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Lady of the war room

Adeosun

Sooner or later, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, the minister of Finance, would have to state her own side of the story.

Premium Times, Nigeria’s leading online newspaper, had alleged that Adeosun is in possession of a forged exemption certificated from the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC.

Under Nigerian law, all graduates of universities and polytechnics are to proceed on one year compulsory national service after graduation.

Those who may be exempted are those who can provide viable reasons to the NYSC why they should be free from the compulsory service.

One usual ground for exemption is age.

Once you are 30 and above, you are qualified for a certificate of exemption.

The NYSC, through its spokesperson, Mrs Adenike Adeyemi, said in a statement on Monday, that Adeosun did apply for exemption.

She added, however, that “We shall investigate the origin of the purported Exemption Certificate in question.”

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has joined the fray, asking Adeosun to resign if she could not prove that she participated in the compulsory NYSC, or if indeed she is in possession of a fake exemption certificate.

Adeosun is yet to explain her side of the story to the Nigerian public.

Adeosun is one of the few technocrats in the regime of President Muhammadu Buhari which is dominated by politicians and other wayfarers.

Of course, the job of minister is not her first job after returning to Nigeria in 2003, ending many years sojourn in the United Kingdom.

She had lately served as the Commissioner for Finance under Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State.

It is believed that her performance in Ogun fetched her the ministerial job.

In the Abuja power loop, she is regarded as a loner; a politician who avoids the crowd.

She is in power and indeed powerful, but she has very few powerful friends.

It is clear now that with the controversy in the market concerning her NYSC exemption certificate, she is reaping the fruits of the power-game where monsters and demons are also in the arena.

What the critics are questioning is not just her NYSC exemption certificate, but also her suitability for the most powerful job in the government after the Presidency.

Indeed, since 1960, the position of Finance minister has been regarded as one of the most important appointments in the federal cabinet.

During the First Republic, the job was given to the flamboyant Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh.

He was a leading member of the National Council of Nigerian Citizens, NCNC, which was in coalition with the Northern Peoples Congress, NPC, of Prime-Minister Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa. Okotie-Eboh became the most powerful NCNC man in that government.

He was perceived to be the next man to Alhaji Mohammadu Ribadu, the minister of Defence.

So when the coup plotters struck on January 15, 1966, they looked for the powerful men in government across Nigeria.

The Premiers of the regions, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello of the North and Chief Ladoke Akintola of the West and Prime-Minister Balewa in Lagos were killed.

The only minister kidnapped and eventually killed along with the Prime-Minister was the Minister of Finance, Okotie-Eboh.

Such was the perception of the coup makers about the power of the Finance minister.

All other ministers were allowed to roam free. They were not even arrested and some of them heard about the coup on the radio like any other Nigerian.

General J.T.U Aguiyi-Ironsi, the commander of the army who became Head of State after the toppling of the First Republic, did not have a Finance Minister before he was toppled on July 29, 1966 during the second coup that brought then Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon to power.

The new military ruler did not believe initially that he had found another job. He was living at the Ikeja cantonment and then driving through the early morning traffic to work in Lagos.

In the end, he moved to the old residence of the Minister of Defence in Doddan Barracks, abandoning the opulence of the Prime-Minister official residence and the State House Marina when the great Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe once lived as our ceremonial President. Gowon did not appoint a minister of Finance, along with other ministers (they were called Federal Commissioners then) until 1967.

Gowon’s Federal Commissioner for Finance was the incomparable Chief Obafemi Awolowo, one of the three titans who led Nigeria to independence.

Awolowo was brought in as Commissioner for Finance and Vice-Chairman of the Federal Executive Council. By the time he joined the government, the cloud of war was ominous on Nigeria.

The war eventually came in May 1967 and was to last until January 1970 with the attendant loss of an estimated one million lives.

The late Chief Solanke Onasanya, a close associate of Papa Awo, once told us a story about Awolowo during the war years.

The war commanders came to Lagos to complain to Gowon that Awolowo was hampering the war effort.

Awolowo’s insistence on proper accounting of war supply and rigorous husbanding of the nation’s resources in time of war, they complained, was affecting the war effort.

They accused Awo of being a closet saboteur who harboured a secret desire for the success of Biafra so that he could then declare his Oduduwa Republic. Gowon was asked to fire him. He refused.

Since the Awolowo years, the job has been done by many men and two women. Alhaji Shehu Shagari succeeded Awolowo in 1971. Every occupant of the post; James Oluleye, Sunday Essang, Onaolapo Soleye, Kalu Idika Kalu, Chu Okongwu, Olu Falae, Antony Ani, Adamu Ciroma, Oladele Olashore and others, would have a story to tell if they choose to write a book.

Few weeks ago, Adeosun’s beleaguered predecessor, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was weeping at the public presentation of her memoir, Fighting Corruption is Dangerous. Her experience was singular for she had to deal with the disorderly retreat of the Goodluck Jonathan Court.

I don’t know whether Adeosun is faring better than Okonjo-Iweala.

Like her, Adeosun is an imported breed. She was born in 1967 and studied in the United Kingdom where she worked for many years before returning to Nigeria in 2003.

She was 36 and certainly qualified for an exemption from the NYSC. For exemption on the basis of age is always treated as a right by the NYSC.

What would motivate the allegation of forgery in this matter is not clear.

What is clear is that some people would be looking for opportunity to shoot at Adeosun from any angle for she is perceived as the keeper of the Buhari War Room.

Election is around the corner and the Enemy Camp is growing and restless.

The pensioners are not paid on time, the army of contractors are being owed, the state governments are not happy and the cash-cow of the Republic, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, is being subjected to public scrutiny as never before.

It is good for Adeosun to feel some of the heat from the street.

May be she can then tell the old man at The Villa that the man on the street is not smiling.

In this article:
Mrs. Kemi AdeosunNYSC
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