Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the pioneer chairman of
Perhaps not since the assassination of the late Chief Bola Ige in 2001, have we had the Nigerian press buzzing over the fortunes of a single Nigerian man as it is doing over the Ribadu issue, with eminent Nigerians arguing across the lines. And as the debate rages on, it has been interesting to watch the direction of the argument from both sides particularly in the press. One side of the argument (which is in the majority) contends that the decision to send Ribadu on a study leave at this moment in our national life is part of a less-than-noble design. It has been argued that it is the design by certain powerful forces that have elected to try to undermine the anti-corruption war in
One can hardly hold such an office as Ribadu has held for the past five years, without stepping on some “powerful” toes big time. And very often, such ‘powerful’ elements will want him out no matter the cost. It may therefore, be true that the decision by the police hierarchy to send Ribadu on a study leave at this point, is part of a less-than-noble agenda of a cabal. But it may also be true that the police and the Nigerian presidency have taken the decision for noble reasons. This latter proposition may sound seriously debatable, while it remains to be seen what concrete plans the presidency has for a post-Ribadu EFCC. Of course, even if – and to many, that is a big ‘if’ – the presidency has indeed acted in the best interest of Ribadu, the commission and the war against corruption in Nigeria, it still does not excuse the naïve and clumsy manner they have handled the issue. The fight against corruption in
As the pioneer chairman of the EFCC, a position that he has, in the estimation of most people, including this writer, defended largely creditably, it is perhaps understandable that Ribadu and many Nigerians would feel a tinge of nostalgia and even panic and apprehension at the thought of Ribadu leaving the EFCC for any length of time. And there in lies the comedy and tragedy of it all. The EFCC, like most other government agencies in this country, has been ultra-reliant on the personality of the man at the helms rather than been an agency that thrives on its own pedigree without the larger-than-life image of Ribadu. Hence, the apprehension Nigerians are displaying now has its roots in the belief that without Ribadu there is no EFCC and the war against corruption will be considerably compromised. And this is the challenge that President Yar’Adua and whoever gets to fill Ribadu’s shoes must meet. We must reorganise the EFCC such that it will rely on its own structures and functions rather than the image of its chairman. And this also goes for other government agencies.
Nevertheless, for us to suggest that Ribadu’s exit from the commission is a national disaster means that we are tacitly conceding that there is no other Nigerian that can come unto the job with equal, if not more enthusiasm, guts, drive and patriotism as Ribadu has done in the past five years of the commission’s life. This, in itself, is an unfortunate proposition and a sour point to ponder. Rightly or wrongly, some people in some quarters feel that Ribadu has been selective in the prosecution of perceived corrupt public officers and other financial criminals. Wouldn’t it be wise, therefore, for us to try having a Ribadu-less EFCC for a change? As noted earlier, the man has done a yeoman’s job as the chairman of the EFCC. But we may not really know how much the commission has matured so long as it remains under the overwhelming image of the charismatic Ribadu. And there are many Nigerians out there, well-known and relatively unknown – just like Ribadu was before he and the EFCC crossed paths – that are capable of doing as good a job as and even better than Ribadu has done at the commission. So let us concentrate our efforts on finding an unbiased umpire in this corruption versus national interest issue.