Honourable Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives in the 8th National Assembly, has an amiable mien. Even from a distance, it is possible to discern that the man is a personification of calm and innocence. Before last week, he also seemed to have the world at his feet, literally speaking.
Unlike Bukola Saraki in the upper legislative chamber, Dogara appeared to have handled the rebellion he led in the choice of leadership of the lower chamber with better tact and decorum. He was not the APCs preferred candidate for the position of speaker, but when the rebellion he led threatened the cohesion of the party, he duly accepted the compromise foisted on him in the selection of the other principal officers without further grandstanding. The same cannot be said of his senior partner in the senate. In a nutshell, Dogara was everything that Bukola Saraki, is not with a lot of space to spare.
Before last week, Dogara was like a breath of fresh air compared to his senior counterpart in the Senate. He did not have to cower from corruption allegations of any kind. His star was on the rise, that is, until a storm that had been stirring quietly in the green chamber for months suddenly erupted like a volcano.
Only two days after the renegade member of the House Abdulmumini Jibrin went public with his damning allegations on the illegal insertion of projects into the budget otherwise commonly referred to as ‘padding’ against the leadership of the House, the ground appears to have caved in under Speaker Yakubu Dogara. In his first public appearance since the scandal broke, the Speaker appeared forlorn and completely lost in his own thoughts seated to the left side of President Muhammadu Buhari as they commissioned the new Abuja to Kaduna train service. He had good reasons to be worried.
This was not another sordid case of political brinkmanship between rival political parties. His accuser was also not an unknown quantity. He was Abdulmumini Jibrin an erstwhile lieutenant he fired from the Chairmanship of the House Appropriation Committee the previous week. To those remotely familiar with the incestuous relationship between previous Speakers of the House and the Chairmen of the Appropriation Committees at different times in recent times, it was like having a housewife report her husband to the police for rape. A lot of sordid details are likely to emerge in the course of investigating the crime.
That is precisely the dilemma Dogara is confronted with presently. All of a sudden, his smooth façade and decent airs count for nothing. Suddenly, from a position of strength, he has found himself on the defensive, even as his transducer, who has shown an incredible desire to dance naked in the marketplace continues to raise the ante. Even the most battle-hardened war veteran lives in mortal fear of the suicide bomber who is willing and able to die to prove a point. Worryingly for Dogara, there is no other way to describe Jibrin’s current Kamikaze offensive against him and the other leaders of the House.
With each passing day he continues to unleash one deadly assault after another. Not only that, he has also backed up his accusations with damning evidence of high profile graft. He has openly admitted that the National Assembly which he belongs to is a cesspool of corruption. The padding of the annual national budget was a way of life in the NASS, he has alleged, while inviting law enforcement agencies to do the needful by arresting its principal officers, presumably including himself.
Not done with mere allegations, Jibrin has followed up on his threats by submitting a formal petitions to the Inspector-General of Police, DSS, EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) yesterday afternoon calling for the arrest and prosecution of the same officers.
To astonished Nigerians who are yet to come to terms with the unfolding developments in the House, it is easy to accept the pedestrian logic that Jibrin only embarked on his suicidal mission out of spite, and the desire to get even with the Speaker for daring to strip him of his ‘lucrative’ position as the Chairman of the Appropriation Committee. That view is indeed compelling, but it hardly tells the entire story in the present circumstances.
To me; the big question to ask is why he decided to risk his bright political future in a fight with an uncertain outcome such as this. Jibrin is not a saint by any stretch of the imagination. He has, in fact, shied away from exonerating himself completely from blame in the entire impasse. He now calls himself a ‘born again’ anti-corruption crusader, but he is certainly no Robin Hood.
Still, while the Jury will hardly be rested on the claim that he did it for personal reasons what he risks to lose also make a compelling argument for someone intent on sacrificing himself to make a statement. His motive may be borne out of naivety or youthful exuberance but we cannot also deny that it required courage in abundance. Whether we should see him as a hero is however another thing entirely.
The specter of upholding Jibrin as the shining example of renaissance of Nigerian youth is alluring, but we must also not forget that this, after all, is another classic case of Ali-Baba and the Forty Thieves in its most romantic form. Jibrin is not a first term member of the House. That he has decided to break from his past, to be able to come to terms with his future, is worthy of resounding applause, but we are hardly obliged to forget what has gone before.
The biggest winners in this sad episode are Nigerians in their entirety and the concept of good governance and transparency. For far too long, the issue of budget padding in the name of dubious constituency projects has attracted the attention of Nigerians without any possible solution in the horizon. It took the principled stance of the current administration for the abuse to be wholesomely exposed.
With the possibility that our enforcement agencies will further investigate the allegations we can hopefully pray that the worst is now firmly behind us as we begin to make every kobo count in our national development efforts. We must also pray that now that Nigerians have become wiser courtesy of the ongoing revelations, only fit and proper men of integrity with the desire to serve their constituents selflessly ever get to be elected into the hollowed chambers of the NASS.