Ribadu brags again

By Levi Obijiofor

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Former chairperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Nuhu Ribadu has a fondness for overstating his anti-corruption track record. Ribadu likes to talk and behave like a man equipped with matchless powers and crime fighting skills that provide him with specialist knowledge of the solutions to the nation’s profuse problems. He has used public speaking engagements to showcase himself as a megastar, a former senior police officer without blemishes. Unfortunately, his antecedents do not quite uphold all the hyperbole.alt

On Tuesday last week (10 July 2012), Ribadu continued his self-righteous assessment of his abilities when he spoke about the sickening level of corruption that has emerged from the oil subsidy probe. At a public forum put together by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, Ribadu told his audience in his characteristically conceited manner: “If I were to handle this subsidy thing, I will just go after the PPPRA, especially those who were at the helm when all these mess took place... In one week, I will bring out every single person who took one penny. I will not bother myself with anybody else; I will just get them because nobody would make a penny out of the subsidy regime without the direct complicity of the PPPRA.”

This was not the first time that Ribadu would brag in public about his superlative powers to end corruption in Nigeria. Two years ago, precisely on Monday, 13 September 2010, as a guest in Ibadan at the 80th birthday remembrance lecture in honour of Bola Ige, former Federal Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Ribadu talked about his frustration at the collapse of law and order, as well as growing public unease over mounting insecurity in the country. Thereafter, he astonished his audience when he said he would get rid of violent crimes in Nigeria with just 5,000 dedicated policemen and women. Ribadu told his listeners: “With 5,000 policemen ready to do the work, I can stop violent crimes. What we need is those who are ready to do the right thing, be honest and sincere.”

Ever since he was forcibly removed more than four years ago as the chair of the EFCC, Ribadu has refused to admit that there are Nigerians who are capable of waging the anti-corruption war more effectively than he did. In every public forum where he speaks, Ribadu has referred immodestly and pointlessly to himself as the quintessentially unblemished person to solve Nigeria’s endemic corruption. And this is what I find objectionable about Ribadu. Four years after he was removed as the EFCC boss, the man has refused to concede to anyone a higher ability to succeed where he failed woefully. This is a major character flaw of Ribadu.

Ribadu is currently the head of the Federal Government’s Special Petroleum Revenue Task Force. Ibrahim Lamorde is the chairperson of the EFCC. Ribadu does not regard it as egotistical when he said he could solve the oil subsidy scam in one week if he were to be given the job. Ironically, when he was in charge of the EFCC, Ribadu did not succeed in eliminating the corruption rodents and cockroaches that straddled and still sneak around the Nigerian landscape.

Those who listened to Ribadu last week were dumbfounded when the man turned around to contradict himself in the same breath. After saying he would unmask all the criminals involved in the oil subsidy scam in just a week, Ribadu also acknowledged the EFCC had capable officials who would do the job with the level-headedness that was required. His words: “I know that the EFCC is working very hard on the matter, and I believe they will not disappoint millions of Nigerians who are expecting a just and reasonable conclusion on the matter. They are working on it, and sometimes, this kind of work does take time so that it will be able to stand the test of prosecution...”

Ribadu also regaled his audience with the unbelievable news that when he was the head of the EFCC, he requested the London Metropolitan Police to investigate former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Keep in mind that Obasanjo was the man who appointed Ribadu to head the anti-corruption agency. This claim flies in the face of verifiable facts. To understand the truth or falsehood of Ribadu’s claim, we must unpack that baloney because, although Ribadu claimed he asked the Metropolitan Police to investigate Obasanjo, he did not tell his audience the outcomes of that investigation.

Ribadu must be reminded about what he allegedly divulged to the former US Ambassador to Nigeria in the leaked United States’ embassy cables published by Internet whistleblower WikiLeaks in September 2011. Just in case Ribadu has forgotten, let us revisit the WikiLeaks information, the veracity of which, by the way, was never contested or denied by Ribadu when it was published.

WikiLeaks reports published in the Punch and Vanguard editions of 5 September 2011 alleged that Ribadu told former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms Robin Sanders, that corruption under Olusegun Obasanjo’s government was far worse than it was under the regime of Sani Abacha. WikiLeaks reported that Ribadu’s comments were made during a four-hour private meeting he had with Ms Sanders in late December 2007. A major item on the agenda of the meeting was Ribadu’s transfer from the EFCC to the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) where he was expected to undergo further studies. There were other issues in the leaked cables that amounted to a breach of Nigeria’s national security.

It is beyond belief that Ribadu, who was appointed by Obasanjo as the chief anti-corruption crusader of the government, should secretly express negative concerns to a US diplomat, about the high level of corruption in a government in which he was also a senior official. This is betrayal of an astonishing kind. There is something devious about a senior official of a government agency who confides in a United States’ diplomat information about the level of corruption in the same government that he was sworn to serve.

During the years that Ribadu served Obasanjo, he repeatedly told the nation in public and private presentations that Obasanjo was immaculate and that the EFCC had no evidence of corruption against Obasanjo’s government. However, the secret cables leaked by WikiLeaks suggested that Ribadu harboured a different impression about Obasanjo. The key question that should help us to uncover Ribadu’s double face is: Why did ‘Ribadu the Saint’ tell the US diplomat what he was unable to tell Nigerians throughout the years he headed the EFCC? Why did Ribadu depict Obasanjo’s government as an administration teeming with corrupt officials when he told Nigerians that Obasanjo was spotless?

For many years, Ribadu strutted around national and international podiums where he entertained his foreign listeners with inflated accounts of the EFCC’s achievements when he chaired that organisation. During the time he led the agency, Ribadu presented himself as a celebrity, an upright man who did not tolerate corrupt practices by anyone in government or in business.

During Obasanjo’s tenure, which coincided with the greater period that Ribadu reigned as EFCC chairperson, Obasanjo repeatedly challenged all those who accused him of corruption to produce evidence to substantiate their allegation. Ribadu had inside knowledge of Obasanjo’s innocence or complicity but he failed to rise to Obasanjo’s challenge. He kept silent and misinformed the nation that Obasanjo and his senior officials were morally blameless. It is an act of spinelessness for Ribadu to disclose to the US diplomat what he did not have the courage to tell Nigerians.

The WikiLeaks revelations have since shredded Ribadu’s immaculate persona.

Some people have argued that Ribadu had no moral obligation to reveal to the public what he knew about corruption in Obasanjo’s government. I am not persuaded by that argument. If corruption was so prevalent in Obasanjo’s administration, as Ribadu reportedly told the US diplomat, why didn’t he take a dignified exit from that government, by resigning as the boss of the EFCC? How could any man campaign against corruption and yet sit with and serve corrupt officials in the government? Indeed, if Ribadu was unwavering in his anti-corruption crusade, he would not have remained loyal to a government he believed to be drenched in widespread corruption.

Through his own confidential discussion with the former US diplomat, we now know that Ribadu did not believe in his anti-corruption sermon because he understood his boss – Obasanjo -- to be a road marshal who drove a government of corrupt men and women.

Ribadu’s reputation as a forthright and principled anti-corruption watchdog has been tarnished by revelations about what he knew and how he failed to do anything to stop corruption at the highest levels of government. It is curious that Ribadu bottled up his knowledge of corruption in Obasanjo’s government while he presented himself as the inexorable anti-corruption sheriff of that government.

It is unthinkable that one man could talk so persistently and covertly about the high level of corruption in the government he served and yet fed consistent lies to a nation that perceived him as a role model.


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