The public row between the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, and his erstwhile ally and former chairman of the House Appropriation Committee, Abdulmumin Jibrin, has provided a glimpse into how lawmakers routinely make billions of naira by inserting fictitious projects into the national budget each year.
Nigerians have been appalled at the scale of alleged fraud perpetrated in the National Assembly, as revealed by Mr. Jibrin.
PREMIUM TIMES’ digital lead, Emmanuel Ogala, who covered the National Assembly for years, compiles some of the spilled secrets that summarily highlight the many ways crooked lawmakers steal from the nation’s commonwealth.
Here are 11 steps to get rich quickly through the budget:
1. Get elected into the National Assembly –you can go to Senate or House of Representatives. It doesn’t really matter.
2. Be a good friend of the Speaker or Senate President, and the respective chairpersons of appropriation committees. That is the legislative committee that vets the budget.
3. Think up some flimsy projects – say, boreholes to provide water for your poor constituents. It is called constituency project.
4. Look for a government agency or ministry that can smuggle that project into the budget for you and lobby the target Minister or DG. Of course the respective committee chairman in the National Assembly must know.
5. Set up a company. Or get your spouse, brother, sister, or loyalist to register a company that can execute your chosen project.
6. Plead with the chairman of the Appropriation Committee to edit the budget and include your project under the agency or ministry that you lobbied. Because budget figures are usually large, this may seem like adding a cup of water to River Niger. If appropriation chairman refuses to play, lobby the Speaker or the Senate President.
7. Say ‘aye’ on the day the budget is put up for debate. (This step is not very critical. You can decide not to show up and it will be bundled with the entire budget and passed. Almost all of your colleagues are in it.)
8. After the Ministry of Finance has released funds, approach the head of the agency to award the contract for your project to the company in #5. Most heads may require their share upfront. You can’t trust anyone in this business!
9. The company gets cash deposit from ministry or agency. It is withdrawn and handed to you. You can share with anyone that helped the process, but you’ll sure retain the bulk of it.
10. Sink a borehole in your community with a very tiny fraction of the money and call national TVs to come cover the “commissioning of your constituency projects”.
11. Plan for next year.
Civil society groups are calling for a thorough investigation of the scandal.
Embattled former chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, has struck again, this time with new revelations about how Speaker Yakubu Dogara allegedly perpetrated a massive shakedown of administrators of government agencies and multinational firms operating in the country.
Mr. Jibrin raised the allegations in an email to PREMIUM TIMES on Monday evening, as tension intensified in the House of Representatives over the unfolding budget padding scandal.
The revelations, which are the latest in a series of similar ones from Mr. Jibrin in recent days, marked strong indications that the fallout from the budget padding scandal may be far from over.
Mr. Jibrin took the scandal and his battle against Mr. Dogara to the media after the Speaker announced his departure in a statement on the floor of the House on allegations that the Kano State lawmaker serially betrayed the trust reposed in him by the House leadership and his colleagues.
But Mr. Jibrin repeatedly denied that he committed treachery or that he was fired, saying he had earlier informed the Speaker of his intention to step down.
Mr. Jibrin said Mr. Dogara had repeatedly victimised him for being an independent voice in the lower chamber, saying he would work to ensure that the Speaker either resigns or is disgraced from office.
To achieve his aim, Mr. Jibrin said he would reveal to Nigerians all the corrupt practices involving Mr. Dogara, which he said were well documented.
In the latest attacks, Mr. Jibrin said the fraudulent tendencies of Mr. Dogara and some other House principal officers had become so pervasive that President Buhari would not hesitate to isolate and investigate them if he were to be briefed about them.
“Speaker Yakubu Dogara and his senior cabal namely Deputy Speaker Lasun, Whip Doguwa and Minority leader Ogor have promoted corruption so badly in the House that if President Muhammadu Buhari with his disdain for corruption and corrupt people has the slightest idea, he will ban the quartet permanently from the Villa before they eventually allow for proper and unbiased investigation by the House,” Mr. Jibrin said.
Mr. Jibrin detailed how Mr. Dogara and others allegedly diverted funds meant for legislative functions to service their guest houses and official apartments, saying the Speaker was once engaged in an open brawl with a lawmaker over the matter.
“Mr. Speaker and Deputy Speaker Yusuf Lasun diverted millions of naira all in the name of paying for guest houses and official residence,” the lawmaker said. “The issue became so messy that the Deputy Speaker openly accused Hon Herma Hembe of short changing them of millions of naira in the deal to the shock of many Hon Members.”
Also revealed about Mr. Dogara were details of how he allegedly blackmailed government agencies and multinational companies into succumbing to his demands for financial and material gratification, in a clear case of conflict of interest, Mr. Jibrin said.
“Speaker Yakubu Dogara frequently abuses his office amounting to conflict of interest by soliciting for inappropriate favours from agencies and Multinational companies. He forced an agency to grant loans and a construction company blackmailed to do some work at his Asokoro ‘plot’.”
Mr. Jibrin said Mr. Dogara devised a means of shaving funds from lawmakers’ salaries into his pocket on the premise of putting a mortgage system in place for members.
Mr. Jibrin said, Mr. Dogara “runs the financial management of the House like a cult aided and abated by the Chairman House services Hon. Babanlle Ila. It is no longer news that all over the House, Hon Members are aware of the monumental fraud perpetrated by Speaker Yakubu Dogara in this regard.”
Mr. Ila’s mention in today’s allegations marked the first time Mr. Jibrin would introduce another lawmaker to the controversy that was not in the initial quartet.
“We are even told that this is a child’s play compared to the mess and allegations of money laundering he left behind as Chairman, House Services in both the 6th and 7th Assembly. The EFCC should have something to start working with in respect to his tenure as Chairman House Services if they properly dust their files,” Mr. Jibrin said.
Mr. Jibrin also revealed another first in his statement today, a call for lawmakers to commence thorough investigation into the allegations against the Speaker and others.
“I am therefore once again calling on honourable colleagues and well meaning Nigerians to prevail on Speaker Yakubu Dogara and his three other cohorts to put the interest of country first and allow the House to conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations on them.”
This is the first time Mr. Jibrin would support a House investigation.
He used his previous statements to prevail on Mr. Dogara to allow EFCC and other relevant agencies conduct detailed investigations of all allegations arising from the budget padding scandal.
Civil society groups have also called for thorough investigation.
In separate interviews with PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Transition Monitoring Group, and the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, said only a thorough inquiry into the alleged sharp practices would unravel the circumstances under which they were perpetrated.
Despite growing demand from Nigerians for his explanation, Mr. Dogara has maintained silence, saying he would rather allow the House to deal with the matter as an institution instead of engaging in political mudslinging with Mr. Jibrin.
Nepotism In Buhari’s Govt, The Worst In Nigeria’s History –Junaid Mohammed In this interview with JOHN ALECHENU, former Joint House Leader of the defunct Peoples Redemption Party and Chairman of th…
Critics of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration have latched on to the recent arrest of former Army Chief, Azubuike Ihejerika, to accuse it of partiality. What is your take?
If Nigerians can remember, I said recently week; when one of the four service chiefs, who are being investigated, namely: General Azubuike Ihejirika was arrested by the DSS. I said while the arrest of Ihejirika was a very positive development, it was none the less, inadequate. It was partial and certainly sends a very wrong message. One, Ihejirika took over power from somebody called Lt. General (Abdulrahman) Dambazau. If Ihejirika was guilty; it stands to reason that Dambazau is equally guilty because Ihejirika took over from him. In any case, information coming out from the investigation panel set up to probe arms deals indicates clearly that Dambazau has a case to answer. In addition, Dambazau is today falsely being made to represent Kano in the government by Buhari, which is very unfair and unjust because this man was not born in Kano. He is today Minister of Interior and in addition to which, he is Minister in-Charge of Police Affairs. Under the British norms of Public Administration and Management, if you are under investigation, you are normally asked to step aside. Dambazzau has not be asked to step aside, which means he is being allowed to interfere with the investigations by the EFCC which is in fact, a police organisation. Another person who I also understand has been indicted and should be arrested like Ihejirika is Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minimah. Minimah was not given that job on merit, he was given that position on purely tribal consideration and in appointing him as Chief of Army Staff, several of his colleagues who are better tested and more refined and in fact, better recommended were not only shoved aside, they were also prematurely retired. He should also be arrested like Ihejirika. After Minimah, we now have Buratai. Buratai is an interesting case not because he is not guilty but because Buratai and the circumstances surrounding his appointment and the scandal he is now enmeshed in; are typical of the disastrous sense of judgement of General Muhammadu Buhari and the way he stubbornly refuses to admit when he makes a mistake.
Since you’ve brought in the alleged scandal involving Buratai, what do you make of the whole thing?
It is now clear beyond any reasonable doubt -like we see in the media – that Buratai was the Director of Procurement at Defence Headquarters. There can never be any reason why other chiefs of Army Staff who are involved in malfeasance and grand crimes in procurement should be arrested and taken to court while Buratai is allowed to remain scot-free. Secondly, his position as Chief of Army Staff is something nobody can explain; only Buhari can explain. It has now been discovered that this man is filthy rich like his cohorts. Thirdly, that he has property in Dubai among other places and that while the Army tries to cover one of their own, their Chief of Army Staff; by saying that he acquired these through the savings of his family- I don’t know what his family was earning, what about what he acquired when he became Chief of Army Staff? How does Buhari explain that? Nigerians deserve an answer and the answer must come quick because Nigerians cannot be taken for a ride by either Buhari or any army officer. The days when Nigerian Army officers can tell lies and get away with it or pretend to be messiahs in Nigeria is now gone. Every soldier must prove himself to be clean before we take them to be clean. We do not take anybody from Buhari to be clean simply because he says he is clean or his public relations men who are paid to say so, say he is clean, that day is gone and gone forever.
There has been this talk about a cabal hijacking the Presidency, a charge the Presidency has denied. We will like your thoughts on this?
Let me say straight away that whether one calls it a cabal or a mafia or some kind of cult or whatever, there is a group of people who are wielding power within the Presidency under Buhari. Whatever you say it is; it is and a lot worse. First, the most influential person in the Presidency today is one Mamman Daura whom as you know, is a nephew of the President. His father was Buhari’s elder brother. In addition, Mamman Daura was the one who single handedly brought up Abba Kyari, the current Chief of Staff to the President. In fact, Abba Kyari knows Mamman Daura more than he knows his own father. Next, the Personal Assistant to Buhari himself is the son of Mamman Daura, next is what they call SCOP, State Chief of Protocol, and is also a son-in-law to Mamman Daura because he is married to Mamman Daura’s daughter. Next, the Minister they unilaterally chose, against the interest of the party and against the wishes of Sokoto people, happens to be the daughter of the younger sister of Mamman Daura’s wife. Both of them are daughters of Sultan Dasuki, who was sacked by General Abacha. We have the Aide De Camp to Buhari himself, Colonel Abubakar. He is married to the granddaughter of one of Buhari’s elder sisters. Next we have the woman who represents Kaduna in the Federal Executive Council, she is a cousin to Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai. It is well known that el-Rufai is one of the closest governors to Muhammadu Buhari. Next, we have the Minister for the Federal Capital Territory. The Minister of the FCT is the man called Musa Bello, who used to be the Managing Director of the Northern Nigeria Development Corporation, which used to be the biggest holding company that belonged to all the northern states. His only qualification to be FCT minister is the fact that his father has been Buhari’s friend over the years. Now, there is a young man called Sabiu Yusuf, nicknamed Tunde – probably because of late General Tunde Idiagbon. He is another PA to President Buhari. He is also a grandson of another sister of Buhari. This is enough to prove to you that this is shamelessly the worst form of nepotism in the history of government in Nigeria. In fact, in the history of Africa, let me make bold to assert that I have never seen any level of nepotism that has equalled or surpassed this in my entire life – I am now in my 67th year. Another thing I also want you to know is that, Amina Zakari, who was and still a national commissioner in the Independent National Electoral Commission representing the entire seven states in the North-West. It is being claimed that Buhari knows nothing about her appointment (before he became President), it is a lie. When President Goodluck Jonathan was re-organising the INEC and he was bringing in Prof. Attahiru Jega, he reached out to Buhari and asked Buhari to nominate somebody from the North-West so that that person would be a national commissioner. Of all the people in the North-West, Buhari decided to nominate his own niece, the daughter of his elder sister- Amina Zakari. She has been there; when Jega left, Buhari was determined to make her chairman, it was because of the massive backlash that he dropped the idea like hot potatoes. As we are talking today, that woman is a national commissioner which means she is one of the principal election umpires. Throughout my reading of history, political science and social sciences generally, I have never heard of any dictator or any tyrant under any system of government whether totalitarian or fascist, appointing his own niece to conduct elections in which he was either a party or going to be a party to; Buhari has done that. The immediate younger brother to Amina Zakari is currently the Minister for Water Resources representing Jigawa State in the same Buhari government. In addition, even though they are from Kazaure, Kazaure is contiguous to Daura. The eldest sister of both of them is now the Commissioner for Education in the All Progressives Congress government in Jigawa State. If this is not nepotism, then I don’t know what is nepotism and anybody who has the guts, the brutal arrogance to appoint these relations not bothering about public opinion, about the sense of justice, about competence, then you can see that he has a very serious question to answer. There are two mysterious cases.
Which cases are you referring to?
…Goodluck Jonathan’s appointed man from Zenith, but still at the CBN calling the shots for President Buhari !!!
The case of the Governor of the Central Bank, Godwin Emeifele and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu. It was Buhari himself who said that he knew when the governor of the CBN picked a piece of paper and gave an instruction that N14bn should be withdrawn from the CBN and that money was withdrawn. That was nearly a year ago and up till today, Buhari is still retaining Emefiele as CBN governor. The Buhari I know is an economic illiterate and anybody who knows anything about currency movement and foreign exchange and fluctuations knows that the Naira has been effectively devalued. It was the same Buhari who boasted that the Naira would never be devalued under him for as long as he remains President and even threatened the governor of the CBN that he was going to sack him if he devalued the Naira. He (CBN governor) is still there. In the case of Kachikwu, he is the mystery man in the cabinet. No one can actually tell you who nominated and brought in Kachikwu. We knew that he was friends with Abba Kyari when they both worked in Mobil but none of them had the influence to bring him in and make him Minister of Petroleum Resources. Forget the nonsense about him being the junior minister because he is the senior and junior minister in addition to being the Managing Director of the NNPC (until recently when he was replaced. This again confirms the arrogance of President Buhari in putting two positions together; one purely civil service and technocratic position which is the Group Managing Director of the NNPC and the other one which is purely political- a minister.
What is wrong with the President merging these portfolios in the light of the administration’s desire to cut the cost of running government…?
Since this man became minister, there has been nothing good coming out of the oil industry rather than confusion, crisis and corruption. That again is an indication of the decadence we have in this government. People who are being accused and arrested for corruption as it should be, we are also aware that some of these cases that the DSS is getting involved in are shady because they have no experience whatsoever in prosecution. That is why from the famous case of Farouk Lawal, a former member of the House of Representatives who was involved in getting money and putting it under his cap and what have you which was captured on camera. They arrested that man; it was a clear cut case long before Buhari became President. Till today, the DSS has not been able to prosecute Farouk Lawan. He is still sitting at home; his house is about 200 metres from my house. That shows you that when you hear that the DSS is arresting somebody for corruption, it is clearly political and maybe there is money or corruption involved. We also know that there are people from within the DSS from the very top who are even threatening that they will soon arrest the Chairman of the EFCC and the National Security Adviser.
These are serious allegations. Why would they want to do that?
The main reason is these people have refused to cooperate with them: Mamman Daura, Abba Kyari and the DG DSS, who is also part of the Daura cabal they want to take over the anti-corruption war so that it will be under their hand and they can cut deals and render the anti-corruption war useless. I know who they propose to take over, it didn’t work. I think Buhari resisted- which is miracle. They are now proposing somebody. The person who they proposed was a retired DIG, he, myself and Magu (current EFCC boss) had worked in Port Harcourt during my years in OMPADEC. Now they are thinking of a retired Commissioner of Police. The only qualification they are looking for is someone who can be controlled by them. This is the situation we find ourselves.
In the light of what you have said, what would you say has changed in government?
I will put it this way, we have exchanged one thoroughly corrupt government for one that pretends to be honest and is doing an honest job while in reality, it is business as usual.
…But for the first time, alleged malfeasance in the purchase of weapons is being investigated. Is this not progress?
Recently, an interim report was submitted to President Buhari. The report had to do with the on-going investigation of the Nigerian Army which is the primary consumer of the money that was used to prosecute the war on Boko Haram and of course, the Niger Delta insurgency. I have been reliably informed that the report even though partial, has already indicted the following: General Ihejirika and the current Chief of Army Staff, Buratai. What was strange about the report was the fact that it was silent about General Dambazzau who was Army Chief before all of these people. The report was silent about his own role which goes to confirm that the Mafia or the cabal in the Presidency consisting of the Chief of Staff, DG DSS and of course, their godfather, Mamman Daura, have an interest in making sure that by hook or by crook, General Dambazau is protected even though he was supposed to come first. For some reason, the Buhari administration which prides itself with its anti-corruption war has decided that the report is not going to be published because he has been persuaded by the three that publishing the report will embarrass the government. This is very strange and at best laughable because Buhari’s first administration in 1984 got into a lot of trouble with the media because of Decree 2 which makes it a crime to embarrass any public office holder. That made Buhari and his administration back then very unpopular. These characters in the Presidency, the cabal or the mafia or whatever you call them, are determined to make Buhari make the same mistake again. For Buhari to ask a report not to be published because some people in his government will be embarrassed is a very strange manifestation of the Buhari we knew and is likely to cause a lot of problems. In the case of Dambazau, it is clear that the years 2007-2010 are critical (to the arms probe) because these were the years when he was supposed to be in charge but again, he is being protected by the DG DSS and co. Nigerians demand that the interim report be made public and that there should be no sacred cows. In any case, anything they try to hide will be made public in due course because nothing remains permanently secret in Nigeria, Buhari himself knows that. Others who have been in that position also know that. In addition to what was contained in the report as it concerns uniformed persons, we are reliably informed that some permanent secretaries, civilians and civil servants have been implicated and it is important for the report to be made public for Nigerians to decide who can be trusted. When crimes are committed, it is not only soldiers that are implicated, without the collusion of Permanent Secretaries and others within the civilian administration. Nigerians are watching and watching carefully and demand that these things be made public.
Is the cabal, like you said, not working to protect the interest of the President?
No. According to very reliable sources, the cabal in fact has a problem with the National Security Adviser and the Chairman of the EFCC. The problem the cabal has with the NSA is not the same they have with the acting Chairman of the EFCC. The problem they have with the NSA has to do with what the office of the NSA and the security establishment generally determined was going to be a danger to the President himself. They found that the contractors supplying aviation fuel to the Presidential fleet were actually appointed -they are cronies to Jonathan Goodluck and his wife, Patience. And the security services felt that retaining them under the new dispensation would be dangerous, unhealthy and poses a direct danger to the President, members of his family and other members of the government. They made the determination and submitted a report to the President through the NSA recommending that a new supplier be sourced to supply fuel for the Presidential fleet. Buhari agreed with their recommendations and signed off on it. He agreed with the new contractors to supply after it was done in the process of implementation, Mamman Daura was claimed to have said the former supplier was his friend therefore nobody can take the contract away from them. All efforts to explain the implications to him failed. He raised issues first; with the NSA then with the President but he did not get his way. That was when he raised the issue with the DG DSS on what to do with the NSA. It is noteworthy that when Obasanjo was President, all the service chiefs including the Inspector General of Police and the DG DSS were reporting to Obasanjo through the NSA. That was how the system worked and no bloody civilian ever got involved with security matters. If Nigerians hear that there is a threat by a civilian to arrest the NSA, they should know the reason why. Nigerians should not underestimate the danger posed by the cabal because if Nigerians are not careful, the cabal will inadvertently bring down the government or destroy Buhari’s reputation.
Discerning political watchers had long predicted an implosion in the marriage of convenience that was christened the All Progressives Congress (APC), but no one thought it was going to come so soon in the day, as it did on June 9, 2015, when a group of lawmakers went against the grain of what was thought to be popular choice of the party for Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
It was thought that the APC preferred Dr. Ahmed Lawan for the Senate and Femi Gbajabiamila for the House.But both men and the party were sorely disappointed as the lawmakers, though peopled by APC, thought and acted otherwise. They voted Dr. Bukola Saraki upstairs and preferred Yakubu Dogara downstairs.
Some top party men were livid; and their rage, according to Saraki and others, has shown since then as efforts began to rope him in for some alleged past malfeasances.He bore his cross at the Code of Conduct Tribunal with suppressed anger, and a measure of grace, until he exploded recently, as fresh charges of forgery were slammed against him and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu.
Seeing that he was been primed to sink with his ship of supporters, the former Governor of Kwara State, who joined a coterie of political associates to deal the most deadly blow on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) went politically ballistic with information that had long being in the public domain; but which no one of note had given credibility. He suggested that Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, who rode on a crest of popular support, was a puppet in the hands of a cabal.
Since he articulated the position, no one at par with him among the President’s supporters, has offered a meaningful defense.In fact, another APC sympathizer and one of the men who thought Buhari was one of the best things to happen to Nigeria in a long while, dug in with a double-edged sword.
Dr. Junaid Mohammed, a Kano based social commentator, did not only stop at underscoring Saraki’s position, he bluntly accused the President of nepotism. He even threw alleged corruption, favouritism, and obstruction of justice into the mix. His interview with newspapers shocked many and left others wondering if there was a script at play to discredit the President and some members of his kitchen cabinet.
In an interview trending on the social media, which he confirmed to The Guardian as his, the Second Republic politician exhibited his disdain for some of the President’s men, by using less than decorous language to describe them. He particularly singled out the President’s nephew, a man believed to be the head of the alleged cabal, Mamman Daura, for the sharpest edge of his tongue.
Daura is seen as one of the last vestiges of the dreaded Kaduna Mafia. Junaid Mohammed also referred to him as a member of that phantom group that is said to have run Nigeria for decades.Saraki’s explosive statement was full of indictment and portrayed the President as a lame duck, even though he made copious reference to the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, who is being fingered by sympathisers of the President, as the one causing the mess for the 73 year-old man, bent on renewing a country he loves so much.
His statement: “The leaders of the Nigerian Senate reiterate our innocence against the charges filed by the Attorney General of the Federal Government of Nigeria at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court on the allegations of forgery of the Senate Standing Rules document.
“In our view, the charges filed by the Attorney General represent a violation of the principle of the Separation of Powers between the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch as enshrined in our Constitution. Furthermore, it is farcical to allege that a criminal act occurred during Senate procedural actions and the mere suggestion demonstrates a desperate overreach by the office of the Attorney General. These trumped up charges is only another phase in the relentless persecution of the leadership of the Senate
“This misguided action by the Attorney General begs the question, how does this promote the public interest and benefit the nation? At a time when the whole of government should be working together to meet Nigeria’s many challenges, we are once again distracted by the executive branch’s inability to move beyond a leadership election among Senate peers. It was not an election of Senate peers and Executive Branch participants.
“Over the past year the Senate has worked to foster good relations with the executive branch. It is in all of our collective interests to put aside divisions and get on with the nation’s business. We risk alienating and losing the support of the very people who have entrusted their national leaders to seek new and creative ways to promote a secure and prosperous Nigeria. As leaders and patriots, it is time to rise above partisanship and to move forward together.
“However, what has become clear is that there is now a government within the government of President Buhari who have seized the apparatus of Executive powers to pursue their nefarious agenda.
“This latest onslaught on the Legislature represents a clear and present danger to the democracy Nigerians fought hard to win and preserve. The suit filed on behalf of the Federal government suggests that perhaps some forces in the Federal Republic have not fully embraced the fact that the Senate’s rules and procedures govern how the legislative body adjudicates and resolves its own disputes.
“Let it be abundantly clear, both as a citizen and as a foremost legislator, I will continue to rise above all the persecution and distraction that have been visited on me. In the words of Martin Luther King Junior, “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at a time of challenge and controversy”.
“I will remain true and committed to the responsibilities that my citizenship and my office impose on me. Without doubt, the highest of those responsibilities is the steadfast refusal to surrender to the subversion of our democracy and the desecration of the Senate. This is a cross I am prepared to carry. If yielding to the nefarious agenda of a few individuals who are bent in undermining our democracy and destabilising the Federal government to satisfy their selfish interests is the alternative to losing my personal freedom, let the doors of jails be thrown open and I shall be a happy guest.”
If the Presidency’s challenge to Saraki to name the cabal in government that had seized the rein of executive power to pursue some personal agenda, was not heeded to by the nation’s number three man; a rash of publications in some popular online publications seemed to answer the pertinent question.
One appeared to detail how some men close to the President had stalled the confirmation of anti-corruption czar, Ibrahim Magu, simply because he was doing a good job. But sources said that the attempt to shoot down the career of Magu was targeted at the National Security Adviser, Mohammed Babagana Monguno.
Monguno and Magu are believed to be in the same camp in what is said to be a bitter struggle around the President, and for which he is acting like he is not aware. At least, for now.
Last week, when the composition of the board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was named, many did not fail to notice that an alleged member of the cabal and the President’s Chief of Staff, Alhaji Abba Kyari, featured prominently.
Meanwhile, reacting to the claims by Saraki, presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, said the claims must be backed by facts.“This claim by Senator Saraki would have been more worth the while, if it had been backed with more information. If he had proceeded to identify those who constitute the “government within the government, it would have taken the issue beyond the realm of fiction and mere conjecture.
If it was facts that Adesina was asking for, the online publications and Junaid Mohammed provided their own version of the facts, as if they were primed to do what the nation’s number three man could not do. Or, did not want to do for now.
On phone with The Guardian, Junaid Mohammed insisted that the comments he made were his and he stood by them.In the interview, Junaid said: “Both the president, particularly his principal adviser, his nephew… Mamman Daura; then the Chief of Staff (Abba Kyari), who in fact was brought up by Mamman Daura; and … the Secretary to the Government of Federation (Babachir David), including most of the incompetent ministers, are not cut out to work harmoniously in a political environment with the legislature.”
But that does not mean he spared the legislators. “On the legislative side, they want to continue business as usual; that will mean impunity, blackmail, open corruption to extort money from ministries, departments and agencies of federal and state governments, because they did not come into politics to serve. They came to make money. That is the basic fact.
“You can see why it is impossible for anybody, no matter how reasonable, to work with the National Assembly, especially the Senate, because unless you are prepared to open up the national treasury and offer it to them, there is going to be no peace between the executive branch and them.
Junaid was not done with the President’s men. “And of course, there is the unfortunate, additional bad luck of Buhari being surrounded by his own relations who are not politicians. They are not even members of the APC (All Progressives Congress) but dictate policy, especially Mamman Daura. So I can see no peace, I can see no cooperation, and God save Nigeria.”
He told The Guardian last week that though he was not a member of the APC, he knew enough persons within to know those who were members and those who were not.It appears that there is no nexus between the challenge thrown by the presidency to Saraki, and the response provided by Junaid; but whether or not there is a cabal or government within a government as Saraki put it, will determine the future of the nation.
Prof. Samuel Egwu, a Political Economist in the Department of Political Science of the University of Jos, said, “it is always the case in any government that key decisions are made at both formal and informal levels and may be at times difficult to make a distinction between the two because it may essentially be a continuum.”
He added, “in this country in particular, there is no civilian president or military head of state that was not surrounded by some inner circle and informal group that make useful input into policies.”
According to the political economist, “in this particular instance, my sense is that it is the direct call of those, who make reference to the cabal to either name them, when it is necessary to do, or accept what is normal that such tiny circle of power brokers exist even in the most advanced democracies.”
He said, “the statement under reference should be situated in the wider context of the frosty relationships that have existed between the executive and a section of the APC leadership on the one hand and the leadership of the Senate on the other.
“Unfortunately, unnecessary whipping of emotions on both sides has tended to becloud the real issues, which could have helped Nigerians to separate the substance from the non-substance issues. So, logically, it is expected that when politicians are involved in war of positions such as this, this is what to expect.”
The former Head of Department of Political Science and Defence Studies, Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Professor Moses Tedheke, doesn’t think a cabal has hijacked the government of President Buhari. “It is that elements in the past that is terribly corrupt, which is on guard is trying to discredit this administration. And I have been telling people in the streets that once this administration is discredited and falls, we will be in for it.”
He continued, “this is the kind of elements the National Assembly wants to continue. The fact is, reactionary elements are now striking to create confusion in his administration, and then, then National Assembly are not helping matters in this respect. That is just where the problem is. I don’t think there is a cabal. In fact, if there is any cabal creating a situation of confusion to prevent the President from achieving his stated objectives, it is even the National Assembly that is standing on the way and mounting roadblocks, because they don’t want the battle against corruption to be fought. So, the cabal should rather be inverted, and not at the Presidency, but at the National Assembly.”
For the political scholar, “this idea of cabal is funny, in the sense that the elements that talk about cabal, are, as far as I am concerned, part of it. They are the people preventing Mr. President from achieving his objectives for the nation.”According to Tedheke, “we knew how they came to subvert the rules of the National Assembly and how the ruling party that was just newly elected said that there was something happening at the headquarters of the party and suddenly elements of the party appeared in the Senate and House of Representatives and installed the leadership in those places. We knew how it happened.
Why have we forgotten so easily? Can this happen in advanced democracy? If really we are to be good example for Africa, can this happen in advanced democracy? Will the leaders not resign? What has just happened in Britain recently, because Britons voted to leave the European Union, the Prime Minister resigned his appointment as Prime Minister of Britain. Can it happen in Nigeria? So, if we say we want to have a true democracy, we should have a democracy to the core. It should not be a half-baked democracy, where somebody who is accused of corruption cannot resign his appointment and then face the courts, and clear his or her name. But, instead that person is fighting back, because he has the position of authority.”
A journalism teacher at the Jos campus of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), who is a public affairs commentator, Ugar Ukandi Odey, agrees with the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, that a cabal has hijacked the government of President Buhari, adding that in that regard, he is not certainly in control of issues and decisions of the present administration.
Odey told The Guardian, “some people, on their own, factored into the so-called anti – corruption crusade of the government, using the officials of the EFCC for dubious and very personal ends to witch-hunt some of their long-term ‘enemies’. I want to tell you that of recent, just this week that we are talking, this is the first time that Nigeria will have a three-day public holiday, of 72 hours run on. It has never happened.”
According to Odey, “cabal is a group of people, who, for their own selfish interests and their own uniformity of ambition, have grouped themselves together to cocoon the president, quarantine and foreclose the president from being in touch with the reality of the generality of the people. They do it so that they can always determine or influence the decisions of the president to favour only those interests that they have envisaged.”
Odey said, “for the cabal to properly function, they must be properly located in government. They must also have accomplices in the manufacturing, in the private sector, in different sub-sectors of the economy for their control to be effective.”The political commentator stressed, “it takes somebody who knows the system to talk authoritatively about it. If somebody like the senate president will cry out that a cabal has hijacked the government of Buhari, you want to know that he is not just talking, it is coming from somewhere.”
He added, “remember also that there has been this outcry about the appointments so far in the country. Now, if Buhari is the statesman we know, if Buhari is the statesman that has paraded during the campaigns, If he is the de-tribalised person that was presented, if he is Nostradamus that they said Nigeria needed in this circumstance, he would not afford to create imbalances in the structure of government by way of appointments, deliberately overseeing a situation where a certain region of the country is overloaded with key strategic appointment and certain sections of the country are just watching.”
Odey noted, “all the organs of para-military and security organisation in this country, check out, they are headed by ‘experts’ from the North. You remember the ambassadorial appointments, this is still the influence of the cabal, and they push things to go in a particular direction. If not, you will not expect a situation where the presidency consistently continues to make mistakes in that order. It is agreed that the presidency has been hijacked. It is the cabal that is pushing in certain directions to carry out certain acts or to implement certain policies as is desired by them.”
He admitted that the issue of a cabal is not peculiar to this government neither is it to the country. “In every state, at every level, whether local, state or federal, there has been effort by groups of people to constitute this cabal so that they can determine what the president or what the leader says, what he does, what he chooses to do, whom he chooses to favour or who he does not favour. That has always been that effort.
“And because it is a group interest pushing in a particular direction, the president or the state governor or the chairman has always had a brawl at one point or the other. He succumbs to the aggregations of those people. It may be totally unfair to say that the president has surrendered power. We would not want to agree. But it is still very possible that, because he has been quarantined from realities by this cabal, they have been pushing certain proposals to him which are not in tandem with what the generality of the people who constitute the reality now, desire and that is what is causing the agitations in the background. This is what is causing the chanting of this slogan, all over the place now, ‘change the change’ and that kind of a thing as a result of the fact that the policies being implemented or as at being implemented do not meet the expectations and yearnings of the people.”
Many political watchers in Abuja were not surprised at what Junaid said because it had always been known; which is why they claim Saraki used his position as the third most powerful person in the country to ventilate it, albeit for his own political survival.
Culled from The Guardian
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