House speaker, Yakubu ‘Jack’ Dogara, has just confirmed that there is more to his innocent, some say, dour looks and colourless personality. By admitting that he participated in padding the 2016 budget, the man just called to question his credentials to occupy the office of speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives. In his shameless confession, Dogara also reminded Nigerians that he studied law and, as a lawyer, he knows there is nothing criminal in falsifying documents! Can you beat that?
C’mon, folks! We are talking about the speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives and, wait for this, the constitutionally-recognised number four citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Mark these words: If he escapes the slammer, chances are Yakubu Dogara will bid for the governorship of Gombe state in 2019, in deference to ‘popular call of my people’. His desperation to the point of conspiring with others to usurp the post of speaker is simply to build a formidable war-chest to prosecute his governorship campaigns.
Little wonder the man does not even know that things are falling so fast around him. Nigerians now know that in matters bordering on larceny, there is basically no difference between Senator Saraki and Honourable Dogara. For now, Bukola Saraki is on a much-needed holiday pending when investigation into budget padding at the National Assembly commences. And, if snippets from the press are positive indicators, Nigerians are set to witness the mother of all scandals that promises more troubles for already-tainted lawmakers and, others like Dogara whom many thought were above board.
Honourable Dogara is also enjoying some respite after in the wake of a belated truce called by the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. Before the intervention, House speaker, Dogara was forced to endure what could easily pass as the most nightmarish week of his life in the hands of his estranged sidekick, Abdulmumuni Jibrin. Trouble started after Honourable Jibrin was removed as chairman of appropriation and finance committee. The post was Jibrin’s reward for the prominent role he played in the conspiracy that led to Dogara’s emergence as speaker.
While Nigerians wait and watch, disharmonious tunes from the National Assembly over the past few days have proved that the Buhari/Osinbajo will have to wield a bigger stick if the anti-graft war is to make any headway. So far, the impression Nigerians have of their lawmakers is one of a greedy, sticky-fingered bunch who consider corruption a birthright to be guarded jealously. In one moment of frivolity that has become the pastime of lawmakers, one senator even declared that inserting strange variables into the budget, a synonym for padding, is normal!
It is such vacuousness that enamoured Senator Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu and others so inclined in the senate and, now Honourable Dogara and his deputy and their co-travellers in the House of Representatives to exhibit infantile mannerisms. Honourable Dogara may appear colourless but, through the budget padding scandal, he has proved he is adept at the game of deception. The speaker need not waste his saliva because, as a prominent member of the looters club, nobody expects him to steps aside to allow for proper investigation. Like Senator Bukola Saraki, he too should maintain a toe-hold on power ‘even if heaven falls’!
Whatever the case, it is heart warming to know that the better-forgotten era when public office was viewed as avenue to steal and/or treated as private estate is gradually becoming history. This is one message that was lost on public office holders who rode to power on the steam of President Buhari. Otherwise, Senator Saraki, Honourable Dogara and others not so distinguished and honourable who now find themselves in the eye of the storm would have been more circumspect. If they care to look at pictures staring down at them in their offices, they will know the positions they occupy are not hereditary!
The way it is, the opportunity to imbibe a lesson or two by lawmakers has been lost. At least, that is the case for now in respect of those lawmakers who either failed or refused to sidetrack the ever-present banana peels. Budgeting has been one of the several banana peels that sullied the reputation of lawmakers in the past. And, if the barely-startling disclosure of Honourable Abdulmumuni Jibrin and his co-travellers is anything to go by, budgets have been padded as a matter of routine over the years. So far, what appears to have startled Nigerians is the extent and magnitude of the problem.
There will be several possible spin-offs from the Dogara-Jibrin face-off. One of them, hopefully, is that this may be last episode of budget-padding in the National Assembly. And, this will only come about as a result of a combination of factors. One: a quick and thorough investigation to ascertain who padded what. Two: is to ensure proper prosecution of those found complicit in the crime. And, three: everything must be done to ensure that those found guilty are appropriately sanctioned. Criminals who believe they will return to their booty after spending time in jail should know that conviction comes with confiscation of booty.
Despite insinuations to the contrary, the Buhari/Osinbajo administration has proved it can be trusted on matters bordering on impartiality and candour. Those who doubted the administration’s avowed commitment to the anti-graft were left with mouth agape when Senator Bukola Saraki was put on trial for two unrelated but weighty criminal offences. Dubious people who saw the National Assembly as licence to loot and who did terrible to get elected will be making the mistake of a lifetime to assume it is business as usual. By comparison, the present administration has the capacity and capability to ferret out and sanction corrupt people.
A second possible spin-off of the Dogara-Jibrin face-off is that the next National Assembly may have more serious-minded people in attendance. This is because of the growing awareness among Nigerians on the need to attach commensurate importance to the people they send to the National Assembly as they attach to the presidency. A cursory look at the present and past legislatures at the federal and state levels indicates a worrying voter-apathy when it comes to electing lawmakers into the federal and state assemblies.
Honestly, it is this apathy that has been responsible for all manner of people that regularly populate the National Assembly since 1999. It is a mark of the country’s degeneracy to see felons, either as former governors who are under investigation for stealing their states blind or people who are on the run for narcotraffic, regularly get elected into the federal legislature. Nigerians could not have forgotten the embarrassment Senator Nuhu Aliyu, a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police said he felt on inauguration day when he discovered one of his colleagues was a known felon.
Yet, the third by-product of the Dogara-Jibrin face-off is its capability to put the people of Gombe state on their feet. By criminally padding the 2016 budget in secret and, shamelessly declaring, after he was exposed, that there is nothing criminal in a criminal act, Honourable Dogara has served good notice to the people as to the kind of governor he will be if he succeeds in buying his way to Gombe state Government House in 2019. It is important for the people of Gombe state to begin to reflect, and deeply too, on what becomes of state funds if, perchance, the state falls into the hands of this new Jack ( of all trades!) who sees nothing criminal in the criminal act of falsifying documents!
Yes! Crooks are getting smarter and more determined. Thankfully, so are efforts to check them!
Magaji is based in Abuja and can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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