“At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice, he is the worst.”—Aristotle.
The revelation by Premium Times that Nigeria’s finance minister, Kemi Adeosun evaded the compulsory national youth service and thereafter—upon realising she might not gain entry into the corridors of power without passing through the scheme—forged an exemption certificate is a new low not only in the life of the Buhari administration but on the moral and political hygiene of the country. It speaks to the probable correctness of Falz’s assertion that in Nigeria, everyone is a criminal. Even with the knowledge that the Buhari administration is filled with mediocre cabinet members—from Solomon Lalong who imagines Argentina as a football club to Adebayo Shittu whose conception of democracy revolves around archaic thinking,—one cannot but relax the leadership bar to accord a few amongst them with an eye amidst the vivid blindness that characterizes them, placing the tardiness of the president in the constitution of his cabinet as indicative of a confused soul.
The National Youth Service Corps, a scheme designed by the Yakubu Gowon-led government upon the successful prosecution of the 18 months civil war to address the fragmentation of the peoples of Nigeria in order to foster national cohesion and harmony is mandatory for every full time graduate of a university or polytechnic who completes school within or outside the country before the age of 30. The extent at which the scheme has fulfilled its mandate to be at the fulcrum of forging the heterogeneous nature of nationals into a homogenous force in fostering unity and embracing diversity has been a contentious issue.
With the nation drifting towards the ditch every passing day, it was only a matter of time before the scheme began to lose its relevance amongst Nigerians especially the elites who although ought to be at the centre of national rebirth and renewal, pay lip service to the longing of their country to make a nation of itself. Even in the face of strong criticisms from a significant portion of Nigerians on the worthwhileness and relevance of the scheme especially in light of the challenges corps members face, the scheme remains undaunted, posting young graduates far and wide to contribute their quota to nation building from education through health to the agriculture sector. The importance of this scheme lies in the immense impacts corps members have had and continue to have on their host communities.
Notwithstanding the inhumanity that has been made to define our collective existence, one so flagrant as to reduce the worth of the life of an average Nigerian to the Hobbesian level, still, no one can deny the fact that a country of one’s nationality must have at one point or the other contributed to one’s success in life. This was the crux of my yearning to serve Nigeria upon the completion of my studies in 2014. Having been a beneficiary of public education—however substandard—at the secondary and tertiary levels, travelled on our roads however pot-hole ridden, and benefitted at varying instances from the remnants of the good old days, I felt a need to dedicate a year of my existence solely to the betterment of the nation.
This is why the clear allegations levelled against the finance minister on her evasion of national service and forgery of an exemption certificate if found to be true will portray her as a creature with an ungrateful soul. Already, the story is beginning to add up as the NYSC appears to waffle and ditch out half-truths on the status of Ms Adeosun as the official release which confirmed her application for exemption is a dumb tactic that could spell doom for the integrity of the organisation. What a reputable body would have done in a situation like this was to inform the public of the provisions that qualify or disqualify an individual from being granted leave from participating in the scheme. Having established that the minister completed her schooling at 22, it is obvious the NYSC’s press release was intended to water the grounds for a magical cover-up of this scandal. Already, the NYSC act is clear on the category of persons who are entitled to exemption. Unfortunately for the sanctimonious grandstanding of President Buhari, the master of coin is not known to have a history of service in the armed forces.
Lest we forget, this shameful outing of the NYSC is not new in the history of institutional indiscipline in the country. Successive administrations are notorious for marginalizing the conducts of our national institutions to satiating their perfidious lifestyles. During the ignoble years of Goodluck Jonathan and Olusegun Obasanjo, the DSS stripped itself of our national colours to embrace a perverse worldview of vengeful policing, lurking around their subconscious to have a feel of whom to pounce on. We remember Marylyn Ogar, the indecorous spokesperson whose lack of tact exposed her organisation as beholden to vested interests. As we’ve come to realise, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Since the second coming of Mr Buhari, an intensification of professional debauchery has been made to hold sway across the many facets of our national life. .
It is futile waiting on the president to wield the stick concerning the clear case of irresponsibility and forgery by one of his top cabinet members for he is not known to perceive such infractions as being worthy of his left eye. Buhari revels in a world of compartments, a world divided in two wherein loyalty to his person is seen to be synonymous to being loyal to the nation irrespective of whose ox is gored. Unknown to him, such a parochial worldview discountenances the chameleon in man, a trait that causes individuals to grovel in one’s presence while nursing extreme bile under the breast.
This scandal puts a lid to the foolish talk amongst a segment of the populace that the APC differs from the PDP in significant ways. This is obvious in the fact that in less than four years of their coming to power, its members have committed as much egregious crimes as those perpetrated by the PDP in sixteen years. In fact, one could infer that with such irresponsible characters holding various offices under the APC, the nation risks witnessing them do in four years what took the PDP sixteen years to despoil.
Before Adeosun lay a litany of certificate forgers in government circles. A former speaker of the House of Representatives, Salisu Buhari was forced to resign when it was made public that he falsified his age and documents indicating he graduated from the University of Toronto. Okoi Obono-Obla, special assistant to the president on prosecution also has a case of forgery around his neck. Dino Melaye, a serving senator who claimed to have graduated from the Ahmadu Bello University having been admitted with passes in three O’level subjects (the minimum required for admission into a university is credit in five subjects) still has no answer to the allegations that he neither passed a compulsory course during his undergraduate days nor own a degree from the prestigious Harvard University as claimed. The national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu will not forget in a hurry how the late legal titan, Gani Fawehinmi took him to the cleaners over his claim to owning a foreign degree. The president himself, who pretend to sit on a high moral pedestal is still embroiled in a messy saga concerning his school leaving certificate. In all of these instances, the nation is made to suffer the agony of being made to conform to a justice system that parodies the cobweb—one that is too strong for the weak, and too weak for the strong.
Nigerians have seen in clear terms how impossible it is to look upon their leaders to steer the country towards greatness and excellence. They have struggled to reclaim their land only to have it hijacked by impostors who feign populism to get to power only to turn out nightmarish. #AdeosunGate resonates loudly among the wretched masses of the easiness of members of the ruling elite to unbind the eyes of the statue of justice on matters they have interests in while invoking same to condemn the petty tendencies of the common man. With state-sanctioned corruption increasing rather than receding, one is forced to ask how long we hope to keep up with this charade. When all of these is over, Nigerians would want to know where and when two of the president’s children—Zahra and Yusuf—who graduated in 2016 served their fatherland. They would need answers in order to situate the treachery of Ms Adeosun in the proper perspective.
Modiu Olaguro writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
Modiu writes via firstname.lastname@example.org