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Promoting Good Governance.

Kemi Adeosun’s dishonourable resignation

By ‘Fisayo Soyombo

NORMALLY, in a country where politicians and public office holders are not good friends with the resignation letter, anyone of them who leaves a job receives a hero’s welcome. Expectedly, since her resignation letter was made public on Friday, former Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun has been widely branded the poster girl for honour. “Adeosun bowed out in honour,” many have said; others have stopped short of calling her a saint.

From sainthood, Adeosun’s latest status has been elevated to victimhood — or, put another way, she has managed to hoodwink the unsuspecting public into elevating her to victimhood. Having read her resignation letter multiple times, I still cannot find anything honourable in it. At least three things would have made this resignation honourable: the timing, the context, and the content of the letter. On all three counts, she was found wanting. This will be explained in a moment, but first let’s restate the facts of the matter.

The Premium Times investigation exposed a few incontrovertible facts. Having been born and educated in the UK, Adeosun returned to Nigeria in 2002, aged 35, but refused to undergo the NYSC programme. She obtained an NYSC exemption certificate that the newspaper says is forged but she claims is fake, and that was after working in Nigeria for seven years. The fake/forged certificate was not spotted by the Ogun State government, which she served as Commissioner of Finance between 2011 and 2015, and by the Federal Government despite supposed screening by the Department of State Services (DSS). On spotting the forged certificate, legislature cleared her to become Finance Minister but soon began blackmailing her once she assumed office, and she has reportedly awarded them billions of naira that she ordinarily wouldn’t have. The report was published on July 7, Adeosun resigned on September 14.

Adeosun’s resignation letter is filled with untruths. In it, she says: “When I relocated there was debate as to whether NYSC Law applied to me. Upon enquiry as to my status relating to NYSC, I was informed that due to my residency history and having exceeded the age of thirty (30), I was exempted from the requirement to serve. Until recent events, that remained my understanding.” That’s one.

She also adds: “On the basis of that advice and with the guidance and assistance of those I thought were trusted associates, NYSC were approached for documentary proof of status. I then received the certificate in question. Having never worked in NYSC, visited the premises, been privy to or familiar with their operations, I had no reason to suspect that the certificate was anything but genuine.” That’s another. For obvious reasons, there’s no way in the world this can be true.

The NYSC Act is clear on those who are eligible for exemption. As per age, they are people “over the age of 30 at the date of graduation”. The law is clear: over 30 at the age of graduation — not over 30 at the date of asking or over 30 at the date of return to Nigeria. Adeosun didn’t need the guidance of any “trusted associates”; all she needed was to consult the Act. Of course, a Minister of the Federal Republic and a former Commissioner of Finance knew this; to suggest otherwise in her resignation letter is not only dishonourable, but it is also disrespectful to Nigerians and an insult to their sensibilities.

The social media has been agog with how all of us are thieves but only the Finance Minister was apprehended — how we’re all carrying improperly-documented international passports, fake Customs and insurance certificates, and fake driver’s licences. But this is like comparing apples with grapes. For example, a 14-year-old cannot blame the system for his fake driver’s licence — because he shouldn’t even have one in the first place, original or fake. Similarly, Adeosun’s woes cannot be blamed on the system — because, although our documentation processes are admittedly chaotic, she never deserved even an original exemption certificate. Only an eligible candidate can complain of being issued a fake exemption certificate!

On timing, Adeosun missed the chance to bow out honourably when, rather than throw in the towel, she clung on desperately to the job. She could have resigned when NYSC stopped short of hanging her, incredulously claiming its records showed she applied but also adding it would “investigate the purported exemption certificate”. Were it not for sustained pressure from Premium Times, the civil society and other sections of the Nigerian public, she would have hung on to the job.

Contextually, Adeosun cannot claim full credit for her resignation, especially with the revelation by Sahara Reporters that it was indeed President Muhammadu Buhari who told her she had to go — that kind of technical sacking. Left to her, she would have stayed, which would have rendered her to Buhari the electoral baggage that Stella Oduah was to Goodluck Jonathan. And this doesn’t mean credit to Buhari; his action was opportunistic. Had this not been election season, the President would have kept Adeosun in his cabinet and shunned the public outcry like he has done numerous times already during his presidency. It’s all about pre-election perception. Did anyone wonder why the resignation letter released by the Presidency was not dated? It is because the resignation was deliberately made public to extinguish intense public criticism over the replacement of DSS DG Mathew Seiyefa with Yusuf Bichi. Pure, diversionary tactic!

Adeosun may be out of the way but there is still an important task: who are the legislators who blackmailed her into releasing undue funds to the National Assembly, running into billions of naira? It doesn’t matter if they are PDP or APC legislators, the much-vaunted anti-corruption crusade of the Buhari administration must fish them out and bring them to face the law.

Soyombo, former Editor of the TheCable and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), tweets @fisayosoyombo

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