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2011: RIBADU'S EXPECTED ROLE, INEC CHAIRMANSHIP OR PRESIDENCY BEING CONSIDERED

By NBF NEWS
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Mallam Nuhu Ribadu
Former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, maybe ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo's joker in his quest to have one of his associates occupy the presidential villa next year or take charge of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Saturday Sun gathered that drafting Ribadu into the presidential race next year is the Plan B of the Obasanjo camp, in case the desire for Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to contest in the election, owing to the zoning arrangement in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) fails. Also, the other option is for him to be INEC chairman.

Jonathan had told the Cable News Network (CNN) that he had many option regarding next year's elections. According to him, he has the option of running as somebody's vice presidential candidate or, in the alternative, running for president, despite saying that this is not his priority at the moment.

However, sources close to Obasanjo said that realising that it could be difficult to sell the Jonathan 2011 presidency to the North, most especially, since the zone wants to also have eight years rule, as the South did between 1999 and 2007, the former President's camp considered the option of getting somebody, who is popular, from the North, to contest for the number one seat.

It was gathered that Ribadu was considered, as the Obasanjo camp reckoned that with his popularity, garnered while he was chairman of the EFCC, he would be accepted by most Nigerians, if presented for the election.

Plan to remove his blemish
To set the tune for the option, the camp pressed for the withdrawal of charges against the former EFCC chairman before the Code of Conduct Bureau. With this done, it was learnt that the next plan is for Ribadu's dismissal from the police to be converted to retirement. Also, the group is working to get the court to speed up the case Ribadu filed against the police, challenging his dismissal, where it is expected that the police action would be voided by the court.

Sources revealed that contrary to the belief that Jonathan wants to reappoint Ribadu as chairman of the EFCC or presidential adviser on war against corruption, the real plan is to clear whatever encumbrance may hinder the former anti-graft czar from contesting election so that if the group settles for Plan B, he would be drafted into the 2011 race.

Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Alhaji Mohammed Adoke, had, during a visit to the EFCC recently, said that government had no plan to reappoint Ribadu as the anti-graft agency chairman. Ribadu himself, while speaking from the United States, had also said something to the effect that he was not aware of any plan for him to return to the EFCC. He had hinted that he would return to the country in May.

Ribadu expected back next month
Saturday Sun gathered that when Ribadu returns, he would make himself visible, by what he would be saying as well as his daily activities. This is in order for him to return to public consciousness, while he awaits the greenlight for his role in 2011 elections.

It was gathered that media teams were being set up for the former EFCC chairman, with a view to managing his image boosting campaign.

The INEC option
Saturday Sun gathered that with Jonathan's promise to ensure that the country conducts credible election next year, Ribadu may play a role in the conduct of the election. Specifically, sources close to the presidential villa said that he maybe appointed to replace Prof Maurice Iwu, whose tenure as INEC chairman will end in June.

The option to have Ribadu at INEC, it was gathered, is to have an electoral body Nigerians and the international community will have confidence in. His activities at the EFCC, it was learnt, gave the impetus that he would do well as INEC chairman.

Jonathan had hinted that there would be a shake-up at INEC during his trip to the US. He had told the CNN that the tenure of Iwu and other commissioners of INEC would end by June, by which time, he revealed, the government would review their cases on individual merit.

He had said in the interview with CNN: 'On the issue of the people at INEC, I told them that, look, between now and ending of June, most of the officials at the national level - they're called commissioners - their tenure will end, and we're going to review them.'

He also said: 'So, the issue is beyond Iwu because we must set up an electoral system and our regulations and laws that will make sure that anybody who is appointed to that office should be able to conduct acceptable elections. And that is my focus.'

Jonathan's meeting with Ribadu
The Jonathan camp is in the know about the plans for Ribadu. This is why charges against the former police officer were withdrawn. This is also why the acting president met with him in the US, during his five-day visit.

In the meeting, Jonathan was said to have assured Ribadu of his safety in Nigeria. He also told him that he would get a role in the coming days in the country, without specifically revealing his plan.