The National Assembly should stop the ongoing remonstration in Abuja and stop viewing every attempt to get the parliament to open its books for scrutiny or get its principal officers to account for alleged infraction as an attempt to infringe on its sovereignty or a move to assault the principle of separation of powers. I refrain from restating here the sing-song in APC circles that this is a season of change and that theirs is a government of change. Many reckon that the country is yet to see much of the change being touted by the All Progressives Congress (APC) cheer-leaders. But I dare say that with all its imperfections, the war against corruption being waged at present by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration remains the boldest attempt in the last one decade or so or even since the resurgence of democracy in the country in 1999 to directly confront the monster that is corruption. Corruption and outright stealing (apologies to former President Jonathan) have robbed the nation of valuable money for development and have almost brought the nation to her knees. A staggering sum has been lost to corruption since independence. In 2015 alone, about $174 billion was said to have been lost to corruption, according to a report. And unless the country reforms its public and private sector administration, Nigeria may lose as much as 37 percent of its total GDP by 2030, says Pricewater Cooper (PwC), a leading audit, assurance rating company, while presenting a report entitled ‘Impact of Corruption on Nigeria’s Economy’ to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in January this year at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
So, all officers whether in the Executive, Legislative or Judicial arms of government must gear up for the task, turn a new leaf and put all hands on deck to battle corruption so we kill corruption, before it kills the country, as they say. This leads me to the alleged forgery case against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, ex-Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, and Deputy Clerk, Bernard Efeturi. It was alleged that Senate Order 2011 on modality for election in the upper legislative chamber was forged in the election of its principal officers on June 9, 2016. The police had launched into an investigation of the alleged forgery shortly after Saraki’s election. The investigation was said to have been concluded and a prima facie case allegedly established. The seeming inaction on the matter on the part of the government and a sudden wake-up on the part of the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to now begin the prosecution of the case seems suspicious. It seems an after-thought and the move laden with political motive. But the point for me is that the issue in question remains an allegation and those accused remain innocent until the prosecution is able to prove otherwise. Why are the assembly officers against an inquisition into the matter? AGF Malami said he had not offended any known law by delving into the matter and by starting the prosecution. He said he is within his powers under the constitution to initiate criminal proceedings against anybody where any of the investigating agencies has established a prima facie case against such suspect and many lawyers verily believe so, so I say let the legal fireworks begin.
That is just one issue. This week, I like to crave the indulgence of readers to engage in small takes and I like to offer some comments quickly on three more issues, one concerning, again, the National Assembly, and the last two about two governors, one hugging the headlines for his characteristic wrong reasons and the other for the ‘change’ happening under his watch.
Some prominent Nigerians have already spoken to condemn the proposed amendment of the constitution to grant immunity and life pension to National Assembly leaders. The proposed legislation particularly the one seeking life pension for the Senate President, his deputy, House of Representatives Speaker and his deputy is insensitive and unconscionable. It is inconceivable that our lawmakers would be thinking of how to add additional perks at a time that the nation’s economy is in dire strait. If our lawmakers do not experience what a majority of Nigerians pass through at present, don’t they hear stories of untold hardship and sufferings from their constituencies? Why for the life of me would anybody be thinking of adding to the country’s woes at this point in time? Why?
The second rather discomforting issue is about Governor Ayodele Fayose who sensationally claimed that Zenith Bank funded his election and that funds for prosecuting his victory in that June 21, 2014 Ekiti governorship poll did not come from the proceeds of arms procurement deal by the Office of the National Security Adviser under Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd). Zenith Bank has denied Fayose’s claim. The bank says Governor Fayose was irked to make wild allegation against it because it allowed the EFCC access to his bank account. There have been claims and counter claims from both sides. But there seems to be more than meets the eye about the issue. Indeed, for all you may say about Governor Fayose, he is no doubt a ‘smart’ politician. He would not move the state accounts from the Skye Bank under former Governor Kayode Fayemi to Zenith without any motive. But there is no law forbidding a governor’s account or the governor’s activities from being investigated as Fayose is claiming. What Section 308 of the constitution forbids is prosecution, criminal prosecution. Even President Buhari has been dragged to court over his certificates.
Now to ‘Cascade of Change,’ a book written by Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Steve Ayorinde, which was launched in Lagos last Thursday, though the book was a compilation of some of Ayorinde’s articles and the occasion was clearly his crowning day, but expectedly, the person, style of governance and performance in office of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, his principal, carried the day. The achievement of Governor Ambode, thus far, is a testimony to the beauty of the politics of continuity in Lagos State, as encapsulated by some speakers at the launch. Former Ogun State governor and APC chieftain, Chief Olusegun Osoba, who chaired the event, put the issue of continuity in clearer focus when he said not only at the governorship seat was continuity manifested in Lagos but also in other levels of governance in the state. For instance, he pointed to the case of Commissioner for Works in the state, Engineer Ganiyu Johnson, who at various times before now was the Permanent Secretary for Works and Special Adviser to the Governor on Works. According to Osoba, this tutelage would make him understand the issues in works better, be able to formulate and implement policies and take meaningful decisions in that area better. Such was the kind of governance issues thrown up at the event. Speakers after speakers, from Osoba, Dr. (Mrs) Doyin Abiola and Mr. Femi Pedro, who represented Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to Prof. Pat Utomi, Prof. Anthony Kila and to my brother Dipo Famakinwa, all commended Governor Ambode for his humility and performance in office so far. Most of those gathered at the event went away with that conclusion that Ambode has done noble and that continuity has worked well for the state. But the accolade is also a wake-up call for Ambode to continue to tighten his belt and do more for the people in Lagos.
- By Tunde Rahmanu
- Twitter @tunderahmanu