BY SEGUN ELIJAH
President Muhammadu Buhari makes Nigerians believe he won’t blink over corruption anywhere. But it’s not unlikely he will be political in dealing with the budget padding scandal threatening to consume his party man and No 4 citizen in the House of Reps.
While the DSS has swung into action by sealing the House Appropriation Committee secretariat in Abuja, the ruling APC appears ready to give the alleged major character, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, some soft landing.
“There is nothing like passing any judgment against any member of the party,” APC Deputy National Chairman (North), Lawal Shuaibu, said after hell raiser Abdulmumin Jibrin, sacked chairman of the committee, came on the party’s invitation.
“We will play our role as an umpire in this matter to see how we can restore peace and unity among our members.”
True, for unity’s sake, Buhari, too, may rein back its sleuth hound trying to ferret out the scandal. He had a meeting with the Speaker Friday, and many believed it was about saving the embattled lawmaker’s hide.
Dogara actually means a lot to the APC, and indeed to Aso Rock. Since Sen. President Bukola Saraki became a turncoat by allying with the PDP to sway the Senate election that produced him, the presidency has not be in good terms with the upper house and its leadership.
Worsening this is the barrage of corruption allegations and trials many believe Buhari is throwing at Saraki. The Code of Conduct Tribunal trial and the Senate Standing Order forgery, and lately, the past corruption cases AGF Abubakar Malami just dusted up, in which Saraki, is also prominent, keep fueling the hostilities between the Villa and the Senate. And in some ways, the entire National Assembly, once a while, gets dragged into the fray.
The only link, however, through which the presidency has been accessing the NASS is Dogara. At least all through the budget proposal deadlock, the Speaker stood by Buhari. He saw through all the politics in the impasse.
“Playing this north-south game is unhelpful. That’s simply the goal of the planters of this factoid,” Dogara tweeted in April.
“Nothing like presidency involved here. It’s a shameless falsehood meant to stir hatred. It’s most despicable.”
And the Speaker was able to create some kind of rapport between Buhari and the NASS that eventually tided the executive over the budget storm.
ALSO SEE: Dogara battles to avert impeachment
Analysts believe it would be hard for the president to make much head way if the last and only bridge between the two arms, which Dogara fairly represents, is burnt.
That’s the more reason the APC seems uncomfortable with unseating Dogara over the budget padding scandal. And the way the party is going about it, which is more of a win-win, is irritating many Nigerians.
Shuaibu has said there’s no truth in the information that Jubrin was summoned to the APC headquarters to face disciplinary action.
The 39-iear-old honourable from Kano started the mud-flinging over the allegation that Dogara, his deputy Yusuff Lasun, House Whip Alhassan Ado Doguwa, and Minority Leader Leo Ogor padded N40 billion into their constituency project votes, and those of other honourables. He has gone as far as releasing information to the media and petitioning the EFCC and the ICPC.
“Speaker Yakubu Dogara and three others fraudulently short-changed the House of Representatives and abused their offices by unilaterally taking away 40 Billion Naira out of the N100 billion allocated for constituency projects,” the petitioned stated in part.
But Dogara and the three others Jubrin refers to as the Quartet denied the allegations. They would rather accuse Jubrin of manipulation, adding that was the reason he was removed as the appropriation committee chairman.
Political watchers believe that as volatile as Nigeria’s House of Reps has always been, the allegations are strong enough to make a Speaker step down. That he still holding his ground amazes many.
The APC, which has officially started it won’t allow this to snowball into another embarrassment, obviously, is in charge. And it has got the Majority Leader Femi Gbajabiamila on short lease.
Gbajabiamila was the party’s choice for the Speakership in 2015 when Dogara, an nPDP rebel in the APC, played the system, and grabbed the seat. Now could have been the golden moment ease Dogara out of office—but for the party’s intervention.
And the House Leader understands the party’s take so well. While over 100 hundred reps have banded up to sweep the carpet off Dogara’s feet, Gbajabiamila is trying to act the pacifist.
He is also acting hard not to appear he’s gloating over Dogara’s predicament–even when some of the members insist he’s in cahoots with SGF David Babachir and AGF to finish off the Speaker,
“I was determined to keep in place the glue that holds an otherwise fragmented House, protect its integrity and at the same time avoid eroding the little confidence and vestiges of hope Nigerians have in us,” he said in a letter to the House.
On the allegations made by the Quartet and Jubrin, Gbajabiamila said no judgment should be passed on anybody.
“We operate a constitutional democracy and we must at all times submit to its dictates and ethos. All parties are innocent until otherwise proven. This should be our guide. I plead with all members. The mudslinging must stop.”
Many have taken this order from Gbajabiamila and the APC to mean some kind of gag. That, however, can only be for the party men. Nigerians have just confirmed what many critics of the Nigerian legislature have always said—that the lawmakers are corrupt.
“We believe that the allegations that the leadership of the House of Representatives worked to abuse the budget process to benefit themselves at the expense of the majority of Nigerians is a fundamental breach of constitutional oath and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Nigeria is a state party,” the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Programme (SERAP) stated in its petition to the U.N. in July.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo always refers to the entire NASS as a den of rogues and robbers. And he was happy the current scandal just proved him right.
“Well, if there are people who didn’t believe what I said in the past, then you now say that what has come out confirms what I said in the past,” Obasanjo added.
Jubrin, before the party ordered him to call it mum, had spilled out so much about Dogara to the public. And in the history of the House, not many Speakers so smeared were able to sit pat.
If Buhari and APC now helped Dogara, in particular, to go unscathed in this scandal, it would then be about the first time the executive would shield a corruption case as outrageous as this. And that in a government that likes to be seen as incorruptible.
Shuaibu said there was no truth in the information that the meeting was called to discipline Jibrin.
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