Ribadu, Again….

“Indeed, my experience in the last couple of years has shown that those who have corrupted and are corrupting this country would fight back with virulence, if we try to stop them, or even attempt to hinder them. From Asaba to Makurdi, from Dubai to London, they will run from pillar to post, and try to erect barricades on our path to national salvation while hiding from justice. They will try to impede or

even kill our national hope and aspirations to build a country that will be the pride of all citizens, including the young men and women graduating from this university.” – Nuhu Ribadu

Nuhu Ribadu is back in Nigeria, but it would seem he has wasted no time to return to his old ways. At the recent convocation ceremony at Babcock University, Ilisan, Ogun State where he was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, Ribadu unleashed the above salvo against James Ibori and Michael Aondoakaa, two of his principal nemeses during the Umaru Yar’Adua dispensation. Personally, I think it is obvious from the quoted statement above that Ribadu is already beginning to make the same mistakes he made while he was in service – mistakes that undermined some of his more laudable efforts while at the EFCC.  Of course, I’m benignly calling them “mistakes” because some of the things he did were clearly from the manual of a police state in service of the interests of his principals at Aso Rock at the time. But having being on self-exile for a year and half, studied at Oxford, mixed with progressive Nigerians worldwide, worked around the globe and seen at close quarters how the anti-corruption work is done in places they are effective, one would think Ribadu would have taken note that the war isn’t won by newspaper pronouncements and that his credibility is bound to be diminished if he’s seen to be waging personal battles or making personal attacks against political opponents, even if they’re people accused of corruption. When all is said and done, he needs to be aware that no court in the country has convicted Ibori of corruption yet. As a public official or someone in the public eye, he needs to take note of this, no matter his personal opinion on the guilt or otherwise of Ibori or Aondoakaa.

On his own personal front, it is unfortunate enough that the case against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal was discontinued under a nolle prosequi without him raising a principled objection, in view of the claims his legal representatives were originally making at the Tribunal in his defence. I mean, considering who he is, it would have made more sense (despite the Tribunal’s pronouncements and seeming declaration of its position as final on the issue) for him, either directly or through his legal representatives, to insist that he wants to publicly clear his name. While it is not his fault that he was granted a nolle prosequi, to accept it is to be an enabler of a bad precedence. For instance, many of those charged with corruption who are close to Jonathan have began to lobby to also be given the Ribadu-type of reprieve and they would have a case once the grant of nolle prosequi is seen as political favour, as in Ribadu’s case. However, if Ribadu had insisted on clearing his name or on the Tribunal publicly admitting its mistake if the prosecution was originally in bad faith, even if the nolle prosequi stands, his implied rejection would have been a matter of public record and a rebuke to anyone wanting to use this as a precedence to free other public officials or ex-public officials charged with corruption today or tomorrow.

On his reinstatement to the rank of Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), while I have some sympathy for the view that the original promotion was illegal (because it wasn’t done by the Police Service Commission, which is the appropriate authority constitutionally empowered to do so as a section 153 statutory body) and prejudicial to the interest of other hardworking colleagues (including those demoted with him and whose cases were not equally reviewed), it is not something Ribadu should be personally blamed for per se. True, it all came about via Obasanjo’s impunity, even in rewarding loyalists; but if today the Police Service Commission (compelled or not) feels that it needs to reverse itself on the issue, I will accept that as valid because they are the competent authority to do so. Yes, we’ve all read how Parry Osayande and the Police Service Commission were arm-twisted by Jonathan to reverse themselves, but that does not affect the validity of their latter action to reinstate Ribadu, because they are the constitutionally recognised body with clear powers to do so. If Osayande and the other members felt they were under any kind of undue pressure to do what was not lawful, whether that pressure is from the President or anyone else, they were obliged to say so. If they felt it was not something they could do or speak publicly about, they could have resigned, just as Osayande said he would do in December 2008 if so pressurised by the President. So, yeah, the reinstatement looks all political, but so were all other issues relating to the promotion from the beginning. It is enough that Ribadu is retired now and not returning to the Police.

However, all the above apart, as I was saying earlier, Ribadu’s return to plunge himself straight at the service of Aso Rock with a statement like this is exactly showing that he has not learnt from his last singeing by Aso Rock. I mean, is there any need to publicly continue to give the impression that he has a personal score to settle with Ibori, especially now that the latter has debatably put himself in a pickle by escaping to Dubai? Isn’t this the same thing his bosom friend, Nasir el-Rufai did by using Ribadu’s name to attack Ibori when the news came that the latter had been arrested in Dubai? In fact, the stalemate that has developed in Dubai is principally caused by Aso Rock and EFCC’s ill-advised attempt to negotiate Ibori’s extradition to Nigeria when Nigeria has no extradition treaty with the United Arab Emirates and when it is obvious that the EFCC’s so-called attempt to bring Ibori to book up to that point had been a sham. Instead of quickly supporting the British and Metropolitan Police to get the man extradited to the United Kingdom to join up with his kindred and associates being tried there, the EFCC, under Aso Rock direction, acted more like stumbling blocks!

Now, Mr Ibori is claiming political asylum in the United Arab Emirates and, no matter what anyone thinks, the rules under the 1951 Geneva Convention favour him generously. This is because it was clear from the way Jonathan and the EFCC (which was conniving with Ibori before now) went after him that the hunt for him was politically motivated. I mean, here is the country where quite a number of the allies of Goodluck Jonathan, like Peter Odili, have openly refused to honour EFCC’s invitation without even a lone policeman sent to arrest them. Yet they thought it was appropriate to lay siege at Oghara with all the might of the Nigeria Police and EFCC to arrest Ibori for not honouring an invitation by EFCC when a court injunction against such an action was subsisting. With that the man has been handed enough evidence to get a political asylum at the UAE. Yet, if Jonathan and EFCC had simply steered clear of Dubai and passed over necessary information and support to the British through the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, Mr Ibori would have been cooling his heels somewhere in detention in the UK, as he would not have been able to raise the gimmick of political asylum since he wouldn’t have been able to make a sustainable case against the British as he can against Nigeria. After all, a process has since been instituted against him there with $35 million of his assets frozen by a British court. Indeed, he holds a British passport and is therefore a British citizen, which would have made extradition to the UK smoother.

Anyway, back to Ribadu. I think this type of statement does not help his credibility. What it indicates is that he seems again to be making himself available to be used against the political enemies of the man in Aso Rock. His selective view of corrupt people in the country is writ-large in this statement. We are tired of propaganda against perceived enemies of the man in Aso Rock and his friends! Nigerians need real, honest attempts at fighting corruption at all levels, not set-piece declarations that are no more than cheap shots at political opponents. Ribadu should know that those ruining the country with corruption have not run anywhere (despite the high-profile Ibori flight). They are solidly at home in Nigeria, and not only in Makurdi, running the affairs of the country and still stealing us blind! They are Jonathan’s friends and confidantes and they populate virtually every top-level space within the government! Ibori did not run because he feared he was to be truly tried for corruption. He ran because he knew that the latest attempt to get him before his flight was mainly to keep him in the cooler to reduce his political nuisance value against Jonathan’s agenda over the control of the PDP and towards his 2011 self-perpetuation plan. Indeed, it is a continuation of the Obasanjo-Jonathan political war against him now that his protector, Umaru Yar’Adua is gone.

Also, Ribadu should know that one of his biggest Achilles heels was this type of empty populist talk. Indeed, some of us believe that he spent much more time in the media limelight than he should have and by virtue of that talked out of turn a lot of times. Presently, he isn’t holding a public position yet; but everyone knows he’s back courtesy of the present government and preparatory to being given some kind of public appointment in the Jonathan government. Keeping low-key now until he’s given this job and letting his conduct on the job speak for itself would have been better. And even if he’s not given a job, Ribadu should know that he is a very divisive character and the less he attracts controversy to himself this time around the better. If he’s learnt anything abroad, it should be the noiselessness with which the job of fighting corruption is done effectively and lawfully outside the media circus.

Again, while I am not a great fan of Mrs Farida Waziri, we all know that a strain has developed in her relationship with Ribadu, not only because of the manner of Ribadu’s sack and her takeover, but also because both seem to genuinely dislike each other as professionals in the police force. It does not serve the government’s anti-corruption agenda to have Ribadu return and even before any appointment, begin to speak as though he is still the arrowhead of the anti-corruption effort in any forum. Such statements undermine the EFCC and Mrs Waziri and if government does not have confidence in her leadership, the natural thing would be to relieve her of the position and appoint someone else there, even if it’s Ribadu. But it is not an option to undermine her and the organization through Ribadu’s comments. Of course, I am not advocating that Ribadu’s freedom of speech should be compromised; but, as any discerning person knows, once you have served at such a high level in the public service, discretion is usually expected when making comments relating to the job.

Personally, my position on Ribadu has not changed as explained in an article I wrote last year at the height of his face-off with Ibori. I have posted that article again here for people to read and understand what is still at stake today. As I said, my views on him remain the same and my conditions for supporting him remain the same as well. Truth will save us, not emergency heroism.

Kennedy Emetulu,