News of the suspension of Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin by the House of Representatives filtered through news sites yesterday, almost overshadowing the coverage of the Edo elections. The lawmaker who is at the centre of the budget padding allegation scandal was handed a 180 legislative days suspension. He has been disallowed from holding any position of responsibility through the duration of the 8th Assembly and is required to tender a written apology.
This action taken by the House of Reps on the lawmaker’s whistleblowing was inescapable as there had been telltale signs of a connivance of the rest of the House against Hon. Jibrin since the resumption from the seven-week long recess last week. He was referred to the Ethics and Privileges Committee for investigation and his failure to show up at the hearing is the premise on which his suspension is hinged.
This episode has lasted over two months and if Hon. Jibrin’s reaction to his suspension is anything to go by, we’re not about to see the end of the thriller. But there is so much that all of this explains to us about Nigeria and the extent of the decay in our political system. Here are some of the things we took note of:
- In this part of the world, corruption
alwayswins: Just before the House went on its recess in July, Hon. Jibrin was kicked off his position as Chairman of the Appropriation Committee. In what seemed like a bitter rampage at the time, he went on a massive campaign exposing four principal officers of the House including the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara. The others are Deputy Speaker, Mr. Sulaiman Yusuff Lasun, House minority leader, Mr. Leo Ogor and Chief Whip, Mr. Ado Doguwa. The crux of his allegations is that the named lawmakers illegally and unconstitutionally inserted projects worth N60 billion into the 2016 national budget to serve their personal interests and selfish purpose. He claimed his sack from the position of Appropriation Committee chairman was the result of his refusal to support the fraudulent acts of the Speaker and his cohorts. The press statement sent out to that effect read that Hon. Jibrin was immature and lacked the capacity to handle the office. From day 1 of his rage, Hon. Jibrin presented documented evidence to back up his claims but he was met with dismissals and constant relegation. Few weeks after the budget padding scandal became the most-talked about topic in the country, Mr Speaker finally broke his silence. But what we heard from him was the least we expected. According to Hon. Dogara, budget padding is not a criminal act and is justifiable under the law. When calls were made for him to resign, Dogara maintained a calm demeanour despite the pressure. This is a man at the heart of what would turn out to be the most popular corruption scandal in the history of Nigeria’s legislature, who has now become the hero. When the issue was raised at the House plenary sitting last week, the lawmakers hailed the Speaker in solidarity chanting “Dogara! Dogara!! Dogara!!!”.
- President Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign is a scam? During his campaign and since he resumed office, President Buhari had made it clear that the only way to restore Nigeria’s economy is by waging war against corruption. It is no longer news that eradicating corruption to a bare minimum is a top priority for the Buhari administration. Arrests have been made, stolen monies have been recovered, but not one corrupt government official has been duly punished. Beyond that, some groups claim that this anti-corruption campaign is unbalanced and this is not far from the truth. This is an administration that has bragged about “stepping on big toes” time and again but has purposely stood aloof from the budget padding case. We’re not trying to put ideas in your head but it is worth keeping in mind that the two men who are at loggerheads are members of the ruling APC and the party had already taken sides when it instructed Hon. Jibrin to stop divulging information to pressmen in August; an instruction which screamed “stop revealing our secrets”. In that same month, President Buhari held a closed door meeting with Speaker, Hon. Dogara. The House of Reps may be an autonomous institution but members are not immune to probe by the executive and the judiciary, and especially at a time when there is a supposed forceful clampdown on corruption. The question is: “Would the situation be different if Hon. Dogara was a PDP member?”
- Nigerians are comfortable with corruption and bad governance: In 2013, when the most famous whistleblower of our time, Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S government, through the NSA had a surveillance on phone and internet communications of citizens and monitored telephone conversations of 35 world leaders, it was a strong accusation against the United States. In Snowen’s defence, he had done Americans a great deal of favour as everyone knew better than to trust the government. The revelations were grave and the impending consequences led to Snowden seeking asylum in Russia where he was accepted by President Vladimir Putin. That year, thousands of Americans held various protests in different states to protest mass surveillance, the “Stop Watching Us” rallies were a massive success at the time and it was proof that Americans are a proactive people who will collectively voice their objections. As for Nigerians, we choose to stay silent except for a few rants on social media and everyone is back to living their lives. Why do we fail to see that a group of politicians continually robbing us is the reason why Nigeria is where it is today? Why do we not see the need to speak up against corruption? Why is Hon. Jibrin doing this alone?
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