Could the budget palaver unfolding in the House of Representatives be more about politics than a question of rottenness in the legislative arm of the government? This is the question being posed in the face of widening explanations for the scandal. While some believe it is a true account of what actually happened, some others argue it is one thing for the padding to have taken place, it is a different thing for the disclosures to be taking place now.
Those who believe the padding palaver is the coming to light of what a former legislator calls the dark ways of the legislative arms point to previous such incidence in the history of the national assembly in the Fourth Republic. They have, therefore, called on the speaker to resign to clear his name as well as serve as deterrence to others. The Speaker has, however, rejected this, saying that padding is not an offence known to law in Nigeria. It is a reply that would seem to have caught many off guard. For, if it is not an offence known to law, then no punishment awaits those on the line of fire. If they cannot be punished, then what is the hullabaloo all about? The court of public opinion? In a country where exposure strengthens rather than weakens the average politician? The danger in the statement though is the implicit admission by the Speaker that padding did take place. How the quick legalism will help his case is not clear.
While this angle is play out, an alternative explanation for the scandal is that it is politics. Two claims are making the rounds here. One is that the budget padding palaver is factional fighting involving an APC governor in a Northern state acting in tandem with an APC national leader. Although the team marketing this are so convinced about this, it doesn’t seem to make sense in the context of the sub-regional realignment that underpinned the speaker’s emergence in 2015. It may not be dismissed though when connected with elaborate groundwork around the 2019 test of strength between and among the factions.
The last of the theses links the brouhaha to a fighting back by a political group back in the Speaker’s home. It is understood that the kingpin of the said political group perceive the Speaker to be using a particular legislator to investigate his records in a controversial ministry he headed under President Jonathan. This is interpreted as a way of silencing the said former minister in 2019 when the Speaker might be keen in Bauchi State governorship.
The specifics of the budget padding palaver are still unfolding and all the truth might take some time to be known. At the moment, the scenarios being painted cannot neither be confirmed nor disconfirmed because each is strongly believed by those circulating them. In the circumstance, the truth resides strictly in the eye of the beholder and power alone will decide what would count as truth eventually.
In a recent interview, Mvendaga Jibo, Professor of Political Science in Benue State University, Makurdi told this newspaper that corruption allegations in Nigeria are mostly tied to high stake politics. Jibo who wrote a thesis on the media coverage of the sensational allegations against the late Joseph Tarka said the case of Godwin Dabo versus Tarka in 1974 was to block Tarka from being qualified to contest the then presidential poll General Gowon had slated for 1976. It remains to be seen how that generalisation covers or does not cover this.