The worldwide web today has no doubt enhanced the dawn of a new awareness in the flow of information. Everyone now has his say, who can pick a keyboard to piece his/her thoughts together in a prosy narrative. Hobby commentators and self-styled political observers abound and most often than not, add their spices to the brewing potion of public controversies. This is precisely the case in the Nuhu Ribadu controversy. Armchair quarterbackers will always be up against public outcry and the basic call to wisdom.
In this context, a lot has been said and a lot has been written. One point that has however, been credibly underscored so far, is the high esteem in which the Nigerian intelligentsia largely holds the man Nuhu Ribadu. The man Nuhu Ribadu it is that is presently also unveiling the hypocritical face of the Nigerian class of intellectuals. If statistics were taken of the ratio of well-read Nigerians condemning the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo across the board, an inner voice tells me that results may disclose figures close to or in excess of ninety percent. A class of intellectuals that contends that nothing positive whatsoever can be credited to the governance of Nigeria in the past eight years has consistently controlled the public media. A period that is critically acclaimed as awfully wasted. Middle-grounding is equated with treachery and objectivity is qualified as blasphemy, to say the least of outright sympathizing with the cause of Olusegun Obasanjo.
It is therefore, all the more surprising that even the most vociferous, voluble and articulate of such widespread critics simply came to stop at just one point: Nuhu Ribadu. Even Reuben Abati that would have stopped at nothing to crucify Olusegun Obasanjo on a double cross slams the brakes of his soul train at the Ribadu stop. A roundabout turn with the hands held high saying loud and clear to the Yar'Adua government: "Hey, Hey, Hey, not that far and not that fast". Ribadu is at last publicly vindicated and acknowledged as one good actor of a widely, albeit not too fairly crucified Captain of a turbulent sail. Reuben Abati's Guardian even dared the bold step of declaring Nuhu Ribadu their man of the year to my applause and the applause of many well-meaning Nigerians.
So, when the government of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua finally moved to launch its first step to control the damages done so far, by the hugely bogged and badly managed coup of sidelining a hero of the unpredictable intelligentsia, a Presidential spokesman was to bear the brunt of microscopic scrutiny. It was precisely the President's Special Adviser on Communications (former Journalist) Segun Adeniyi, who faced a Guardian interviewer.
Aside from flatly denying any Ibori-involvement in the unfolding scenario, one of the questions he had to contend with was to elaborate on the plans of the present government to address the fate of former President Olusegun Obasanjo given the spate of policy reversals and unmistakable disconnect between both governments.
In fact, this compatriot was placed in a position that no sane Nigerian would voluntarily love to swap with him. As a Presidential adviser, he is very much an insider of the administration, who probably also shares a huge part of the blame on the media mismanagement of the Ribadu debacle. Every word he says, bears an enormous weight and provides an insight into the reasoning and general state of mind within the President's camp. In fairness to him however, not every word he says shall weigh or should be weighed as a statement on behalf of the government since his official designation is not that of a Presidential spokesman â€“ if ever Yar'Adua has one.
After craftily underscoring the importance of the rule of law as the major policy difference between both governments, he proceeded to downplay the significance of policy reversals, which he attributed to changing circumstances and practical exigencies. He was even fair enough to wash El-Rufai clean and indirectly indicted the present administrator of the Federal Capital Territory claiming that El-Rufai had indeed launched revocation of land allocations, which the new administrator gullibly sought to credit to himself. On Olusegun Obasanjo, he finally added: "I don't know what President Obasanjo did that would warrant a probe panel being set up for people to now go and be making allegations that cannot stand up in a court of law so he could be humiliated publicly. â€¦ But let's be fair to the former President, while he is not perfect as none of us is, he did his very best for this country and doesn't deserve the current media harassment."
This is just one comment for which stones would no doubt have been flying his way without delay, if public attention were not now severely consumed by the Ribadu fiasco. And it is precisely his comments on the Ribadu debate that clearly highlighted the fear, uncertainty and long-term apprehensions dictating the general calculations in the President's camp.
Like many commentators have so far expressed, Mr. Adeniyi indirectly decried the policy of personal stardom that has so far, publicly translated into the equation of EFCC and the war against corruption with the person of Nuhu Ribadu. Even though full of praises for the courage of Ribadu and his achievements (and thereby, maintaining some tactical tandem with public sentiments), he went ahead to indirectly accuse Nuhu Ribadu of lacking humility and of being insubordinate in his dealing with constituted authority. There could be no missing a covert reference to dealings with the Inspector-General of Police.
Unfortunately however, this is one side of an inter-personal story that only active and physical participants can bear fair and truthful witness to. In determining the holder of a public office though, it is strongly questionable if such bagatelle considerations are allowed to gain precedence over national interest. If President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua held the views that Nuhu Ribadu was doing a good job in the interest of the nation, it is questionable if issues of lacking humility and insubordination could not have been addressed with a lifting of the warning finger.
It is also interesting to observe the superstar quality of the one-man show at the Ministry of Justice and at the Nigerian Bar Association. While the Minister of Justice is directly subordinate to the President, nothing is out in the open about shortage of humility on the part of the Attorney General. But whenever the will is given however, to come up with questionable character traits on the part of a subordinate functionary that has fallen out of presidential favor, I have no doubt that humility and insubordination will be the easiest of failings to identify in facilitating displacement. They will definitely be the first reaction when a subordinate attempts to resist crucifixion and tries a fight back.
Then the Presidential Adviser Segun Adeniyi touched on another laughable issue of Ribadu not being reconfirmed by the National Assembly as required by law prior to his reappointment as Chairman of the Commission. Before him though, Superstar Aondoakaa had remarked in a clearly unmistakable hint to corruption culprits so far nailed by Nuhu Ribadu's investigations, that all prosecutions initiated by Nuhu Ribadu may be overturned by the court of law since Nuhu Ribadu was illegally reappointed. What a bitter desperation this has turned out to be. While the National Assembly has never complained that its authority has been usurped, experts have opined that Ribadu's first term confirmation was quite sufficient to see him through the reappointment.
Is this pure and unrefined hatred or fear of some dire consequences of sort if Nuhu Ribadu is not removed now at all cost? Well, Ibori would be pleased. One fact has now become certain though, that the President is now very much up against a credibility problem whilst he finds himself in a helpless corner.
Reading further between the lines in the comments of the Presidential Adviser Segun Adeniyi, it was easy to see the picture of a Presidential camp gripped in the fear of Ribadu. Rather than letting this fear be the beginning of wisdom, it has ended up being the start of a house-made debacle.
Long ago in another discourse, I cautioned against the presidential material in the personality of Nuhu Ribadu that may come to haunt Umaru Musa Yar'Adua if he fails to tread carefully in handling Ribadu. In a developed democracy, Nuhu Ribadu would true to it, now be waiting on the sideline for the next Presidential election in the aftermath of this new year's gift of political martyrdom. He would be selling like hotcake for every meaningful political party.
The President tried his best though, to be careful on Ribadu and enlisted the tactic of police hierarchy. He bitterly failed to see and accept the reality that Nuhu Ribadu â€“ even though a Police Officer â€“ is virtually above the police hierarchy. He is a political appointee with a very unique and special assignment that placed him far away from the reach and authority of the Inspector-General or anyone else except the President. Yar'Adua's advisers should have seen this coming if Nigeria's first ever university-educated President could not see this all by himself.
A combination of envy and fear of what may become of Ribadu if he becomes too big for the corridors of power to control has virtually pushed Ribadu into a trap that adversaries may have prepared a clandestine dossier on his personal weaknesses to assist edging him out far and fast. The full content of this dossier is yet a mystery.
As a Presidential adviser, Mr. Adeniyi of course, did (or perhaps, â€˜could') not touch on double standards in the dealings of the EFCC since this same government may have benefited from the EFCC's double standards from the past till date. Many discerning minds have stressed time and again, that a nation like Nigeria that has had no standard at all for fighting corruption in the pre-Ribadu days may do very well kicking off this fight with double standards (for all anyone cares) as long as no innocent person is victimized in the process. Future processes may then be geared toward perfection.
So asked when the President will make his first comment on the issue, Presidential Adviser Adeniyi betrayed all sentiments within the government's psyche: "Come on!" he said "What do you want to reduce the Presidency of Nigeria to? You see, part of the problem is that this matter is being presented as if Ribadu is in competition with the President, that is why you read about how he cannot be removed by anybody, how he has powers to arrest even the Inspector General of Police who nominated him for the NIPSS program."
And precisely "competition" is what Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has now indiscreetly achieved in his ill-advised shift of focus from continuity in the fight against corruption. Funnily, the President and his team are both continuing to underrate the seriousness of the situation. "Who the hell is Ribadu?" A very fatal question indeed. Ask former President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine "Who the hell is Yuchenko?" we will know who he is today. Ask former military President Jarulzeski of Poland "Who the hell is Lech Walesa?" we will know that he was a mere electrician working at a shipyard. What later became of him is now history. Ask General Akufo of Ghana in 1979 "Who the hell is Rawlings?" we will know that Rawlings was by far his junior. The rest is history.
Tunde Idiagbon had to quit the scene because he was one credible presidential material that would have stood in the way of many heavyweights alive today, to cleanse the filthy system.
"Who the hell is Ribadu?" Pray this young man stands the test of time and live to fight another day. Only if our democracy grows and the powers let him be. Yar'Adua should speak out fast and clear the air. The consequences of silence may still be far away but when they come, they may hurt for real and precisely at the most painful spot.