Former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday weighed in on the latest allegations of corruption in the National Assembly, advising President Muhammadu Buhari to be very wary in his dealings with the federal lawmakers.
Obasanjo, who spoke with journalists at the Aso Villa yesterday after a meeting with President Buhari, reaffirmed his earlier position that there were many corrupt politicians in the National Assembly, as shown by the incidence of budget padding.
“The President should be very vigilant. Whatever he should not pass, he should not pass,” Obasanjo stressed.
He also advised that it was time to elect people of integrity into the National Assembly – to avert recurring and embarrassing incidences of corruption in the process of lawmaking.
It would be recalled that while the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu are facing criminal charges of forgery, the leadership of the House of Representatives is currently enmeshed in allegations of corruptly padding the 2016 budget to corner billions of naira in the guise of constituency projects.
As far back as 2012, Obasanjo, who had a running battle with the National Assembly while he was in power between 1999 and 2007, had at a public function declared that the two chambers of the federal legislature were full of “rogues and armed robbers”.
In January this year, he wrote the National Assembly accusing the lawmakers of greed, impunity and corruption, and failing to show fiscal prudence in view of the present economic situation in the country.
Speaking to State House correspondents after he held a closed-door meeting with President Buhari on Monday, Obasanjo maintained his stance and said it was important for the President not to allow the lawmakers get away with such corruption.
Asked how worried he was that little has changed since his earlier allegations and if he had a different opinion now, the ex-president replied “well, if you say that I have said it in the past and if there are people who didn’t believe what I said in the past, then you now say that what has come out confirms what I said in the past, then I can say what I said in the past is what I will say now”.
Pressed further to disclose if he would welcome an outright investigation into the latest allegation of padding of the 2016 budget, Obasanjo replied that “it is not a question of investigation.
“We should get men and women of integrity in the place and the President should be very vigilant – whatever he should not pass he should not pass.”
Obasanjo was asked of his mission to the seat of power this time around and he explained: “I am visiting this time because I have some messages for the president.
“Not too long ago I was in Liberia and Gambia and I have messages these two countries will want me to deliver to the president.
“Also, only yesterday I came back from Seychelles Island where I attended this year’s Annual General Meeting of Africa Export Development Bank; and there are aspects of the proceedings that I think I should update the President.”
When jokingly asked if he enjoyed all the travelling, he responded: “Travelling is good education. What you will learn about a country by visiting that country for two or three days you won’t learn by reading through books”.
As a journalist asked if he intends to slow down on the frequency of the trips, Obasanjo quickly replied him: “May God not allow you to slow down”.