Speaker Aminu Tambuwal’s assertion that the Goodluck Jonathan government is indifferent to the fight against corruption is a serious indictment against the administration. Was he right or grandstanding?
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Dapo Akinrefon
Ever since he was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives against the desire of the top hierarchy of his party, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal had almost regularly been a deviant from the culture and customs of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Though there were times when he flowed along like when he made his hardline supporters in the House to concede the leadership of the House to Mrs. Mulikat Adeola-Akande and the times he had to beat PDP House members to aadjust their positions on the budget of the Federal Government.
Suspicion on the political inclinations of the speaker have also been raised on account of his alleged familiarity with many leading lights in the opposition.
Penultimate week, that relationship was again made an issue when he was reported to have participated in a meeting of governors belonging to the All Progressive Congress, APC and recently defected governors of the PDP.
Speaker Tambuwal who has espoused the philosophy that all politics is essentially local was quick to puncture the fire of his traducers when he disclosed that his presence in that meeting was to pay courtesy to his own state governor, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko.
However, last Monday every suspicion about Speaker Tambuwal being a compliant observer of the policies and actions of the PDP led executive was dashed when he made issues about the administration’s handling of corruption.
Tambuwal’s observations came against the widely accepted fact of corruption being the major obstacle to national development.
Speaker Tambuwal’s revealing comments about the administration were made at the 2013 International Anti-Corruption Day, organized by the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in Abuja where the speaker was present as guest speaker.
Tambuwal, himself a former member of the body of benchers, also used the opportunity to carpet the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which he claimed had lost its efficiency in fighting graft.
However, the speaker’s angst was against the president and leader of his own party, President Goodluck Jonathan who, he said, has through his body movement shown that he would not fight graft.
Dr. Doyin Okupe, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Communications did not respond to the comment and as at press time he was yet to issue a response. Neither did Alhaji Ahmed Gulak, the political adviser to the president whose reaction was also sought on the comments by Tambuwal.
However, a number of prominent Nigerians reacted with mixed feelings to the comments by the speaker.
Among them were Chief Ebenezer Babatope who said the speaker was grandstanding, former governor of Kaduna State Alhaji Balarabe Musa, elder-statesman and Afenifere.
In his comment at the NBA outing, Speaker Tambuwal brought to light perceptions about the administration’s failures in fighting corruption saying:
“In some cases, you have the government setting up new committees to duplicate the job already done by the parliament. Take the bulletproof cars case: what we have is that the NSA, who should have not been bothered, is being given assignment to investigate what is obvious. What the President should have done was to explicitly direct the EFCC to probe the matter. With such directives coming from the president, I am sure we still have good people in EFCC who can do a good job.”
“By the action of setting up different committees for straightforward cases, the president’s body language doesn’t tend to support the fight against corruption,” he said.
“Take the subsidy probe, the pension, the SEC probe and recently the bulletproof car cases. After the House of Representatives did a diligent job by probing and exposing the cases, you now see something else when it comes to prosecution.
“What has happened to all the exposed corruption cases? The pension
scam, recent and obvious fraud in the Aviation sector, that of the Security and Exchange Commission, SEC, where trillions of Naira from private investors were suspected to have been mismanaged. When we commenced investigations into the matter, what became of paramount importance to the EFCC was allegation that one of our members collected money as estacode to travel but failed to do so.
“I have not heard or read anywhere that she was invited by the EFCC or that any member of SEC was even invited. We at the National Assembly, for the sake of probity and accountability, agreed that budgetary allocations to the Commission should be suspended, only for us to hear that the Executive found a leeway of funding the agency. We are currently investigating that.
“Coming to what happened in the Aviation industry recently, do we need an angel to report to EFCC that something happened there? No, we don’t! We all belong to this country so people should stop taking us for granted.
However, reaction to Tambuwal’s comments were not universally popular.
The APC in a statement on Tuesday flayed the president asking him to take heed to his party member’s comments.
“Hon. Tambuwal and President Jonathan belong to the same political party, but this did not deter the Speaker from rising above crass partisanship when the issue involved borders on national interest. This is the stuff of good leadership,” the APC’s interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said.
“Hon. Tambuwal has shown that he is indeed the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives and that the entire country is his constituency, unlike President Jonathan who has transformed himself to a PDP and a sectional leader by viewing serious issues of national importance from the prism of partisanship and sectionalism,” the APC said as it urged Nigerians to emulate the speaker’s forthrightness.
He lacks experience—Babatope
One time shining light of the progressive movement and associate of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo dismissed Speaker Tambuwal’s comments saying he spoke from the point of ignorance.
“He (Tambuwal) is a young man and he could learn from experience. He is not supposed to have made such kind of statement. Does he not know that some House of Reps members were picked up for corruption?” Babatope, 70 who when he was Tambuwal’s age was known to speak with similar passion, flayed the Speaker.
“The young man lacks experience. He is a party man and what he has done is wrong. As a party man, he must learn from experience, he must be calm. What evidence does he have to say that the president is not fighting corruption? Or does he want the president to jail his cabinet members to show that he is fighting corruption? He should not play into the hands of those that want to destroy him. He is a young man who should build his party squarely and allow his party to dictate what is going to be his own political future. At the rate he is going, he should not fall into the wrong hands.”
Afenifere’s national publicity secretary, Mr Yinka Odumakin, on his part faulted Tambuwal for trying to score political points on the basis that he was part of the government.
“He has been part of the government for three years, but seeing that this is the season of decampment and he wants to decamp that he is now saying that Jonathan is encouraging corruption. He is trying to score political point,” Odumakin said.
Former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, however, fully supported the speaker saying:
“It shows lack of political will on the part of the president to fight corruption because he (Jonathan) is not interested in fighting corruption. For example, the case of the Minister of Aviation, inspite of the exposure, he is shielding her.
So, I think that the Speaker is right that the president is encouraging corruption.”
*Tambuwal’s beef and bounce
*The Jonathan administration is not prosecuting corruption with vigour.
*That reports of the House of Representatives on corruption have not been given the adequate attention by the president.
*That the president has shelted corrupt officials
*But Tambuwal’s critics say he is throwing stones from a glass house and that he was mum on Farouk Lawan’s case.
*That he is pandering to the sentiments of opposition forces.