THE REAL TROUBLE WITH EL-RUFAI AND RIBADU
Recently, one of Nigeria’s most respected opinion writers ever, Mr. Sonala Olumhense, crafted another great piece: “ There Is No Rift Between OBJ and GEJ” in which he raised one very important point: why former President Olusegun Obasanjo could have identified the late President Umaru Yar’Adua as his fitting successor. He wrote: “But let us, for one moment, give Obasanjo the benefit of the doubt and assume that he had simply been seduced by Yar’Adua’s record as governor of Katsina State.
“But he then chose Jonathan as Yar’Adua’s running mate. Jonathan had been governor for less than one year at the time that Obasanjo called him and said, “I am going to make you Vice-President.”
What was Jonathan’s record? He had been a teacher and an environmental inspector before his adventure in politics. His record was unremarkable, and he would never have stood out in a casual search for achievers.
“But Obasanjo chose him for the vice-presidency.
“What is even more astonishing is that as Obasanjo made that choice, he had in his hands the report of his 2006 Joint Task Force (JTF) on corruption, which, just months earlier, had indicted Mr. Jonathan and many other serving and former governors for breaching the Code of Conduct Bureau Act.
“Members of the JTF were the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB); the Department of State Services (DSS); and the Nigeria Police.
“The panel was chaired by Mr. Nuhu Ribadu in his capacity as the chairman of the EFCC. Among others, it indicted Jonathan for false declaration of assets, and he was recommended for prosecution.
“That is the report that was in Obasanjo’s hands in 2006 as he declared Mr. Jonathan to be the best person he could find in all of the South of Nigeria to become Vice-President”.
The great “S.O” was not only right; his uncommon insight into events is legendary. Reading him has always been a great privilege to me; often he is my Editor all over again, giving his Reporter a new vista of looking at things and new pegs on which to hang new stories.
The place to begin is to ask and answer the simple questions: How and why did Obasanjo choose the two men? The question remains relevant especially as Nigeria has been lurching towards the precipice, like a drunk, under the unfortunate administrations that seized the luckless nation since 1999.
Hey, will I also be accused of defending Obasanjo, Jonathan or Yar’Adua? Though I fully believe with Prof Chinua Achebe that a writer need not offer apologies for writing, I feel the need to define my stand on this issue for I am tired of being whimsically compartmentalized. About the opening sentence in one of my unpublished literary works is this: “Perhaps, never in history did a people wait for so long, for so little, as Nigerians waited and hoped for good leadership from three elected Presidents in the 12 years which this book covers (1999 -2011); and they were convincingly, thoroughly and unmistakably disappointed, no, betrayed”.
Now, fully confident that none will accuse me of defending Obasanjo, I call attention to page 356 of Nasir el-Rufai’s book “The Accidental Public Servant”. El-Rufai wrote: “Obasanjo chose Yar’Adua for reasons that to this day nobody can be sure of”. This is a supreme insult to Nigerian democracy for it makes the very idea of that democracy a sham; no single person is supposed to choose any leader for any nation.
Yet…, yet, this idea of a single man sitting somewhere and choosing Nigeria’s leaders for the NEXT 24 YEARS, was one great recommendation the self-advertised brainy and incomparable el-Rufai and one of the numerous committees he served on, fed Obasanjo in a document dated August 2006, but unsigned, whose authors are now known thanks to el-Rufai’s garrulousness - titled Draft Succession Strategy, Presidential Advisory Team (T6), Nigeria 20 -2020 From 2006 to 2020 Sustainability And Succession Plan, Draft for Discussion (Confidential).
Interestingly, a subsection of that document, “Selection of Presidential and VP Candidates For The PDP” contains this grave sin as recommended: that Obasanjo should identify and nominate those to provide leadership “for Nigeria for the next 24 years. This can be achieved by considering three excellent people who could both be effective Presidents and loyal VPs from the North and South. The North could generate candidates N1, N2, N3, and the South S1, S2 and S3.” So, here we are complaining that Obasanjo chose Yar’Adua and his successor Jonathan, but what if he had set in motion the machinery to provide those six persons to lead Nigeria for the next 24 years as was recommended to him?
In another section called the “President’s Core Group”, El-Rufai and Co recommended: “the function of the Core Group is to systematically coordinate the use of the Police, SSS, EFCC, ICPC and other state organs as per their respective roles before and during the elections based on the new approaches which subject matter will be detailed out subsequently.” Moreover, this group further advised that it should also determine the “Selection criteria for nomination of President/VP, Governorship and Legislative candidates” and “Agree to support the emergence and election of reform-minded candidates at all levels in 2007”.
So, a full-fledged dictatorship was being planned. But for whose benefit? The document supplied the answer in its “Preamble”: that only the implementers of Obasanjo’s Economic Reform Agenda (ERA) should be allowed to come to power – “in the next 24 years”, yes twenty-four years. And now, Ribadu and El-Rufai are pretending at being democrats strengthening the opposition. How gullible Nigerians can be!
And who was the most visible implementer of that ERA? The answer is El-Rufai and nobody else! Now, if you have taken note of the August 2006 date of that diabolical document that would have done Hitler’s Third Reich proud, you will understand why Nuhu Ribadu, hypocritically claiming to be fighting corruption, went to the Senate the very next month to sack all the serving Governors as corrupt – in the so-called indicted list that the illustrious Sonala cited in his article. And Nigerians, gullible as ever, justifiably baying for the blood of corrupt politicians, hailed Ribadu, not knowing that all he was doing was playing politics in the interest of his puppet master, El-Rufai. Here, at least two Nigerians (Mr. Daniel Elomba of elomba.com and Mr. Adeseni Coker, two discussants I grew close to on the internet discussion for a but never personally met) can bear me witness that I have often told them that Ribadu was the puppet and El-Rufai was the puppeteer.
When Obasanjo grew weary of the El-Rufai-for-president group, mistakenly tagged Economic Reform Team or several versions of that high-faluting nonsense, after he had seen through the members’ machinations and power-grab-grab tendencies, perhaps he did not want to hand over power to Nigeria’s second Diminutive Demon (Abacha was the first).
Yet, to give El-Rufai his due, at least his brain was functional, and that brain told him that the game was over – when Yar’Adua informed him that Obasanjo had picked him for the presidency. But Ribadu, who has never been an incandescent mind, thought that the force he packed through his Economic and Financial Crimes Commission chairmanship was enough to turn the table. If you find this surprising, please remember that Hitler also once launched a coup attempt with a rag-tag group straight from a bear palour. It’s the mindset, stupid! Ribadu had used the EFCC as a battering ram to bring down some state governors through illegal impeachments; so he thought his powers to be almighty.
That was how and when Ribadu moved against Yar’Adua, on trumped up charges, as El-Rufai informed us in his book. El-Rufai continued that he told Ribadu: (page 359) “You want me to be President because I am your friend, not because you think I am quite different or better than Yar’Adua”. El-Rufai added in that book (because of Ribadu’s actions against Yar’Adua) “things have really gone bad for me and all of us”. In fact, El-Rufai’s title for that section of the book is telling: “Umaru Asks Nuhu For Support; The Beginning of Our Problems”.
Yet, in two different books: “My Story; My Vision” by Ribadu himself and in Wale Adebanwi’s “A Paradise for Maggots”, Ribadu never mentioned his quixotic actions against Yar’Adua and the repercussions against him and friends. Instead, he claimed that he was fighting corruption and Yar’Adua went after him after he arrested Yar’Adua’s friend; James Onanefe Ibori. And Nigerians, not seeing through his lies, gave him their blind support. You could also read through Azubuike Ishiekwene’s “The Trial of Nuhu Ribadu” and you would never know that Ribadu acted corruptly against Yar’Adua and so Yar’Adua had the most cogent reasons for not wanting Ribadu as head of EFCC.
Now, why did Obasanjo pick Yar’Adua? First, the Governors Forum, then headed by the then Ekiti Governor, Ayo Fayose, chose Yar’Adua when Obasanjo asked the Governors to reach a consensus. He also asked the Senators to do the same, but they couldn’t. Yet, the El-Rufai teams had plotted to eclipse every one of the Senators and the then Governors as they were never in Obasanjo’s economic team; here, it becomes clear why El-Rufai and friends kept harping on that nonsensical team. It was a ploy to inherit political power. Why did the Governors pick Yar’Adua, a man who had hardly attended even one single meeting of the Governors’ Forum? I do not have the answer as I have not asked any former Governor that question.
Now, about Jonathan’s choice as VP! In a bid to clear the way for El-Rufai, Ribadu had stepped on the toes of several Governors of that era. He had also attempted to arrest any who showed interest in the presidency; Gen. Buba Marwa, for instance and threatened to arrest Gen Ibrahim Babangida (rtd). He had betrayed himself in the Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF) investigations, going after Atiku Abubakar alone, leaving off glaring evidences of corruption; how over N3 Billion passed through an Obasanjo aide, one Bodunde, how Obasanjo’s lawyer received about N250 million as fee for registering a company at the Corporate Affairs Commission, Abuja, how Obasanjo’s then Spokesperson received N100 million for pictures for the State House Library, how millions of Naira were spent to provide an elevator for PTDF’s two-storey office, etc, etc.
Now, Ribadu and friends played Obasanjo’s script against River’s Peter Odili and for the benefit of Goodluck Jonathan. Why? Jonathan became Bayelsa state Governor before 2007 simply because his boss, Depriye Alamieyesiegha was impeached. He Jonathan was in Obasanjo’s camp while Alamieyesiegha was squarely with former Vice-President Atiku. Jonathan could be trusted to protect the interests of the Obasanjo gang, because he would have much to be grateful for and because he was so terribly meek that you could say he had the soul of a serf.
And that explains why Jonathan also went after Ibori and Henry Okah once he clawed his way into Aso Rock, becoming the worst Head of Government in the leakage of state matters to foreign embassies just like the loose-lipped and Western embassies – besotted El-Rufai and Ribadu. Ibori and Okah both supported Alamieyesiegha and family when others abandoned them. Jonathan concluded that action meant Ibori and Okah did not want him to become a state Governor. I hope this takes care of the nonsense people have been mouthing; that Jonathan went after Ibori because Ibori had allegedly opposed his becoming Acting President. To Jonathan, the battle line was drawn long ago while he was Deputy Governor with sights on the visible prize; the Bayelsa state governor’s office. Very early in the morning that day when Alamieyeseigha returned from Britain, a phone call woke me from sleep; the pro-Jonathan group was rousing journalists into action against his boss.
And that is the same Jonathan of whom conventional wisdom says that he has never schemed for any office.
Written By Tony Eluemunor