Goodbye Ribadu, Good Riddance…

by SOC Okenwa

Settling for a befitting caption for this piece posed some difficulties for me initially. As I mooted the idea to put my thoughts together in form of an article knocking it in shape was not as difficult as reaching for a title that says it all. Many titles competed for consideration, those like: Just Before Ribadu Arrives Kuru, Jos; Ribadu: The Long Road to Kuru; Ribadu: Some Tears, No Tears; Ribadu: Some Home Truth. Finally I judged the above a better caption.

The Ribadu deployment debacle has polarised Nigerians over its merit or demerit. Some stakeholders, highly-respected intellectuals, social critics and national commentators have had to make their positions known including the Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka. Most reached conclusions that question the wisdom of the Yar’Adua administration as regards the Ribadu deployment with others questioning the timing and real intentions. I beg to differ!

The ex-Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Mallam Nuhu Ribadu is seen in some quarters as an enigma. A man of no mean character Ribadu through the EFCC had shown what was possible if determination was applied in our battle against executive corruption. The Ribadu revolution in Nigeria can only be described in conflicting manners. Positive and negative manners with the latter outweighing the former.

Through Ribadu and the EFCC there is little doubt that the consciousness of Nigerians against corrupt practices was raised greatly. ‘419’ fraudsters were either rattled or forced to go underground having suffered humiliation and prosecution by the EFCC operatives. Those chief executives who hitherto stole without any consideration of any consequences became fearful of the future after the expiration of their immunity. EFCC in general and Ribadu in particular became quality references both locally and internationally of Nigeria‘s determination to be a better nation of hope and justice.

EFCC, no doubt, represents one of the great legacies of Olusegun Obasanjo’s ‘Babaic’ (or is it barbaric?) administration. But I hasten to add that Obasanjo set up the EFCC for reasons other than patriotic. His motive primarily was to use the anti-graft agency to reach out vindictively to his political and economic foes especially those men enough to question his imperial presidency and kleptocracy.

When IGP Mike Okiro informed Ribadu of his apparent new year gift, a ‘promotion’ of going to school to acquire more strategic knowledge Ribadu reportedly ‘exploded’ telling Okiro that he had no power to relieve him of his top job. In the end President Yar’Adua sided Okiro and Ribadu was ‘eased out’ as EFCC boss. Before the emergence of the EFCC Ribadu was a policeman and even while in office as EFCC chair he remained a cop promoted and pampered over and above his peers, so I wonder why the EFCC should be seen as a body whose chairman is untouchable or superior to the IGP.

What I am driving at in essence is that the removal of Nuhu Ribadu is in order. The EFCC as an institution is greater than Ribadu; without him at the helm of affairs another person could perform better than him. As an appointee of Obasanjo the Adamawa-born Mallam should have been sacked much earlier than now. The recommendation that Mallam Ribadu proceeds on a course at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) Kuru near Jos Plateau State is in order. We need another or better Ribadu.

Obasanjo renewed Mallam Ribadu’s tenure weeks before quitting power for his selfish interest; with Ribadu there the EFCC cannot investigate or prosecute his presidential follies and thievery. With Ribadu out of the way a more determined incorruptible Nigerian beholden to no force or interest could do miracles in the EFCC. Someone less controversial, less impetuous, less magniloquent and less megalomaniac. Sentiments aside Ribadu has overstayed his welcome in the EFCC — seeing himself thereof as a god in whose court selective application of justice thrived.

We cannot forget how Ribadu pronounced almost all the former governors guilty of looting even before a competent court so declared only for him to arrest and prosecute an insignificant few. Or how he declared that his office was only answerable to the National Assembly. No doubt Ribadu did a lot of good things and went about his mission with patriotic passion and zeal. But the major problem remained that he was taking orders from the very source of his emergence. He was almost completely beholden to the past order. His selectivity in fighting corruption reduced his grandstanding and status and heavily politicised the effort.

Mallam Ribadu could then be said to be a victim of his own machination; his inability to break ranks with a much-deprecated past became his undoing. His identification with that hated past marked him out as an enemy within the new establishment. Yet he went about fooling no one but himself. Forces of change, eager to chart a new course within the ambits of rule of law and due process considered his presence in EFCC as a bad reminder of an immediate past imbued with hypocritical characters pretending to fight corruption when they were the real problems.

We need not be too emotional over an issue that should be put in proper perspective. It was dangerous for Mallam Ribadu to perceive his office as one beyond any sanction. Institutions such as the EFCC must be nurtured in such a way that it is not personalised; no one is indispensable. Having served above the average mark for a four-year period with some hits and misses one feels satisfied that another czar is taking over from where Ribadu stopped. Concentrating the corruption war on one individual could send the wrong message, what if Ribadu drops dead does that mean the EFCC should die with him?

Just before Mallam Nuhu Ribadu arrives Kuru, Jos to begin life as a student in policy and strategy this is wishing him happy and prosperous 2008, an ‘OBJ-less’ 2008! Perhaps he would be afforded the opportunity while schooling to reflect on what he did wrong and what he did right. Thank God contrary to his statement he did not die for Nigeria fighting her corruption and saving her from same. With Ribadu corruption did not stop in Nigeria but with him the monster reduced considerably and without him politicians will always loot the treasury. His removal may well turn out to be a good riddance in disguise! Only time will tell.

President Umar Yar’Adua has been accused by critics of many policy somersaults, fumbling and stumbling and even sheer hypocrisy but do we crucify a man who never told us he had wanted to become president? I think those pissed off by the President’s slow motion presidency should direct their attack on Obasanjo who considered it ‘do or die’ handing over power to another Shagari in order to allow the status quo prevail much after him. On the other hand if Yar’Adua were not drafted and manipulated into office then Peter Odili would have used the stupendous wealth he stole as Rivers Governor to ‘buy’ himself the presidency and we all know what would have been the consequences of such eventuality.

Mallam Ribadu more or less disappointed many because of his fierce loyalty to the cabal that put him to power. But more than that he ‘failed’ to deliver as expect

ed because of the circumstances Nigerian; yes the Nigerian factor militated against his bold moves and publicity-seeking adventures. In the end he was reminded by the powers-that-be that he cannot be equated with EFCC and EFCC can do without Ribaduism.

The optimism is there, ladies and gentlemen, that the fight against corruption may well witness, post-Ribadu, a moral, unbiased and inspired dimension and that is good and healthy for our go-slow democracy.

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