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Budget Padding: President Tinubu and Merchants of Mischief

In presidential democracy, the place of role allocation to different arms of government is unambiguous. The legislative arm of government is the bastion of democracy. Suffice to explain that while the two other arms of government exists in various forms, military or other kinds of autocratic rules, the parliament is a revered institution....CONTINUE READING

In fact, it is the guage through which the strength and viability of any democracy is measured. Technically, it is right to say, with the National Assembly, the key to national treasury is safe because the president can seldom spend until the parliament appropriated. The legislature of any country has assigned roles, which is to make budget for the executive to implement.

The ongoing alleged N3.7 trillion budget padding brouhaha at the National Assembly is no longer news. What’s news, however, is the extent to which merchants of mischief are ready to spread their dragnet. Since this controversy broke out early last week, a lot of surreptitious attempts have been made to link the scandal to the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu government.

Frankly speaking, this is the whole intent: to embarrass the government and thereby score cheap political points. This is politics playing out at the National Assembly. It has nothing to do with President Tinubu. It is sad that at a time of national concern such as the country is facing, some highly placed persons have chosen to play politics with governance.

This is a time politicians should rally round the president on how to collectively tackle our national challenges. This can only happen where politicians are prepared to leave politics at the level of fair debate. But, certainly, not in Nigeria where politicians seek to bring down the roof, if an election goes against their wish.

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In the whole of these, the political stakeholders from the North must realise that every part of Nigeria has the right to rule the country. Needless to remind our northern stakeholders of the pivotal role Asiwaju Bola Tinubu played that led to the emergence of former President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. As the time-tested saying goes, “One good turn deserves another.”

The term “executive arm” or “executive branch” refers to a part of government responsible for enforcing laws and managing the day-to-day affairs of the country. It’s typically contrasted with the legislative branch, which makes laws. Against this backdrop, there’s nothing joining the president and the presidency in the whole of these, except that some mischief makers are bent on making capital out of these.

For the records, Tinubu has, since assumption of office, established a clear direction for his government in terms of policies and programmes. Asiwaju is not apologetic about it. In his leadership diary, if you do well, you’ll be rewarded with more responsibilities. It stands to his credit that when he discovered the unwavering determination of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, to turn the fortune of the nation’s capital around, he immediately supported him with the removal of FCT from the Treasury Single Account (TSA). This action, analysts and Nigerians roundly applauded because it will avail the minister more money to accomplish more.

On the flip side, those who doubted President Tinubu’s capacity to fight corruption were proved wrong when he suspended his Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Dr. Betta Edu. Immediately the allegation of financial infractions bordering on the approval of payment of about N585 million into private accounts became clear, Tinubu didn’t hesitate to unleash the sledge hammer. Needless to remind merchants of mischief of Beta Edu’s predecessor, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq, who was made to cough out over N37 billion of stolen money.

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For the National Assembly, the scandal holds a number of consequences, including loss of public trust. The scandal is capable of eroding public trust in the National Assembly and government as a whole. Many Nigerians feel that the legislators are more interested in enriching themselves than in serving the public good.

On the other hand, lawmakers must know that a house divided against itself cannot stand. I mean lawmakers who are divided against themselves can cause several negative consequences for a country:

Stalemate and inefficiency: Divided lawmakers can struggle to agree on legislation, leading to delays in passing important bills and hindering progress on national issues.

Gridlock and political instability: Deep divisions can make it difficult for the government to function effectively, potentially leading to political instability and crises.

Weakened ability to address national challenges: A divided legislature may be less effective in addressing pressing national challenges, such as economic problems, security threats, or social issues.

Increased partisanship and extremism: Divisions can exacerbate existing political tensions and lead to more extreme positions being taken by both sides.

Public disillusionment with government: The public may lose faith in government if lawmakers are seen as being more interested in scoring political points than in working together for the common good.

Let me restate that the president cannot be blamed for the offenses of the parliamentarians. The executive and parliament are separate figures in a government, each with their own independent roles and responsibilities.

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Let us not get things twisted. In the area the constitution empowers the president to supervise, he has demonstrated capacity, courage and shown that there’s no sacred cow in the executive. The allegation of N3.7 trillion budget padding at the National Assembly, true or not, should be handled by the agencies of government responsible for torchlighting such issues, instead of satanically attempting to link the whole saga to the president.

What well-meaning Nigerians expect from our lawmakers raising unnecessary alarm in the red chamber is to apologise when they are wrong and stop looking for sectional sentiments and regional colourations that support their misdeed. I have insisted severally that our anti-corruption agencies should stand firm against the enemies of the country who could be plotting to create another crooked dimension to looting Nigeria dry under this government.

There are so many issues of national interest yawning for attention, including fraudulent transactions within 28 MDAs bordering on illegal withdrawal of N13.95trillon as revealed by audit report, security challenges, as well as the need to recover stolen public funds to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians, and a host of others that are far better important than unfounded arguments over budget padding and allocation of constituency projects.

At the moment, President Tinubu is focused on economic revival and not this cheap ploy to divert attention from the renewed hope agenda and a carryover of campaign of calumny from the 2023 campaigns. Finally, there is no need to pay these mischief makers in their own coin. Vengeance is not necessary because those with corrupt hearts destroy themselves.