Premium Times reported on October 22, 2018 that Razak Atunwa, the Kwara State PDP governorship candidate in next year’s election, not only failed to participate in the mandatory National Youth Service Corps scheme, he also forged a discharge certificate to conceal this fact.
The forged NYSC certificate, according to the Premium Times, had with it “a notarised affidavit sworn at the Kwara State High Court in Ilorin on September 10.” That’s three offenses in one: intentional evasion of national service, forgery, and perjury.
This is eerily reminiscent of former Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun’s NYSC dodging and forgery. But Atunwa’s is worse than Adeosun’s for at least two reasons. First, although Atunwa got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the UK, he was born in Nigeria and therefore had no room for plausible deniability for avoiding the national youth service. He also has no reason not to know that it’s illegal to take any public or private sector employment in Nigeria without first presenting evidence of participation in the NYSC scheme, especially because he is a lawyer.
Second, Premium Times’ report showed that Atunwa forged the NYSC discharge certificate after the outrage that Kemi Adeosun’s forgery excited in the nation. That’s unnervingly brazen. But, more than anything, it bespeaks the man’s questionable moral character and propensity for audacious fraud.
It’s troubling that Atunwa was at various times a commissioner in Kwara State and was even a speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly. He is currently a member of the House of Representatives and chair of its Committee on Justice. The act that established the NYSC states that, “[…] it is illegal to hire a person who graduated but failed to make himself or herself available to serve, or falsify any document to the effect that he or she has served or exempted from serving.”
Atunwa, like Adeosun, is evidently a malefactor who should not only serve jail time but should pay restitution for all the time he was illegally employed in Nigeria since his return from the UK. How could PDP in Kwara pass over astute, virile, not to mention “loyal,” politicians like former APC spokesperson Bolaji Abdullahi and House of Reps member Zakari Mohammed for a common crook like Atunwa who has intentionally contravened the law he said he studied and practiced?
In order to get around his forgery, it is rumored that Atunwa plans to present only his school certificate to INEC and to disclaim possession of a bachelor’s degree since a secondary school certificate is the minimum qualification required to be governor. But how will he erase previous claims to being a lawyer, to having graduated from the University of East London for his law degree and from the University of London for his master’s degree? How would he explain away submitting a forged NYSC discharge certificate to the PDP under oath?
Sadly, Atunwa may get away with this because others before him have. Kemi Adeosun was helped by the government to escape to London and evade justice. Minister of Communication Adebayo Shittu, who has admitted to not participating in the NYSC scheme on the basis of which the APC disqualified him from running for governor of his state, is still a minister. Okoi Obono-Obla, Special Assistant to the President on Prosecutions and Head of Special Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property, who fudged a school certificate—which, in all probability, belonged to his dead relative—to gain admission to study law at the University of Jos still has his job in spite of the public disclosure of this fact.
The fact of being in an opposition party might cause our overtly partisan law enforcement agents to hound Atunwa, as in being done to Senator Adeleke, but as someone from Kwara State, I am alarmed that a contemptibly unabashed moral cripple like Atunwa is in danger of becoming the governor of my state.
Farooq Kperogi , a Public Commentator and University Lecturer resides in US.