Farewell Mallam Ribadu

by Sheyi Oriade

It was always going to end in tears. I mean the eventual displacement of Mallam Ribadu from the EFCC. There was a certain sense of inevitability about his removal from office. Indeed one need not have been a futurologist to have predicted that his days at the helm of the EFCC were numbered. For right from the inception of the Yar’adua administration it became clear to keen observers that there was something of an ambivalent attitude on the part of administration insiders towards him. And as far as their priorities were concerned he was deemed surplus to requirements, and, therefore, dispensable. To some power brokers within and without Aso Rock he represented a bad odour offensive to their collective nostrils and one that needed to be fumigated if they were to breathe or sleep easy. In matter of fact, as far as these power brokers were concerned Mallam Ribadu was a dead man walking.

There can be no doubt that the decision to relieve Mallam Ribadu of his position was a fait accompli and had been reached many months ago; the delay in its implementation occurring only as a result of the ‘how’ and ‘when’ aspects being worked out. While it is unlikely that the news of his ouster come as a complete surprise to him; the manner of his ousting must have caught him unawares. For while it appears that he fully expected to be ‘stabbed’ in the back at some point, he must have been shocked that when the thrust of the blade did occur, it was not to his back as anticipated, but straight through his ‘heart’. Perhaps even more surprising to him must have been the fact that the thrusting of the blade was effected by someone he probably did not expect to wield the knife. Such is the nature of Machiavellian politics.

If recent reports in the Nigerian press, regarding the relationship between the Inspector General and Mallam Ribadu, are to be believed, then it is perhaps no surprise that the Inspector General was only too willing to be the one to bring Mallam Ribadu down to earth. Given the latter’s alleged insubordination to the former in time past. It was only going to be a matter of time before the nation’s most senior police officer extracted his ‘pound of flesh’ from the nation’s most popular police officer.

It must be said, for the future at least, that whatever the nature of personal relationships between high functionaries of state – good or bad – they must not be allowed to impede or interfere with the performance or progress of critical national assignments.

Now that his removal from office appears to have an air of finality about it, there must be much mirth making at his expense within the corridors of power. It must have been a very satisfying Christmas and New Year season for those who had foreknowledge of his impending demise. Top on this list of such people, I suspect will be the Attorney General of the Federation, who from the outset seemed determined to emasculate or circumscribe the powers of the EFCC. His fevered attempts were largely unsuccessful, and he was roundly traduced and condemned in the media by numerous vocal Nigerians at home and abroad. As it happens, where the Attorney General failed, the Inspector General succeeded.

It is clear that in sending Mallam Ribadu back to the classroom it is the intention of his functional boss and his other antagonists, to teach him a lesson in the literal and figurative sense. For in the collective minds of his current political masters, he is nothing but a jumped up and over promoted police officer who punched well above his weight in Nigerian public life. This assessment of Mallam Ribadu is clearly not one shared by the mass of the Nigerian people who admire him for his doggedness, indefatigability, intrepidity, and singular sense of purpose.

I find it perplexing that the Inspector General should consider the perceived further training needs of Mallam Ribadu to be of such priority as to interfere with the prosecution of the ongoing battle against corruption which to date he (Mallam Ribadu) has spearheaded with distinction. Something has to be wrong with his (the Inspector General’s) decision making process and order of priorities. For if one takes a look at the current state of the Nigeria Police, particularly, the lower cadres from which the bulk of the force is drawn, it is painfully apparent to all that they are so poorly trained as to be unfit to undertake their societal roles. It is this segment of the force that desperately requires an investment in training and not a high performer like Mallam Ribadu. The Inspector General needs to revisit his order of priorities.

If one were to undertake a cursory comparison between the Nigeria Police and the EFCC along performance lines, it becomes immediately evident which of the two institutions is fit for purpose and which one is not. The EFCC under Mallam Ribadu’s leadership was characterised by a combination of professionalism, effectiveness, and a result driven ethos. None of these attributes are visible within the present day Nigeria Police Force. In matter of fact, the EFCC is everything that the Nigeria Police is not, but ought to be. Had the Nigeria Police been up to its responsibilities in the first place, then it is arguable, whether or not, there would a requirement for the existence of a separate body such as the EFCC.

There is a popular adage that advocates that if something is not broken, there should be no attempt to fix it. This is not to suggest that the EFCC under Mallam Ribadu was a paragon of administrative and operational excellence and, therefore, beyond improvement. There is room for improvement in every organisation no matter how efficient. But the point is that there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the leadership of the EFCC to warrant a change. I accept that Mallam Ribadu was susceptible to bouts of overzealousness and on occasion was high handed in his approach, but desperate situations call for desperate measures. And against the background of corruption in Nigeria such overzealousness could be tolerated. To his credit, not one of his adversaries has come out to say that he has personally enriched himself from the proceeds recovered from the thieving political elite or demanded bribes from them; or at least not as far as I am aware.

Judging from the predictable outcry accompanying his displacement from the EFCC, it is clear that Mallam Ribadu is roundly seen as the personification of the crusade against corruption in the minds of Nigerians. This is to his credit. It is common for organisations to take on the character of their spirited and pro-active leaders. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI – the nearest approximation to the EFCC that I can think of) in the United States for many years took on the character of J. Edgar Hoover. And until his death in 1972, it was difficult to distinguish the difference between the man and the organisation; in much the same way as it has been between Mallam Ribadu and the EFCC. As an aside, I wonder whether Mallam Ribadu ever read up on J. Edgar Hoover. If he had, I guess he would still be in his job today. For J. Edgar Hoover was reputed to have had a file on everyone of consequence in America, the possession of which, ensured his long service and rendered him untouchable by successive American political administrations.

If the truth be told, and it should, there is no reason why the departure of Mallam Ribadu from the EFCC should affect the fight against corruption – for political appointees come and political appointees go in their seasons – but the people remain, and unfortunately so do the corrupt in our midst. There was always a real possibility that Mallam Ribadu by reason of his sterling performance was going to move on to bigger and better things at some stage. So his departure from the EFCC was always only a matter of time. What rankles most with people is the nature and manner in which he has been removed. This notwithstanding, the people must ensure that they sustain the pressure on insincere politicians. They must consistently and unrelentingly demand for greater transparency and accountability in public life, whether Mallam Ribadu is at the helm of the EFCC or not.

Whilst I imagine that there are, at this time, many people within the government rejoicing, albeit prematurely, at the felling of this supposed ‘thorn in their flesh’, the government needs to come to the realisation and very quickly too, that any nation can only tolerate a certain level of corruption. Once corruption assumes endemic proportions and becomes the norm rather than the exception, and when acceptable tolerance levels are breached, the continued existence and viability of such a nation falls under threat. It is this awareness, in large measure that I believe is what propelled Mallam Ribadu to undertake his duties with the vigour and commitment that he did, much to the delight of most right minded Nigerians. Rather than punish him, the nation ought to reward him and handsomely too.

A word, it is said, is sufficient to the wise. I, therefore, offer a few words to our current government. It is high time that it got a grip over the affairs of state. To borrow a phrase from Lord Norman Lamont, the former Chancellor of the British Exchequer, the Yar’adua government has to stop acting like it is in office, but not in power. This government has repeatedly given the impression to observers that it is the tail that is wagging the dog, rather than the other way round.

The government has once again found itself embroiled in an unnecessary and distracting fiasco which has left it looking culpable and complicit in the eyes of the people. At best, it is viewed by the people as having an indifferent attitude towards the battle against corruption, and at worst, it is seen as being in collusion with the perpetrators of corruption. This is not good. It is time that the coterie of advisers who surround the President wake up to their responsibilities and begin to provide him with sound advice. He is being let down very badly at the moment. It is time that they began to earn their wages.

In our political system the President enjoys a lot of power and he should have the courage to overrule his Inspector General if he thinks his decision is wrong. After all, the Inspector General serves at his pleasure and not vice versa. If there is anything that he dislikes about Mallam Ribadu’s conduct, style or personality, he should summon him and administer a good ticking off to him behind closed doors.

As for Mallam Ribadu, I suspect that we have not seen or heard the last of him yet. I think he will be back on the national stage before long. And if per chance, he does not re-appear to serve the nation again, I like many others would like to offer my sincere gratitude to him for the good work that he has done. Our nation has been blessed by his service.

I end this article as I ended a previous article on the man (‘Ribadu on My Mind’) some time ago now; with the words of a hymn that should offer the good Mallam and others of similar ilk the courage to go forward in the service of the nation regardless of the odds set before them:

Courage, brother, do not stumble,
Though thy path be dark as night;
There’s a star to guide the humble:
Trust in God and do the right.
Let the road be rough and dreary,
And its end far out of sight,
Foot it bravely; strong or weary,

Perish policy and cunning,
Perish all that fears the light!
Whether losing, whether winning,
Trust in God and do the right,
Trust no party, sect or faction;
Trust no leaders in the fight;
Put in every word or action,

Some will hate thee, some will love thee,
Some will flatter, some will slight;
Cease from man, and look above thee:
Trust in God and do the right.
Simple rule, and safest guiding,
Inward peace and inward might,
Star upon our path abiding,

Mallam Ribadu, all the very best for the future.

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