Former Plateau State governor, Fidelis Tapgun, has said that National Assembly members facing corruption charges should not be allowed to attend sittings of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Tapgun, who at various times served as minister of industries and Nigeria’s ambassador to Kenya, described corruption and greed as Nigeria’s worst problems and called on leaders to “demonstrate seriousness” in tackling them.
“One notes the constitutional provision that deems an accused as innocent until proven guilty, but senators and members of the House of Representatives with corrupt charges on their necks should first clear themselves,” he said.
“It is the only way to prove to the world, especially their constituencies, that they are respectable and honourable people that can make laws that can rid the nation of corruption which we all agree is the nation’s worst vice.
“It is nauseating when you see a senator in the morning sweating in court for allegedly embezzling billions of naira while serving as governor, and later in the afternoon, you see the same man sitting with other senators in the chambers. Once that fellow raises his hand to speak, you get a feeling that he is a common criminal and cannot have anything useful to contribute.”
Tapgun advised that governments at all levels should do more to fight the twin menace.
“People caught should be dealt with severely. We have been too mild with corrupt people and that is why the situation is getting worse every day. A lot of former governors have been charged with massive theft and embezzlement, but they keep buying their way through,” he said.
“They are normally so sure they can find their way and even brag daily about the helplessness of the law.”
He said that the vices had kept Nigeria perpetually on its knees, and declared that corruption and greed were the main threat to the nation’s democracy.
Tapgun called for the strengthening of existing structures to effectively tackle the challenges in the nation’s development processes, noting that most institutions were too weak to respond to the challenges.
The former governor however said that Nigeria’s democracy was on track, in spite of the noticeable shortcomings.
“Nigeria’s democracy is on the right path in spite of distractions here and there. The issues we are facing now are phases that will give way to greatness,” he said.
“We must note that the model we are copying did not attain its height in just 13 years of democracy. I am optimistic that we shall get there if we remained focus and committed to growth, stability and development.”
He also spoke on the internal problems of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), saying they are an extension of the issues confronting Nigeria.
“The PDP, as a party, is run by human beings that are also Nigerians. It cannot be a perfect institution. But I expect Nigerians to continue to criticise the ruling party to make it learn from its mistakes and improve,” he said. “We also expect a virile opposition to keep the ruling party on its toes.’’
Tapgun criticised some elder statesmen over statements he said were capable of tearing the nation apart.
“The other day, Balarabe Musa was saying that undemocratic forces will soon truncate Nigeria’s democracy,” he said.
“I interpreted that to mean a military coup and that to me should not be coming from key leaders like him that had come to be seen as models. It is sad that statesman like him should become so pessimistic.
“Just two weeks ago, also, former military leader and CPC Presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, also spoke of bloodshed in 2015. That statement was in bad taste in view of the general tendency to misunderstand such weighty declarations. My advice is that such leaders must always weigh their statements because their effect may not be positive to national growth.
According to him, the emphasis should be more on issues that would bring Nigerians together to appreciate the enormity of bottlenecks to development “so that we could contribute to tackling the issues. Hard declarations from supposed leaders will send the wrong signals.”
Tapgun advised Nigerians to fight to keep democracy alive and also cautioned against the tendency to misuse the freedom that representative governance brings.