By Kurtis Adigba

Kemi Adeosun and the Quest for Integrity

Posted on: September 15, 2020

“The Supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Every leader, need integrity – demonstrable integrity.

Mrs Kemi Adeosun, was the former minister of Finance of Nigeria. Kemi, was a senior cabinet minister of president Buhari’s Government. Before her appointment as minister, she was the commissioner of finance in Ogun State. She is close to the Governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosu, a close confidante of the President. Governor Amosu, we are told, nominated her to the cabinet.

On 7 July 2018, an online publication, Premium Times, broke a story in which Kemi Adeosun, was accused of forgery. The story, claimed that the certificate of exemption from the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC), submitted by her as part of the documentation for the job, was fake.

PT was emphatic that the certificate was not issued by the NYSC because the ground for the exemption stated in the certificate is not one of the grounds for the issuance of an exemption certificate. It cited sections of the NYSC Act to support its position, and also claimed that the body denied issuing the said certificate.

The report, was devastating in its effects – especially for a government involved in a counter-culture war. And so, it was expected that Kemi Adeosun, will respond to the allegations promptly; either to deny, or confirm, but she kept mute. 

The NYSC, that should have dealt with the matter decisively, choose to play the ostrich with a meaningless response:

"she applied for an exemption letter but we will investigate the source of the forgery"

NYSC

What is the meaning of that? 

It is either the letter is from you, or it is not from you. Period. This response, created more confusion. The confusion, pushed into overdrive the allegation that the government was looking for ways and means to cook up documents to exonerate the minister. It was a convenient narrative for those opposed to the government, and justifiably too, because the government was tardy in its handling of the issue!

After weeks of loud silence from the minister and the government, it emerged that the minister may have been given a forged document by the person she had engaged and entrusted to help process it. It is possible! It is believable! But is it enough? Why did it take her so long to tell us her story?

Why is the story believable? 

Let me tell you about my experience.

In 2005, I was introduced to one Mr Osita, who held himself out as a Tax Consultant to the Lagos State Government. The man had processed Tax Clearance Certificates for some years for my friends, and they had no problem with them. I gave Mr Osita money to pay my tax and obtain my TCC. 

TCC: Tax Clearance Certificate issued by Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) demonstrating that the applicant's taxes has been documented and up to date and that their tax affairs are in ordinance.

A few days after, he brought my TCC, and I filled them away not thinking about anything questionable.

Few weeks after, my wife and the children, applied to renew their Visa at the UK Deputy High Commission, in Lagos. They attached my TCC to their application (remember TCC was part of the requirements for issuance of Visa then), and on the day of the interview, they went in early. The first sign that things might not be well, was that they were unattended to in favor of those who came after them. When my wife protested, she was told that my TCC was forged. They told her that if I had been present, I would have been arrested. She came home angry and disappointed. The first words that came out of her mouth are: “why did you give us a forged TCC”? 

I was stunned!

I wrote a letter to the commissioner of finance, Lagos State, and accused them of issuing me a fake TCC. 

The commissioner invited me to his office, and there, it was confirmed that the certificate was fake. A committee of 3 was set-up to investigate, and it was discovered that a syndicate in the state was working with Mr Osita to defraud the state by issuing fake TCC for funds received. I was absolved and commended by the Lagos State Government. It was then it dawned on my friends that Mr Osita, had all the while been giving them forged TCC. 

Unfortunately, Mr Osita died in a car crash before he could be brought to justice! So it is possible! It is believable!

For Kemi Adeosun, as a minister in a government fighting corruption, the stakes are higher. For me, as a private citizen, it is not so.  

Kemi, has got to offer a more persuasive explanation, and take consequential actions. She is a senior cabinet member of a government that has made fighting corruption and sleaze, as the main governing agenda. Neither Kemi, nor the government, can be silent about this matter because of the likely negative impacts on the fight against corruption. 

The pervasive narrative is that the Buhari led government is selective in prosecuting the war against corruption. The opposition, and their supporters, believe that the fight against corruption, is politically motivated. They have consistently accused the president of deliberate inaction if the offenders or violators are members of his government, or party. They are quick to mention David Babachir’s case. They may add Kemi’s case if not dealt with satisfactorily!

What should the president do?  

President Buhari, should direct Kemi Adeosun to resign her appointment, or fire her immediately. It is not an easy decision considering the timing and the optics, but it is the right thing to do. The job that the president is elected to do, is not an easy one, but it must be done, and done with courage. Loyalty to party, or individual members of the party, must never be higher than loyalty to the country.

I have heard some say: “this issue is a distraction, it is nothing compared to our challenges”. In other words, it is a nothing burger, we should just move on. I respectfully disagree. 

This is a matter that strikes at the heart of the agenda of the Buhari government. It is about ethical leadership – doing what is right instead of what is politically expedient.

A former Speaker, Salisu Buhari, lost his job for doing the same thing.

Kemi Adeosun, should tell her story to the police. President Buhari, should spare us – his supporters, the difficult task of rationalizing this issue. No one is indispensable. No one is above the law.

May God guide the president to do what is right for the country. Amen.

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Kurtis Adigba

Kurtis Udenyi Adigba is an Attorney at law and a political consultant. His greatest passion is to see Nigeria make real progress and to take her rightful place in the world. He is keen on improving and enhancing the processes of democracy. He believes that politics is the greatest force for doing the greatest good and is not a blood sport as many people think.
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