The National Assembly has responded in anger to a statement credited to former President Olusegun Obasanjo in which he said that the lawmakers at the state and federal levels are “rogues and armed robbers” but managed to stay off making caustic responses.
The Senate on Wednesday challenged Mr. Obasanjo, who was president from 1999 to 2007, to name the lawmakers who fit into his description.
Similarly, the House of Representatives has called for a probe of the ex-president’s remarks.
Senators did not refer to Mr. Obasanjo’s remark at Wednesday’s plenary, leaving the spokesperson, Enyinnaya Abaribe, to address the concern at a later media briefing.
At the House, Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, brushed aside an attempt by deputy minority leader, Suleiman Kawu Sumaila (ANPP, Kano), to table the subject for discussion. Mr. Tambuwal said there was no room for debates, but referred the comments to the Ethics and Privileges committee, a sign that the issue may never be revisited.
The former president had on Tuesday lashed out at the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly as institutions filled with “rogues and armed robbers” at an event in Lagos attended by two former heads of state, Yakubu Gowon and Ernest Shonekan.
The Fourth annual conference of the Academy for Entrepreneurial Studies, also attended by Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos state and retired Chief Justice of the federation, Muhammed Uwais, discussed building strong structures and systems for the nation bedevilled by the twin ills of corruption and inefficiency.
Mr. Obasanjo criticized the legislature, as the leading institution amongst the nation’s most corrupt and inefficient. Other corrupt institutions, he said, are judiciary and the police.
“Integrity is necessary for all systems and institutions to be strong.
Today, rogues, armed robbers are in the state houses of assembly and the national assembly. What sort of laws will they make?” he asked.
On the judiciary, the former president said “he judiciary is also corrupt. During my tenure, many of the corrupt judges were removed, some are still there.
“If the judiciary becomes corrupt, where is the hope for Nigeria?
Justice no doubt will go to the highest bidder. The judiciary did not see anything wrong with a former governor but the same set of evidence was used to convict him in the UK.”
On corruption in the police, Mr. Obasanjo said: “the police are even the worst. Well I will not lament; I will only say, let us understand our problem and emphasize the good ones.”
Both chambers of the National Assembly on Wednesday managed an urbane response to Mr. Obasanjo, a marked difference from the lawmakers’ blistering hit back at the former leader when he made similar comment in August 2010.
Then, Mr. Obasanjo had accused the lawmakers of padding national budgets and drawing huge and unjustified earnings. Minority members of the House then, referred to Mr. Obasanjo as the “grandfather of corruption,” while the senators called for proof.
But the senate spokesperson on Wednesday said, “The National Assembly has great respect for the person of the former president of Nigeria Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and the National Assembly can never engage in any talk back to the president.
“We actually feel that the former president would help the National Assembly and indeed also help Nigeria in the new spirit of transparency and openness by assisting the National Assembly by naming those that he knows in the national assembly as either rogues or criminals.
“That would help us to be able to sanitize the polity and we sincerely thank him for his role in Nigeria as someone who cares very deeply about the Nigerian state and how it is at the moment. And not just President Obasanjo , we also urge other Nigerians who are concerned about Nigeria to also in the spirit of transparency let us know whatever information that they have so that we can use it to check ourselves and to be able to make Nigeria a better place.”
At the House, the minority leader raised the issue as a breach of lawmakers’ privilege describing Mr. Obasanjo as lacking credibility and remaining vengeful at the federal lawmakers since they denied the ex-president a tenure elongation.
“I am not an armed robber neither am I a rogue. His greatest grouse against us is that we refused him third term in office and since then we have become his enemies. But Obasanjo does not have credibility in Nigeria. Remember he was dragged to court by his own son accusing him of sleeping with his wife,” he said.
The speaker overruled debates on the issue and ordered an ethics committee probe.