The integrity of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) under President Muhammadu Buhari is again under scrutiny and so far, neither the party nor the government is coming up good.
Specifically, it has been about three weeks, since July 7, that Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun was publicly reported by the media to hold, and to have presented to relevant authorities, fake certificate of exemption from the mandatory national youth service. The report continues to gather credibility as important evidence as well as comments by persons who should know, strongly suggest that the certificate of exemption she presents indeed cannot be genuine.
Firstly, the National Youth Service Corps Act stipulates in Section 2 that any graduate from universities in and outside Nigeria must enroll for the compulsory one-year service to their fatherland. However, 'a person shall not be called upon to serve in the service corps if, at the date of his graduation, or of obtaining his diploma, or other professional qualification, he is over the age of thirty... ' Kemi Adeosun was according to reports, 22 when she graduated in 1989. Mandatorily, under the NYSC law, she was eligible and duty-bound to return home to do her patriotic duty to Nigeria. She returned to Nigeria in 2002 but still neglected to register for the service. This is an offence under Section 13 of the law.
Second, she was never entitled to an exemption because, in the words of a former director-general of the NYSC, Brig-Gen. Maharazu Tsiga (rtd), 'in as much as you have not served... in as much as you were not mobilised to serve at the time you were supposed to serve, (the NYSC authorities) can never give you exemption. You must go for service.' Thirdly, Adeosun applied for a certificate of exemption in a system that has no room for such application. As a retired director of mobilisation in the NYSC, Mr. Anthony Ani said, 'you don't apply for ... certificate of exemption; you present yourself for mobilisation. The system will determine whether you are to be exempted or you are not... ' The NYSC confirmed that Adeosun, in truth, applied for a certificate of exemption, but it is yet to say how it responded, if at all it did and on what basis. Fourth, the certificate of exemption eventually procured by the minister was reportedly signed by a director-general of the NYSC who left the system nine months or so earlier and, ipso facto, could not have legally done so. Again, this is a criminal act under Section 13 of the NYSC law.
Adeosun has kept an un-dignified silence about so grave an allegation and her employers, the Federal Government, has been wooly-mouthed in its comment on the matter. Lai Mohammed, the minister of information said that the NYSC's response which, in sum, is that it is still investigating the matter, is the Federal Government's response because the NYSC is part of government. So trivial a position to adopt on so grave an allegation against so high a government official!
Meanwhile, decent Nigerians and friends of Nigeria elsewhere, lament the loss of a sense of shame and the increasing dearth of integrity in high places in this land.
At this time and in this matter as it concerns Adeosun, the adage that silence is golden does not at all apply. Rather than maintain a 'wooden silence,' this minister must speak up to prove evidentially, beyond any reasonable doubt that she is in the right. A failure to do this forthwith implies her culpability. If so, it is a matter of honour, whatever is left of it, that she should bring this matter to a closure of sorts by resigning her position for her own sake, for the sake of the government she represents, and far more importantly, to save Nigeria the continued embarrassment of this incident. It may be added that this government has been distracted so often by so many reputation -damaging incidents that, it could do without another. It is a great pity that Buhari and his advisers do not seem to think so and, indeed, appear to be willing to live with it. Nigeria's reputation and respectability is the worse for it at home and abroad. Pray, who wants to do business with a government the credibility of which high officials are in doubt, more so its minister in charge of finance?
Granted that Adeosun deserves to be heard before anyone can pass judgement, her deliberate silence insults Nigerians; it is as if what the electorate thinks and says does not matter. This attitude of contempt for public opinion ever so evident, one way or another in high places, has degenerated into a norm with this government.
In a constitution-anchored representative democracy, wherein the government derives its powers and authority only from the sovereignty of the people, this is arrogant, it is irresponsible and it is unacceptable.
It is strange that Adeosun's alleged fake document could pass the scrutiny of firstly, her employers since 2002 when she returned to the country, and secondly, those - governor and president - who nominated her for commissionership and ministerial positions. What happened at the Directorate of State Security during her security screening and at the Senate of the Federal Republic that again screened her for confirmation? Some questions arise: Was this alleged forgery so expertly done that it escaped the 'thoroughness' of these tiers of scrutiny? Or were some persons (conveniently) derelict in their respective duties? Whatever must have happened, Nigerians need explanations. Because politics as well as high public office in Nigeria is so lucrative as to be a do-or-die affair, did someone know that Adeosun's NYSC discharge certificate was flawed and held it as a weapon for continually blackmailing her and the government she serves?
When Adeosun wrote for a certificate of exemption as disclosed by the NYSC itself, did the NYSC write her to say, as any responsible public institution should, that it is not done and that, on the strength of the credentials she submitted, she must, as a matter of legal obligation, go for service? In short, was the NYSC derelict in its duty then or is now trying to help cover the minister's racks? The organisation must clarify its role in this regard.
The APC promised the people of Nigeria in its manifesto, that it would 'prevent abuse of executive, legislative and public offices through greater accountability, transparency and strict enforcement of anti-corruption laws while strengthening the EFCC and the ICPC.' By allowing Adeosun to keep a disdainful silence in the face of the weighty allegation against her, by dilly-dallying and buck-passing on government's position in the matter, the APC-led government under Buhari is violating its own documented pledge. Besides, this government has again demonstrated its contempt for Nigerians and its tolerance of a terribly low standard of probity. Where is character?
If Adeosun cannot explain and conclusively disprove the allegation against her, she should quit her position immediately.
It may be Buhari's or APC's preference but a poor standard of probity is beneath Nigeria.