The news filtered out surreptitiously and before we can manage a blink, it has assumed a life of its own. The internet was abuzz with hails and wails depending on which side of the divide you belong. But I never gave the issue a scant regard until I read the resignation letter of the Honourable Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun. Then, it dawned on me that in every war, there is bound to be collateral damage. The phrase, collateral damage, is usually associated with the military or war situations and it is a general term for deaths, injuries, or other damage inflicted on an unintended target. Clearly, in the hyped anti-corruption war of President Muhammad Buhari, Adeosun is a collateral damage.
While this might not signal her death or permanent incapacitation, depending on how she manages the situation, the truth is that she has been injured by the very nation she has been serving with single minded dedication.
Many things are clear and thus indubitable about the Honourable Minister. That she wears her integrity on her sleeve is without doubt. Just as her competence has been like an aroma that has left cynics and skeptics of her suitability for the high office breathless.
Mrs Kemi Adeosun has been one of the finest technocrats to man the nation’s finances in recent time. And she has done her job with commendable aplomb and elan. As a matter of fact, with her, the truth about ability or gift trumping mere academic certification cannot be more pronounced.
However, the unfortunate situation that has claimed her portfolio, rather than diminish her, reflects the grave defects in our system.
Her story that she only came to Nigeria as resident at 34 years of age can be verified by anybody. And by virtue of her background and birth, which were outside of this country, there is nothing to suggest that she deliberately forged the NYSC exemption certificate. Many people that live in Nigeria may not know that even after thirty years of age, anybody that decides to work in the public sector of the country , is still bound to undergo the mandatory national service.
But beyond this, the more outrageous of the lacunae in her case was the procurement of fake exemption certificate.
We must be bold enough to confront our demons. This is not about Kemi Adeosun who by the way, until recently was not resident in Nigeria, but it is about the failures inherent in our system. It is about how our system is hallmarked by duplicity and malfeasance. Those of us in Nigeria, every now and then, we do find ourselves victims of these forgeries that are rampant in the country. Just about anything can be forged here and people are falling victims because of the collapse of our bureaucracy. Getting ordinary documents that are meant to be procured effortlessly is like rolling boulders up the rock, a sort of sisyphean task, and for this reason, and other allied ones, a thriving third party or intermediary markets have been institutionalised in the country. Innocent Nigerians trying to escape the monstrosity of our bureaucratic systems are routinely scammed and shortchanged in this alternative market or service platform.
Numerous examples of this informal or quasi formal arrangements abound here . It is the norm in Immigration offices, FRSC and numerous government agencies. Often, these intermediaries are the employees of these agencies who are being paid by government to render those services. Citizens endure a lot of shit in Nigeria.
Stretching it further, the fact that the same controversial exemption certificate has been presented first at Ogun State House of Assembly for her screening as a Commissioner for Finance and later in the National Assembly for her confirmation screening as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, suggests only one thing ; the Nigerian system is not working. Had it been otherwise, this problem ought to have been detected and solved before now.
Therefore, those ululating about the resignation of the Honourable Minister should reflect deeply. It is never about Buhari or Adeosun as some people will want to make it, it is the failure of the Nigerian society.
But from another perspective, she may not necessarily resign if the Federal Government still finds her useful in the cabinet. All she needed to have done was to present her case honestly before Nigerians and apologize for the embarrassment. And in addition to the public apology, she could have also complied with the law by serving in that same Ministry. She may decide to donate her allowance to charity. This is just an option.
However, the option she took was nobler. Resigning her appointment is good for the system. It was a breath of fresh air in a clime suffocating under the foul smell emanating from politicians and public officials with no scruples. Therefore, her action was an elixir for the system and a paradigm shift. It is hoped that public officials will key into it.
At the end of it all, what is important in this saga is for us to understand the imperative of building systems and processes that will detect deviations and variations from the norms and thus practically make corruption unfeasible or at least reduce its incidences. And the fact that the allegation about exemption certificate came up in response to the activism of the former Minister for probity and accountability in the handling of the nation’s resources calls attention to the need for anti-corruption crusaders to be wary of booby traps and backlash from predators in the system who have vowed never to allow any change in the status quo. Whether to those who out of schadenfreude, wish the collapse of the present government, or those who agonise over how our society flayed one of those trying to cure her maladies, it is important to note that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.