An analysis by Chukwudi Ekezie, News Agency of Nigeria
The resignation of Mrs Olukemi Adeosun as Minister of Finance on Friday, Sept. 14, for forgery has raised questions over the workings of Nigeria.
The issues border on honesty, integrity, patriotism, weakness and incompetence as well as relationship between the strong and weak in society among those holding public office and the institutions of governance.
Adeosun is not the first Nigerians public official found to have been involved in forgery.
At the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1999, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Salisu Buhari from Kano State, was found to have forged the university certificate which he presented to contest and win election into the assembly.
Buhari resigned his position and membership of the assembly, but with a kiss from former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who granted him state pardon.
Over the period, many politicians have lost their electoral mandates at the court because they forged the certificates they used to contest elections. That was the case of Christian Abah, a Benue member of the House of Representatives.
Abah was found guilty of forging a diploma certificate he used to contest and win the 2015 election to represent Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency, he lost his seat but not his freedom.
Aside the issue of certificate forgery, many officials have been found to have compromised their positions by engaging in acts inimical to the public good.
A recent case is that of Babachir Lawal, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, who used his position to award himself a contract for the cutting of grass at Internally Displaced Persons camps in the Northeast Region.
In spite of calls by the National Assembly for him to resign, it took the indictment of an investigative panel chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to get him out of office.
But Lawal still bestrides politics in Adamawa, his home state, where he is seeking to oust Gov. Jibrilla Bindow, in the build up for the 2019 general elections.
Former governors Diepreye Alamieyesiegha of Bayelsa, Lucky Igbinedion of Edo and James Ibori of Delta were jailed for laundering state funds.
Alamieyesiegha received state pardon after serving his sentence from then President Goodluck Jonathan, who succeeded him as governor, while Ibori received a hero’s welcome from the government and people of Delta after serving his prison term in Britain, where he was convicted.
Igbinedion has yet to enjoy such privilege, maybe because those who succeeded him in office, especially Adams Oshiomhole, National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), is still hurting over his mismanagement of state resources.
Joshua Dariye, a serving senator, is currently serving a 14-year jail-term for money laundering and mismanaging the resources of Plateau from 1999 to 2007, as governor of the state.
Numerous governors of the era, including Orji Kalu of Abia, are still in court explaining how they managed the resources of their states.
In the cases of Adeosun, Buhari and Lawal no prosecution has taken place.
President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Mr Boss Mustapha, an Adamawa politician, as Lawal’s replacement. In Adeosun’s case, the president accepted her resignation and wished her well in her future endeavours.
The ruling APC has commended Adeosun’s courage for owning up that her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate was forged and resigning from the government.
It also commended the president for asking her to resign in line with the philosophy of the government of ridding the society of crime.
But the opposition Peoples Democratic Party disagrees. The party is demanding the former minister’s prosecution. It says the failure of the administration to prosecute Adeosun is a demonstration of double standards in the fight against corruption.
Some persons share the PDP view and demand that Adeosun refund all monies she earned as Commissioner for Finance in her home state, Ogun, for five years and as Minister of the Federal Republic since 2016.
While the debate on the fate of the former minister rages, some have begun to ask about how she and others like her enter Nigeria’s public service space.
Nigerians are made to believe that before anyone gets into public office; such person is put through security scrutiny to establish their background.
In this instance, the Department of State Service carries out the assignment. At the level of the screening all issues related to the person, including certificates are verified.
For persons whose jobs require the approval of the legislature, the security report is made available to guide members to take decisions.
In Adeosun’s case this step was taken but it was said that members of the Senate overlooked it.
Adeosun, a Diaspora Nigerian, was born and raised in Britain and returned to live and work in Nigeria at the age of 34.
She is currently 51 and that means that she has worked in Nigeria for 17 years, out of which seven was in the public service, starting with her appointment as commissioner in 2011 and minister in 2016.
She like many of her ilk is among millions of Nigerians said to be excelling in their fields across the globe.
During the regime of Obasanjo, the government made serious efforts to attract them home to help develop the fatherland.
To achieve the goal, Obasanjo travelled all over Europe and America to bring them home under the Diaspora Project.
That effort resulted in then Rep. Abike Dabiri, who chaired the House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora, pushing for the establishment of a Diaspora Commission.
Based on the vision of Obasanjo, the Diaspora Group was granted privileges, such as access to land and employment concessions in the hope that they would bring their expertise to develop the country being that they had better education and exposure than those at home.
The government institutionalised the practice such that some members of the cabinet like the late Olugbenga Ashiru (Minister of Foreign Affairs) and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Minister of Finance), seconded to serve at home by international agencies like the World Bank, received salaries in dollars to make up for their pains in serving the fatherland.
There was also the case in the Ministry of Federal Capital Territory, where the current governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, then minister, engaged some foreign-trained NYSC members and paid them salaries higher than that of the permanent secretary of the Ministry, just because they studied abroad and possessed special skills.
Many Nigeria Diaspora elements are children of the rich who sojourned out because their parents lack faith in Nigeria’s disrupted education system.
Their parents want them to finish school on time to inherit the family business or join elite public and private institutions, such as Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Nigerian Communications Commission, multinational oil companies and banks to sustain the family legacy.
Sometimes they do not return, but when they do, they jump queues, especially in areas that they need to follow regulations and processes, including the NYSC scheme, which requires every Nigerian youth who graduates from university or equivalent institution before 30 to serve the nation for one year.
In cases where Diaspora elements agree to serve, they are often taken to places of their parents’ choices, where though in NYSC uniforms, they are employees.
In some cases, while serving, they are made to supervise those they ordinarily ought to report to during the service as occurred in Nigeria Building and Roads Research Institute about year 2000, when the Director-General was an NYSC member.
The man, an associate professor at the time, claimed like Adeosun that he did not know that he should have served in the NYSC scheme before accepting the job.
Adeosun may be lonely in her world with her career and future ruined, but there are numerous like her in the system who need to be purged.