Bola Tinubu, National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), has accused Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara, both former members of the party, of budget padding.
Saraki, President of the Senate, and Dogara, Speaker of the House of Representatives, were members of Tinubu’s party until they defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2018 in the thick of pre-2019 election permutations.
Dogara will return to the House when the next lower chamber is inaugurated in June; however, Saraki’s eight-year run in the Senate will be interrupted next month, having lost the Kwara Central senatorial election to Ibrahim Oloriegbe of the APC.
Still, Tinubu is keen to avoid the kind of fractious executive-legislature relations that dominated the outgoing political dispensation. On Sunday, while responding to mounting claims of his intention to run for President in 2023, he could not help recalling how Saraki and Dogara manipulated the budget.
“Just look at the way Saraki, Dogara and their ilk hijacked the budget process these past four years,” he said in a statement released by Tunde Rahman, his spokesman.
“National budgets were delayed and distorted as these actors repeatedly sought to pad budgets with pet projects that would profit them. Even worse, they cut funds intended to prosper projects that would have benefitted the average person. After four years of their antics halting the progress of government, we should do all we can to prevent a repeat of their malign control of the National Assembly.
“If we are truly committed to optimal governance, then we also must be equally committed to ensuring that the National Assembly leadership be competent and experienced as well as imbued with a progressive mindset and a desire to work in close cooperation with executive. This is all Asiwaju has hoped to achieve. There are no ulterior motives. Everything he has done is in concert with and in furtherance of the wishes of President Buhari and the party.”
On his remoured presidential ambition, Tinubu said, in part: “We have monitored, with rising incredulity, the rash of news stories claiming Asiwaju Tinubu is manipulating the APC nomination process for the National Assembly leadership. The stories claim this supposed manipulation is the first salvo in Asiwaju’s effort to position himself for a presidential run during the 2023 election cycle. Not only are these reports utterly false, based as they are in the febrile imaginations of those persons by whom they are being peddled, they are injurious to President Buhari’s historic quest to reform Nigeria. It is for this latter reason that we find cause to speak out where otherwise we would have continued to watch on in silent amusement.
“Nigeria has barely emerged from President Buhari and the APC’s resounding victory in the last election. The President, with the support of an APC majority in both chambers of our National Assembly, is now preparing to lead the nation forward for the next four years. Instead of covering the President’s exciting Next Level agenda and what it promises in terms of economic and social growth & development, these people want to skip ahead to the next election as if they can cast aside the next four years.
“However, the Nigerian people do not elect politicians to office simply to watch on as they maneuver and jostle for position at the next election. The people elect those who they believe will be the best public servants, committed to the national wellbeing. This is why they reelected in President Buhari while rejecting the horde of political jobbers that constitute the PDP.
“The peddlers of these rumors have arrogated to themselves the preternatural ability to read Asiwaju’s mind more than he himself can know it. They also seem to have acquired the unique gift of bending time so that 2023 appears before we even reach the midway point of 2019. If these people would only enlist their uncanny talents in the service of the nation instead of in the service of political intrigue and gossip mongering our country would be much the better.
“This attempt to caricature Asiwaju as if his words and actions are all aimed at grabbing power will fail because this portrait distorts the plain truth. While the headlines are sensational they are also senseless because they are not grounded in fact. Asiwaju has not run for elected office since 2003. He last held office in 2007. He has never vied to become chairman of the APC nor has he tried to insinuate himself into any major government office.”
Tinubu’s budget-padding allegations are nothing new, particulalrly in the House of Representatives, where Kano lawmaker Abdulmumin Jibrin blatantly fingered the Speaker and other principal lawmakers as culprits, only for him to be suspended for 180 legislative days — more than a calendar year.