Musawa: No third way
It is my ill-health that prevented me from doing my duty to the readers of this column in the last few weeks. I therefore wish to apologise to all those who missed my presence on this page. Since my absence a confluence of events have happened but the one that I intend to sink my teeth into today is the controversy surrounding the appointment of Hannatu Musawa as the Minister of Art, Culture and Creative Economy in the President Bola Tinubu administration.
There is a controversy about her appointment because she is serving in the National Youth Service Corps programme while she is working as a minister. The question is how did she pass through all the checkpoints without her status as a corper being detected? Or did those who manned the various checkpoints think that it was right and proper to appoint a serving NYSC person into the Federal cabinet?
Do we take it that the president appointed her in error; that the security agencies cleared her in error; that the Senate okayed the appointment in error? Or did they all think that the non-completion of her NYSC tenure was unimportant?
Musawa was born on November 1, 1974 and graduated in Law from the University of Buckingham and the Nigerian Law School before she was 30 years old. Therefore, she was eligible for national service. She was mobilised for service in 2001 and posted to Ebonyi State. She did her orientation programme there but was relocated to Kaduna to continue the service there. According to the NYSC authorities she absconded and did not complete the service.
During President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, she was nominated for an appointment as a commissioner representing the North West at the National Pension Commission (PENCOM). The 9th Senate shot down her nomination over her inability to submit her NYSC discharge certificate. She lost the opportunity, leaked her wounds and went home.
There is a story published by Premium Times that she claimed that she had completed her NYSC programme in Kaduna and was given a discharge certificate. However, fire razed her Asokoro, Abuja residence, No.15 Justice Lawal Uwais Street on September 14, 2019 and that the NYSC discharge certificate was burnt along with other properties.
She tried to sell this fire story to the NYSC so that she could be given a replacement discharge certificate but the NYSC authorities checked their records in Kaduna and Abuja and did not find her name among those who completed their service either in 2001 or 2002 or 2003.
The NYSC people appeared to believe too little of what she was saying and did not issue a replacement certificate to her. Apparently since her fire story was not believed and since the 9th Senate refused to approve her appointment for the PENCOM job she decided to go back to do her NYSC. She is said to be eight months old now on the beat.
When the Senate approved her appointment at the screening, her eyes must have shone with infinite pleasure but now this controversy is threatening to throw her into the abyss of grief. This high-profile ministerial job that has the blaze and dazzle of popularity is about to go away if she is unable to show her NYSC discharge certificate. And there is no way a serving NYSC person can show a discharge certificate. There is therefore the scent of scandal around her appointment.
Section 2 of the NYSC Act mandates every citizen who graduates from a tertiary institution within or outside Nigeria under 30 years of age to be mobilised for one-year compulsory national service. When the person completes the service, he or she is given a discharge certificate. If the person was older than 30 years on graduation, he or she must be given an exemption certificate.
For any graduate of a tertiary institution to be employed he must present along with his educational qualifications either an NYSC discharge certificate or an exemption certificate. There is no third way. Section 13 of the NYSC Act states that anyone who fails to report for service after graduation is guilty and liable on conviction to a fine of N2,000 or imprisonment for 12 months or both.
Musawa has confirmed that she is a serving NYSC person. The NYSC Spokesman, Eddy Megwa, has also confirmed that fact. He has also said that it is a breach of the NYSC Act for any corps member to pick up an appointment without successfully completing the service. These multiple errors by those who ought to have rejected her appointment must not be allowed to stand because as I said earlier there is no third way in the NYSC programme.
It is either you have a discharge certificate or an exemption certificate. A third way is illegal, illegitimate, it is unacceptable, it is corner-cutting, it is a breach of the NYSC law.
I have read a statement in which Musawa said that she has done nothing wrong; she merely wants to serve the country she loves. Serving the country she loves is the right thing to do but you must serve it the right way. As a lawyer she knows the right way.
That is why she decided to do the NYSC programme after her failed attempt in the past, after the snub by the 9th Senate on the PENCOM job. The truth is that she cannot and ought not to be employed whether by the Federal Government or State Government or a private sector organisation. That is the law and being a lawyer, she knows it.
I have heard people say that she ought to be allowed to keep the job of a minister, afterall that job is even a higher service than the NYSC service. That is rubbish.
She cannot be serving in the NYSC programme and also working as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Two jobs at one and the same time? Will she be paid two salaries, one by the NYSC and another by the Federal Government? That is untenable. If she is serving in the NYSC programme now then she is not qualified to be employed as a minister. If she is employed as a minister and she hasn’t got her NYSC discharge certificate then she is not a fit and proper person for that office.
Those who are pushing for her to retain the ministerial position are not doing her a favour because she knows that she is on the wrong side of the law. They are insisting that the wrong side of the law is the right side of the law because the lady involved is their candidate or relation or friend or contemporary. Those are the people who have pushed this country along the wrong path, making exceptions for people’s wrong doings, lobbying the government to do what is wrong when it favours them. What a country?
Let me ask you this question: what makes this lady so important that a federal law that has been there for 50 years must be broken by the Federal Government itself for her to be employed by the Federal Government? If she worked for the APC or Tinubu during the elections there must be many other people, thousands of them, who are not compensated and will not be compensated with appointments by Tinubu.
There is a video of Musawa in which she was dancing at a party and smoking cigar. Some people have called for her to be sacked because, they think, that her behaviour is unbecoming of a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. There is nothing wrong with her dancing. It will keep her fit. If she is smoking, she is burning her lungs and courting lung cancer. That is her business not ours. A lot of women in the North smoke cigarettes.
When I was serving in the pioneer set of the NYSC programme in Sokoto in 1973 I encountered northern women freely smoking in public places, bars, restaurants, night clubs and other public places. That was a culture shock for me because women from the South who smoked did not choose to do so in public places. As a young man I smoked cigarettes. It was the way to show that you were with it, you were a guy, a modern one at that.
The day I stopped the bad habit was the day I read in a magazine that one stick of cigarette takes away seven minutes of your life as a smoker. I started doing some number crunching to find out how many minutes or hours or days of my life I had burnt away considering the number of sticks I was smoking per day. That raised an alarm in my head and my appetite for it died. I saved my money and I saved my health.
Her smoking a cigar in public is not the reason that most lovers of Nigeria want her to go. That would be a frivolous reason to sack a minister. There is an unsettling urgency for Nigeria to do the right things in terms of governance. Clearly, so many things are wrong with Nigeria’s governance culture, so many that you wonder how we got here. Yet some people are still pushing for many more things to be done the wrong way so as to favour them, their relations and their friends.
This NYSC controversy is one way of seeing the ugly side of Nigerians. Any graduate who is below 30 years of age and fails to do the NYSC programme and hopes to have his dreams realised is kidding himself or herself. His or her dreams, whatever they are, will turn out to be mere specks in a distant horizon.
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