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A Reputation Worth Its Weight in Gold

Since the news of Kemi Adeosun’s allegedly forged NYSC Certificate broke, we have been inundated with news reports, press statements, and more recently, opinion articles; each trying to outdo the other, mostly, in defence of Mrs Adeosun. The minister herself has remained silent on the matter, possibly on the counsel of members of her camp. Naturally, her silence has fuelled speculations on both sides of the divide in a manner reminiscent of when her appointment was first announced some three years ago. Her announcement as finance minister brought on an onslaught of media attention that was to be expected. After all, prior to that time, the University of East London graduate was little-known. Everyone was curious. With the media attention came the comparisons. This was to be expected; her predecessor was a Titan and everyone was curious to know who would fill her shoes.

Adeosun, then as now, has been fortunate; the pendulum swings both ways for her. Though she received some bad reviews then, like The Economist’s assessment of her experience and her unsuitability for the job, the shortcomings of the Jonathan administration also earned her some favourable reviews, as Nigerians, desperate for an end to the recession, were hopeful that she would do all within her power to alleviate the suffering of the man on the street. The strategy then was to try to dim the brilliance of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s reputation by casting aspersion on her work. Did this work? I leave you to put a number to the boards, unions and organisations that have engaged Mrs Iweala since her exit from service to country in 2015, and judge for yourselves, dear reader, if it worked.

With Adeosun under heavy attack now, they are back again. This time, with a tweaked strategy. It seems a sensible approach when you consider your options. The first is to try to pull down her predecessor by making false claims like Kemi Adeosun implemented the TSA, which Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala merely proposed, but never implemented. When everyone knows that the TSA was developed by the eminent Okonjo-Iweala herself under President Obasanjo’s administration and then implemented by same Okonjo-Iweala and her team up to 75 percent before Adeosun came in.

More ludicrous was the allegation that the same Okonjo-Iweala admitted to bribing the National Assembly with N17billion to have the 2015 budget passed; while Adeosun has been transparency personified…and this coming from individuals who are supposed to be able to read, write, and interpret fine prints. I would not even condescend to explaining what Mrs Iweala wrote in her book, nor would I remind such people that President Buhari recently admitted that his 2018 budget suffered the same fate at the hands of the National Assembly.

Their second strategy is the one I find somewhat intriguing; the same Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala whom these chaps are bent on pulling down is now their leverage to hold up Adeosun’s bumbling reputation. So, on the one hand they try to tarnish her image and make Adeosun look better; while on the other hand, they bring out what they deem shared experiences to make it appear like Adeosun is under attack, because like Okonjo-Iweala, she is fighting corruption. Unfortunately, this reads like a poorly written “good cop-bad cop” motion picture.

It appears to me like whichever way the pendulum swings this time around, there is no defence for Mrs Kemi Adeosun without mention of Okonjo-Iweala. Now, the question on the lips of readers should be; why? Well, clearly, the one has a reputation worth its weight in gold, while the other is making her way up the ladder. The point to note, however, is that these women have different trajectories and any form of comparison is in actual fact an injustice to both of them.

If I were to say that one exceeds the other as the first of May does the last of December, that would be me joining this incredulous bandwagon of mindless hacks who are bent on causing more harm than good. Because, in truth, what we should be asking ourselves is; does this comparison absolve Mrs Adeosun of any charge levelled against her? Even if this was the work of the faceless cabal, how does comparing her experiences with Okonjo-Iweala’s make things better? Will it make the accusations suddenly disappear? Or is this the usual gimmick to distract Nigerians?

Okonjo-Iweala has served her term, and admirably so. This is Kemi Adeosun’s term and no amount of calling Okonjo-Iweala’s name, whether for good or bad, will change the present narrative. Neither mud-slinging, praise-singing nor outlandish comparisons will clear the accusations levelled against the finance minister. And doing that directly should be the preoccupation of her media team.

Ebun Asagbe is a PR Executive who writes in from Ado-Ekiti

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