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Thursday, July 18, 2024

#MissingBudget: Ita Enang, The Accomplice; Buhari, The Prime Suspect?, By @FavourAfolabi

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[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ithin the Nigerian political space, you can always rely on a section in it to attempt to twist basic logic on its head on any subject matter once they come to realize that they have been found wanting on the subject matter based on their position on same – this Ita Enang matter presents another classic case study in this line and it is my unrepentant position that “it must a very high level of intentional self-inflicted idiocy to be committed by anyone against himself for such a person to attempt to abdicate President Buhari from this #MissingBugdet infraction committed by his staffer – Ita Enang!

Let’s start from the profile of Enang – he is a 53 year old Lawyer who was a member of the House of Representatives between 1999 to 2011 – that is 12 years before he then became a Senator thereafter and remained in the Senate up until his job as SSA to the President on Legislative Matters – Ita, has therefore been a legislator for the past 16 years – as old as this our current Democracy – that would suppose, in all fairness to him; and irrespective of my personal political inclinations that -he was eminently qualified for this particular job – and that would also mean that Ita definitely understood the full ramifications of the budgeting process as regards such a relationship existing between the Executive and Legislature – finding himself working in a way for two bosses at the same time – one that has just employed him over the last 7 months and another that he has been working for in the last 16 years – so you see, Ita has been around budget presentations, negotiations, discussions, maneuverings for the last 16 years – year in, year out – he can therefore not be described as a push-over in any way when it comes to the job of budgets – so what could have gone wrong? Buhari is what went wrong! Buhari here as a word represents the entire gamut of the executive arm in control of what is put in or removed from the budget – to be presented to Congress and the internal thought patterns and composition of the head of that process being President Buhari.

It is about this man – who must do what he wants to do irrespective of how ridiculous such would appear – morality-wise, constitutionally, and process-wise – Ita could not have on his own forged another 1,800 pages document within the space of December 22nd when the document was presented to the National Assembly and this week’s January 11th when this brouhaha became official – he couldn’t have alone, doctored this document – over the holidays – and within a space of 22 days to send same to the National Assembly – without being directed to do so; what would have been his immediate or future reward for that? Was he going to have some monies awarded to his own Office or personal account? Do SSAs have standing budget lines devoid of being connected to a larger Office like that of a Minister or that of the Presidency itself?

Let’s face it – the same folks trying to pin this on Enang have a single and only problem – deep down, they are ashamed of these never-ending seemingly industry-line of manufactured controversies coming out of this Presidency – this presidency that they had so much high hopes for and in – they are now confused as to how to continue to defend a man that seems always intent to leave himself open for ridicule and insults – when these same people were alerted some people like myself leading to the close of 2015 that ‘this President had withdrawn this budget via the backdoor from the Senate due to the embarrassment caused it by #BudgetOfYams, they are argued that we were simply trying to create a controversy to malign the man’s reputation yet it was hours after this became such a huge deal that the President miraculously called a Media Chat to douse the same tensions caused by this even though the journalists that conducted the session were practically forbidden from asking any question regarding the budget! The plan worked a little – albeit for a short while – the conversations in the polity shifted, partly away, from the budget to the media chat itself – giving rise to another set of controversies – the President’s seething anger that showed his willingness to enter into the same Boxing Ring to physically punch knock out the tag team of Dasuki and Kanu and his apparent disregard for the Judiciary.

These people that want to hand Ita for this matter are the same ones that insisted this week, after it became public knowledge that the budget was missing, that “it is impossible for the budget to be missing” – well, no be only miss the budget miss, the thing disappear sef and reappeared hours later albeit in a different version – and they are the same people that came up with ridiculous suggestions like “PDP must be the ones trying to sabotage the President by playing games with this copy of the budget presented to the National Assembly” – so you see, it takes a certain degree of unrepentant-ness for these sheep to keep allowing themselves to be flocked about with these lines of reasoning – to come to the conclusion that “Ita Enang should be the one rather than the president to be held liable for this abuse of our democracy that tends towards profanity” – in a save-face attempt to free the President of complicity in this imbroglio; and to hide their own acceptance of self-gullibility for being deceived by their dear President!

This is what happens when folks keep defending this President – from the insane actions to the most absurd ones – they keep going deeper down on this ignoble path of moving from being democrats to reasoning like autocrats – who should not be expected to apologize for any folly but must have the world align with his every action – what has gone down here is a first – in this democracy and possibly anywhere in the world – you present a budget to the Legislature that is filled with inscrutable numbers – almost as though a computer software was programmed to randomly assign values to the budget line items – you don’t fact-check this before presenting same to congress and when you discover these errors, rather than respectfully seek to engage the legislature on re-presenting same, you get your staffer that manages your relationship with the legislature to smuggle in another version into the legislature with an about-face that presupposes “nothing can happen joor” – believing that either members of the national assembly would be too dumb to compare the two copies; or would be too afraid to speak up against this; or would be too partisan to disagree with this – since the leader of the majority party was the one playing this hanky-panky.

Then there are also those blaming the Senate and [as always] – Bukola Saraki for these errors – let me try to play along with such people just for argumentative purposes – the President comes on national TV during a joint session of the national assembly to lay down a big box in the middle of everyone – the Senate go on recess thereafter – return in the new year to announce to the nation that “the budget is missing” – so who stole the Budget? In whose Office or safe or locker was the budget kept during the Holidays? Was it in the Office of the Senate President or that of one of the principal officers or ranking members or assembly officials? When this master-copy was declared lost, what happened to the copies already issued out to some members of the Senate as the first copy was being delivered to the Senate? This would suggest some complicity on the part of some of these people or perhaps, the Executive applied some unusual tactics to make sure that first copy was removed from the Senate to forestall the senate from presiding on deliberating on that version once it resumed in January – in good enough time to have the newer version placed back into the Senate – you see, this was never going to end well – some legislators already had copies of the first document; and it was only a matter of time after sending in the newer version for some of them to raise some alarm on this; and how would the numbers be easily re-tabulated based on the changed numbers to still get back to the N6Trn+ final estimates [I hope I am not underestimating the powers of Microsoft Excel Macros and Autofills?] – how much work would you have been able to do on this document over the holidays to still make everything look good? Considering there was already a full and final figure broken down into major subsections/MDAs whose numbers/subtotals could not also easily be reduced to come back to the already finalized at N6trn+? This was therefore always going to end up in a Scandal waiting to happen while employing a lousy Fixer Ita Enang rather than an Olivier Pope-personality to do this – simply, a Mission Impossible with no Tom Cruise on duty!

So what happened here is clear and simple – Ita Enang, abeit a Lawyer and ex-legislator had no option but to sacrifice his professional background and all that comes with this; his integrity [if he had any]; expertise in legislative matters; and reputation – all on the altar of pleasing his boss – he was too lily-livered to offer an intellectual disapproval to this plan – and he became willing [or unwilling] accomplice to this act – yet every accomplice must have worked for or collaborated with a principal actor – and that person appears to be the Office of the President as led by the President.

Then again, when we are done discussing who is to be the accused or not here, we shall still return to the crazy numbers within these two versions of the budget – how our Austere Chief Servant President intends to defend these numbers to himself; his party; the legislature; to the nation; and to the world remains a herculean and practically impossible job – or perhaps, he will just go along again in his usual defiant I-am-angry-no-one-should-make-me-angrier-than-this style – till this budget year runs out to come up with some populist-seeking review in the middle of the year?

Nevertheless, I suspect more of these sort of conflict of interest debacles would keep happening while this government remains in Office in the course of the coming months – many more of those working for this President while being too afraid of him would commit grave errors while also trying to please him – you can never do well or get it right when working for a boss you’re too afraid of  because you can never know how to please him – you never know when he will be happy or angry or choose to be a recluse to sulk – you are more likely to keep sacrificing your own personal integrity to fall on the sword for him while trying to keep your job – this again, presents a completely different wahala to this Presidency and Executive – when those that work for and in it are as afraid of its CEO as the people of the nation are as afraid of the same President – those that sell you that crap of “Nigerians are goats and need a tough hand” would sure rejoice at this emerging trend but they would later come to see the larger and graver implications of such for this polity at a time that I pray it won’t be too late to have the nation retrace its steps away from the apparent impending dangers that the continuation of such a trend bids for this nation.

Favour Afolabi is a political commentator who runs fbablogs.com in his spare time; and owns a real estate brokerage services company. He tweeted from @favourafolabi.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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