By Adeyinka Ogunleke
The Lagos State House of Assembly is first among equals and its activities have always attracted my attention. Of recent, however, I have been troubled by the state of things in the House. All kinds of allegations are being thrown around and at the receiving end is the Speaker, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, who is serving his second term.
Obasa is accused of alleged misappropriation of funds. He is accused of alleged money laundering. He is accused of alleged payment of N50 million to thugs to burn the office of an online newspaper. He is accused of allegedly paying his wife huge sum monthly from the Assembly’s purse. He is also accused of allegedly awarding contracts to his own firm. That is not all. There is also the allegation that he is buying cars he is not entitled to.
These, for me, are weighty allegations that should not be bandied in the media but must be substantiated if it must be accorded any serious official recognition.
From my checks, the proponents of the allegations have fought their war in the media. They have left out the people whose job it is to examine such matters. This got me curious and my findings are shocking. I have found out that the men behind the fight in the House are in the minority. I understand they are less than ten attempting to rubbish the legislative institution in pursuit of selfish interest. They have the backing of an ex-member whose quest for relevance has turned a hater of peace.
Only one media organisation, SaharaReporters, has been publishing these allegations tagging them exclusive at the expense of professional ethos. Every week, the organisation recycles the same set of allegations giving itself out as serving self sponsored pecuniary/political interests.
Reading through the reports by an online newspaper known for being short on facts, I have come to the conclusion that the allegations are baseless and misleading. For instance, the report did not provide any substance to back up its claim that the Speaker spends N17million monthly on maintenance of his residence and guest house. The N17 million referred to in the report, going by a statement by the House, covers various expenditure of the full offices; the Office of the Chief of Staff, Special Advisers (Budget, Political Matters), office of the Chief Press Secretary, Special Assistant (Protocol), Special Assistant (Research and Development), Special Assistant (Women Affairs), and 15 Special Assistants engaged to attend to the growing demand and specialty of the House.
The expenditure, the Clerk explained, predated the emergence of Obasa as Speaker. It used to be N27million monthly before Obasa found a way to reduce it.
Although the medium claimed to have investigated the stories, I found no evidence of any thorough investigation in the reports. One critical fact is that no attempt was made to get the other side of the story. If any attempt was made, the reports did not show this. All I saw were petitions by faceless groups reproduced and dubbed investigative reports.
I found it laughable that a medium run by supposedly educated people will accuse a Speaker of giving N50 million to thugs to burn its office. We all know thugs do not need that much to wreck havocs. It was just sheer irresponsibility to make this sort of wild allegation.
In the report accusing the Speaker of paying his wife money monthly from the Assembly’s purse, there was no evidence, just the usual SaharaReporter’s style of dropping allegations that are not worth the paper they were written on.
From the allegations being bandied around, Obasa started sinning right from his first term. If he is as bad as he has been painted, how come his colleagues unanimously re-elected him for a second term? Not even the disgruntled raise their hands to object his re-election. They most likely only started making troubles when what they considered their birth right was denied them.
One thing I have admired about the Lagos State House of Assembly is the maturity of its leadership. It is a symbol of peace and tranquility and this is not the time for this to be ‘killed’ by a few disgruntled members goaded by a selfish ex-member who has nothing legislative-wise to show for all the years he spent in the House.
The House has not been a rubber stamp of the Executive. There are several instances where it has set the Executive aright. One of such has to do with it ensuring executive compliance with budgetary requirements amongst others.
The fight in the Lagos House is not to enthrone accountability, it is not to ensure good leadership and it is certainly not in the public’s interest. It is just the quest by a few to have their way using crude means.
Lagos is a state like no other in Nigeria and men who have been privileged to represent the people should appreciate this privilege instead of allowing rat race to dictate their conduct. They should stop spreading falsehood using a medium whose credibility is in serious doubt.
*Ogunleke, an English language teacher, sent this piece from Okokomaiko-Lagos.