10 November 2012

Nigeria: A Pseudo-President's Unending Hangover


A quick look back at Nigeria's 2011 presidential election shows that any of the four major contenders could have become Nigeria's president.

They include incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan who eventually won the election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); former Head of State and candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) Muhammadu Buhari; All Nigeria's Peoples Party (ANPP) candidate and former Kano State governor Ibrahim Shekarau and former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Nuhu Ribadu, who was Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) candidate in the election.

I have decided to start this piece on the review of this possibility because of the relevance of one of the presidents the 2011 election never gave us, and that is Mallam Ribadu. The nation will surely miss his bravery, garrulity and theatrics. In this season when citizens groan under the pains of fuel scarcity and the burden of harsh economic climate, a Ribadu presidency would have been more entertaining, drama friendly such that we will always have reasons to 'laugh away our sorrows.'

In the absence of this, however, Ribadu's fans must always have moments to refer to. That is, there will never be a dull moment. One of such recent moments was the drama that greeted the report presentation of the petroleum special task force headed by Ribadu to President Jonathan last Friday. Just as that controversy was fading away, the former EFCC boss dabbled into his usual rhetoric with a view to stirring another controversy that will put him in the news and enjoy free publicity.

According to a report in The Punch of Monday November 5, Ribadu was said to have spoken on Frontline, a current affairs programme on the African Independent Television, which was monitored by the paper. He was quoted to have said the following in a bid to justify his self delusion that the EFCC was created out of Ribadu, by Ribadu and for Ribadu only.

His words: "When I was removed from the EFCC, they brought people with the intention to destroy the work of the EFCC.

"It is easy to destroy than to build. I pity the people who are in EFCC today because they are coming after the people who destroyed it.

"When you fight corruption, it will fight back. We saw that corruption fought back at the end of 2007 in Nigeria when corruption took over, when the leadership of Nigeria embraced corruption and they were ready to fight those who were fighting corruption and replaced those who were fighting corruption with corrupt people to turn things upside down."

At this juncture, let's once again examine these claims, bring forth facts and figures, which have since been in the public domain, of works done under each leadership of the Commission especially as they concern the Ribadu era and that of his substantive successor, Mrs Farida Waziri.

It is a fact that soon after there was a change of leadership in the country following the 2007 elections that produced the presidency of Umaru Musa Yaradua/Goodluck Jonathan, Ribadu who was in his fifth year as EFCC chairman was technically eased out of office when he was sent on a course at the Nigeria Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS, Jos Plateau state. His then second in command, Ibrahim Lamorde became the Acting Chairman of the commission and worked in that capacity for about six months after which the immediate past Chairman, Mrs Waziri was appointed in May 2008 and eventually assumed leadership on June 6th same year.

It is on record that Ribadu never handed over the leadership of the commission to Waziri. He indeed handed over to Lamorde in a three page handover note. Was Ribadu therefore referring to Lamorde with whom he had worked from the inception of the agency as the one who destroyed the commission since he (Lamorde) was the one he (Ribadu) handed over to? If that was his intention, then he should be told here that that was a self-indictment.

If on the other hand, he was making an implied reference to Waziri, he again needs to be told that only fools will fall for such claims that cannot be backed by the commission's record.

It is on record and in the public domain that the Commission under Waziri recorded not less than 450 convictions in just about three years including the first and till date the only high profile case ever recorded by the Commission through a court trial that got up to appeal court.

Before I am accused of defending Waziri's tenure in EFCC, it will be apt to conclude with a portion of a report done by the international organization, Human Rights Watch, released in August 2011. According to the HRW report entitled "Corruption on Trial?", "Even the EFCC's critics generally agree that the agency has done a competent job of prosecuting apolitical financial crimes, especially advance fee fraud cases. By March 2011 the EFCC had arraigned some 1,200 people for advance fee fraud, securing so far more than 400 convictions.[41] That side of the EFCC's work has continued apace under Waziri.[42]

"Also under Waziri, the EFCC has shed new light on Nigeria's scandal-ridden banking sector. Central Bank officials told Human Rights Watch that they had received "tremendous cooperation" from Waziri's EFCC in their efforts to "sanitize the banking industry" and "rid the sector of criminals."[43] In the most highly publicized of several EFCC banking cases brought under Waziri, former Oceanic Bank managing director Cecilia Ibru was sentenced to six months in prison and disgorged an astonishing 190 billion naira ($1.2 billion) after pleading guilty to several counts of bank fraud in October 2010.[44]

"Waziri argued that the number of important cases she has filed compares favorably with Ribadu's own record.[54] And in terms of raw numbers, she has a point. As the charts below show, the number of prosecutions targeting allegedly corrupt nationally prominent public officials is higher under Waziri (16 cases) than Ribadu (10 cases).[55]" It must be noted that this assessment was based on two years of Waziri's tenure as against five years of Ribadu'.

I challenge him to come out clean and present his score card.

Drawing from the title of this piece, it appears to me that even five years after leaving office as EFCC chairman, Mr Ribadu is yet to come to terms with that reality. This can only be the reason why he continues to snap periodically. It is time he realised that life itself is dynamic and that no one is indispensable no matter how many 'foreign gods' one has as masters.

Otubu, a public affairs analyst, wrote in from Effunru, Delta state.

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