By Adewale Kupoluyi
For some months now, a major news item in our dear country has been the controversy trailing a well-read and experienced woman on money matters. The woman was accused of tendering a document that suggests that she had been exempted from partaking in the compulsory one-year activity meant for graduates from our higher institutions of learning. Two things made her case a celebrated one. First, happened under an administration that claims to have zero tolerance for corruption. Second, the position occupied by the woman in question is very powerful and requires high level of credibility and reputation from its occupier.
While the controversy persisted, the woman at the centre of the storm kept mum. The administration she served was neither categorical on what really transpired. This disposition infuriated the people the more who had called for the sacking or suspension of the woman. Not only that, others have called for her prosecution on the basis that she presented a fake document in securing appointment. Still, some were friendly and opined that she could be a victim of fraudsters, who latched on her innocence to give her the poisoned chalice.
While the brouhaha lasted, I decided not to write on the saga, not because it was not worth commenting on, I simply did not give my opinion because of the ongoing investigation that could make my views preemptive and premature until now that an official position on the matter has be made public. Personally, I believe the woman was innocent. I strongly felt she was truly innocent, not because she is a saint. Not because of the fact that, she was born, bred, schooled and worked abroad. Not because the existing structure in our dear country is error-free to have detected such discrepancy. I did not doubt the woman, not because of her boss’ anti-graft disposition. I simply felt the woman is innocent from my personal experience.
If there is anything that is commonly known to an average countryman, it is that when you go to a typical market place, you see all sorts of people mingling with each other. Some are sincere while not a few are simply in the market to eke out a living from sharp practices. Such is the case with the unsolicited middleman, popularly called ‘oni baranda’ in Yoruba language. They are everywhere. At the market, they swarm round a prospective buyer the moment he/she is sighted by the ‘oni baranda’. You are greeted with overtures like ‘what do you want?’, ‘do you have a customer you want to patronise?’, ‘I can get you quality products at a good price’, ‘with me, you cannot purchase a fake product here’, ‘I’ll help you fix and install the stuff without any difficulty’, ‘the purchased items would be conveyed to your vehicle … where did you park?’. At times, they can be helpful in providing useful tips, but not when requires formal documents would anybody seek assistance from unverifiable sources.
I once fell victim to what the troubled woman suffered some years ago when I went to purchase examination forms for one of my younger brothers that was having incomplete school certificate results. To ensure that I did not fall into the awaiting and devouring hands of ‘oni baranda’, I decided to purchase the forms inside a government-owned post office, despite the far distance from my abode. Why? This is because I was conscious of what could happen to buying fake application forms. Not only would such expended money be a waste and invalid registration. Not only that, if eventually a set of result is ‘acquired’ from the fake forms, it would certainly amount to naught, aside from the palpable fear of criminal prosecution, for parading forged or illegal qualification, which comes to mind. At the end, the worst still happened. I innocently bought a fake application package; my brother wasted his time and missed the examination for that year!
Having recalled that sad and nasty past experience, for emphasis, let us spend a few minutes to examine the resignation letter of the troubled woman, addressed to the ‘number one’ citizen before she left the stage and jetted out, few days ago. In the widely-circulated letter, she expressed her appreciation her boss for the opportunity given her to serve under him, an experience that she described as his inspirational leadership and integrity values. The troubled woman disclosed that she was surprised that the certificate under question was not real and for this reason, she decided to toe the path of honour by throwing in the towel. She narrated that her upbringing was purely from the foreign land, where her family members remain till date. She stated further that, she had visited her father’s land in the past using her passport, which was issued by the foreign land, until when she was six years of age before clocking 40, when she eventually got her passport in her father’s native land.
Thereafter, she got to know that, being away from the land and after attaining 30, she only needed to be given an official nod and clean bill that she was not expected to participate in the mandatory service to her fatherland. According to her, based on the counsel that she got from those she believed in, she opted for the document, which she said she got it in good faith, without having any iota of doubt that the document was not genuine. She said it was on the strength of this innocence that, the document is real that, she was courageous to tender it for use in her subsequent political appointments; first in her father’s native state and country, even though she had accepted that she had to sacrificially leave her new position because of the heavy controversy trailing her plight.
She mentioned her modest achievements under the administration of her former boss in turning around the fortunes of the nation. She was, however, optimistic that with her efforts, the country was now better positioned to become great, especially on money matters, having been able to survive its low moments, downturn and recession. The troubled woman lauded her other colleagues that were equally saddled with the responsibility of managing the affairs of the nation for the teamwork and the support given to her while carrying out the national assignment. In her concluding remarks, she thanked ‘number one’ citizen for his patience and goodwill in the bid to unravel what transpired and his commitment to ensuring that our nation waxes stronger. That is now history.
Today, corruption, ignorance, high level of unemployment and quest for short cuts, often make many people to fall prey to the antics of fraudsters in our country. If I may ask; how many of us have ever followed the necessary steps and observe due diligence while applying for our international passports, driver’s licence and other official documents? The truth is that many people would prefer to get someone to do it for them, and simply get quick results, due to our impatience, laziness and undue pressure from ‘oni baranda’, even when one is ready to do the needful and due dilligence. I think this was exactly what happened to the troubled woman.
Should the troubled women be prosecuted? Certainly, ignorance is not an excuse in law. However, legal jurisprudence teaches that the law is made for man and not the other way round. A critical analysis of the entire scenario suggests that the woman is just a victim of circumstance. She looks innocent. There is this strong argument that she could be a victim of political persecution. Whichever, the doctrine of equity should be invoked in her case, to let her be and be allowed to nurse the psychological trauma inflicted on her by the ‘oni baranda’ that puts her in this serious mess. On a final note, the main lesson is to try as much as possible to do things by ourselves, be careful of who to trust, use the right, appropriate and recognised channels. We should always create time from our busy schedules to sort out crucial tasks, as anything that is worth doing, deserves to be done well. Life is always full of lessons for all of us, including the troubled woman.