Obasanjo, grandfather of corruption – Reps

Federal lawmakers reacted angrily to former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Thursday, calling him the grandfather of corruption, in a tit-for-tat over his allegation that members of the hallowed legislature brim with sleaze, greed, and graft, milking the country dry, and doing little to justify their fat allowances.

House of Representatives Minority Leader, Ali Ndume, insisted that Obasanjo lacks the moral right to pronounce them corrupt because he instituted corruption in Nigeria.

Ndume, in his address to mark the end of the 2009/2010 legislative year, said the minority parties in the House also knock President Goodluck Jonathan for failing to provide good leadership.

He asked Jonathan to concentrate on governance rather than scheming to circumvent zoning to run for office next year.

Ndume acknowledged that the allegation of corruption against the National Assembly (NASS) may not be entirely false, but said his grouse with Obasanjo is that he institutionalised corruption when he was in the Villa between 1999 and 2007.

His words: “I am not in total disagreement with Obasanjo, but I would have preferred he says either Nigerians are corrupt or Nigerian politicians are corrupt. But for him to single out the (NASS) is not fair.”

And even if that is the case, Ndume stressed, the NASS has 80 per cent Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members, and Obasanjo is “the father and grandfather of the PDP. If his children are corrupt, then we know what the father is.

“Is it not during Obasanjo’s era that corruption moved from the lowest level to the highest level? It was during his tenure that he shared N50 million to each member of the House in order to extend his tenure.

“It was also during his tenure that NASCON, TANSCORP, NITEL and all others were sold to his girl friends, cronies, and others. That is the foundation of corruption in this country.”

Ndume said the NASS is not better when it comes to corruption, but taking the case of budget padding, which Obasanjo spoke of, “if the budget comes and there is nothing for my constituency, I will not support it without having something for my people. But that is because of the government failure.

“If the government is not building hospital in my constituency and I need hospital in my constituency, I will make sure that in the budget of N4 billion, at least N30 million is made available to build a primary health care centre in my local government.

“It is also true that if I have my way, I will determine who the contractor is. You cannot bring somebody from Lagos or Ogun State to do contract in my local government. The (NASS) position is that if the government is doing its work everywhere, there will not be the need for constituency projects.

“When Obasanjo was the President, we know what he did in eight years and his people are better off now. Go and check his account and assets now after eight years as President and you will get the answer to who is corrupt; whether it is the (NASS) or the whole country.”

Ndume affirmed that there is corruption, which should be tackled holistically.

“Look at the whole budget of N4.6 trillion, how much is coming to the (NASS)? How much is going to recurrent expenditure? Only 25 per cent is going to capital expenditure that affects more than 150 million Nigerians.”

He declared the administration of Jonathan a disaster, saying the President erred by refusing to sign the 2010 supplementary budget when the year has less than five months to wind up.

He equally took a swipe at Jonathan for failing to meet the expectation of Nigerians who reposed so much hope in his leadership when fate brought him on board as President.

“Most disturbing to us is the ongoing debate in the PDP on the zoning of political offices, particularly the office of the President. This ordinarily is supposed to be a PDP affair, but again, it has been given a different colouration by people whose aim is to create confusion.

“We are worried that (Jonathan) has allowed himself to be distracted by this unnecessary debate, thereby leaving issues of state to suffer.

“We are surprised that instead of striving to initiate efforts to solve some of the pertinent and pressing problems, particularly in the power sector where he doubles as the Minister, the President has failed to make any impact in the area.”

Ndume said Jonathan surrounds himself with “a hoard of sycophants” and “failed politicians” who hijack the smooth running of government business and fan the embers of disunity and set agenda for the next elections “with the intent of playing godfathers” whereas “there is nothing to show that this government can be trusted.”

He noted that Jonathan has abandoned the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) he set up to help bring reprieve to the nation.

“We call on Jonathan to concentrate and excel in his present job as a sitting President instead of seeking to be a Presidential candidate in the next election when he is yet to deliver on the subsisting mandate.”

In any case, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has begun probing the allegation made by Obasanjo against the lawmakers.

ICPC Chairman Emmanuel Ayoola disclosed at the sixth edition of the Chairman’s Guest Forum in Abuja on Thursday that “we will use the allegation made by Obasanjo that the (NASS) is corrupt to question the size of allowance of the lawmakers.

“We will commence investigation on the legal propriety on the size of the allowance, we want to know whether any criminal offence has been committed on the size of the allowance and if we find something we will tell the world what we have found.”

Ayoola said the ICPC is reviewing activities that will cleanse Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) corruption and is also investigating how lawmakers utilise funds for constituency projects.

“We have already collected data from most of the state Houses of Assembly in regard to the practice they adopt in the management of constituency projects to enable us assess which aspects of the execution of such projects run contrary to the ICPC Act.”

He expressed satisfaction with the increase in the number of petitions received by the ICPC, describing it as a measure of the growing revulsion of the citizens about corruption.

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