By Rowland Abaji
Can it be contested, if anyone dares to declare that a large number of politicians in Nigeria are bold, fearless and courageous forgers of certificates? And for the initiates in this scam, they tread even where the proverbial devils dread and can defeat Lucifer in a contest together with his army of bodyguards.
But after successful deals, the possessors of fake certificates live with perpetual fear in the aftermath. The consequences are grave. Upon prove of certificate forgery, a politician looses his plomp position, faces public ignominy and sometimes, spend some regrettable time in jail.
Educational institutions, certificate-awarding professional bodies, like ICAN etc and lately, the NYSC have been platforms some politicians manipulate to forge certificates to meet essential conditions of qualification and eligibility to hold public office. The scam is waxing stronger because public office in Nigeria is not merely, an attraction, but a means to one’s personal fulfilment in life, reflected in diverse outcomes.
The wealth, affluence and high social status accorded a politician or political officer holder everywhere is an irresistible alluring bait. So, everything, legal or illegal is done to grab any opportunity to hold a public office. Those into the business of certificate forging have a booming trade today. The traffic in the shrines of certificate forgers is consistently high and seems reserved for political power brokers and elites alone.
Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999 to date has marked a crescent of certificate forgers in the country. It started with ex Speaker, House of Representatives, Alhaji Salisu Buhari whose glorious entry into Nigeria’s elitist club was terminated abruptly because of certificate forgery, after just 49 days of his reign.
The ebullient Salisu Buhari made claims to possession of multiple academic/ other certificates. But virtually all were sourced from the famed “Oluwale Center” in Lagos. Salisu Buhari did not spare the NYSC either. He faked both the year of service and NYSC discharge certificate of 1991. It was the albatross he prepared with his hands.
The pressure forced Salisu Buhari to resign his position and after resignation, the ex Speaker was convicted on multiple counts of certificate forgeries and sentenced to two years imprisonment, but with an option of a fine. He bailed himself out by opting for the later option. Nigerians appreciated and pardoned Salisu’s strength of character for his unreserved apology to the nation for what he termed his “mistakes.”
But much as Nigerian politicians dread the disgraceful outcomes of certificate forgery upon discovery, the habit is still perversively endemic in the polity. The hapless ones have been caught, time and time again. But others have escaped or still dodging the eagle eyes of the law and have continued to roam the corridors of power with mercurial elegance!
However, what is difficult to discern is the passion of Nigerian politicians in forging NYSC documents and certificates. These unscrupulous politicians are doing everything possible to discredit the scheme or even scrap it, hence it’s difficult to manipulate the system, once NYSC is involved; but easier to influence and twist records of educational institutions enmeshed in forged certificate scandals.
Certificate forgery has become an unfairly massive trend among some Nigerian politicians. But they always get caught, especially when NYSC is factored into the forgery racket,as it has always refused to bulge to inducements.
Even in July 2019, Nigeria’s Supreme Court sacked a House of Reps member, Hon Abdulra’uf Abdulkadir Modibbo from Adamawa state from National Assembly. His offence was failure to participate in the one-year mandatory NYSC program. The apex court did not only declare Modibbo unfit to contest the election he won, but ordered him to vacate his seat in the Green Chamber for the next highest votes scorer in the election.
That’s the mystery and credibility of NYSC which dubious politicians today are finding it extremely difficult to penetrate or manipulate to their favour. And there are many such veiled violators of the sanctity of the NYSC in the corridors of power who are dead scared of the next action which might consume and throw them out of their juicy positions. So, they have waged war against NYSC’s continued existence.
If Nigerians recollect vividly, about three months ago, an odious Reps member, Hon. Awaji-Inombek Abiante from Rivers state, backed by co-travellers moved to cause a scrapping of the NYSC scheme. He cited spurious, hollow and comedic reasons for the action.
Nigerians rose in unanimous uproar and objections. Abiante’s dream to edge the NYSC out of relevance and save the scheme’s certificate forgers from any nightmare, crashed after the obnoxious bill reached the second reading.
But some politicians are very energetic in the pursuit of evil. They are tireless and explore unimaginable fields in the satanic desire to conquer at all cost! Therefore, a spotlight of the recent judgement of a High Court in Abuja, on the NYSC discharge or Exemption certificates scandal case of Nigeria’s ex Finance minister, Ms. Kemi Adeosun rankles as a likely morphing of the battle of pro- NYSC scrapping campaigners into the judicial realm.
Accepted, the legalise of the presiding Judge’s discretion, as reflected in the verdict is within his jurisdiction. However, it is utterly incredible to declare that NYSC certificate whether it is discharge or exemption are not compulsory for Nigerian graduates who fall within the age limit to serve the nation. Even a pupil would dispute it.
And what happened in the course of the trial was that Kemi Adeosun’s age was pegged at 34, above the age limit of participation in the scheme, which is below 30 years. But records show that at age 22 when Kemi Adeosun obtained her first degree in London, she had agreebly lost her citizenship of Nigeria to United Kingdom; but regained it at age 25, when she finally came back to her fatherland. That age was within the stipulated age limit of NYSC participation.
But the court in it’s wisdom declared Kemi free of any guilt, but consciously rubbished the essence and esteem of the NYSC scheme with the thoughtless verdict. Is the court advocating that NYSC participation is now optional for graduates within the specified age limit? Or public employers should not request same from applicants?
Suspiciously, the court declined from even mentioning the forged NYSC Exemption certificate presented by Kemi Adeosun to the Senate for her ministerial screening in 2015. And she earlier, publicly admitted forging it. Probably, the lawyers or judges could argue that it is not part of the brief before the court.
Nonetheless, the whole drama exudes with manifestation of the orchestrated plots, and a carefully crafted agenda in the aggressive pursuit of the destruction of the shadows of NYSC scheme in order to cripple it’s efficacy or render it legally impotent requirement in public service.
Politicians who didn’t participate in the NYSC scheme, and haunted by the phobia of Kemi Adeosun’s fate befalling them in the nearest future and possibly, send them packing from public office are leaving nothing to chance. They are still assiduously working behind the scenes to sacrifice NYSC to appease their dubious instincts and protect their offices.
But God has already deserted them. The 2019 judgement of the Supreme Court in the case of improper participation in NYSC by Hon Abdulra’uf Abdulkadir Modibbo is a standing precedent which has invalidated whatever pronouncement from the lower court.
In a unanimous judgment by a five-man panel of the apex court, in the appeal marked: SC/790/2019 read by Justice John Okoro (SCJ), the learned Justices were succinct that Modibo was not qualified to even contest an election, ab initio, by his failure to properly participate in the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), scheme.
So, the politicians still parading fake exemption letters or even certificate of participation should not go to bed yet. The battle is just beginning and no culprit will be spared.
And the incumbent NYSC Director-Gen. Brigadier Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim is more determined than any of his predecessors in fighting the menace of fake NYSC certificates. He actually started fighting this forgery syndicate about two years back by blocking fake results holders from being called to orientation camp, after flushing out internal collaborators.
It’s time for Nigerians in this scandal to turn a new leaf. Nigerians will never allow anyone to kill the NYSC scheme; at least, not in this generation.
Abaji is a public affairs analyst based in Lagos.