Nuhu Ribadu: The Anti-Corruption Cop Who Cowered

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

Every so often the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper goes off mark. It loses its ways. It shoots in the dark. It abbreviates its own guidelines. But because of its role and place within the Nigerian society, the paper has generally been given long ropes with which to operate. However, in her almost three decades of existence, her Tuesday, January 1st 2008 pronouncement Nuhu Ribadu: The Anti- Corruption Cop They Feared — is perhaps her most perverse and perfidious. Such a scandalous and insidious coronation ought to be beneath the Guardian. This time, it was not. Consequently, Reuben Abati and Kingsley Osadolor should examine their fingers and their conscience for splotches.

Undeniably, it is the Guardian’s choice to name whomever they fancy as their “Man of the Year.” But they have no right to insult our collective intelligence, they have no right to dumb-down our collective thinking, they have no right to lower the bar or to lower our shared expectation; but most of all, they have no right to contribute to and encourage mediocrity. Mallam Nuhu Ribadu was a mediocre. And that’s being benevolent. Truth be told, he was less than that. In my view, and in the learned estimation of many, there should be no high marks or high regards for a man that was wasteful and incompetent and vengeful and who went out, in full vigor, in pursuit of selective justice.

Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, at least on the surface, is totally different from Chief Olusegun Obasanjo — except in one way: both men squandered the people’s prayers, goodwill and initial support. So much was expected of both men, but both men failed woefully. My only regret in this matter is in the manner in which the EFCC Chairman was removed. His shoddy, hasty, and undignified removal points to a Presidency that is weak, unsure, and deluged with many contradictory, and contentious voices, and egos. This is an administration lost in an ocean of stormy weather.

Mallam Nuhu Ribadu’s critics, virulent or not, cannot and will no deny his wide-ranging service and contribution to the well-being of the country. His services and contributions to the Republic is not what’s at bay here. It never has been, and never will be. No rational person will ever dismiss the contributions of our uniformed men and women. On my part I have always doffed my hat for and prostrated before them. These are, for the most part, a stellar group of men and women who, on a daily basis, lay their lives in the service of our country; these are men and women who encounter all sorts of challenges and bear all sorts of inconveniences for the good of our country.

What I object to is the pedestalization of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu vis-à-vis his tour as the Chairman of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). On that count and that count alone, he was a failure. Not a mere failure, but a monumental failure.

“With the arrival of the EFCC,” the Guardian Newspaper contends, “there was a change of momentum and direction, and renewed vigour in the pursuit of the anti-corruption war.” Oh no! Nothing can be further from the truth. The truth was that the EFCC announced their arrival with a big-bang; they made a lot of noise and created a lot of commotion going on to parade petty criminals while turning blind eyes to high crimes in big and mighty places. 419ers, street urchins, and Yahoo-yahoo boys were the primary targets of the EFCC. In a way this was understandable since this group of criminals were making mugu and mumu of greedy and gullible westerners.

Mallam Nuhu Ribadu won several awards (both dubious and legitimate) at home and abroad because he proved he could go after internet scam artists. He proved he could shut down internet café. He proved he could arrest and prosecute dubious bankers and money launderers. This was the group that was giving Nigeria a bad name abroad, sullying the country’s image. Image is important in international affairs. Additionally, this was the group that was sticking it to lazy, corrupt and greedy Westerners who thought they could get rich off of Nigerians without breaking sweats.

Looking at the big-picture now, what did Nuhu Ribadu and his EFCC do about high-end corruption? What did he do about all the billions and billions of petro-dollars that were stolen by Obasanjo & Associate? As events later made clear, going after the minions was the chief concern of the EFCC; the sharks were allowed to roam the oceans and to raid the treasury. Indeed, “Ribadu immediately proved to be of a different stock…He was resolute, determined and unrelenting” in going after petty thieves. In Ribadu’s Nigeria, it was not a big deal to steal twenty million dollars; but steal twenty thousand dollars and you’d be paraded before the global media and sentenced to twenty years in prison.

Listen to the Guardian: “Nuhu Ribadu was one man who made a great difference in the anti-corruption campaign and the erection of a legacy of integrity. He has provided quality leadership and he has shown that institutions can perform if properly led and if properly supported. Significantly, the passion with which he took his assignment, the courage that he demonstrated, his disregard for power and orthodoxy provided the momentum that kept the EFCC and its work on the national map.” This is laughable.

On the question of institutions, the Guardian was right. The role of institutions in nation building is very critical. I have opined that poor governance, failure of leadership and attenuated institutions are some of the ills that bedevil Nigeria. But Ribadu’s legacy, in so far as the EFCC and the anti-corruption war were concerned, will be dim and dull and sorrowful. And so on what basis does he become Nigeria’s “Man of the Year”?

The Guardian was wishful in thinking that there was a common parlance which went thus: “the fear of Ribadu’s EFCC is the beginning of wisdom.” What a myth. Oh what a myth! Rueben Abati and Kingsley Osadolor wish there was such thinking, such fear and such respect. Save for the first few months, nobody was afraid of Ribadu and the EFCC. Cooperate, collaborate and coordinate your activities with Obasanjo & Associate, and you’d be free to do as much as you want. Oppose or expose OBJ and his cartel, and you’d find yourself rubbished, accused and prosecuted. Now, who does not know that Obasanjo is the grandmaster of the Oyenusi Clan? In all of this, Ribadu considers Obasanjo a saint. Is this the type of man you crown “Man of the Year”?

Instead of waiting to be transferred or sent on professional development course, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu should have resigned. In fact, he should have resigned long ago. He should have resigned when it became obvious he was no longer of genuine and effective service to Nigeria by way of the EFCC. Sadly, his ego wouldn’t let him. He also failed to see that he was a puppet and a tool in Obasanjo’s game plan. Well, may be he knew but just didn’t care. Either way, the pronouncement of history and posterity will be swift and unkind to him. You don’t name such a man “Man of the Year.” It is undeserved.

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