By Oma Djebah
If one image has animated social media and adrenalized international fora in recent times, it’s certainly the spurning, denigrating Photo-shopped picture of Kemi Adeosun, Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, garbed in National Youth Service Corps(NYSC) attire. Curiously, Adeosun whose alleged infractions have brought severe national, global opprobrium to Nigeria and stretched citizens anger, has maintained a subdued silence. Yet, there has been escalating tensions triggered by concerns that the NYSC is attempting a cover-up for Adeosun, a Southerner while the same agency knee-capped Salisu Buhari, a Northern Muslim, who committed similar criminal transgressions in 1999. Buhari resigned as Speaker of the House of Representatives for forging an NYSC certificate and claiming to have graduated from the University of Toronto, Canada.
Why is Adeosun being treated with kid gloves? Are there two different sets of criminal laws for public officers in Nigeria-one for Northerners and another for Southerners? Was it because Buhari hails from the North that he was made to face the Law? These crucial questions could ignite a serious firestorm of protest and potentially damage the reputation of the government if not satisfactorily addressed. Citizens support are already on the wane and could shrink further irretrievably! Transparency International is already weighing in! Anyone could be the stalking horse in this circumstance and no government should under-rate citizens, global media’s capacity to fight on the side of the Law. Premium Times with offices in Nigeria and the US, is sufficiently networked to well over 100 global platforms across the Americas, Europe, Asia-Pacific and Africa.
Thus sensing danger, Adeosun, kept a pin-drop silence amidst despair. Looking awfully exhausted, and bobbed in her own cold inky-stained waters of alleged misconduct as the picture depict! Yet, the question remains: How could she sit atop Nigeria’s Ministry of Finance with allegations of crooked misdeeds hanging on her head, when she could understandably step aside? Let’s effectuate a flashback. Premium Times, an online news medium founded by Dapo Olorunyomi, an activist cum intellectual-journalist, one of Nigeria’s finest and conscientious writers, broke the story of how the Minister falsified an NYSC exemption certificate as she had skipped the mandatory national service upon her graduation in 1989 at 22. Going by provisions of the NYSC Act, the Minister is ineligible for exemption as she doesn’t satisfy the requirements to be excused.
Like Buhari, the alleged fake certificate was among credentials Adeosun presented to procure, secure her qualification for nomination, appointment and screening in 2015. The implications are therefore grave, multiple and diverse. Hear what a Law Professor at the Harvard law School, US told me in a private conversation: “If proven to be true, that she wasn’t qualified for that role (Minister) and that she has illegally procured her qualification for appointment, the implications are very far-reaching. All actions taken by such an officer becomes illegal and she also faces severe penalties. Apart from breaching domestic laws, there are international implications because Nigeria is a signatory to various international instruments, protocols on false, criminal acts which are binding…The national Parliament can withdraw its confirmation, ask the President who is bound by Law, to represent another nominee…It’s the position of the Law”
Interestingly, NYSC has offered a feeble, weak and most imprecise response. In any case, what matters most isn’t NYSC’s vague statement but the firm, unequivocal rebuttal by former NYSC DG, Gen. Maharazu Tsiga, which clearly invalidates and discredits Adeosun’s claim. Gen Tsiga says the exemption certificate being paraded by the Minister didn’t emanate from the NYSC. The immortal words of Ernest Hemingway, an awesome and amazing novelist quickly spring to my mind. In” The Snows of Kilimanjaro”; Hemingway wonders what a leopard was seeking at the altitude of Kilimanjaro a ”snow-covered mountain of 19,710 feet high, the highest mountain in Africa… where the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard were found.”
Why apply for NYSC exemption when you are unqualified? What is the frozen carcass of a leopard searching for at Kilimanjaro if not to consciously cover-up an inappropriate act? For a country populated by some of the best, brightest brains in Africa, it’s absurd that we can’t quickly fix this gaping hole! It’s also necessary to Google the status of East London Polytechnic which Adeosun graduated in 1989! President Buhari should borrow a leaf from Gowon. It was the rare pragmatism of Obafemi Awolowo,(first Premier of Western Nigeria as Minister of Finance ), the expansive intellectual skills of Clement Isong (PhD Economics, Harvard) as Governor of CBN and the planning dexterity of Adebayo Adedeji, (MPA, Harvard, PhD Economics, London (Not East London Polytechnic!) Minister for Economic Development and Reconstruction that saw Nigeria through one of her most challenging economic era!
Ours is an economy that’s in comatose, with the imprimatur of a nation in recession, a country in search of its soul, seeking to re-define herself in practical economic terms. A tottering, bleeding giant with unemployment digits rising in astronomic proportions, occasioned in part, by multiple financial flip-flops. Thus the current mess further diminishes Nigeria’s global perception and calls her integrity to question.
Empires rise and fall! This warning clearly resonates with our times! If in doubt, ask the awesome columnist, Michael Wolff. Backlash over ethical issues could be fierce with devastating consequences. Wolff in his “The Man who Owns The News: Inside The Secret World of Rupert Murdoch'” captures this narrative lucidly. Nigeria has reached a tipping point on this!No nation succeeds in flawed experiments, in condoning misdemeanor, reckless transgressions.
In 1999, Buhari, a Northerner and Muslim had many things unquestionably going for him as Nigeria’s No 4 man until The News uncovered, lifted the veil on his fake University of Toronto and NYSC certificates. And he resigned, disappeared tragically into oblivion! Like Buhari, Adeosun should resign to save our country’s tottering reputation! Let the Law take its course!
Oma Djebah, a global journalist and public policy strategist has served as a member of the United Nations Secretary-General’s panel on Media and Governance in Africa and is currently at the School of Digital Media and Communications Management, University of Toronto, Toronto and a PhD candidate at North West University, working on global media, peace communications and the Niger Delta Question. Email: [email protected] and follow him at: https://omadjebahsthoughts.com