By Eric Elezuo
About a month ago, the Minister of Communication, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, was discovered to have skipped the mandatory one year national service under the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme. By all intent and purpose, the act is an offence under the Nigeria constitution. It is therefore, a convention for employers of labour both in the private and public sector, to request an NYSC discharge certificate from prospective employees before they are considered for employment. As a result, plans for ‘serving’ are made for every Nigerian graduate immediately after graduation so long as one is still below 30 years. There is also provision for exception if a particular graduate is above the prescribed age for service.
In recent times, two ministers of the present administration have been discovered to skip the national assignment – first was the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, who resigned after three months of intense pressure from the public, especially the press. Adeosun has forged an exception certificate, which claimed she was not aware of. She had made everyone understand that she actually requested an exception certificate from the appropriate but did not know she was given a fake. Much as the administration she served under did not see anything wrong in her actions as they failed to act, the Nigerian public continually protested her continuation in office. She threw in the towel when it was obvious she could not take the pressure anymore.
Barely days after, the case of Shittu was uncovered. Presently the Minister of Communication, Shittu, who was born on March 23, 1953, studied Law at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, graduating in 1978. He proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, Lagos, qualifying as a lawyer in 1979. He was 25 when earned a bachelor’s degree and obligated according to Section 2 of the NYSC Act to have participated in the year-long national service. He admitted missing the scheme, but claimed he felt his first political post after graduation could suffice as national service,
Providence has really smiled on Shittu as he has functioned as a state lawmaker, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Oyo State apart from occupying important government positions, including his current post as minister. He has scaled all screening exercises including the SSS until now.
Many people would have expected him to toe the part of honour and resign his appointment, but he has said he won’t satisfy his detractors by resigning. On the other hand, the government of the day has looked on as if nothing happened, the same it did when Adeosun was found culpable. One would have deducted that the government will send him packing from the cabinet as the party denied him clearance for the Oyo State governorship screening. But the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has looked on. It could be because the Minister has been an adept supporter of the Buhari re-election bid, and is known to be in the habit of distributing Buhari re-election paraphernalia during cabinet meetings. That must have endeared him in the heart of the administration, giving him enough room for impunity. He has even threatened to sue NYSC.
Nigerians are worried that Buhari, who has proposed integrity as a watchword and backbone of his administration could still retain the minister in his cabinet. Many have argued that his continued stay is a sad commentary on the already tarnished image of the present administration, and the earlier he is eased out of the administration, the better for Buhari as a politician and APC as a party.
But while he still remains there, going about his business as if not is amiss, the question to Mr. President is Sir, why is Shittu still a minister in your cabinet? Nigerians need answers.