By Farooq A. Kperogi, PhD
There are three false but popular narratives about former Minister of Finance Kemi Adeosun’s NYSC certificate forgery that need to be exploded before we move on to the next scandal in the Buhari administration’s never-ending cascade of humiliating scandals. The first is that by resigning her appointment in the wake of revelations that she evaded the mandatory national youth service for every Nigerian who graduated from university before the of 30 and forged an exemption certificate she wasn’t entitled to have in the first place, she showed honor and integrity.
The second is that she deserves sympathy, not condemnation, because she was the guileless victim of corrupt “trusted associates.” The third is that she was the first minister to resign her appointment “in principle”—or the first high-profile public official to be caught in the web of forgery.
Let’s start with the first. Kemi Adeosun didn’t resign her position as minister because she had any honor; she resigned because of sustained pressure from critical sections of the commentariat in both traditional and social media platforms—and because Buhari was gearing up to opportunistically fire her in the service of his reelection politics.
She and Buhari had hoped that we would all get tired of their intentionally contemptuous silence and give up. That didn’t happen. Instead, the quieter they kept, the more vociferous cries for her ouster became. About 70 days later, she yielded to pressure and buckled under. That’s not honor. She would have been worthy of being credited with honor only if she admitted to her forgery and resigned within a week after news of the forgery became public knowledge.
Most importantly, though, let’s not forget that forgery is a criminal offense in our laws for which everyday people go to jail every time in Nigeria. In my July 21, 2018 column titled “Between Adeosun’s Forged NYSC Certificate and Ayodele James’ Fake ICAN Certificate,” I pointed to the blatant judicial double standard in jailing a lowly civil servant by the name of Lebi Ayodele James who forged an ICAN certificate to move up the civil service ladder while leaving untouched Kemi Adeosun who also forged an NYSC exemption certificate without which she would never be a minister.
I said, “But let this be known: No nation that punishes its poor and protects its powerful for the same offense can endure… For every second that James remains in jail while Adeosun, Edozien, and Obono-Obla not only walk free but live off the fat of the land even when they committed the same offense as he, the very foundation of Nigeria chips off. A nation whose foundation comes off piecemeal as a result of blatant, in-your-face judicial double standard will sooner or later give way.”
Praising Kemi Adeosun for resigning her position as minister is akin to praising a thief who reluctantly and grudgingly confessed to being a thief only AFTER she was caught stealing and publicly ridiculed for days on end. Kemi Adeosun should return all the money she earned from Nigeria from the time she was commissioner in Ogun State up until September 14 when she resigned her position as minister. (That was what Ayodele James was compelled to do by the court). After that, she should be prosecuted and jailed like Ayodele James. That would be justice. But she has bolted out to London and will probably escape justice.
Her self-pitying resignation letter that portrays her as a helpless, unresisting prey of dodgy “trusted associates” doesn’t square with the facts. In the Premium Times report that blew the lid off her scam, we learn that “Some federal lawmakers revealed… that the [forgery] was detected by the Senate during the minister’s confirmation hearing. But rather than probe the issue, they turned it into a tool against Mrs Adeosun. The report linked the certificate scandal to the minister’s excessive, even illegal, funding of the lawmakers, including recently funnelling a N10billion largesse to that arm of government.”
This clearly shows that Adeosun, contrary to the claims she made in her resignation letter, always knew that she had a forged NYSC exemption certificate. The fact of her giving in to the blackmail of the Senate was all the evidence one needs to know that she was always aware that she had a fake document—at least for the last three years that she was minister. So she not only forged, she also lied. That’s not my idea of someone who has honor or character.
But she’s not alone. There is an epidemic of fakery in high places in Nigeria. Who remembers Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke, former director-general of the Nigerian Stock Exchange? I was the first person to bring it to mainstream media attention that her claims to have earned a Ph.D. in business from the City University of New York (CUNY) in 1983 and to have worked at the New York Stock Exchange on the basis of which she became the DG of the NSE were fake.
These discoveries were made by the US the Securities and Exchange Commission, which investigated her. “On January 18, 2011, I caused a search to be conducted of our student records (including graduation records) at The Graduate Center, at the request of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, to determine if Ms. Ndi Okereke–Onyiuke was ever enrolled in the Ph.D. Program in Business and if she received a Ph.D. in Business at The Graduate Center,” Vincent De Luca, Director of Student Services and Senior Registrar of CUNY’s Graduate School, wrote in a sworn affidavit in New York.
“A thorough search of our electronic and paper files for the names, Ndi Leche Okereke, Ndi Okereke, Ndi Okereke – Onyiuke and Ndi Lechi Okereke – Onyiuke was conducted. No record was found that Ms. Ndi Okereke – Onyiuke ever enrolled in the Ph.D. Program in Business or received a Ph.D. in Business at The Graduate Center.”
But as I pointed out in my June 25, 2011 column titled “Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke’s Fake Doctorate and Professorship,” “Strangely, however, no Nigerian newspaper has touched the story with a ten-foot pole.”
Even the authenticity of President Buhari’s school certificate is the subject of controversy. Although many classmates of the president (who detest him) have told me in confidence that he did take his school certificate exams, I can’t wrap my head around why he has chosen to hire more than a dozen Senior Advocates of Nigeria over this. Isn’t it infinitely cheaper, less burdensome, and more fitting to just produce the certificate than to hire expensive lawyers to defend your right to not produce it?
This is particularly curious because the London GCE O-level certificate Buhari said he has lost isn’t an irreplaceable document. All he has to do is write to the body that conducted the exam and he will get a replacement within days. Why is he reluctant to do that if he indeed took the exam? Something doesn’t add up.
In a way, people who are incensed that Adesoun was hounded out of office for an offense most people in power in Nigeria are guilty of have a point.