It is said that if two wrongs don’t make a right, then try a third. I suspect that a good number of the members of the House of Representatives share this view.
They would find out soon that the third wrong is actually the hangman.
The House had no business suspending Abdulmumin Jibrin for one day, much less, for one whole legislative year. Yet in desperate pursuit of collective self-survival last week, they set aside common sense, precedence and law and drove what they hoped would be the final nail in Jibrin’s political coffin.
That was a mistake they would regret.
Jibrin is a nuisance, a snitch of the worst kind. But he is also a man on assignment. Constituents in Kuru/Bebeji, who hoped he would make their voices heard and use his position to bring them relief from misery, voted him to the House of Representatives for a second term.
Given his humble beginnings, there was no reason to expect that he would forget where he’s coming from. The former students’ union leader, who made his break by selling his second-hand BMW to publish a book on President Olusegun Obasanjo’s foreign policy and staging the launch in Ghana, knows a thing or two about poverty. Although he had more than a helping hand from former governors Rabiu Kwankwaso and Abdullahi Adamu, he often vowed that he would never forget his constituency – mostly the poor he left behind.
But like politicians who routinely mince their words to make them easier to swallow, Jibrin put himself first. He lived the good life, often driving about in convoys that would make former Governor Peter Obi look like a Boys Scout.
The first time Jibrin’s constituents would hear his voice loud and clear was when he was removed as chairman of the “juicy” appropriation committee. The assignment he was on was mostly for himself.
Had he remained in his post, he would not be singing like a fowl with a broken beak, squawking endlessly about incredible tales of graft and corruption of which he unashamedly admitted being a part of.
The House does not need to give Jibrin a bad name to hang him. He is already hanging by his own tongue and public admission of guilt. The argument that he was suspended for disrespecting the House by refusing to honour the invitation of the Ethics committee is not only insufficient, it cannot stand constitutional test.
Jibrin may be a self-confessed crook, but believe me, his is not only the crook of his constituents, he’s also the crook of a public fed up with the shenanigans of the National Assembly.
As Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila rightly said – though I wonder where he was when the debate about the suspension was going on – there’s no reasonable interpretation of the constitution that gives lawmakers the right to “suspend” any member when constituents have not recalled such a member or the courts have not ruled their election invalid.
The House has conveniently forgotten that it is not its right to discipline its members that is at issue here, but the inalienable right of the constituents who elected him to be represented and to participate fully in the business of government.
We’ve seen this before in 2010, when Dino Melaye and “The Progressives” challenged their suspension and ejection from the House for allegedly disrupting proceedings. On that occasion, the court ruled that the House had trampled on the right to fair hearing of Melaye and co.
In Jibrin’s case the injury to his right to fair hearing is even more grievous. He had gone to court to challenge his trial by ordeal only for the same House, which by its own rules exclude itself from matters before the court, to punish him for not appearing before its committee over the same matter in court.
The House is obviously concerned about its reputation, or more specifically, about airing its dirty laundry publicly. But there’s really no laundry to air. Year after year of bitter squabbles over allowances, perks and privileges, our lawmakers have stripped themselves in the public glare, without shame and without remorse, leaving nothing but a grotesque sense of entitlement.
We have become used to seeing them the way they are, warts and all.
Jibrin has challenged the leadership of the House to release the details of its budget for 2016. That is the crux of the matter. The answer is not to throw him out of the House and hope that that will silence him once and for all. Instead, the House should publish its current budget – or the media should demand it – to show Jibrin’s constituents that he is unfit to retain his seat.
The House cannot assume the power to punish, as it applies to this case, by default.
There’s a bigger danger in all of this. The way the matter is going the public will get so wrapped up in the fine points of law that the fraud, which neither Jibrin nor the House leadership has so far denied, will slip through the cracks.
Whatever the House decides to do with Jibrin, and trust me there’s not much they can do about him, citizens and budget monitoring groups like BudgIT, must insist that the National Assembly should publish its 2016 budget and be prepared to go the whole hog – including going to court under the FOI Act – to make it happen.
If we let politicians, they would at best treat this as another circus, or at worst as a family affair. With another budget cycle just around the corner, this scandal would be a terrible thing to waste