Kemi Adeosun, a lady of honour
It must take a heart of steel to foray into Nigerian politics. The way things are it is an arena for the survival of the fittest, where the man of muscle and the man of might, the man of means—fair or foul—and the ones who shout the loudest have the hope of being kings. This situation will remain for several years to come. It is a period foreseen and foretold: it would be a time of perplexities. It is when masters at our sins would be our rulers. This proclaims to us that it is a period a great many decent men would steer clear of the rumbling in the jungle. I salute the few gentlemen who stretch out their heads for the guillotine in their desire to serve us. It is an arena false transgressions would be drawn up, adumbrated and you would be shown the way to your father’s house. It has not always been like that. The decline from the standard of the time of yore when men of honour imbued with the spirit of service bestrode the firmament is palpable. It is in this contrasting putrid age Kemi Adeosun accepted to serve, evidently unaware of her environment.
It could even be worse for women. Ab initio, political contestation is not for them. Their active participation in politics is a misadventure that does incalculable harm to them and mankind in general. That there is a worldwide clamour by them and for them to break the glass ceiling, as in the words of Hillary Clinton, does not make it right. The richness of their spiritual make-up which links them more firmly with Nature for a flow of abundant Light radiations from higher Realms to unhinge men from the grip of Darkness and for their nurture with civilising tonic, does not lend itself to the rumble and tumble of politics. The make-up is reflected even outwardly such that while men are coarse and sturdy, women are fine and delicate.
From the words alone, it must occur to us that man cannot be woman nor can a woman be man. These differences are reflective of their separate roles. Politics is in the realm of active and aggressive public affairs more suited to the coarse nature of men. It bears repeating the hints this column has dropped before that when women get involved in masculine activities they repress their womanliness; they steel themselves and feminine attributes, indeed, essence, that make for their womanliness drop off. Their link gets cut off and their vision gets beclouded. They become less reliable guides. The perversion of the roles leads to their downfall and they drag men along with them. Little wonder our world is upside down!
Until the Beijing Declaration is given another look through enlightenment, the world has no choice but to work within the framework making provision for women in public affairs. A few of them have nevertheless shown promise, especially those who have come in more as professionals than those who are out and out politicians slugging it out with men. Kemi Adeosun is one of them. She came brandishing her credentials in financial matters. And she acquitted herself. However, she has had to leave amidst controversies surrounding her non-participation in the National Youth Service, NYSC for short. She left bloodied, but reassuringly not bowed. She threw in the towel, a woman of honour. What is her story? It was alleged she forged her NYSC certificate and arrows started flying to her from all directions. While all this was happening I held my ground that I had my doubts. Forge? What for, and of all certificates, the NYSC testimonial! What are her credentials?
As I did state in my second piece on the controversy, quoting BUZZNIGERIA, an online publication, on her profile, she was born in Britain, daughter of a Nigerian civil engineer who had settled in the United Kingdom and working as a civil servant in Her Majesty’s public service. Kemi is the third of his four children. 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 study in Public Sector Financial Management from the University of London (School of Oriental and African Studies). She attended many Executive Management programmes among which was 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. These are not certificates you pick from the roadside. 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 the renowned PricewaterhouseCoopers also in the United Kingdom from 2000-2002. When she relocated to join her husband, Niyi Adeosun, who had been shuttling between Lagos and the UK, thus running two homes, she arrived well equipped. If she did not forge all these glittering testimonials, which she can brandish to work in any English speaking country of the world, it would have been unreasonable to forge an NYSC certificate to work in Nigeria. In any case, Youth Service, a legacy of General Gowon, is what a majority of youths look forward to if there is no interference from their parents over security and safety concerns. There are no qualifying tests or end of course examination to scare anybody.
The youths are excited because they are in the age of adventure, with energy, bravery, activitism and dynamism at their command—to dream dreams, to explore and jump down from the roof and indeed, outside the frightened glare of parents, elect to be parachuted from a flying military jet. All considered, from the point of view of her academic and professional qualifications as well as being a youth, I had no iota of doubts that Kemi Adeosun was incapable of forging an NYSC certificate. From her confidence, daringness, dignified carriage and self-assuredness, the world at her feet, she could not have forged anything. And I did argue that if in doubt, why would we not ask from her employers for a confidential report on her character traits?
In her own account of the background to the whole sordid issue as contained in her letter of resignation, she said she was born and raised in the United Kingdom, and that her parental family home remains in London. As of the time she was 34 she had only the British passport and when she visited Nigeria on holidays, she had to obtain Nigerian visas. Technically, until that age of 34 when she obtained her first Nigerian passport, she was not a Nigerian, and she was not so recognized by Nigeria. She was only a foreign tourist visiting Nigeria. Nothing could have been done to facilitate her being recognised as a Nigerian and be accorded all the privileges of citizenship. As of that time, for all we care, she could have been a Ghanaian! At the age she became a Nigerian, she had clearly passed the NYSC age limit of 30 years. At 22 when she finished her first degree she was not a Nigerian and NYSC is never meant for non-Nigerians. The situation put her at a crossroads. To show that she did not want to skip doing a youth call, she made enquiries. Whoever wanted to avoid serving would not have bothered at all. She was automatically exempted. In her own words:
“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.” Even then she went the extra mile to make assurances doubly sure, she wanted a documentary proof, hence the letter to the NYSC authorities. In the course of the controversy, the NYSC did not deny receiving from her an application from her requesting for exemption. Kemi says in her letter, “On the basis of that advice and with the guidance and assistance of those I thought were trusted associates, NYSC was approached for documentary proof of status.” She goes on: “I then received the certificate in question. Having never worked in NYSC, visited the premises, been privy nor familiar with their operations, I had no reason to suspect that the certificate was anything, but genuine.” What’s more it was the same certificate she presented even to Security, (DSS), for clearance, and also to Ogun State House of Assembly and the National Assembly. No one drew her attention to the status of the exemption certificate and she lived with the understanding that what she had was a genuine paper until the brouhaha. So, where did she go wrong that a great many were calling for her head?
Given where she was coming from, how could Kemi Adeosun, in all that is fair and just, have doubted that what she had in her handbag said to have been issued from a government institution was fake? Is that conceivable in Britain of any government institution? The NYSC did not have the courtesy of replying to her application. Again, is that conceivable in a sane society? In the UK, as I did state in my first write-up on this issue, a matter as obligatory as a driver’s licence, the authority would write to you well in advance to advise you of when it would expire. There would also be a follow-up reminder, to boot. There will be so much fuss over you as to your convenience and how you would prefer to have it delivered to you. That is the culture and work ethics in the society Kemi Adeosun grew up. Our land has been so suffocated with scandals that even when there is a genuine case, we are so closed inwardly we cannot recognise it; truthfulness and dignity sound strange. Moral stone throwing is the order of the day. What one has not experienced can only be second nature to him. Those who are in positions to network or who have PAs and organisation department procuring documents or liaising with our bureaucracy must have difficulty understanding what an average man faces.
We have Columnist Femi Orebe to thank for sharing the experience of his friend, Tope Popoola, in his Facebook portal. Popoola is an intellectual and a pastor. His first experience was with NYSC and the second the Licensing Office. States he: “I have no NYSC Discharge certificate. Yes, you read me right. And I graduated long before I was 30. Before you reach out for your whistle or recommend me for trial, hold your peace. I served. I was originally posted to Bauchi State but later redeployed to the then University of Ife in the old Oyo State because Prof. Wole Soyinka requested my services. Through no fault of mine, I was never issued a discharge certificate. I wrote several letters to NYSC and paid follow-up visits but nobody knew what happened to my certificate between Bauchi and Ibadan. All I got was a letter of attestation to confirm that I actually served! That is almost 40 years ago! I still carry the crumpled piece of paper around.”
Second experience: “In 2007, I applied for the renewal of my Driver’s Licence. For close to two years, I was paying visits to the Oyo State Secretariat office of FRSC for photo capture without success. In all that period, all I had was the duplicate of the form I filled to show proof that I had actually applied for a renewal. The story throughout the period was either no light to operate the generator or when there was light, the relevant officer was not ‘on seat.’ But I knew my dilemma was because I refused to play ball by going through a third party, tout or FRSC official.”
Third experience: In 2009, he relocated to Lagos and one of the first things he did was to make efforts to renew his driver’s licence. “I went through all the required processes and eventually got my ‘licence’ Or did I? Three years later when I needed to do a renewal, I went to the FRSC office in Ekiti where I moved to in 2012. Shock of my life, I was told that the licence I was holding which had all the watermarks and imprint of an authentic licence was FAKE!! The system had no record of it! Yet, I did not obtain it through a third party. So, through no fault of mine, I who obtained my first Driver’s Licence in 1982, was now being treated as a fresh applicant for a licence in 2012, thirty years later!.In the period that I used that licence, I would have boldly tendered it to any officer of the law on demand, not knowing that it could have landed me in trouble.”
The same year Popoola had another nasty experience. He bought a car from a respectable man of integrity in Lagos. The man took all the pains and steps for necessary documentation, registration and all, in his name. Upon expiration of the particulars he personally went to the Licensing office in Lagos to renew them. To his utter chagrin it turned out that the documents he was carrying were fake even though the original owner went through what he thought were legitimate channels. The man was scandalised and the documentation had to be done all over again.
While the controversy lasted Kemi Adeosun kept silent, too embarrassed to say a word, dazed in disbelief. Feeling scandalised she became less visible and withdrew almost totally from public gaze at a point, with hands folded waiting for the outcome of the official investigation into the matter. When she became aware of the findings, she exclaimed, “This has come to me as a shock.” As I did say on this page in my first write-up, “If she has not been speaking, that should suggest to us that she is embarrassed beyond words to discover she carries sawdust in her hands.” With the confirmation that the exemption certificate was not genuine she resigned honorably.
A feeling of shame is a measure of a man’s inner radiance and beauty. A shameless person cannot be embarrassed. That she was exceedingly embarrassed says a lot about her nobility of spirit. She left the country for a sane environment so that we can continue to grope in the Dark of a maddening crowd. It is a land where institutions fail the citizen; you crucify the victim, demonise and crucify him. Kemi Adeosun does not owe anybody any apologies; it is the land that should apologise to her for so viciously entrapping her in a putrid swamp. I rejoice with her.
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