Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance (2015-2018), Kemi Adeosun threw in her letter of resignation on Friday, September 14, to bring to a temporary closure, the public outcry and the embarrassment that her possession of a fake National Youth Service Corps Exemption Certificate had generated since July, when it was first reported. Her letter of resignation in which she blames “trusted associates” for the mishap and explains her innocence, reads like the abstract of a future memoir in which she is likely to do her utmost best to ensure that her non-participation in the NYSC scheme does not become the defining marker of her public service career. She will, of course, in that book do the damage control of telling us that she was a victim of many conspiracies, the breach of trust, and the mischief of a sensitive and heavily politicised Nigerian public, seeking to hurt a holier-than-thou government as it seeks a second term in office.
I have no doubts that Kemi Adeosun was eventually pushed. Since the matter hit the headlines, she had been studiously silent. But her employers having seen that the NYSC scandal may be used against President Buhari during election season, she must have been advised to tender her letter of resignation. No political leader can willingly risk the cost of a serious collateral damage in an election year. It would not have been in President Buhari’s best interest to take the bullet for his own minister. It must also have been painful for President Buhari to let her go. Out of his entire collection of faceless, impact-less and colourless ministers, Adeosun was one of the very few whose name and face many Nigerians could recognise, and who could be given some marks for effort and commitment.
Often compared unfairly and sometimes unnecessarily with her more celebrated predecessor, Adeosun could not be accused of sleeping on the job. Under her watch, the federal government established an Efficiency Unit (E-Unit) in the last quarter of 2015, to monitor the ministries, departments and agencies of government (MDAs) in order to check wastage and leakages. There was also the initiative on continuous audit, the introduction of a whistleblower policy, the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme, a more rigorous insistence on the use of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), and the decision on financial bail-outs for ailing states. These initiatives may not have produced a robust or healthy economy, due to macroeconomic distortions or what the HSBC has identified as “fiscal fault lines’ in the Nigerian economy. Adeosun also borrowed rather heavily, leaving the country with large indebtedness, a choice she defended as the best option out of corrosive recession.