Re-visiting Ribadu’s Demotion – Was it a Conspiracy?

by Sheyi Oriade

Because of the conspiratorial and unceremonious manner in which Mallam Nuhu Ribadu was displaced from the chairmanship of the EFCC, and banished to a classroom in Kuru; the federal government in the eyes of the people, created a rod of suspicion for its own back. It is a rod which Nigerians are now quick to employ to inflict lashes of their lack of faith and cynicism upon the government’s back, whenever it claims to be avowed to furthering the fight against official corruption.

Unfortunately for the government, not only are its credentials largely in doubt in the anti-corruption arena; its attitude towards Mallam Ribadu (who for many came to personify anti-corruptionism) is also viewed with suspicion. And for a government which is merely over a year into its tenure, it is a regrettable position to be in. For it conveys the notion to observers, that where its anti-corruption agenda is concerned, it is the tail that is wagging the dog, and not the other way round.

Last week’s announcement by the Police Service Commission (PSC) of its decision to reverse the promotions of 140 police officers; notable amongst whom, was Mallam Ribadu, met with a predictable outcry of outrage. An outcry which was further compounded by the accompanying belief that there is an official conspiracy against Mallam Ribadu; but remarkably, not necessarily against the other affected officers.

It is ironic, that on the one occasion when a police oversight body, acted to cleanse the police force of some of its internal irregularities; it was deemed not to have done so in good faith. Ordinarily, given the pervasive dysfunction across Nigerian government agencies, the PSC ought to have been applauded for its decisiveness in seeking to restore order in the police force. But because of the cloud of mistrust hanging over the government, the PSC finds itself caught in a vicarious web of suspicion, and its action deemed conspiratorial.

Proving conspiracies at the best of times is a difficult thing. Since such plots are often hatched and executed in and from dark places. But what is not difficult to prove, because it is as clear as the bright light of day, is the fact that Mallam Ribadu has many enemies. Broadly speaking these enemies fall into two main categories. In the first group, are those who hate him because of his muscular performance at the EFCC. While the second category consists of those who dislike him because of his presumed ‘haughty’ personality and they also resent him because of his once favoured status and that which went with it. Those in this group are to be found in the mid to higher echelons of the police force.

As for his enemies in the first category, there is no doubt about the fact that it is they who saw to his removal as chairman of the EFCC. They are the class of influential and corrupt political functionaries, for whom he was a constant thorn in the flesh. My guess is that once they had exacted their pound of flesh, they now ignore him, being preoccupied as they are with their favourite vocation of robbing the nation. The second group of enemies may or may not have had a hand in egging on the PSC in his demotion; and if they did not, they are no doubt pleased about the outcome. This hypothesis is based on two separate incidents involving Mallam Ribadu and the police force, during his tenure at the EFCC.

The first incident, has to do with Mallam Ribadu’s humbling of Mr. Tafa Balogun; the former Inspector-General of Police. During his corruption trial, Mr. Balogun, presumably on Mallam Ribadu’s orders, was brought to court in handcuffs; normal treatment accorded to those facing criminal charges. But it was clear that this treatment of Mr. Balogun was frowned upon in some quarters. During the same trial, on one occasion, in a display of overzealousness on the part of some EFCC officials, Mr. Balogun was to be seen dragged along from a moving vehicle when being taking away from the court premises.

Whilst the above episodes might have made interesting theatre for many Nigerians, it left a bad taste in the mouths of some former and serving senior police officers. Many of whom, found it difficult to reconcile in their minds how it was that a relatively junior police officer could treat his former Inspector-General in such a manner.

The second incident, relates to the period towards the end of the previous government’s tenure in office. At that time speculation was rife and rumours were circulating that Mallam Ribadu was set to replace Mr. Ehindero as Inspector-General of Police, and this on his recommendation. But this could only happen, if about two hundred senior officers were let go from the police force. As it turns out, no such appointment was made; because somehow, someone, somewhere, baulked at the idea of a mass sacrifice of officers for the sake of one officer.

Of those two hundred senior officers, a sizable number of them still remain in the police force today. And it is doubtful that any of them would have much affection or regard for Mallam Ribadu seeing how close they came to the chop. I imagine that this group of officers and those who retain residual loyalty to Mr. Tafa Balogun must have been delighted at Mallam Ribadu’s demotion. But being delighted at someone’s misfortune and being involved in a conspiracy against that person are entirely different matters.

But conspiracies aside, was the PSC wrong to have done what it did? And were Mallam Ribadu’s rapid promotions justified? There is no doubt that the PSC acted within its proper remit for the police. And the fact that its action was undertaken without discrimination towards a whole range of officers, including a deceased officer, shows that it acted dispassionately. And rather than condemn it for its approach, we ought to commend it.

Now in respect to Mallam Ribadu’s rapid promotions, as an avowed admirer of his, I always felt that the previous government over played its hand in the manner in which it promoted him. Its actions bore the hallmark of nepotism and cronyism, which were discriminatory towards other equally capable and high performing officers who were not in the national limelight and did not have patrons in high places. And as far as I am concerned nepotism and cronyism can be as insidious in effect as other forms of corruption in public life.

Unfortunately for Mallam Ribadu at the time of his swift promotion to Assistant Inspector-General of Police, when questioned by the media, his attempts at justifying his elevation did not come across very well. He made reference to the fact that his peers in other professions had made greater advancements and that his elevation was no big deal. He came across as being insensitive to his peers in the police whom he had surpassed. It was ill advised, and would not have been well received by his peers in the police.

The appropriate reward for Mallam Ribadu in my view would have been no more than one or two promotions in line with that of his other high performing colleagues in the police; and possibly a national honour in recognition of his services at the EFCC. Or better still, on his secondment to the EFCC, he could have been given a temporary promotion to befit his new status, much in the manner that senior army officers are given when seconded on peacekeeping duties in conflict areas. These officers often revert to their substantive ranks at the end of their tours of duty.

I think that Mallam Ribadu is a fine and intelligent police officer who has what it takes to rise to the top of his chosen profession in his own right and at the right time given the right opportunities.

It would be wrong for anyone to form the opinion that anyone who takes a view which may be construed as being critical of Mallam Ribadu in anyway or supportive of the PSC’s stance is somehow in favour of corruption in Nigeria. This is an erroneous position to assume; and it has no bearing on the truth. For like many others, I am wholly opposed to corruption in our national life.

I wholly support what he did at the EFCC, and like others was deeply disappointed at his removal. My admiration for him in time past has been expressed in public spaces in two fairly laudatory articles ‘Ribadu on my Mind’ and ‘Farewell Mallam Ribadu.’

But to answer the question posed by the title of this piece, I am inclined to say that his demotion was not the result of a conspiracy, but the result of the PSC’s desire to sanitise, and correct anomalies, in the police, regardless of whose oxen was gored in the process. But his removal from the EFCC on the other hand was definitely the result of a conspiracy.

In any case, I hope that Mallam Ribadu remains within the police force and that he has the courage to weather this current storm. I also hope that he one day rises to the pinnacle of his chosen profession on the wings of personal merit so that he can resume his admirable battle against the many corrupt in our midst.

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