Kemi Adeosun and Buhari’s fight against corruption

As predicted by a number of analysts, within two weeks of the Premium Times news on the Minister of Finance Kemi Adeosun, on what some have described as the “Oluwole Gate”, Nigerians have forgotten the scandal of a treasury minister forging a certificate in order to become one. Within two weeks, the news has been swept away from social media headlines and replaced by conditional cash transfer in Ekiti State. But suddenly, the (Honourable?) Minister herself has finally spoken. Her excuse is that the certificate was obtained on her behalf through a third party, adding that she was embarrassed.

Before the Minister spoke, it was clear for more than a week after the story broke that the government had more important issues to deal with. While everyone in government kept quiet and feigned ignorance, NYSC, under pressure to either clarify or deny it, released the most insipid statement you will probably ever read from a Nigerian government agency – confirming that the Minister applied for exemption, but it would confirm later what the outcome of the application was. Pressed for further comments and specifically from the government, Lai Mohammed poured scorn on the matter when he argued that NYSC, as government agency, have already spoken and there was nothing more to add. Before then, otherwise very vocal presidential spokespersons, including Garba Shehu, denied that they have heard of the allegations.

I found it interesting that the weekday after the story broke, the Minister met with representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and I imagine they would have discussed Nigeria’s debt growth, its fragile economic recovery, high unemployment, and Nigeria’s fiscal policy ahead of the 2019 elections. However, I can also imagine that it would have been awkward, knowing that their host was just accused of forgery, and not knowing if she would remain in her post long after the meeting. But they should not have bothered, people don’t get sacked for certificate forgery in the Nigerian government.

In the last three years, there is an established approach to irritations such as this. After the scandal becomes public knowledge, virtually all government personnel feigns ignorance, and whenever they finally speak on it, they promise unending and long winding investigations. Before anything concrete happens after that, the public has forgotten, or is distracted by another scandal. It is “see no evil, talk no evil”.

Indeed, as a journalist, I have been able to gather three narratives about corruption under APC from those I speak to.

The first narrative is that of surprise. Those that supported the government towards the 2015 elections genuinely thought the President and the party were genuinely intent on fighting corruption. This group now believes that while significant progress has been made on fighting the corruption of the past; there has been no progress on fighting the corruption of the present, nor have any systematic processes or procedure been put in place to prevent future corruption. To this group, they figured, and very quickly that APC was not intent on fighting corruption but intent on fighting the corruption that competes with the party. There is a marked difference between the two. The corruption fight pursued by APC is competitive, myopic, partisan, and above all, lacks credibility.

The second narrative I have gathered about dealing with corruption under the APC is that which absolves the President of every wrongdoing. It flows from the period of campaign, where APC campaigned and rose to power on the back of the fight against corruption. But key to that success was the perceived integrity of the President and his strong mindedness against corruption. Therefore, this second narrative suggests that any form of corruption in the administration did not originate from the President, has not come to the knowledge of the President, and when or how it finally comes to his knowledge, it is diluted and explainable. The conclusion of this narrative is that, while his general followers cannot vouch for those that work with Mr. President, and that though the President may be presiding over corruption, he is certainly doing so unconsciously.

The third narrative is quite close to the ones I have discussed above but nonetheless, has its own variant. And that is that it takes time to fight corruption. That is, corruption itself fights back, delays the process or dilutes the outcome. In this narrative, the notion is that the courts are slow, the public biased, or sometimes even in favour of those that are corrupt or those that are corrupt are succeeding in persuading the courts to the detriment of Nigeria.

Back to Kemi Adeosun, there is no doubt in my mind that she would have served if she completed her university education in Nigeria. I also know that many Nigerians that went to schools abroad rarely see their futures in Nigeria and think it is unnecessary to “waste” a year serving a country that may never appreciate them or recognise their service. I then also know that this is definitely the mindset playing round in the ministry and the presidency after the scandal broke – that Kemi Adeosun is doing Nigerians a favour by coming home to serve and be a minister.

So, looking at the “Oluwole Gate” scandal, there are elements of the three narratives I have gathered in the past. For instance, if it were someone in opposition found with a forged certificate, the APC would have been brutal and cry to the roof. Also related to the second narrative, since the story broke, there has been no word from the Presidency. They are too busy to notice that one of their own has forged a certificate, nor do they see any relation to their “loud speaker” corruption they claim to be fighting. Worse still, they cannot be bothered about a treasury minister forging a certificate. And in relation to the third narrative, they see those requesting for clarification as corruption fighting back. In all these, a government intent on fighting corruption has willfully forgotten the one in its closet, but forgetting that the first rule of fight against corruption is credibility. They have simply lost it.

I thank you.

 

Ogho Okiti

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