YES, the truth has always been with us that the Nigerian legislature is a den of robbers. From the beginning of this democratic set-up in 1999, till the date of this 8th National Assembly, it is true that corruption of monumental dimension has become recognizable symbol of the Legislature.
There are continuous linkages of bribe-demanding and taking, all in the name of over-sight functions, from the National Assembly to the outer world – this is a statement of truth. I did not say statement of fact, knowing fully that what the law needs to convict is fact and not truth.
We can reel out a few of these hard truths to buttress this assertion. In the beginning of this Republic while President Olusegun Obasanjo presided and Salisu Buhari honourably presided at the House of Representatives, there was a sudden appearance of Five Hundred Million Naira placed close to the Mace on the table of the Honourable House. This money was named as bribe to influence the House of Representatives over a particular Bill that was pending before the honourable Chamber. But there was an argument about the source of that money.
The argument was about the supplier of the loaded “Ghana must go” where the money was stuffed. After much soul-searching, Nigerians believed the House of Representatives that the money came from the Executive to influence them on that particular Bill. The truth of that episode remains a pointer to the fact that the Executive, even at that early stage of this Republic, was deep in corrupt. The House of Representatives was however applauded for such singular audacity of rejecting the money because then,such amount of money could cause the America government to pay serious attention to issues here due to the value of the Naira then.
Lest l forget, the money was removed from the honourable table of the honourable House of Representatives [you know that everything from that Chamber is honourable even when there are glaring facts of dis-honour] except that Nigerians were not privileged to know where the money went back to. Succinctly put, the money was rejected by the House of Representatives because members, following the astute strong character of the Speaker, did not want bribe, while the Executive, under President Obasanjo, denied ever offering bribe though without any strength of power. Neither did the Executive show Nigerians which account it took the money back to.
Suffice to say with all senses of responsibility that the revelation of that episode became a proof that both, the Executive and the Legislature – are joint contenders in this game of corruption, along the line of “demanding and taking or offering and accepting”. We should not forget in hurry that immediately after this episode, Salisu Buhari; the Speaker’s trouble began as he was accused of forging a “Toronto University Certificate”. Of course, he did not survive that forgery encounter as Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives.
That became the first show of Obasanjo’s fang of dealing with those who are not “respecting him enough”. That is not to say that the “Boss of bosses” removed this gentleman; who hailed from Kano State, but his “certificate from Toronto” did, leaving Obasanjo, only as a facilitator.
Let us fast-track because of time and space. Again, it was Obasanjo who tricked Senator Adolphus Ndaneweh Wabara; then President of the Nigerian Senate [the upper House of the National Assembly] into that “foolish game of returning bribe”, he allegedly took from then Minister of Education; Fibian Osuji, to see to the “wholesome passage” of the ministry’s budget.
There was no argument about the indictment and conviction of the culprit in this case as Baba Obasanjo, the investigating and arresting “police officer” of Senator Wabara, prosecutor at the same time; as facts of securing conviction were lucidly placed before Nigerians through the Nigerian Television Authority, also sat as Jurist to “sentence” him.
Though this same Adolphus Wabara, disgraced from that exalted office of the Senate’s presidency, was to make a public confession a few days ago that former President Olusegun Obasanjo during his moribund futile journey of tenure elongation, offered him [Wabara] 250 Million Naira to support him, his case was adequately used to establish the allegation of corruption against the National Assembly. The rest is now history.
Let us establish a point here through the confession of Adolphus Wabara in admitting that Obasanjo offered him 250 Million Naira at a time. Did Wabara collect the money or not? The senator did not tell us. However, his refusal to tell us did not diminish from the veracity of what he alleged, in my personal judgment though. As much as it is true that Wabara was not the President of the Senate during that battle for tenure elongation as Senator Ken Nnamani had taken over the presidency of the Senate then, Wabara played such vital role in that futile exercise of Obasanjo.
Fact is that most of the total of 40 Billion Naira wasted in that exercise [from Senator Mantu Committee that went round the whole country to the National Conference where the issue of Third Tenure or Elongation of Tenure was perfectly “killed” by combination of many factors] was moved through default Hallmark Bank and Marc Wabara; junior brother to Senator Adolphus Wabara, was the Chairman/Chief Executive of the bank then.
We shall complete this homework next week by highlighting the mandate of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution [as amended] that both Giver and Receiver of bribe are prison’s candidates.
*Mr. Godwin Etakibuebu , a veteran journalist, wrote from Lagos.