As Nigerians marked their 47th October First anniversary Independence Day, pressure has been mounting for President Umaru Yar’Adua to have parliament follow his lead in fighting corruption. The latest case involves Speaker of the House of Representatives, Patricia Etteh. With the lower house of the National Assembly in recess, legislators are lining up colleagues to replace the country’s first woman speaker, who has been indicted by a House panel in a contract scam. Etteh defends procedures she followed for awarding contracts to remodel her home and that of a colleague and says it cost only half the money alleged by her opposition party accusers. But observers believe it’s only a matter of time before Speaker Etteh steps down. Political Science Professor Habu Galadima of the University of Jos says he doubts the PDP (ruling People’s Democratic Party) lawmaker will survive the Ramadan House recess.
“It’s quite clear that public opinion has tilted against her, and I don’t think that she’ll be able to make it. The best option left for her right now is to resign honorably and probably face the consequences,” he said.
Galadima says the history of Nigeria has shown that once public opinion has formed against the individual, it is quite difficult to survive.
“More so, we have a new president, who now encourages due process and non-interference in the affairs of the legislative arm. I think it would be quite difficult for anybody to want to stop the moving train right now in the House of Representatives,” said Galadima.
The University of Jos political science scholar says legislators have not lodged any criminal intentions against Speaker Etteh, and so there is a chance her resignation may end the political flap. However, he says that greater vigilance and care by the Speaker could have forestalled the controversy.
“Hers is more an act of omission rather than an act of commission, so I think we may not be getting her to face criminal charges. But one would have thought that professionals assigned to such an office and position, she ought to have been much more careful in the handling of her finances,” he said.
As for the outlook for President Yar’Adua’s new administration, Galadima says the political damage may be minimal because of the tone he has set for the country.
“I think clearly, it will be a plus for Mr. President. At least, Mr. President has shown clearly that he is not going to protect or hide any corrupt official from the law, and so I think that’s a plus for him, and that’s a radical departure from previous practice,” he noted.