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RIBADU’S TIGER-TAIL

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'There is nowhere in the world where you help somebody to power and his reward for you is that you go to jail. It doesn't happen anywhere and it won't begin with me.' -James Ononafe Ibori,

Governor of Delta State (1999-2007)
Did you know that the administration of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua (1952-2011) was viewed through negative lens not only by Nigerians, but by both Washington and London particularly for being too indulgent of the former Governor of Delta State (1999-2007), James Ononafe Ibori, who is currently spending time for money laundering in a British prison, and by its blatant and outright humiliation of the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu, on account of the evil machinations of Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (2007-2010), who was not only secretly running Ibori's errand but had, indeed, become no more than a personal attorney to the former governor, who repeatedly lied that he had no previous convictions?

Without mincing words, this 'Gang up' (involving Yar'Adua, Ibori, and Aondoakaa against Ribadu) greatly undermined President Yar'Adua's 'reputation of personal integrity' which his ascension to office had promoted given the unequalled and unprecedented declaration of assets by the former Katsina State governor (1999-2007), despite pressure mounted on him not to do so publicly as this would force the hands of other public officers in the country against the letter and spirit of the law. But Yar'Adua was determined not to be discouraged, a rare gesture in this clime that immediately drew thunderous applause from even the opposition at the time.

From the beginning, Yar'Adua had shown he was going to be a different president, and unlike his materialistic predecessors who lived for life's little luxuries, unbridled corruption and obscene opulence, he disdained wealth and abhorred materialism, embracing a spiritual yet Spartan lifestyle, that immediately suggested he had an unshakable premonition that he would soon die. Perhaps as a result, he moved steadfastly to put in place regulations and procedures which promote due process, and probably saw himself as being the one to nudge Nigeria towards greater tolerance of probity and accountability, as well as 'into an era of preventive anti-corruption'.

Apologists of the government are quick to remind everyone that Yar'Adua enthroned a regime that ensured the return of all unspent and remaining money at the end of every budget year back to the treasury. Hitherto, this money usually got warehoused every December, a practice which accounted for the sacking of two ministers and nearly a dozen Health ministry officials, including the arrest of their co-travellers in the National Assembly Committee on Health. Even the Rural Electrification Agency fraud, they argue, became exposed as a result of the president's insistence on due process. Also at his behest, concerned senior officials and lawmakers were picked up by the police for questioning.

Yar'Adua concentrated on plugging loopholes at the federal level, supported the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to be more than effective in their oversight functions, and instituted the policy of e-payment effective Thursday, 1st January, 2009, in documenting all payments made by the Federal Government, which heralded transparency and accountability and made corruption easier to track at the federal level. His government also took several other steps like helping to sanitise the banks through his backing of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) reforms, introducing a non conviction-based asset forfeiture system in the country, and setting up a regulatory framework to control and manage assets 'both before and after confiscation', which strengthened government capacity to recover corruption proceeds in form of assets, etc- through the instrumentality of his executive memo for which he sought approval of the Executive Council of the Federation (ECF) on Wednesday, 8th April, 2009.

It is easy to conclude from the foregoing that Yar'Adua's panacea to combat the hydra headed corruption facing the country was comprehensive, to say the least, as it was institutional. But that was as far as he got, for he chose to be blind to what Nigerians saw, especially, that his anti-corruption crusade was at best a ruse. It did not require a great deal of perception to realise that within a short time, the trust the public once had in his government had all but totally eroded. His mistakes: Yar'Adua was frolicking with former governors like Orji Uzor Kalu, Joshua Dariye, Saminu Turaki, Chimaroke Nnamani, George Akume & co, who were then on trial for various corruption charges in the country, following the expiration of their constitutionally enshrined immunity. Apparently, Yar'Adua tugged his forelock to his attorney-general and justice minister, Aondoakaa, and gave him too much political freedom, which afforded the latter the leverage to continue to connive with, and shield Ibori and co from the law, thereby putting the president's integrity on the line. It was, indeed, an uncommon lapse for the Villa, which with a little forethought, would have avoided paying a steep price if it had genuinely distanced itself from the corrupt.

Like the Nigerian public, foreign governments quickly made their assumptions, as well as drew their conclusions. Despite their trying not to seem too critical or judgmental while giving advice tailored at reinstating Ribadu and protecting Yar'Adua and his government from ridicule, the United States on its part, underscored the Ribadu/Ibori Affair for its rating of Yar'Adua's avowed commitment to play by the book. It didn't matter anymore that the president had been known not to operate in shades of gray.

In August 2008, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, former transport minister (2001-2003) and Nigeria's foreign affairs minister (2007-2010), whose nomination for Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) was subsequently dropped in 2011 following criticism by South Easterners, conveyed this view to President Yar'Adua after Ambassador B.G. Wakil, deputy chief of mission at the Nigerian embassy in Washington, was said to have narrated his encounter with Todd Moss, deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs at the U.S. Department of State (2007-2008) and presently CEO and senior fellow at the Centre for Global Development (CGD), to the minister.

Moss had reportedly summoned Wakil to the U.S. State Department, and read him the riot act (like a kid who needed to be told what to do) concerning Nuhu Ribadu's unfair treatment by the Nigerian government. Expressing America's displeasure of the obvious witch hunt believed to have been targeted at the Adamawa-born anti-corruption tsar, Wakil quoted Moss to have said:

'While the U.S. policy recognizes institutions rather than individuals therein, the pattern of the recent treatment of Ribadu leaves much to be desired and, in spite of the camouflaged technical explanations, smacks of political vendetta against the former chairman.'

Moss said the U.S. government found Ribadu's removal unacceptable for the fact that all earlier U.S. investments (both financial and capacity building), made to assist and empower the EFCC, 'tasked with countering corruption and fraud,' would have gone down the drain owing to his ouster. Moss recalled that in a previous meeting with President George Bush, President Yar'Adua agreed to ensure Ribadu's reinstatement, and even more so, pledged that his team members would be spared by any reforms. The deputy assistant secretary said it, therefore, shocked his government to find that Ribadu was not only unfairly demoted, but that the nucleus of his staff, who had been trained, equipped, and motivated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Justice and other specialized agencies of the U.S. government, had either been displaced or virtually sent packing. These strategies, intended to buoy, secure and strengthen the Commission according to Moss, were now directly threatened by this hastily taken decision of the Nigerian government. Although he was not going to waste time speculating on the measures it might deem appropriate, there certainly would be repercussions, especially, in the event of Ribadu's possible arrest, which the U.S. government would regard as his deliberate victimization and crucifixion for successfully combating corruption while in office.

Moss was quick to brush away Wakil's attempts to clarify the decision of the Nigerian government that Ribadu, being 'a career, non-political appointee', should proceed for training at the Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos, 'a formation policy centre for bureaucrats, private sector leaders, Army officers, and medium-rank and senior civil servants, founded in 1979,' as well as the normality of such deployments in the country. For Washington, letting them hang out Ribadu to dry was definitely not an option.

Intent on avoiding a bruising encounter over the Ribadu saga, Yar'Adua who couldn't help feeling a little peeved by the tone of the U.S. intervention on the subject as presented by Maduekwe, decided to tag along with his AGF, Aondoakaa, who, even as he heaped scorn on both Ribadu's methods and motives, consistently fingered the former EFCC boss as the architect of the faceoff, accusing the anti-corruption campaigner to have been looking for a new hobby, and that bringing the Yar'Adua government down to its knees was as good as any.

It must be understood, right away, that the AGF's relationship with Ribadu was one of playing cat and mouse, and complicated at best. The former cannot be seen making an end run around the latter, and so, wanted him cowed or pushed out of circulation by any and all means. Hence, Aondoakaa's consistent sweeping of the blame of any untoward press reports about the government in Ribadu's direction. And Yar'Adua stood four-square behind his AGF, who once served as a member of a sub-committee that reviewed the report of Justice Mohammed Uwais Committee on Electoral Reforms, sparking controversy via the committee's reversal of some recommendations, chiefly that the president continue to appoint the chairmen of INEC. Yar'Adua also fell for security reports cooked up to implicate Ribadu hook, line, and sinker, particularly the article that claimed that he had left his wife, Turai, in charge of running the affairs of Nigeria, as Ribadu's handiwork. Just as it had happened in the United States, when in October 1919, a stroke left President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) partly paralyzed after his health failed him, forcing his wife, Edith Wilson (1872-1961), to take over many routine duties and details of government, having strongly opposed allowing Vice President Thomas Riley Marshall (1854-1925) to assume the powers of the presidency. This led the U.S. media to label the amiable but shrewd Edith 'Secret President' and 'first woman to run the government.'

Almost going against a direct order from Aso Rock, Maduekwe, a known Ribadu sympathiser, who took exception to his travails, later explained the Nigerian position to Hilary Clinton, then U.S. Secretary of State, and saved the day. Otherwise, a damaging statement, likely to provoke a diplomatic row between the two countries, would have been made public by the Americans. The truce nonetheless, how the Nigerian government dealt with the Ibori case, from then on, was used to underpin its decisiveness and resoluteness in the war against corruption. Few had expected that underpinning to be as damning as it turned out to be. Nonetheless, the U.S. message was clearly not lost on the Nigerian president as a protector of the corrupt, which meant Ibori and others in the rogues' gallery of international fraudsters were already running out of time.

Even Nigerians, whose perception of Yar'Adua had become overwhelmingly negative, couldn't but allow themselves to acknowledge their true feelings. No thanks to the president's closeness to Ibori and co, who had started to feel that they were untouchable and truly seemed to have been genuinely satisfied by whatever assurances of protection the president might have given them. In the Guardian of Sunday, 9th September 2007, Reuben Abati chided the Yar'Adua administration for 'sending negative signals about the EFCC' and succinctly identified why the regime cannot be expected to deliver on its promises to fight corruption. He wrote in Yar'Adua. The Attorney General And The EFCC:

'The politics now developing around the EFCC is a challenge to his administration to 'walk the talk.' Let him also note that the growing impression is that his government is really not keen about the anti-corruption campaign, because it has too many political IOUs to pay, in the last election, the new administration had been compromised a-borning.'

As a proof, Abia State Governor (1999-2007), Orji Uzor Kalu, surfaced in Aso Rock after being set free on bail on charges of money laundry and theft of public funds the day before, and was openly received by President Yar'Adua. Aondoakaa would later direct the EFCC to sack its lawyer in the case and apologise to him for insulting his representative, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), who had told the Abuja Federal High Court of Justice Babs Kuewumi, that he was now assuming the Orji Kalu case. An angry Femi Falana, SAN, had written the following words at the time, more in anger than frustration, upon spying out the wolf under Yar'Adua's sheep skin regarding what he considered Aso Rock's role in subverting the rule of law in Nigeria:

'Instead of playing games on the collective intelligence of Nigerians, the Umaru Yar'Adua regime should be courageous enough to drop all corruption charges against his brother Governors and stop masquerading under the Rule of Law.'

Once on a power trip, Ibori boasted to the President's spokesman, Olusegun Adeniyi, that 'there is nowhere in the world where you help somebody to power and his reward for you is that you go to jail. It doesn't happen anywhere and it won't begin with me.' The former Delta governor refrained from telling him how President Obasanjo, more or less, railroaded everyone into the intriguing yet complex power games that produced Yar'Adua as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and ultimately Nigeria's President using Governors James Ibori of Delta State, Lucky Igbinedion of Edo State and Bukola Saraki of Kwara State as his facilitators, point-men and foot soldiers. That was also how the name of River State Governor (1999-2007), Peter Otunaya Odili, who had been nominated as Yar'Adua's running mate was dropped at 3.30 a.m. for that of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan at the Abuja Convention venue in those dying days of 2006, and at the height of the race towards the presidential election of 2007. This has confirmed Russell Baker, 88, an American journalist, biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winner, known for his satirical commentary and self-critical prose, in his thoughts expressed in The Saying of Par Russell (1935):

'The dirty work at Political Conventions is almost always done in the grim hours between midnight and dawn. Hangmen and politicians work best when the human spirit is at its lowest ebb.'

(See Odili's new biography Conscience and History: My Story, where he revealed how former President Obasanjo deployed the former anti-corruption boss, Nuhu Ribadu, against him on charges he described as spurious).

Fully in the loop about the wish of the British government to have Ibori extradited for criminal charges in the U.K. as early as 29th May 2007 when Yar'Adua came to office, the AGF had hoped to weaken the British position on the matter by predicating his pretentious foot-dragging on the fact that Ibori's alleged offences, as furnished them by Ribadu's EFCC, were committed in Nigeria. As such, he must strike at the source of it all: the EFCC; for charity, they, say begins at home.

With no time to waste, Aondoakaa resolved to set the ball rolling barely a week after assuming office by reminding President Yar'Adua in a memo that it was his call to regulate EFCC's operations, citing relevant sections of the constitution, and particularly, section 43 of the EFCC Act 2004, to buttress his point. The AGF stated that the need to avoid disjointed and uncoordinated criminal prosecutions for same alleged offences by such agencies of government such as the EFCC, CCT, ICPC etc, was at the heart of his request, and that unless with his consent and approval, no initiation of criminal proceedings by any government agency tasked with criminal prosecution, should be allowed or taken seriously.

Ribadu, whose brilliant performance at the EFFC established his reputation worldwide, repeatedly alleged improper dealings between Ibori and Aondoakaa to those who cared to listen, but was still made to suffer the butt of blame and criticism owing that the press got hold of a copy of the AGF's memo ahead of President Yar'Adua, who disturbingly felt really beholden to Ibori. It didn't matter that the former governor of Delta state had indeed given Ribadu a great performance on the telephone, with boastful predictions that the anti-corruption tsar would be forced to eat humble pie and publicly apologise to him. If Ibori's interests can be assured in anyway, a more than livid Yar'Adua seemed quite happy to offer some support.

The president fingered the overzealousness of the overly political Ribadu for the ruination of the 2007 general election, and secretly flaunted his preference for a professional and an efficient EFCC to his aides, describing Ribadu's alleged pandering to both the media and the civil society as his albatross. For Yar'Adua, who from the word go showed a marked disinclination to work with Ribadu, much less support a strong EFFC like his predecessor, there can be little doubt that the anti-corruption wizard had set out to intimidate and dominate his presidency. Hence, the President tacitly backed the intrigues to stop Ribadu in his stride. Some governors had then described Ribadu as fast becoming another J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972), first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from 1935 to 1972, whom U.S. President Harry Truman had criticised for amassing secret files on political leaders, thus becoming powerful, enough to intimidate and threaten sitting Presidents, and for turning the FBI into his private secret police force. Said Truman:

'We want no Gestapo or secret police. The FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him.'

Likewise in Nigeria at the time, all public officials, who had skeletons in their cupboards, mightily feared Ribadu. Not a few people, including the President, quarrelled with Ribadu's correct usage of the phrase 'indicted on corruption charges,' which means 'officially charged on corruption charges,' and argued that only a Court pronouncement could determine who was corrupt. Clearly not a fan of Ribadu's modus operandi, the president, who obviously had an axe to grind with the EFCC Chairman, accused the man of having scant regard for the Judiciary, whose numerous court orders he had unconscionably flouted. In addition, there was, apparently, an insult Yar'Adua once suffered at the hands of Ribadu that he strove hard to forgive and forget because he couldn't bear to remember, but which continuously hunted Ribadu throughout the Yar'Adua years at the presidency, a period that also proved to be his nadir and that of the EFCC, which he chaired.

It was Ribadu, himself, who alienated Yar'Adua with his tactless remarks when he chose to play God. Shocked that President Obasanjo had anointed the then Katsina governor instead of Nasir el-Rufai, then FCT minister, whom he backed to succeed Obasanjo, Ribadu not only registered his disappointment with the Owu-born general, but foolishly dismissed the future president to his face as unqualified to rule the country.

Meanwhile, after considerable controversy, President Yar'Adua felt at liberty to avail himself of a Supreme Court judgement (FGN vs. Osahon), which Jalal Arabi, State House counsel, claimed had convincingly thrashed the matter regarding the AGF's idea of solely initiating criminal prosecution. Arabi told Yar'Adua in no unequivocal term that Aondoakaa's position was simply untenable from an intellectual, moral and practical standpoint since the oversight powers given the AGF over the EFCC and other such entities, cannot necessarily be said to be exclusive to the point of making him the sole initiator of prosecution. As long as more and more people were comfortable with the old way of doing things, the AGF's position was an arrogant fantasy.

English poet, William Blake (1757-1827), who, according to Alexander Gilchrist (1828-1861), 'neither wrote nor drew for the many,' said, 'The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.' In what amounted to be the first policy somersault by the administration, which the media vituperatively underscored as 'dramatic flip-flop', Yar'Adua, upon realising that he had goofed, promptly and rightly withdrew the decision in a meeting at his behest to nail down the controversial twist. The meeting had in attendance: Emmanuel Ayoola of the ICPC, Wale Babalakin, presidential adviser on legal matters, Arabi and Ribadu himself; all anxious to register their abhorrence of Aondoakaa's rule. This withdrawal clearly dealt a humiliating death blow to the AGF's plan, leaving him to retreat with his tail tucked firmly between his legs, while everyone else looped back to the status quo with a touch of triumphalism. The justice minister, who had least believed the president to do an about-turn, felt as if a serpent had spat venom into his eyes. But mistakenly, by this seeming victory, the politically naïve Ribadu also became emboldened in his continual attack to steadily reduce Aondoakaa's strength, but the campaign was then just getting into its stride and the AGF, with unrelenting thoroughness, would connive with others of like mind to have the last laugh.

Buoyed by the extent of cooperation and assistance his office had been privileged to enjoy from Chief Bayo Ojo, Aondoakaa's predecessor, regarding the investigation of James Ibori, Christine Ibori-Ibie, Ibori's sister; Adebimpe Pogoson, Ibori's special assistant; and Udoamaka Okoronkwo, Ibori's friend, the U.K. fraud prosecution service director sought Aondoakaa's help via a 31-page letter despatched to the AGF dated Thursday, 30th August, 2007, and signed by David M. Williams, Crown Prosecutor. The AGF blatantly refused to reply the letter, which listed several Ibori properties all over the U.K. as well as other countries.

Interestingly, EFCC's Mr. Nice Guy, Nuhu Ribadu, might truly not have had any skeletons in his closet, but Aondoakaa, who opposed the removal of Maurice Iwu as INEC chairman despite criticisms which trailed his handling of the 2007 elections, in time found out his Achilles heel, being that his reappointment by former President Olusegun Obasanjo had, up to that point, not been sent to the Senate for confirmation as required by Section 2 of the EFCC (Establishment) Act 2004. This was how Ribadu began a dead duck battle to save his most coveted job, ever, while the AGF found much to his profit in the Louvre.

Coincident with the revelation, Mike Okiro, then Inspector General of Police (IGP), decided to make Ribadu (along with other senior police officers) available for the Senior Executives Course 30/2008 at the National Institute Policy Strategic Studies (NIPSS), which his memo to the president (of Monday, 7th January, 2008), claimed already enjoyed presidential blessings. Accordingly, the IGP, who would rebuff all intercession by those close to Ribadu, recommended ASP Ibrahim Lamorde, EFCC's director of operations and Ribadu's second in command, as his replacement, warningly setting Ribadu's deadline for handover to Lamorde at Friday, 11th January, 2008, to get him ready for the course starting Monday, 4th February, 2008. Wrote Olusegun Adeniyi in his book Power, Politics and Death (pg. 29):

'Okiro, like many in the top hierarchy of the police, had his grouses against Ribadu, who was said to have been very disrespectful, indeed contemptuous, of him when Mr. Sunday Ehindero (to whom Ribadu was close) was the inspector general of police. Many senior police officers were also unhappy about Ribadu's 'irregular promotion' and the way he seemed to disparage the institution of which he was a member just because he was heading the EFCC. Even those who did not like the disgraced IGP, Mr. Tafa Balogun, felt that the humiliation he was made to suffer at the hands of the EFCC was not good for the image of the police. So, invariably, Ribadu had several powerful foes to contend with, and some of them were baying for blood.'

Regarding Tafa Balogun, Ribadu later explained the circumstances that led to the arrest and prosecution of the former IGP, and insisted that Balogun simply 'crossed the line.' Said the mallam:

'Whoever crosses the line will be dealt with, whether a constable or an IGP, it is the same thing. The solution is not to cross the line.'

Many Nigerians, who clearly saw that the President was somewhat happy to make a detour when the NIPSS idea became very convenient, were alarmed by his new stridency. Even his much touted rule of law posturing took the back seat as Farida Waziri was foisted on the Commission to replace Lamorde in acting capacity, and made to assume office ahead of Senate confirmation, which in itself caused a certain brouhaha between the Lawmakers and the President. From then on, other events which combined to seal Ribadu's downfall, became a quick fix.

Expectedly, the Ribadu travails persisted in washing President Yar'Adua's reputation down the gutters and into the country's vast sewage system. On Tuesday, 5th August, 2008, in an exercise said to restore police integrity but widely believed to have been targeted at the former EFFC boss, the Police Service Commission (PSC) announced the demotion of 140 senior officers, including Ribadu who dropped from Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) to Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), and by so doing forfeited two ranks at once. Activist lawyer and human rights campaigner, Gani Fawehinmi (1938-2009), like many of his countrymen, not only found this bizarre, unfathomable and profoundly unjust, but was swift to challenge the decision to remove Ribadu as EFCC Chairman and send him to Kuru.

But the fact that several officers serving in the Aso Rock Villa also made the list helped to douse the initial doubts the public had that it couldn't have been done to correct the illegalities of the past, said to be capable of destroying the entire police force. Either before the Senate or the House of Representatives, the testimonies tallied as they came. From Parry Osayande, PSC chairman and a retired IGP, to Garba Buwai, PSC secretary, to Ogbonnaya Onovo (then DIG later IGP), to Felix Ogbaudu, CP (Administration) and Comfort Obi, a journalist who served on the PSC, due process was simply not followed because the then IGP, Sunday Ehindero, in carrying out the said promotions, acted contrary to the PSC (Establishing) Act, which made the promotion of police officers an exclusive prerogative of the Commission. Onovo couldn't have put it any simpler:

'Once an officer is skipped in promotion, he becomes demoralized. It is a very painful thing to watch your junior become your boss. It must be noted that the role of the PSC is well defined and the Commission has done the right thing by correcting some of the illegalities carried out in order not to destroy the police force.'

Ribadu sympathisers swelled by the hour, making nonsense of whatever the grounds for credibility the PSC's action on the demoted officers had; as the man's travails continued to dwarf any consideration of good faith on the part of the Yar'Adua government. This reading would further be grounded in fact at the NIPSS upon the successful completion of the Course. At the Kuru graduation venue, Aondoakaa's rages and aberrant behaviour worsened. Not even the presence of Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, who then headed NIPSS, could deter the gate crashing AGF, who within minutes had the place swarming with security agents, whom he ordered to throw the former anti corruption tsar out of the venue; threatening everyone in sight and name-dropping the president unabashedly.

For some time, the Ribadu Affair, as it was known in Kuru, had been problematic for officials of the institution, to say the least, as the government, using the AGF's office, constantly breathed down their necks and insisted Ribadu must be addressed as DCP, and not AIG, even when Ribadu's sponsors, the police addressed him in their letter to NIPSS as AIG, and had since not advised the institute's authorities otherwise. However, Aondoakaa's coup de grace finally came to the fore when he argued that DCP Ribadu's non-qualification for the said course (meant for Commissioners of Police and above), was enough to disallow his planned graduation. It took the intervention of well-meaning individuals, like Vice President Jonathan, a man who abhorred violence and was deeply committed to reconciliation, got to speak to President Yar'Adua, before the former EFCC chairman was allowed to graduate as well as issued his certificate. It was a foretaste of things to come because, by so doing, Ibori and his attack dog, Aondoakaa, had unknowingly stepped on Ribadu's tiger-tail.

It is natural to fight back if you feel cheated out of what is yours, Ribadu fought back. This naked aggression by the AGF and the attempt by the Police to change frontiers as evident by his demotion could not go unchallenged. He sued the Police and the PSC, and fought the nail-biting legal thriller in various courts, before he later took off only to surface in the United states where his collaboration with the London Metropolitan Police (equipped with the newest advances in forensics), was geared towards nailing the former Delta governor. Ribadu would rather deny himself the comfort of staying back in Nigeria with his family than looking the other way in a foreign country for Ibori to escape justice. Bringing the former governor to justice, if even outside Nigeria, was more important to him, and he prioritised it as such. He swore to several personal depositions to set in motion the instrumentality of letting Ibori finally have his day in a British court, more so that a Nigerian judge, Justice Marcellus Awokulehin, of the Federal High Court, Ikeja, had on Thursday, 17th December, 2009, ruled that the former governor had no case to answer, quashing the entire 170-count criminal charges filed against him by the EFCC. Awokulehin recently retired after attaining the statutory retirement age of 65 and a valedictory court session was held in his honour on the premises of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday, 16th January, 2014, where Justice Ibrahim Auta, Chief Judge of the FHC, said 'We are happy that he is leaving us with his integrity intact,' presided over the ceremony. Indeed!

Meanwhile, the governmental nannying and defending of Ibori through the office of the AGF continued in Nigeria with unabated enthusiasm. On Thursday, 10th September, 2009 in Abuja, Aondoakaa, while briefing the media, exonerated the former governor concerning the 2007 sale of Delta State's shares to telecommunications giant V-mobile, but kept mute and distant regarding an allegation that around 2007, Intercontinental Bank Plc (now Access Bank Plc.) granted Ibori a N44 billion loan after offering to Ascot Offshore Nigeria Limited 820 million units of shares belonging to the Delta State government and placed in Oceanic International Plc (now Eco Bank Plc). With one side of his mouth, he announced the clearance of Ibori saying investigations had absolved him of all blame in the charges, yet deliberately refused to give accurate information about the issues at hand to achieve a set agenda, and with the other, he smeared the former EFCC chairman of colluding with British authorities by providing them with false and incriminating documents in the political machinations fitted from one madcap scheme to another. All the while, the former Delta governor, who was believed to have caused the statement, was marvellously cooling off in Aondoakaa's office, smiling as if nothing was happening.

This was an embarrassing situation for the government, but President Yar'Adua didn't at first seem to see it that way; but it, nonetheless concerned those close to him. In fact, many people in government wondered why the president gave the AGF such political elbow room to do his damnedest to get Ibori off the hook. Some of them complained bitterly, and even wrote memos, to the president concerning the matter, urging him to minimise the collateral damage to his administration by distancing himself from both men (Ibori and Aondoakaa).

From this moment, the AGF seemed to have the Sword of Damocles hanging over his head and this seriously dampened his perpetual enthusiasm. What with rumours of an imminent cabinet reshuffle that could see him reassigned to another ministry. The prospect of having fallen out of favour with President Yar'Adua scared Aondoakaa rigid especially when the president started to avoid him, acting aloof and tense. Shortly after, the president deliberately bypassed the AGF when he picked Tokunbo Kayode, then Minister of Labour, to represent him at the Judges Conference while Aondoakaa was easily available, which further fuelled speculation about the AGF's future in the government. This happened sometimes in November 2009, closely preceding Yar'Adua's travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. Waziri, the new EFCC boss, also challenged Ibori's exoneration by the AGF, and denounced it as totally unexpected and of no consequence to the V-Mobile case. This didn't seem to sink well with former President Obasanjo's recent claim to Zero Tolerance (EFCC's magazine) that Waziri was appointed on Ibori's recommendation, which the woman later denied in a separate interview with the same paper, saying it was, indeed, her pursuit of Ibori that forced the former Delta governor out of Nigeria to the United Arab Emirate, which made his eventual arrest and repatriation to the UK possible.

In the meantime, not to be outdone, Ibori issued a public statement where he maligned Ribadu dreadfully and threatened to submit evidence in support of his claims against the former EFCC chairman when his trial began in Britain:

'I will enclose copious documentary evidence to substantiate every claim I have made. The opportunistic and brazen-faced Ribadu is nothing but a fraudulent 'anti-corruption Tsar who operated with instruments of blackmailhe should shut up and stop boasting about having been Nigeria's anti-corruption Tsar. He compromised himself, politicizing his office, and teamed up with politicians to distribute funds to influence National Assembly members in the failed third-term tenure elongation gambit. He was a politician, not anti-corruption fighter.'

In his reaction, Ribadu, who was a bit miffed, dismissed Ibori's accusations as fiction, saying if he truly desired to be IGP, 'the assistance of a convicted felon' was the last thing he was going to need. He lashed out at the former governor, and accused him of corruptly influencing Aondoakaa's appointment as AGF, who in turn reciprocated by giving him protection against prosecution in Nigeria. He promised Ibori not to expect to be so lucky in the U.K., where the matter would be eventually settled.

Later, Ribadu told the story of how Ibori allegedly offered him a whopping $15 million dollars bribe to stall his prosecution for corruption, which he deposited with the Central Bank. But, an interesting twist emerged after the EFCC went to court to obtain an order to confiscate the funds, two principal players in the bribe saga, Senator Andy Uba and one Chibuike Achigbu, approached the same Abuja Federal High Court, surfaced to claim ownership of the money just as the Uduaghan government in Delta State also maintained that the funds belonged to it.

After listening to the passionate arguments of two Queen's Counsels, Sasha Weis and Nicholas Pennel, for and against Ibori's freedom, Justice Anthony Pitts of the Southwark Crown Court in London was to later convict and sentenced Ibori to 13 years imprisonment after pleading guilty to 10 out of the 23 money laundering charges levelled against him on Monday, 27th February, 2012. Citing sections 182, 185, 151 {1} as the Laws of Nigeria that Ibori violated, QC Sasha said among others:

'It is the prosecution case that during his two terms in office, he had deliberately and systematically defrauded the people whose interest he had been elected to represent. The total sum that Mr Ibori has stolen remains unquantified. Investigation into his corrupt and fraudulent activities are still ongoing. However, the sums that are the subject of the two indictments to which Ibori had pleaded guilty amount to approximately E50 million. This sum represents a fraction of the total sum stolen by Ibori and those whom he engaged to assist himThe evidence demonstrates that from the moment he was elected, he set about enriching himself at the expense of some of the poorest people in the world. His greed increased exponentially during the course of his governorship as did his arrogance.'

Few Nigerians remember that Aondoakaa, while helping two of his friends, Ogiri Ajene, former deputy governor of Benue State and Professor Daniel Iyorkegh Saror, Senator for Benue North East (1999-2007), who ran unsuccessfully for governor of Benue State on ANPP ticket, loosing to Gabriel Suswan of the PDP, to secure nomination for ministerial appointment, was invited to meet President Yar'Adua and during the interview was offered the post of AGF, and was indeed appointed Minister of Justice on Thursday, 26th July 2007. Ibori was said to be his sponsor. Aondoakaa would be removed in controversial circumstances said to have tainted the image of the Yar'Adua administration by then Acting President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday, 10th February, 2010.

Indeed, Nigerians miss Nuhu Ribadu, who became a visiting fellow at the Centre for Global Development in April 2009, and contested the 2011 presidential elections on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), for no one has ever occupied the EFCC chairman's seat like he did. He continues to maintain that the polity is filled with smarter criminals who did more to circumvent the fight against corruption in Nigeria and do more damage to him than Ibori.

'James was not different from all others; and while doing this type of work, they will fight you back. I have seen a lot of fighting back all my life, and that of James was not as bad as others. His own was very public that is why. There are those that even attempted to kill me who are still out there. This is the type of work that when you do, you must expect a thing like that.'

Trivia:
* Ibori has just served two years out of a 13-year jail sentence handed down to him in the UK on Tuesday, 17th April 2012, by Southwark Crown Court 9, London, which found him guilty of corruption charges.

* The AGF also filed a case against Ribadu at the Code of Conduct Tribunal over a false claim that the EFCC boss failed to fill out the asset declaration form as a public servant. The lot of handling this case FOC fell on Femi Falana Chambers.

* It took Ribadu nearly five years (precisely Thursday, 3rd October, 2013) to get to announce that the decision of the PSC to demote and later dismiss him from the Nigeria Police had been annulled by a competent court in Nigeria, which necessitated reversal of the action of the Yar'Adua government. He described the court victory which saw his ranks restored as 'a huge favour' made by his lawyer, Tayo Oyetibo, to whom he will forever be indebted.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Ajiroba Yemi Kotun and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Ajiroba Yemi Kotun