Chairman Nuhu Ribadu to the Rescue!

By Victor E. Dike

The story of Nigeria is, more often than not, a chronicle of struggles to deal with the upsurge of corruption. As always, with the 2011 elections are lurking around the corner politicians are shuffling their political cards and everyone is accusing every other person of being corrupt. Yet in the corruption-battered Nigeria no one is corrupt, not even the General who was implicated in the Pius Okigbo Panel Report over the $12.4billion Gulf War oil scan (BusinessDay, May 6, 2010). This is not to mention his alleged connection with the brutal murder of Dele Giwa, the founding editor-in-chief of Newswatch, on October 19, 1986 (Agbaegbu, December18, 2000). The reality, however, is that both young and old, man and woman and the sane and insane recognize the havoc bribery and corruption have cause in the society.

The death of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has again resurrected the debate on the ‘war' against corruption. It has widely been reported that the Code of Conduct Tribunal has officially dropped the charges against the indefatigable and courageous former EFCC boss, Chairman Nuhu Ribadu (BusinessDay, May 5, 2010) who was chased out of the country by Yar'Adua and his bunch of sycophants. On his return Nuhu Ribadu is expected to serve as President Goodluck Jonathan's special ‘adviser on anti-corruption, good governance and sundry matters' (NEXt, April 4, 2010).

Since the news of his imminent return surfaced the chorus of venomous of criticism has intensified as the ‘bad boys' are viscerally opposed to his home-coming. The negative criticisms in the face of his great achievement should not deter President Goodluck Jonathan from waging a serious ‘war' against corruption. Plenty are hungry for positive change; and they feel that only a strong-willed person like Nuhu Ribadu can fight corruption, which is worsening the nation's economic situation.

Madam Farida Waziri is among those who are jittery as she has reportedly vowed not to take orders from Nuhu Ribadu if he happens to come back (Punch, May 3, 2010). Madam Waziri is free to pick her baggage and head home if she thinks she is ‘too big' to take orders from the young man. The EFCC has not been working, as it should, since she took over. She is only good at pointing out to the world how everyone is making her job difficult. If one should ask the madam, where are the 23 corrupt governors? No amount of criticism would obliterate for fact that without Nuhu Ribadu the corrupt D.S.P. Alameyeseigha of Bayelsa could have remained a powerful politician; and Tafa Balogun (former IG) would be untouchable. Nuhu Ribadu already zeroed in on Bode George and James Ibori before Yar'Adua and his group ran him aground. Soon after Madam Waziri took over, she removed James Ibori from the list of ex-governors that were billed to go on trial (Punch, April 11, 2009).

Chairman Nuhu Ribadu to the rescue! Nigeria is a wonderful country! The society needs one who has the audacity to confront the political contractors and the big-time looter-Generals who are now re-branding themselves in a desperate attempt to get access to the national treasury, again. In a lawless society such as Nigeria it takes a rude shock and public humiliation sometimes to get the message across.

This writer is not saying that Nuhu Ribadu is saint. Certainly, there were some mistakes. His agency was used by Obasanjo to harass his political enemies. And some of the looters are complaining that he was very harsh in dealing with them and that he was working for the PDP. But any person who cares less about the rights of others when stealing their money should not complain when crude method is adopted to recover the loot. The reality, however, is that in every war or revolution there are some accidental damages. As Alexis De Tocqueville has noted in Democracy in America, "There are no revolutions which do not shake existing belief, enervate authority and throw doubts over commonly received ideas" (see abridged version, edited by Richard Heffner, 1984, p.145).

Good people look for what is positive in every situation. As noted earlier, despite some irrational exuberance, Chairman Nuhu Ribadu performed wonderfully well given the nature and history of Nigeria. During his time at the EFCC the agency was feared and every corrupt official would duck for cover at sighting the officials. He had the political will and courage to question the gods; his agency probed both the dead and the living. There were reports of how the commission seized the fraudulently acquired wealth of a deceased INEC official. Death wouldn't save the looter! The evil he did lived after him! To really rescue Nigeria from the claws of corruption the society needs one with the capability to demystify the gods. Setting up corruption-probe panels has not done the society any good.

Having said that, there is room for improvement in the manner with which the EFCC (and other law enforcement agencies) should conduct its business. Nigerians should not be harassed, tortured or detained indefinitely. The commission should operate within the laws. As Philosopher Spinoza has noted, too much "power corrupt even the incorruptible" (as cited in Will Durant, 1976, p.193). Those who need to be questioned should be invited formally. Crude method should be applied only as a last resort: refusal to honour official invitation or resisting arrest.

The problem with Nigeria, as in every other defective democracy, is "the tendency to put mediocrity into power" (Durant, id, p.195). Why are Nigeria's top public servants very rich? National dailies are awash with news of how public officials are acquiring million-dollar homes and stockpiling stolen public money abroad. Yet the nation's infrastructure and institutions are begging for repairs.

Nigeria lacks effective institutions to tackle corruption, which has hampered national development. The society should begin to keep track of people's source of income and hold the politicians to a very high standard. Serious nations require everyone to explain their sources of income; and even ‘marital infidelity' and traffic offense could disqualify a candidate for elective office. But in Nigeria even convicted felons are masquerading as political leaders; some of the current political leaders are known ‘419' scam artists. And if the search light looks closely some of them are parading bogus academic certificates. Nigerians are suffering today because those in the position of authority are mindless crooks.

To sustain Nigeria's anti-corruption crusade and democratic experiment, and for the society to develop there must be some form of social transformation. The EFCC and ICPC should be strengthened and empowered to thoroughly question any person who aspires to lead Nigeria. As currently constituted, the agencies lack the capability to tackle to the powerful political looters. Nigeria should fight corruption "like a devil" (Durant, p.249) it really is. A unit of these agencies should be established in every state and local governments in the federation; and a special court should be established in every state for expedited trial of any person or group fingered for corruption.

The future and development of Nigeria depends on the effectiveness of the agencies entrusted to fight corruption. The society needs the like of Nuhu Ribadu in government to tame bribery and corruption, which has tarnished the image of Nigeria and stalled her development. With his unparallel zeal and vigor Nuhu Ribadu is the best thing that has ever happened to Nigeria. The people are again crying for justice. Chairman Nuhu Ribadu to the rescue!

Victor E. Dike author of Leadership without a Moral Purpose and CEO, Center for Social Justice and Human Development (CSJHD), Sacramento, California.