By LADESOPE LADELOKUN
I don’t know any country in the world that is so mercilessly looted like Nigeria. Sometimes I wonder how poor Nigerians have managed to survive despite the unending bleeding of the most populous black nation in the world. Here, politics is unarguably the most lucrative business. It is the only business that allows billions or even trillions of naira to develop wings and locate your account without shedding a bead of sweat!
If we pretend to agree that the accusations and counter-accusations over budget padding in the House of Representatives are mere conjectures, is there anyone who is not aware of the blood money reportedly shared by former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki and the gang.Of course, that is no longer in the realm of allegations. Some Nigerians confessed they got money in billions and millions from the office of the NSA. What remains a riddle is who gave the order!
It is, therefore, no surprise that many that aspire to occupy political offices see politics as a big investment that yields returns within a very short length of time. Houses are sold. Even cars and lands get buyers for the purpose of raising capital for what is regarded as the biggest investment known in some quarters. It explains, to a large extent, why politics is seen by a good number of political actors in this clime as a do or die affair.
There are arguments by well-meaning Nigerians to make political office less attractive.It makes a lot of sense. When a lawmaker earns more than the president of the most powerful country in the world, it is not unexpected that many would kill to get elected as a Nigerian lawmaker
In spite of the humongous salaries and allowances of our political office holders, especially our lawmakers, several of their actrocious acts are shrouded in secrecy until there is a quarrel. At least, the current drama in the House of Representatives is an eloquent testimony.
As a matter of fact, sometimes I pray for quarrel among the political class for that is when ordinary Nigerians have the rare privilege to know some of the atrocities committed against Nigeria and Nigerians. That is when one is entertained by their I-no-be-thief-you-be-thief rants like the war of words between Speaker Dogara and the former chairman of the appropriation committee, Hon. Jibrin Abdulmumin over allegations of budget padding.
Abdulmumin had earlier been relieved of his post as the chairman of appropriation committee. But he is screaming blue murder. To the Kiru/Bebeji federal constituency representative,his refusal to grant Mr. Speaker’s personal request is his original sin. Hear him: “my inability to admit into the budget almost N30billion personal requests from Mr. Speaker and three other Principal Officers also became an issue.”
He also alleged that the chairman of 10 committees injected 2,000 fictitious projects worth N248bn into the budget while Hon. Abdulmumin himself had also been accused of allocating 20 projects worth N4.3bn to his constituency and bribery, among other allegations.
As expected, Nigerians have been reacting to the heart-rending allegations of graft emanating from the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly. One unmistakable voice is that of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The Owu chief said the budget padding scandal confirmed his earlier position that the National Assembly was filled with thieves. Obasanjo had said, “Today rogues and armed robbers are in the State Houses of Assembly and the National Assembly. What sort of laws will they make?”
Truly, if there is one Nigerian who should know our lawmakers insider-out, I don’t know a better qualified Nigerian than Obasanjo. When it was alleged that Obasanjo desperately wanted a third term, big bags of cash flooded the floor of the National Assembly to woo lawmakers to support his alleged third term agenda.
Angered by Obasanjo’s sanctimonious posturing, Senator Na’Allah said,
“If former President Obasanjo can come out with one proven record of corruption against me as a person, I promise to vacate my seat as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“For the records, I was the only member from Kebbi State who did not find it worthy at that time of collecting the sum of N50million as an inducement to subvert the Constitution and provide a constitutional framework for the third term of President Obansanjo.
Until we unravel the source of the monies meant to buy the conscience of our lawmakers and those directly and indirectly involved when Obasanjo held sway as President, Obasanjo does not have the moral latitude to cast aspersions on the integrity of the members of the National Assembly. Baba may also need to tell us how unconstitutional constituency projects began before his serial bashing of the National Assembly can be taken seriously.
However, one thing the budget padding scandal has helped to establish is the need to focus on the entire political class in our resolve to kill corruption instead of singling out a party as corrupt. Those fingered in the scandal are members of the ruling party and the major opposition party.
It is important to note that budget padding didn’t start with the Buhari government. Now that our honourable Speaker Dogara has told us budget padding is not an offence, there can’t be a better time to compute what has been “padded away” by “padding padies” since our return to civil rule in 1999. We may just discover another reason Nigeria’s survival is a miracle!
Curiously, the APC has barred Hon. Jibrin from making comments on the scandal rocking the House of Representatives. If it’s a ploy to sweep the matter under the carpet in the name of political solution, then the APC may be treading the path of perdition like the party it displaced at the centre. Change should mean a departure from the past and not a mere slogan. Leaders of the ruling party must be told Nigeria does not belong to the APC or PDP.
Nothing short of a thorough investigation by relevant anti-corruption agencies and appropriate punishment meted out to those found culpable in the budget padding scandal would be acceptable to well meaning Nigerians, especially from a government that promises zero-tolerance for corruption.The whole world is waiting.
Ladelokun writes from Ogun State.