Rethinking Ribadu’s Beatification


by: Idumange John


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 wane if the anti-graft agencies are headed by people from
the Nigerian Police.


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 a 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 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 serious concern or 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 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. This was how he treated
the scores of petitions against certain corrupt officials in the Niger Delta
Development Commission (NDDC). This was the gray area in the Ribadu led EFCC.


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 investigated 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 clearly 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 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.


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 human face.



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; PTDF; the financial malfeasance of the
ex-inspector General Sunday Ehindero; corruption earthquake in the Siemens and
Halliburton were not investigated. But when the Former Inspector General Tafa
Balogun was not only arraigned, he was maltreated like a common criminal, maybe
because he fell out of favour with Former President Obasanjo.


Malam Huhu 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.


While this writer expresses gratitude to President Jonathan to undoing the injustice meted out to Ribadu, the writer equally wishes to call attention to the fact that Ribadu is not a saint due
largely because he worked under the
preponderant influence of OBJ. It is the wish of this writer that EFCC
investigations be conducted with fairness and in such a manner that is not
persecutory. It is only when investigations are conducted in such a transparent
manner that the public will not read meaning to the actions of the anti-graft
agency as been political. In any architecture,
there is an equity between the pragmatic function and the symbolic function.
EFCC should place premium on the
pragmatic rather than the symbolic, for there is but one law
for all, namely the law of our Creator, the law of humanity, justice and
equity.





Idumange John, is Fellow Institute of Public Management, Nigeria



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