By Lekan Sote
After a long silence, Kemi Adeosun resigned as the Minister of Finance last Friday. Many had expected that she would have provided forthright information to enable the fair-minded to determine her motive, or error of judgment, in obtaining a fake National Youth Service Corps Exemption Certificate on time. Alas, it was delayed.
This delay shows the poor quality of her public relations handlers. She also didn’t seem to have a good legal team that should have given a clinical assessment of her status, and prescribed an appropriate legal position.
This reminds one of the argument of some management experts who insist that personnel is key to the success or failure of any enterprise. Nigeria’s public service is replete with those who occupy positions – the same way air just occupies space – and have no clue of what is expected of them.
Section 2(1)(a,b) of the NYSC Act requires a Nigerian graduate to serve “if, at the end of the academic year 1972-73, or… at the end of any subsequent academic year, he shall have graduated at any university in Nigeria… or, if, at the end of the 1974-75 academic year… or subsequent years, he shall have graduated from a university outside Nigeria.”
Vide Section 13(3), “Any person who fails to comply with or comply with, or contravenes, or causes, or aids, or abets another to contravene any provision of this Act… (is) liable to a fine of N5000, or imprisonment for a term of two years, or both to fine and imprisonment.”
Section 2(1)(a,b) also provides that “Every Nigerian shall… make himself available for service for a continuous period of one year from the date specified in the call-up instrument served on him.” They could however, be exempted under certain conditions.
These conditions, in Section 2(2)(a,b,c,d), are: if the Nigerian “is over the age of thirty… has served in the armed forces of the Federation or the Nigeria Police for a period of more than nine months,” works with the intelligence services, or “has been conferred with National Honour.”
Though born outside Nigeria, Adeosun is a Nigerian vide Section 25(c) of the Constitution: “Every person born outside Nigeria, either of whose parents is a citizen of Nigeria,” or Section 26(2)(c), which provides that “every person of full age and capacity, born outside Nigeria, any of whose grandparents is a citizen of Nigeria.”
For clarification, Section 31 of the Constitution states that “A parent, or grandparent of a person shall be deemed to be a citizen of Nigeria, if, at the time of the birth of that person, such parent or grandparent would have possessed that status by birth, if he had been alive on the date of (Nigeria’s) independence (on 1st October 1960)…”
Constitutional experts should clarify Section 29(1) that requires “Any citizen of Nigeria, of full age, who wishes to renounce his Nigerian citizenship, shall make a declaration in the prescribed manner for the renunciation.”
Section 28(1) of Nigeria’s constitution prescribes that “A person shall forfeit his Nigerian citizenship if… he acquires or retains the citizenship or nationality of a country, other than Nigeria, of which he is a citizen by birth.”
If Adeosun renounced her Nigerian citizenship, she may not have served as the Ogun State Commissioner for Finance, and Federal Minister of Finance. Section 147(3) provides: “The President shall appoint at least one Minister from each State, who shall be an indigene of such State.” Also, Section 192(2) requires governors to reflect the diversities prescribed in Section 14(4) in appointing commissioners.
Sir Darnley Alexander, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, was a citizen of St. Lucia in the Caribbean. Can the privilege granted by Nigeria’s judiciary to Sir Darnley as a Commonwealth citizen be granted by other arms of government, whereas Section 131 of the constitution says, “A person shall be qualified for election to the office of President (of Nigeria) if he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth?”
Adeosun explained: “I was born and raised in the United Kingdom… My visits to Nigeria, up until the age of 34, were holidays, with visas obtained in my UK passport. (However), I obtained my first Nigerian passport at the age of 34!”
So, as a British citizen, she was ineligible to serve, unless she retained her dual citizenship. Her “associates” and the NYSC staff should have told her that being British made her ineligible to serve, and she therefore didn’t need exemption!
The NYSC not only qualifies you for employment, it is a statutory requirement of citizens only. Section 13(2)(a) of the Act says, “Any person who, under the provision of this (Act) is not eligible to participate in the service corps, so participates, or attempts to participate, is guilty of an offence.”
It appears Adeosun opted not to be an expatriate, but become a Nigerian and undergo the NYSC, and her counsellors took advantage of her. Musician Orlando Owoh said, “For a wise man to die in the backyard of a foolish man, there must be reasons.” Adeosun put herself into needless agony by being too trusting and undiscerning.
She failed to interrogate the process through which she was to obtain the exemption, in order to take a logical and sensible decision, and thus became an unwitting victim of a compromising culture and value system.
But if the rumour is upheld that the veracity of her NYSC Exemption Certificate surfaced when she was being confirmed as minister by the Senate, and it was deftly downplayed, then she had what happened to her coming.
If she was complicit in such criminal conspiracy, she should not wince, but chin up. And the Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria that suggests she should not just be allowed to walk away, but have the law books thrown at her and her confederates is right after all. This should deter others, and provide an opportunity to test the laws.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s social media Man-Friday, Reno Omokri, urged President Muhammadu Buhari not to sweep (Adeosun’s) forgery under the carpet. Maybe, it is now morning to poke those governors, ministers, and legislators, who the rumour mill suggests were born, or at least bred, overseas, and absconded from serving.
And those senators, and officials who were allegedly aware of Adeosun’s inadequacy, but chose to compromise, for financial considerations, should be herded into gaol for this blatant rape of due process.
However, it is now being said that Adeosun was a sacrificial lamb, victim of high wire smear politics aimed at President Buhari. Well, the response to that is no more than a sorry for Adeosun’s failure to look well before leaping.
Now that Adeosun has done the needful, some think that President Buhari must now slay the dragon of the allegation that Obono Obla, his Special Assistant on Public Prosecutions, is parading a fake West African School Certificate.
But you must respect Adeosun’s decision to toe the path of honour, and resign as Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In resigning, she said, “As someone totally committed to a culture of probity and accountability, I have decided to resign…” She walked her talk, rather than whine.
That this naïve woman, who however chose to act honourably, has set a precedent for others who may find themselves in such a catch-22 situation in the future is but a conjecture.