Is Malam Nuhu Ribadu a Saint?
This article was prompted by three objectives. First is to salute the wisdom of President Jonathan for redressing the injustice meted out to Malam Nuhu Ribadu. Second, to bring to Ribadu's notice that although he did fairly well, the saintly posturing in which he has been portrayed is not quiet so. On the contrary, as Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), he perverted justice by the administration of selective treatment and turned the Commission into Obasanjo's attack dog. Third, to establish the fact that the fight against corruption can only record severe reverses if agencies are headed by men or women from the Nigerian Police Force.
It is a settled principle that situations and circumstances can produce leaders, and history is replete with a huge array of such leaders. It is also settled that man is a creation of society, just as an organization begets the leadership it deserves. Every individual is a mirror image of the organization he/she serves. The police institution in Nigeria is one corrupt institution that has acquired universal notoriety. Since the visit of the U.S. secretary of state Mrs. Hilary Clinton and her scathing criticism of the anti-corruption, there has been an urgent need for reappraisal of the crusade.
When the EFCC was established, expectations were high due largely to the fact that corruption has eroded public confidence in most organizations. When Malam Nuhu Ribadu was appointed the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the initial steps taken by the EFCC crime buster were fair within the context of Nigeria. The major impediment was that the crusade was turned into a punic war well-orchestrated to settle political scores, especially against the anti-tenure elongation group. It was alleged (and there is sufficient proof) that the EFCC beamed its searchlight mostly on the political foes of former President Obasanjo and Ribadu could not hold his head above such executive fiat issued from Otta Farm. Rather than treat petitions to the Commission, he needed overwhelming facts before commencing investigations. Thus the clause 'insufficient evidence' was used as safety valve for deliberately glossing over cases, and most corrupt public officers were shielded. The scores of petitions written against some corrupt officials in Federal Government parastatals were left unattended to.
As a person, Malam Nuhu Ribadu could have resisted the temptation of acting out the script of his paymaster, but as EFCC Chairman, he could not live above board. It was his ability to act the choreographed scripts that might have prompted Aso Rock to give him double promotion, without regard to the Police Service rules. For instance, the EFCC confessed that 30 Governors were being investigated, but until he left office, not up to four of them were actually investigated, and only two were actually prosecuted. But there were very reported cases of corrupt Governors who were deliberately ignored by the anti-graft agency. Ribadu only brandished his Interim Report on Governor Peter Odili a few days to the PDP Convention, ostensibly to disqualify him from aspiring to the Presidency. He was left off the hook as soon as the contest was over.
The Senate Ad Hoc Committee on the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) started the probe of allegations of corruption in the PTDF, the Campaign for Accountable Governance through Elections (CAGE) had asked the Committee to uphold transparency, accountability and fairness in undertaking this important constitutional task. The Senate Committee was established following reports that out of about $700 million realized during the 2002/2003 bidding rounds only about $145 is known to have been transferred to the PTDF account. Cases like this are legion, but the EFCC under Ribadu did not investigate these cases of corruption.
In the words of Femi Falana 'It robs citizens of their potential and aspirations for a brighter future, as well as fuels transnational crimes and threatens a nation's collective security. Dishonest, corrupt, and unethical behaviour among public officials undermines the trust and confidence of the people that government can do "good" and advance the public interest'. To these lines could be added the inherently destructive tendency of corruption of democracy and the rule of law. The picture is worse in a nation like Nigeria, which is struggling to break the cycle of poverty, corruption and pave the way for accountability and good governance.
It is evident that the political leadership in Abuja lacks the political will to advance democratic reforms and implement anti-corruption laws consistently and impartially. The lack of political will, coupled with double standard, is mostly evident in the government deliberate policy of relying on a diluted and politically motivated notion of the rule of law to justify many of its actions. What is needed therefore is for the government to do what it preaches by ensuring that no one is above the law, and by demonstrating a faithful commitment to the anti-corruption fight.
The appointment of Mrs. Farida Waziri as the head of the anti-corruption apparatus following Mallam Nuhu Ribadu's demotion and subsequent dismissal was greeted with approval by Nigerians. This is understandable following series of compromises witnessed under the latter's leadership; Ribadu became a handy tool of vendetta in the filthy hands OBJ during his era of 'democratic dictatorship'. The Ribadu led war on corruption lost public acceptance when his EFCC started prosecuting OBJ's political foes in what best passes as witch-hunt reminiscent of medieval Europe. The flagrant disregard of court orders is one of the trademarks of Ribadu's EFCC. A member of the House of Representatives - Hon. Morris Ibekwe died under EFCC detention despite a court order that granted him access to medical treatment.
Towards the end of the Obasanjo administration phrases like 'soft landing' and 'plea bargain' were introduced as patchworks into the lexicon of the anti-corruption outfit. There was deep-seated suspicion the ex-President OBJ was using EFCC to protect those he loved and to persecute those who had fallen out of favour with him. Such fears were confirmed by the behaviour of the then EFCC Chairman. The alacrity with which the EFCC pursued the cases of Governors Joshua Dariye and DSP Alamieyeseigha portrayed him as a man waging a war of vendetta of some sort. It was the same 'holy war ' he waged against the succession bid of Atiku - his Vice-President. As long as the battle against Atiku lasted, the then EFCC Tzar was never known to be an impartial umpire.
Another case Ribadu treated with levity was the case involving Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello. When the bribery scandal of Senator Wagbara, Professor Fabian Osuji came up, the EFCC swooped on Prof Adenike Grange and she and the junior Minister of Health were promptly sacked but Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello was not touched because she is the President's daughter. Ex-President OBJ has retired into stupendous wealth and albeit even clerics have been calling for his probe, EFCC has ignored such calls. The case of Olabode George was prosecuted by EFCC to save its face in a matter that was bad from the onset. It will be recalled that Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Belo was involved in a N3.5bilion contract scam, which was not investigated by Ribadu, but Waziri has since commenced investigations into allegation of fraud levelled against some members of the Senate Committee on power.
The extremists' traits manifested in Mallam Nuhu's EFCC, contributed grossly to the lack of sympathy visited on him when the table turned. Till date the Ribadu debacle concerning the sales of ex-governor Alamiesegha's confiscated assets to fraudulent and unregistered companies is yet to be resolved. The continued appointment of police officers and those with police credentials maybe slowing down the fight against corruption, following their (police) antecedents we may well consider the thieving tendencies of their ranks on our roads to be manifest following allegations and counter-allegations of extortion by Farida's deputies from corrupt individuals and public officials. In Nigeria, corruption seems to exist in the DNA of every policeman. This is not to say that there are not a few who do policing with dignity and honour.
Although Ribadu is not a saint, he fought a patriotic battle but deliberately covered-up some corrupt people who are either Obasanjo's cronies or PDP apologists. That was why the Pentascope saga; the yet to be resolved PTDF scandal; the financial malfeasance of the ex-inspector General Sunday Ehindero; the corruption earthquake in the Siemens and Halliburton have not been thoroughly investigated. But in the case of the Former Inspector General Tafa Balogun, he was not only arraigned but also maltreated like a common criminal, maybe because he fell out of favour with former President Obasanjo.
Malam Ribadu also played a less than edifying role in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC,. Several Civil Society Organizations petitioned the activities of the Commission, especially the nearly N45 billion the NDDC spent on the 259 page Master Plan. Ribadu never wanted to examine such petitions, fuelling rumours that so much water might have passed under the bridge and the bridge might have been broken.
Malam Nuhu Ribadu made most Nigerians believe that Nigeria is George Orwells Animal Farm , but the divine standard of judgment is not crooked. As human mortals our standard of judgment should be a reflection and approximation of God's divine standard of justice. But unfortunately Ribadu's behaviour was most of the time inconsistent with his role as an impartial umpire. Plus or minus Malam Nuhu Ribadu increased the momentum of the anti-corruption war which is now being sustained by his successor. Beatifying Ribadu is giving him too much accolades for a crusade he started well but twisted to the megalomania of his paymasters. Most often he consulted with the gods of Ota Farm before taking crucial decisions- an indication that Ribadu was bent more on satiating OBJ than pursue the crusade with zeal and according to the rule of Law. Mallam Ribadu was never and is never a saint.
While this writer expresses gratitude to President Goodluck Jonathan for undoing the injustice meted out to Ribadu - who is a product of a corrupt establishment - the Nigerian Police Force. No Nigerian policeman or politician for that matter can be a saint at least not now. Ribadu cannot be a saint because he was a police officer who worked under the preponderant influence of a civilian dictator-OBJ. It is the wish of this writer that EFCC investigations be conducted with fairness and in such a manner that is not persecutory, sensational or political. When Mrs Farida's tenure expires, a replacement should not come from the NPF but from other institutions. In any architecture, there is equity between the pragmatic function and the symbolic function. The anti-graft agencies in Nigeria should place premium on the pragmatic rather than the symbolic, for t here is but one law for all, namely the law of our Creator, the law of humanity, justice and equity.
Idumange John, wrote the article when he was replaced by Mrs Farida Waziri