On February 20, 2016, at a press briefing, Nigeria’s Minister for Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, reportedly made an error in arithmetic. While giving a report on the findings of auditors on various boards in the country, she accused an examination bodies in Nigeria of fraudulent activities. In her presentation, while attempting to give her audience an idea of what was being mismanaged by the unnamed examination body, she added 6 billion to N16 billion and said the total was N24 billion. The blogosphere went wild with the news that the minister lacked basic knowledge of mathematics some even going as far as quoting an unnamed West African Examination Council (WAEC) “spokesperson” requesting the minister to take her Math paper for free. This is the height of irresponsibility I have seen since I was born!
Let us all face it, is it impossible to make a mistake in calculation during an intense presentation? Is there something called Freudian slip, where some “slips” his tongue to say what he doesn’t mean or intend? If all these are possible, what is the big deal in making the mistake of addition whose meaning is quite clear except to those that have obvious cases to answer?
Now, let me move to the main issues so that they are not swept under the carpet. I really do not admire the person of Mrs Kemi Adeosun. I don’t fancy her style, neither do I know much about her before her appointment by the Buhari administration. I heard a lot about her records as Commissioner of Finance in Ogun state. Needless to say this, I refuse to be beclouded by the facts of the matter.
On the issue in contention, I wish to say that she spoke my mind on the matter of Revenue-generating agencies. If we generated so much money from students or the public, which account do these funds go?
Last year, I recall paying a whopping sum of money to purchase my MSc form in a federal University. Not all of us were admitted after paying pocket-tearing fees for application forms excluding other dues we paid. No one bothered to know where these funds go into? Who audits these accounts? Assuming the funds go into official University accounts, are they remitted into government coffers in the spirit of commercialization of education?
Let us assume that our universities are poorly funded, so that is why they need to generate money externally from application forms and other means. Can we say the same for revenue-generating agencies created by law?
It is only in Nigeria that bodies that are created to generate revenue are also to receive from, not remit to, the Government. This is a rather strange situation. Some years ago, some examination bodies made the claims that their costs of conducting examinations per applicant has increased which was their only justification for increasing application fees at the time. We should also recall that Government also increased the funding of education at the same period when it was clear that the overhead costs have increased. What is baffling is why bodies like WAEC which is not owed by Nigeria, yet claims funding from this country while mopping funds from Nigerian applicants at the same time should worry rational minds!
Rather than some of us looking at the issues raised, we decided to kill the messengers with the message, just because of a negligible error. Rather than direct their attacks/responses on the issues raised, paid agents chose to capitalize on “arithmetic error” to cover the monumental corruption they have unleashed.
It is now common in Nigeria for corruption to fight back when you fight corruption. No one should be surprised that the agents of corruptions are the ones seriously fighting back by doing their utmost to make the minister look silly. This attempt has not only failed, but failed abysmally.
This is why some of us are advocating the need to face the real issues rather than resulting to argumentum ahominem.
Kazeem Akorede is a social commentator, who writes from Lagos.