The National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on Sunday accused the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, of allegedly hijacking and padding national budgets for the four years that the party had been in power.
He claimed that the two presiding officers of the National Assembly always padded the budgets with pet projects that profited them while they cut funds appropriated to projects that would have benefited Nigerians.
Tinubu made the allegations in a statement made available to journalists by his media aide, Tunde Rahman.
He was reacting to reports that he was backing some persons as leaders of the Ninth National Assembly because of his alleged interest in the 2023 presidential race.
The former Lagos State governor said rather than a future political ambition, his desire to prevent a repeat of Saraki and Dogara’s era was responsible for his support for the choice of President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC for the National Assembly leadership.
He said, “With the Senate leadership usurped by regressive elitists, that chamber constituted a brake on progress and good governance.
“The Senate leadership, and to a lesser degree, the House leadership, stymied the APC legislative initiatives while attempting to hoist noxious, reactionary and self-interested legislation on the nation.
“Just look at the way Saraki, Dogara and their ilk hijacked the budget process these past four years. 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 benefited 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.
“Thus, those who cast aspersions at Asiwaju, in reality are bucking against the stated position of the President. This is a democracy and people have the right to oppose whomever they wish to oppose.
“However, if these mongers oppose the President, let them be of sufficient courage to plainly say so. They should not disparage Asiwaju as an indirect way to contend against the President.”
Tinubu said what all those who cared about Nigeria should do was to support the President in driving to reality his economic policies and objectives.
He said it was spurious to believe that having one’s allies in the National Assembly would enhance one’s presidential ambition.
The party leader added, “In the end, the rumour-mongers should court greater discipline and wisdom. As Asiwaju recently said, there is no action a person can take that constitutes a political guarantee as to what may come four years from now.
“Moreover, that having allies in the National Assembly leadership positions will greatly enhance someone’s presidential ambitions is a spurious claim.
“In 2015, Senator Saraki finagled his way into the senate presidency. He planted himself at the apex of legislative power. But his actions as Senate President showed a man devoid of compassion for the average Nigerian. All he cared for was power and position. Soon he will be deprived of both.
“House Speaker Dogara has fared only slightly better. Occupying these positions is not a guarantee of future success. It is only a guarantee of present duty.
“Politics requires jockeying and maneuvering for influence to get the right people in the right positions. To be beneficial, politics must be tied to the greater purpose of governance such as with President Buhari’s goal to reform the national economy for the good of all Nigerians.
“In supporting the party and the President, Asiwaju has shown his commitment to achieving the President’s goals. Nothing more should be read into it.
“Elections are over. Now is the time for governance to take primacy. Those who have taken to intrigue about 2023 reveal themselves to be lacking in essential concern for the people and the substantive issues that confront us.
“Our challenges are steep and multiple. Resolving them will occupy all of our time and energy. We do not have the luxury to embark on fantasies about the future. Let the future stay where it is for now. In due time, it shall come and shall decide the shape it is to take regardless of the plans we mortals hold for it.
“As for Asiwaju, he lives in the here and now. His words and deeds are geared toward perfecting progressive governance and resolving the substantive issues of today. Nothing more, nothing less. Those so enamoured with gossiping about him, would do themselves and the nation well if they would follow his more productive example.”
Tinubu said reports that he had eyes on 2023 presidential race were “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.”
He said the peddlers of the rumours arrogated to themselves the ability to read his mind more than he himself can know it.
He said it appeared they have also acquired the gift of bending time so that 2023 appears before 2019 enters its second half.
He said the country would be better if the people behind the rumours would enlist their “uncanny talents” in the service of the nation instead of in the service of “political intrigue and gossip mongering.”
When contacted on the telephone, the Special Adviser to the President of the Senate, Mr Yusuph Olaniyonu, said his principal was not ready to speak on the issue at the moment.
“The Senate President does not want to make any comment on the statement at the moment,” Olaniyonu simply told one of our correspondents.
Dogara also could not be reached on Sunday night for his reaction to the budget-padding allegation.
His telephone line indicated that it had been switched off.
His Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Turaki Hassan, also could not be reached on the telephone.
Calls made by one of our correspondents to his telephone line did not connect while he had yet to respond to a text message sent to him on the matter, as of press time.