Padding Palaver: Beyond the Suspension of Jibrin

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POLSCOPE

with  Eddy Odivwri; eddy.odivwri@thisdaylive.com   08053069356

The House of Representatives resumed last week. Like a ghost, the spirit of the padding scandal is yet haunting the House. During the break, a lot of moves were made by both sides (those supporting the padding and the establishment and those opposed to the padding scam) in order to consolidate their various positions.

In what appeared like pursuing the allegation to a conclusive end, the House had referred the matter to the Ethics and Privileges Committee headed by Hon Ossai Nicolas Ossai.

Fearing that he would not get justice from the committee, the whistle blower, Dr Abdulmumuni Jibrin  stayed away from the committee citing the bias of many members of the committee, some of whom had made comments criticising Jibrin for the embarrassing exposè he gave the House.

 Jubrin, on his part, had approached the court to grant an injunction forbidding the House from suspending him.

Right now, the die is cast. The Ethics and Privileges Committee concluded the sitting without Jibrin showing up.

Expectedly, the committee last Wednesday made far-reaching recommendations against Jibrin, chief of which being his suspension from 180 legislative sittings, as well as being barred from holding any position of responsibility in the eight assembly.

 I believe that no matter the case Jibrin had against the leadership of the House, his refusal to appear before the panel did him in. Relying wholly on a lawsuit he had filed was not enough reason to boycott the committee, especially as his initial condition for appearing before the committee (conduct the sitting in the open) was met by the House committee.

I am not convinced that the decision to shun the committee was the best in the circumstance. He had the ample opportunity to prove his weighty allegations before the whole world, but he blew the chance. He forgot the legal aphorism that the burden of proof lies on he who alleges. No matter how biased the members of the Ethics and Privileges Committee may have been, a well-laid out case of Jibrin would have set the committee against all Nigerians who would have had the chance to see through whatever antics the committee was about to play. But Jibrin’s refusal to appear before the committee obfuscated his case. Now Nigerians would be wondering if the allegations are/were frivolous and fictitious.

As it stands, the battle will shift to the court. The direction and dimension of court cases are not only easy to determine, no one knows how long they can drag.

I can guess that Jibrin’s refusal to appear before the committee may have also made him lose the few supporters he had in the House, and that explains why the motion to suspend him was overwhelming, as not a single voice opposed it on the floor of the Green chamber.

Anyone who watched the drama of the distribution of “#I-stand-with-Dogara” muffler in the House last week would understand that the House will not waste time to clamp Jibrin between the hammer and the anvil. Suspending Jibrin will heighten the tension in the House and raise the decibel of the accusation to a feverish pitch. Indeed, many would believe that the suspension of Jibrin is aimed at sweeping the whole padding saga under the carpet.

The suspension of Jibrin, nonetheless, does not invalidate the allegations made and so they deserve to be creditably cleared by all those involved especially the quartet led by Speaker Dogara.

It is not enough to dismiss the details of the allegations as mere mischief. Nigerians need to be convinced beyond political grandstanding and shenanigan that the over 2000 projects worth N40 billion said to have been engrafted into the budget by the House leadership is not true.

We need to be convinced that the Nasarawa water project, for instance, was not actually diverted to Dogara’s farm. Beyond the rave talk about padding, is the more critical question of the content of the said padding itself. A close look will show that most of the projects so engrafted into the budget, are not projects that will improve the livelihood of the people or grow the economy that is now in dire straits.

For instance of what national economic importance is a community town hall? Or what lasting value does a television viewing centre create for the people?

Last August 6, I had written that,

“It is bad enough that these lawmakers have appropriated the functions of the executive by also drawing up their own budget, yet it is worse when you hear that most of these so-called constituency projects are not projects that will improve the overall development index of Nigeria. Or how shall we justify the use of federal government fund to build a community town hall, or market or television viewing centre in a community? Very annoying cases of abuse of privileges. It also shows the vacuous mental capacity of many of the lawmakers. Town hall my foot!”

All said, Dogara and co. must come clean. They must be seen to be above board. This is a new era. They cannot continue in the same ways of the past which put us all in the mesh of mess we are in today. All eyes are on the House and its ways, as I know the last salvo may not have been fired from Jibrin’s armoury.

Nigeria’s 56 Steps to a Far Country

Today is Nigeria’s 56th anniversary. Yes, 56! But how far have we journeyed from point of origin? And how near are we to the destination? These will remain big questions that we have to battle to answer every October 1. Life is a race. How fast and steady are we running? What is the guarantee that we shall breast the tape while the competition is still on? Or we may get there long after the curtain has been drawn?

Many of those who believe Nigeria is jinxed argue that if the founding fathers of the nation who were more patriotic and altruistic could not establish a country of their dream, then no one should expect the scavengers on stage now to do any better. I do not agree.

I believe that Nigeria will grow out of its present challenges, despite the fact that even the youth of today who are in influential positions of authority have not quite shown that they are the messiahs. Yet I am convinced that the Nigerian nation will rebound.

Yes, we have been slow in catching up with fellow countries with whom we began the journey to nationhood together, the fact that we are yet one country despite all the challenges of the past, indicates that we shall come out of our present predicaments and emerge a stronger nation. Rome was not built in a day. Neither was Rome built all lifelong though.

But to arrive at the other side of this struggle will require leadership and obedience. As Jerry Gana would say in his MAMSER days, those who are leaders must lead well and those who are the led must listen and obey the directions of the leaders, provided they give progressive instructions that will take us to the Promised Land.

For Nigeria and Nigerians, whether we are in recession or not, we yet must congratulate ourselves on this 56th anniversary.

Muhammadu Buhari
Muhammadu Buhari

Canticles…

Ondo APC:  Was Tinubu Bruised?

The predictions of the nay sayers are coming to pass.

Who are the nay sayers and what did they predict?

Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem?

Are you not aware that many have been predicting that the APC will soon shatter and scatter given the cobbling together of disparate forces and interests?

I don’t understand you. So what makes you think this is coming to pass?

You mean you didn’t hear of the in-house combustion, how the dreaded Bola Tinubu, a man who assumed the title of National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has ordered that the National Chairman of the party, John Odigie-Oyegun, should step down immediately? You also did not know that even former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has joined Tinubu to drag Oyegun down? Have you not been in the country?

You have not told me anything new. I must warn you not to over-sensationalise these issues. They are normal political squabbles. Don’t forget politics is all about interest. It is either group or individual interests. And as soon as this is threatened, there will be kicks here and there.

So what are you implying?

I am not implying anything. I am telling you that if Tinubu is kicking or Atiku is kicking, you are better check well. It is because their interests must have been threatened one way or the other.

(In hushed voice)Let me tell you. Do you think Tinubu will be happy that for the second time, his effort to install the Ondo governor failed? Don’t forget that in 2011 Tinubu sponsored and supported Rotimi Akerodolu of then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) against Governor Olusegun Mimiko because he felt that Mimiko betrayed him. Recall that Tinubu had said during one of those campaign rallies of the party   at Ikare-Akoko, that, “I took him (Mimiko) as a brother when he came groveling for support. We gave him our support, money and even gave him a bulletproof car. But Mimiko betrayed us.” So if at the end of that contest Mimiko won and Tinubu lost, you think the latter would be happy?

And yet again, even in the choice of the party’s standard-bearer (in a party that he is the unchallenged National Leader), his own candidate—Mr Segun Abraham was not picked or elected as the party’s candidate. And you expected him to smile? You don’t know that a huge chunk of his political ego has been chipped off? No politician worth his name will be happy with that. So if he is kicking, it is understandable.

So why is Atiku joining him too?

It is the same issue of interest. Don’t forget the same Atiku was a presidential aspirant along with now President Muhammadu Buhari. Atiku still believes that Oyegun must have tweaked the structures of the party to favour Buhari against him in 2014. So if he is kicking against Oyegun now, it is because of past acrimonies. And don’t forget Atiku still has his eyes on 2019. He must have also calculated that his chances will remain threatened and abortable if Oyegun continues to remain in office. Therefore, the earlier he is thrown out the better for his interest. Believe me, it is all about their interest, my brother!

So if Tinubu sponsored Akerodolu in 2011, why is he bitter now that the same Akerodolu has emerged?

Surely, you don’t understand politicians. You don’t know they behave like Ogbanje sometimes? Nothing is permanent in politics, except interest. Tinubu found another worthier vessel in Segun Abraham and does not believe Akerodolu is the fellow anymore. So he would feel even more hurt that a fellow he has dumped became the eventual winner in a contest he was more or less a proxy contestant.

I don’t believe you completely. Don’t forget the same Abraham had congratulated Akerodolu for emerging as the party’s candidate. So what informed the change of stance?

Well, there is a claim that the delegates’ list was manipulated and over 150 strange names were engrafted into the list. And that was what gave Akerodolu the victory. And that was the basis of the protest against Akerodolu’s emergence.

Did you not hear that in the appeal panel that six persons voted for the repeat of the exercise while five upheld it? And rather than go with the position of the majority, John Oyegun upheld the position of the minority?

I understand he voted to uphold the primaries and that made it all six.

He is supposed to vote only when there is a tie. Not when there is a clear winner. Can’t you see he breached the process and the rules?

Is there no room for his discretion as the presiding officer?

Sadly, there is no such provision. All that he needed to do was play by the rules.

But I hear that the Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal has been delegated by President Buhari to sort out the feud.

And you think Tambuwal will change anything? You think Asiwaju, the Jagunmola of Yoruba politics will be persuaded by that?

Well, it will be a way of ensuring that the shaky stacks of the party do not come crumbling down to the pleasure of their critics.

Nothing will come crumbling down if Oyegun falls. Or did you not hear that he even lost his ward in the Edo governorship election? Can’t you see his electoral value has been wiped off?

I think they must all do everything to avoid the mockery of all the nay sayers led by the PDP overlords who have always predicted that this marriage of convenience called APC will not last. The ball is in their court.