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Kemi Adeosun: Who is she?

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Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun. PHOTO: CNBC Africa


I had thought I was alone in seeing the brouhaha that assailed Kemi Adeosun differently from how many Nigerians saw it and saw her person until I read the comments credited to Professor Itse Sagay, chairman of Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption. I was prepared to stand alone in the raging tide. Professor Sagay said on her NYSC palaver, for example, a statement widely quoted by online publications and some print media as well: “I don’t believe it.” I will come back to this presently, but it should quickly be stated that Professor Sagay spoke at a workshop last Thursday on the United Kingdom Unexplained Wealth Order, organized by PACAC, UK National Crime Agency and the Department for International Development (DfID). It was the same day Kemi Adeosun featured on this page.

In the heat of the controversy surrounding her participation or non-participation in the National Youth Service, the impression was created that Kemi Adeosun was ill prepared for her assignment as Minister of Finance. In the reckoning of many, after all she has no more than a diploma in economics from a backroom polytechnic. Professor Sagay who was for years a university lecturer, an activist in and outside the campus for that matter, an insider in government and by virtue of his own standing in the academia as a Professor of Law, he would know. And he had this to say: “Let me tell you my reaction. This woman is a brilliant and extremely valuable member of this government. There is nothing in this world that will make me remove such a woman from the government…she is going to be there. We cannot afford to lose that woman…I’m telling you now. If you ask me—if I were President Buhari, I would never, ever touch that woman because she is damn good.

“The enemies of this government want to reduce President Buhari’s capacity to provide good governance by engaging in social media attacks and trying to get rid of her. It will not work.”

What are her qualifications? I began to search for these days the profiles of our public functionaries are hardly laid open any more. An online publication, BuzzNigeria, came to my rescue. The publication says she was born in 1967 in the United Kingdom where her father, a civil engineer, worked as civil servant. She attended the University of East London from where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and capped it with a post-graduate Diploma in Public Sector Financial Management from the University of London (School of Oriental and African Studies). She attended many Executive Management Programmes among which is in Strategic Leadership at the prestigious Wharton Business School. She qualified as a Chartered Accountant with the Institute of Chartered accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW). She is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) as well. Her expertise is said to span Audit, Risk Management, Management Consultancy, Investment Banking, Pensions Administration and Public Sector Financial Management.

The profile also reveals that she held senior positions in companies such as British Telecom Plc from 1989—1990; Prism Consulting –1996—2000; and PricewaterhouseCoopers also in the United Kingdom from 2000—2002. When she came to Nigeria to join her husband, Niyi Adeosun, who was shuttling between Lagos and the UK, she joined the Chapel Hill Denham group in 2002 as Financial Controller. She rose and became the Managing Director until 2010 when she left to start her own consultancy called The Quo Vadis Partnership. It was from her company she was appointed Ogun State Commissioner for Finance—2011—2015. She did so well growing the state IGR (Internally Generated Revenue) by 500 per cent that the Ibikunle Amosun Administration recommended her to be appointed the Minister of Finance in Abuja. Unknown to the general public, Ogun State was the first to introduce the Centralized Treasury System otherwise called Treasury Single Account (TSA), which was carried to Abuja. She spearheaded the Tax Residency Campaign that people who live in Ogun State are to pay their taxes there and not in Lagos State that they work. This resulted in more than 100,000 additional tax payers to Ogun State. She argued that people pay tax where they live and not where they work.

Before going into government she was in the campaign for women empowerment, a subject over which she wrote and spoke extensively. In 2009, she was invited to speak at the Global summit in Chile. She also wrote a weekly column on personal finance in ThisDay Style Magazine.

With the foregoing impressive credentials, is that the kind of lady to be associated with forgery of National Youth Call certificate, of all things? What for? To achieve what? Something she could easily have fetched effortlessly if she was minded to have one. Her pedigree aside, we can all bear witness to her dignified carriage, confidence and self-assuredness and grasp of her assignment, the country’s financial matters. She is neither loud nor gaudy in her attire, always simply dressed mostly in local fabrics. As I did say last week, were Justice Candide Ademola Johnson now of blessed memory, or Hon. Justice Karibi-Whyte, to name just two of our outstanding justices noted for wisdom, to adjudicate on the hoopla, they would just throw it out of the window as a non-issue. Not surprising, Itse Sagay, a professor of law when asked about government not reacting to allegations of Adeosun skipping the Youth Service and controversy of her exemption certificate, said:

“I don’t bloody care whether she did Youth Service or not. It’s irrelevant as far as I am concerned. On the issue of exemption certificate controversy, he said: “I don’t believe it. I don’t see anything serious about not doing Youth Service. I don’t see anything about it. That is my own bias, not government’s. I am telling you now. If you ask me—if I were President Buhari, I would never, ever touch that woman because she is damn good.”

The issue is not about the desirability or otherwise of the National Youth Service Corps. The objective was laudable when it was established in 1973 as one of the programmes to foster understanding and friendship among youths as leaders of tomorrow, coming as it did after the civil war. Understanding and the concomitant harmony was to be fetched through intermingling, living outside their environment thereby coming to appreciate different cultures of the Nigerian people. It was spurred more by the objective of forging the unity of the country. It is the legacy of General Yakubu Gowon, even though it was the idea of Professor Adebayo Adedeji who was his Minister (Commissioner then) of Economic Development. Whether the programme has achieved its set objectives or not in view of the sharp polarization in the land today is a different issue; it is arguable. What engenders friendship, union and compatibility is by far deeper. It is not an issue for today. We know the anxieties parents go through at the approach of call-up seasons. They are under pressure wanting to know the posting of their children. The anxieties are heightened today in view of pervasive insecurity in several parts of the country as well as all kinds of accidents corpers experience from time to time. Many in high places simply network!

Kemi Adeosun occupies a most sensitive position as Minister of Finance in which trust is the most crucial watch word. She cannot afford to be found wanting in character and trust worthiness. That we must all uphold. I believe in wholesomeness in government as well as in personal lives. It demands of us exertion and continuous striving. The point being made, however, is Kemi Adeosun could not have forged anything. If she did not forge her academic certificates which are more import which she needs forever as her meal tickets, how reasonable would it be for her to forge a youth call testimonial which she would discard after the one-year service? Come to think of it: Look at her background. Look at her glittering credentials; look at her work experience. What are her records in all the places? She has had everything going for her. She was born and raised in the UK. She had all her education, her training all there. She spent the first 36 years of her life in the UK, married there and raised a family all of which was in the United Kingdom. While there the Court of St. James which houses the Nigerian High Commission did not know her, had no record of her, how much more contributing a dime to her education and development.

There was no communication about NYSC and was required of Nigerians. What are the rules? No one said anything. Is it conceivable that the British High Commission in Nigeria will not have records of the British citizen in our midst or in any country of their duty tour for that matter? Adeosun came and unsuspectingly and in moments of inalertness or even naivety, fell into the hands of do-gooders who took advantage of her lack of familiarity with the Nigerian terrain; they talked her out of nursing any desire to participate in any such thing called Youth Service. We know ourselves, why live in denial to engage in moral stone throwing to demonize and criminalize her and ruin her career, and hard-earned reputation. Nothing should be made to smear her credentials so that the day after tomorrow, if she chooses, she can leave the shores of Nigeria to work in Ghana, South Africa, Canada, France or Australia. With her credentials she is a citizen of the universe.

As I write, what picture of Candide Ademola Johnson do I see floating before my gaze, or that of Yinka Ayoola’s or Uwaifo’s? Amidst anecdotes, humour and smiles, all simultaneously encapsulated in seriousness of pronouncement typical of a judge, each of these Justices would say, taking everybody by surprise, “but Adeosun is serving the nation now and at a much higher level. Youth Service is for one year; she has served as commissioner for four years in Ogun State and she is in her third year as Minister of Finance. Which national service is higher than that? Is there any?” Chief Rotimi Williams concurring would ask, facing the opposing attorney and in his characteristic humour, “And what’s your problem?” Registrar: Coour-ur-t!!!

We should wrap Kemi Adeosun with love and help her to return to her accustomed confidence, eloquence and self-assuredness. The words of Professor Itse Sagay should be sufficient energy tonic for her. He said, “This woman is a brilliant and extremely valuable member of this government. A lot of the good things happening now—the welfare that Nigerians are enjoying and are going to enjoy, because it takes time…how we got out of recession—are due to her expertise, her commitment, her sacrifice. There is nothing in this world that will make me remove such a woman from the government. The PDP can weep from now until there is no tear left in their body, she is going to be there. We cannot afford to lose her. If I were President Buhari, I would never, ever touch that woman because she’s damn good.” Do I need to say more?


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Kemi Adeosun
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