of her birth and up-bringing, her negligence was excusable. She was until recently, ‘an alien, an Englishman in Nigeria’ like that popular song. She might not have been aware that fakes abound more than originals in Nigeria. Somebody must have told her what she required to work in Nigeria and assured her they would get them for her. How was she to know that her trusted helpers would be her nemesis?
We are in a system where our lives are ruled by licences—from vehicle licence, to driver’s licence, to tinted window licence, to gun licence and even radio licence. Each procurement in our system, is an ordeal that many of us would gladly let someone do for us. The result is that we are all invariably susceptible to having one fake permit or the other. To condemn or accuse a victim of this dysfunctional system of deliberate intent is being hypocritical. Just two months ago, I was in a car with a former National Assembly member on the way to Ondo. At one of the numerous check points, one officious policeman felt we were playing ‘big men’ by ignoring him and decided to ‘show’ us. He brought out a computer and declared that the car’s plate number was fake. When we realised that the situation was getting beyond the driver, we came out. My friend showed the autoreg’s alert on his phone to show it was duly registered but the policeman was adamant. It took an hour and a few phone calls to get us on our way. You would expect the police to go after the racketeers if indeed, there was a fake registration racket going on instead of accosting unwary travellers.
In many ways, Kemi Adeosun was an unwary traveller. According to her, she applied for NYSC exempt. She got one. It was screened by those who should know and found to be OK Suddenly, just about six months to the end of her current assignment, someone took another look at it and found it to be a fake. This someone leaked it to the press at the time Mrs Adeosun was asking some salient questions about revenue and remittances. This coincidence, if that is what it is, is striking. Mrs Adeosun did the honourable thing. She resigned. Some would argue it was a stiff price to pay given the circumstances of our country where others literally get away with murder. She’s said to have left our shores. She may, or may not come back again.
Our tears should not be for Mrs Adeosun. She’s done her bit. And she did it with dignity, commitment, passion and I dare say, panache. Not a whiff of financial impropriety was sniffed around her. She would be remembered as one of the best in this current team. She was a bright spot in a gloomy room of self-seeking politicians. She would also, unfortunately, be remembered as a victim of political intrigues and the pervasive ‘pull him down’ syndrome in our country. Our tears should rather be for a system which consumed her just as it has been consuming us. Our tears should also be for our children in the diaspora whom we desperately need to take us to the 21st century. They don’t need us half as much as we need them. If what happened to Mrs Adeosun is a standard for those we invite home to contribute their quota to the development of the country then we should not blame them if they feel it is not worth the bother. Our strength, our capital, our future is in our people who are making waves in diverse fields of endeavour across the diaspora. We need them to come home. We need to make their homecoming seamless. The Adeosun experience is a bad omen which should have been nipped in the bud. It needn’t have happened.
For the sake of justice, Mrs Adeosun should not be made to be the only victim. Those – the trusted associates—who made it happen should be fished out. The person who got a fake certificate for her should be fished out and the place it was gotten should be exposed. All the security and intelligence personnel who processed the certificate and pronounced it genuine should be exposed. They not only exposed a high ranking official to ridicule, they exposed her employers, the Federal Government, to ridicule as well. They should not go scot free.