World Bank: Ribadu's Open Editorial, Simply An Intrusion

by Ossie Ezeaku

Nigeria’s notoriety in unethical practices and corruption is still very well renowned. She’s still ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world. While the current administration often talk of her efforts in fighting the menace, the truth is that those efforts, from the evidences on the ground, were targeted specifically at dissenting political voices.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under Mr. Nuhu Ribadu: Though the agency has very recently been removed from the direct control of the presidency, but while It was under the executive arm of the government, Nigerians saw Pres. Obasanjo, use the body to derail the political progress of his enemies.

And Ribadu, most probably afraid of losing his job, never stood up in defense of the independence of the organization which he chaired. This and some other troubling issues led to the Nigerian Senate’s decision to constitutionally disarm the President of the full control of the crime-fighting out-fit

Having said that, the fight against corruption ought to be sundry, irrespective of whose ox is gored in the process. So far, most of Ribadu’s actions have been partisan; a clear selective application of the law. Even at that, we’ve not heard much about the loot of the last military regime, that of Babangida, and other well known former public officials in Nigeria.

Mr. Ribadu has recently written an Op-Ed in the International Herald Tribune, in which he asked the Board of the World Bank not to fire Its President, Dr. Paul Wolfowitz. He reasoned that Dr. Wolfowitz has done much for Africa, and as such should be allowed to keep his job.

Dr. Wolfowitz who was recently alleged among other things, to have used his position to influence the promotion of his female friend is under investigation. Though an Op-ed is assumed to represent someone’s personal opinion, but for such an article for whatever reasons, to have been written by an anti-vice icon such as Ribadu was mind boggling. It was damaging. It did compromise the ideals which Ribadu is known to be actively pursuing.

Thus the question is: Have we rid our own system of its well known corruption and unethical practices? If the answer to the question is no. Then, Ribadu in effect, has no moral authority to get involved in the case of Dr. Wolfowitz and the Board of the World Bank.

To the contrary, and as a matter of importance, Mr. Ribadu should have been studying the dynamics of the on-going investigation of the World Bank President. For this type of case has many replicas in Nigeria. The saying that one has to get himself cleaned up before asking to inspect a hygiene parade of others, plays itself out here.

The emotional plea that he made on behalf of Wolfowitz was not only naive, It indeed was an intrusion. And If one may ask: On what capacity yet did he do that? If the World Bank president, Dr. Paul Wolfowitz, used his plum office (which is a common and nonpunishable practice in Ribadu’s Nigeria) to influence the promotion of his female friend, he should face the consequences arising from it.

I don’t think that I have witnessed any representative of a government agency come out in defense of someone accused of ethical breach in a body such as that of World Bank, armed with no reasonable evidence other than mere emotions.

Mr. Ribadu need to study how things were done in other lands. From my understanding, he does not know what obtains in the West. He probably must have on leaving school, joined the Nigerian police. And may also have thought that he knows how the system works here. The experience gained while.visiting a place was quite different from that gained living and working there.

These are lands where attention is paid to the tiniest of things. Unlike in Nigeria, the West has zero tolerance in vices associated with holding a public office. I remember the case of Mike Espy, Former US Agriculture Secretary, who halted tougher new chicken inspection programs in exchange for gifts (not cash). I remember that it was flower gifts from Tyson executives. Espy ended up loosing his job, and was convicted. While Tyson had to pay $6 million in fines.

Governments and institutions in the West try as much as possible to maintain the highest ethical standards in their affairs. There is no room for pleas when these standards are compromised. The level of official corruption and ethical decadence in Nigeria, should mean that Ribadu uphold these standards even in the tiniest of violations. Nigerians living in the West are enjoying the fruits of keeping these standards alive. He should know.

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Chiwuike May 16, 2007 - 1:35 pm

Excellent article. Even more so, since I just came back from home (Nigeria) 2 days ago. I was traveling from my Village (Ikirika, Uduki) to Port Harcourt when I was harrassed and embarrased by Police for using my Camcorder. They held me for almost 2hrs while my family and I pleaded with them. I said I could be a spy working for the US or some faction of Nigerian rebels. They finally gave me back my electronic gadgets (digicam and camcorder) after 5000 Naira and bottle of Champagne and demanded that the scenes be deleted and confiscated the memory card with my written statement they dictated for me to write. I guess Ribadu does not see corruption as a problem for him to be defending an indefensible action. Especially as it involves this Devil that has caused the perishing of thousands of lives, both U.S and Iraqis. Shame on him.

Paul Odu (USA) May 10, 2007 - 8:05 pm

Ribadu obviously does not understand that the west would always prosecute offenders in their society no matter how highly placed they are. There is no room for compromise for corruption ( no matter how tiny) from any pubic official. Why must he be asking for pardon for Dr. Paul Wolfowitz when he has no business doing so? His action clearly confirmed that he has been found wanting in his fight to check corruption in Nigeria. One is not surprised therefore to hear Ribadu say that neither Obasanjo nor his PDP cronies have committed any financial crime since coming to power in 1999, when there are facts to support their crimes. Ribadu should help Nigerians unravel how Obasanjo got the billions he is spending on his presidential library, his role in the PTF scandal, and the billions he invested in his Ota farm rather than putting his mouth in other people's business.


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