When it broke that the erstwhile minister of Finance aka the minister of Taxation had resigned, I sampled reactions. They were clear reactions; most really weren’t impressed or bothered and were more interested in what would happen with the criminal angle-whether it is forgery, falsification, collusion or alleged blackmail. I found none that felt sorry for her.
One conversation, I overheard was short and to the point.
Person 1: “I hear that the minister of Finance has resigned.”
Person 2: grunts and tears into the chicken he’s eating. “I hope she’s arrested.”
Person 1: “She along with her ‘funne’”
I am sure by now they’ve heard that Mrs Kemi Adeosun has left for the United Kingdom.
The resignation was long overdue, but since it isn’t our way of life i.e to be caught with your hand in the cookie jar, admit wrong doing immediately and make restitution or be punished; I guess we should be happy she did irrespective of the delay. Our standards must rise higher than taking the crumbs of a resignation. Shouldn’t a public apology follow this, given that it’s Taxpayers’ money and our collective wealth that paid her salary oo? Not even to us but her boss. However, this is when the next steps are critical for this government; this is a perfect case for it to show the country that it is serious about strengthening institutions and dealing with wrong doers, no matter who is involved. This was an open and shut case made worse by the admission in her letter. To be fair to her, the fake/falsified/wrongly issued Exemption Letter didn’t fall into her laps from the sky. Those who knew better, custodians of the NYSC Law and process should be fished out. However, this further begs the question, how did those who were saddled with responsibility of screening her from her days as the commissioner of Finance in Ogun State to becoming a minister miss this piece of information? If she didn’t see the wrong, the system should have picked it up. The story now on the streets is that the defect was known but was used as a blackmail tool. If true, then it makes her resignation even more annoying because that was really the time to resign not now. Let us not forget that she maintained a robust silence for 60+ days when the news initially broke.
It is very surprising that a well-schooled, rounded and ‘oyibo’ woman like Mrs Adeosun would interprete or allow a clear law like the one in question to mean that the age at which she got her passport was akin to being over 30 at graduation! Whichever way we want to look at it, there was no way that, that section could have been construed otherwise. If you are over 30 at the time you graduate, then you are exempted. Simple.
What I got from her defense is that when she was coming in and out of Nigeria, she was a British citizen until when she got her Nigerian passport at 34years, then she became a Nigerian. If that was the case, then there was no need to acquire the NYSC certificate. She would have come in as an expatriate but that would have thrown up a whole lot more issues and the spin-doctors were aware.
This brings up important discussion points.
1. What is the effect of the fact that she was in office with a fake/falsified/wrongly issued Exemption Certificate?
(i) Does the discovery that she doesn’t have an NYSC certificate and didn’t while in office negate all she did as Minister of Finance?
(ii) What happens to the criminal aspect of this debacle?
(iii) Now that she has left, did she leave as a British or Nigerian citizen?
2. Nigerians have a thing for “funne speaking” brothers or sisters. There was an issue with Madam rolling her Rs. Consciously and unconsciously we hold “funne” speaking Nigerians guilty of not being totally Nigerian for sounding different. The accent is less tolerable especially as it is perceived that the person cannot understand Nigerians and our ways and is not ‘trying’ to understand or better than others because you speak nasally and roll all the ‘Rs’. The man with the chicken, clearly rubbed the wrong way with the ‘funne’ is representative of us. I need to hear how someone back from a sojourn in China sounds.
3. Why not just confirm Zainab as the substantive Minister of Finance? Which one is to ‘oversee’? Talk about giving with one hand and taking with the other. She understands the rhythm of things and is what is needed at this time of frayed nerves and more importantly, doesn’t speak “funne” (wait….is this the correct spelling?).
Tales Of The Unexpected
Sometimes just riding in a taxi and listening to the experiences of taxi drivers as they ply the streets makes you wonder. Some are tragically funny, but you get the full scale of our issues through their eyes. Sometimes, listening seems like something out of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. A redeemed Nigeria will take a series of miracles. Good thing; we believe in miracles.
I saw an ID card of some sort hanging from this taxi man’s mirror as I got into the taxi. I asked him if it was his PVC and his response indicated that he was too polite to tell me that, that was a stupid question. He nonetheless let me know that his PVC would not be hanging in plain view when he had bought it for N1k. I was horrified until he explained that he had paid 1k to be bumped up from behind the line. I was not convinced but then he went on to illustrate that there really was nothing to it. What was he to do? Everybody was a boss. If that’s what it took to get the card, it was fine. In the news last week, there was a story of Immigration seizing 436 voter registration cards from foreigners in Katsina. And that was only one state.
He recalled when a policeman stopped him for beating the traffic light, he asked the policeman calmly where was the traffic light that he had beat. The policeman ‘showed’ him the traffic light. The driver didn’t take the bait, so the policeman told him that he had parked in a non-parking area. In disbelief he asked him where exactly the non-parking area was since it was the policeman who had directed him where to park. As he seized the car keys, he walked in front of the cab and said this is the no-parking area and proceeded to fine him N500; “your moni na N500”. Brotherman responded, “no, ya moni na N100”. Taximan said he wasn’t fazed, ‘this is Nigeria’. The bargaining started, once the policeman agreed to the N100, the taximan only had N200. Asking the Policeman for change, he would only release the N200 if the policeman showed the change. Then another round of time wasting ensued at which point he decided to give the man the N200 and be on his way. So, the taximan took the N200 to his mouth, rubbed it on his head and shoulders in a form of invocation and incantations to which the Policeman responded that if the man liked he could invoke all the forces he could, he would still collect the money; that the money was his sweat. As he narrated the story of his encounter with SARS-even though he got off by parting with N500 from N10, 000-which sounded a bit farfetched and exaggerated but then, it could have been a good day and he happened to be lucky. I honestly found the stories funny, sadly.
What I took away from his storytelling is that we are far, far, far away from freedom and after a while bondage eerily resembles freedom.