Tambuwal: How not to criticise Jonathan…
By Constance Okechukwu
Within the week, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, did not stop at stirring the hornets' nest; he took a step that has become common with Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) operatives, when he pumped smoke into the nest by taking on his party leader and President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. He pointedly accused Jonathan of supporting corruption.
Tambuwal may be right. In fact, Nigeria appears to be a cesspit of corruption. Everyone, including former World Bank chief and former Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, says it is. But who can save us from this burden and body of corruption?
When former President Olusegun Obasanjo tried to fight corruption, it sapped his energy, even as he was suspected of only using the anti-corruption weapon against political foes. At least he started somewhere.
The late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua made a move, but that move only almost cost the House of Representatives its members who eagerly went into the Power Sector probe, but left with their fingers burnt, their political careers dented.
And now Jonathan. What has he done? Read his fellow party member and Speaker, Hon Tambuwal: “Take the (fuel) subsidy probe, the pension (scam), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) probe and recently the bulletproof car cases (conducted by the House).
“After the House of Representatives did a diligent job by probing and exposing the cases, you now see something else when it comes to prosecution. In some cases, you have the government setting up new committees to duplicate the job already done by the parliament. Take the bulletproof cars case, the NSA, with all the security challenges confronting the country, should not be burdened with a job that can best be handled by the anti-corruption agencies.
“The government has no business setting up any administrative committee in a case that is clear to all Nigerians. What the president should have done was to explicitly direct the EFCC to probe the matter. With such directives coming from the president, I am sure we still have good people in EFCC who can do a good job. By the action of setting up different committees for straightforward cases, the president's body language doesn't tend to support the fight against corruption.”
Well, there are those who will question how diligent the House has been in handling the probes it carried out; there are also those who will ask what the federal lawmakers do with the nearly N110 million they each get per quarter to line their pockets as well as the salaries meant for aides that are not fully paid to them.
Or, for that matter the hundreds of millions warehoused in the Office of the Speaker that he spends at will without any recourse to laid-down financial procedure. Maybe the lawmakers are part of the group, including those in the Executive arm of government, that are being shielded by the presidency.
I do fully agree with Tambuwal when he said: “For us in Nigeria, the reality that no greater challenge than corruption confronts us as a people is not in controversy. Indeed if the roots of the overwhelming majority of our woes were traced, they are sure to terminate at the doorsteps of corruption. This is a commonplace fact known to all Nigerians and requiring no corroboration. Yet for the avoidance of doubt, it is important to state that in its 2012 Global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) by the global corruption watchdog, Transparency International, ranks Nigeria as the 36th most corrupt country globally! Nigeria placed 139th of the 176 countries assessed scoring 27 per cent in contrast with the least corrupt countries; Denmark, Finland and New Zealand which scored 90 per cent.
“A list of manifestation of corruption especially in the public sector of Nigeria is legion ranging from direct diversion of public funds to private pockets, contract over-pricing, bribery, impunity, nepotism, general financial recklessness, fraudulent borrowing and debt management, public assets striping, electoral fraud, shielding of corrupt public officers among others.
“It is a well established fact that corruption thrives well in any environment or society where there is community indifference or lack of enforcement policies. Societies with a culture of ritualized gift giving where the line between acceptable and non-acceptable gifts is often hard to draw. Societies in which values have been overthrown by materialism, societies in which laws are observed more in the breach.
“It would appear that these environmental preconditions are all prevalent in the Nigerian society and no wonder therefore that corruption has found fertile soil to blossom.”
On how the legislature could help to reduce the incidence of corruption in the country, Tambuwal believes that operating the provisions of legislations passed by the National Assembly would reduce graft in the country.
This is bunkum, because the National Assembly, with all due respect to those who claim some modicum of respect, is one of the headquarters of corruption in Nigeria, where members not only take unholy amounts home every month; the members also, in connivance with their cohorts in the Executive Arm, loot the country blind by inflating cost of projects in the budget. And to escape the oversight of National Assembly committees, the members of the Committee are kept happy from time to time through all-expenses paid trips for holidays and other junkets. In some cases, like Divisional Police Officers (DPOs), returns are made to Chairmen and members of committees.
I think the President can do all proud by probing key ministries under him as well as the activities of the National Assembly. My bet is that before long, the impeachment card will be thrown into the fray, and again the conclusion will be that his body language encourages the impeachment card and corruption.
Talking about Stella Oduah that Tambuwal mentioned, it reminds me: where is Farouk Lawan, Ndudi Elumelu, and of course, Dimeji Saburi Bankole? In a manner that shows his crooked forthrightness, or that of his ill-informed speech writers, the Honourable Speaker accused the Executive and Judiciary of blame: “It is important for me to stress once again at this stage that the mandate of the legislature is to expose corruption. It does not have further mandate to prosecute. That mandate of prosecution lies with the executive and judiciary.
“I have heard public comments to the effect that the public is tired of investigation by the legislature since the people indicted in their findings are never prosecuted and sanctioned. Let me reiterate that the legislature will not abdicate its responsibilities on the account of inaction or negligence of another arm of government. If nothing else, we will at least continue to name and shame,” Tambuwal said.
Talking about naming and shaming, the Speaker should go the whole hog rather than grand-standing and playing the card of his former brothers and new friends in the All Progressives Congress. Or, as one journalist abruptly shut up some Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) lawmakers sometime ago at a press conference, when he asked why none of the legislators in progressives camp has returned any of the ill-gotten money collected as quarterly allowance to federal coffers to demonstrate the interests of the masses at their hearts?
Like one of Tambuwal's colleagues in the Upper House, Senator Smart Adeyemi, is wont to say: “Allah ya Isa” (May heaven judge), as if any of these clowns can survive any judgment from that high. We know how some of these clowns got into the National Assembly or how they got appointed into the Federal Executive Council or other positions. Nobody should annoy Nigerians by giving the impression that the buck of fighting corruption stops at the desk of the president alone. It is much more than that. It requires all corrupt persons to remove their filthy hands from the public till, whether in the Executive, Judiciary, or Legislature.
· Okechukwu sent in this piece via [email protected]