Friday, 6 June 2008

So Long Ribadu, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye!!!

So Nuhu Ribadu has been sent on study leave to the Nigerian Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) and the country is going CRAZY. For those of you who don’t know who Ribadu is, I’ll draw a quick sketch:

After the September 11th attacks the United States started its campaign against terrorism and the funding of terrorist activities. As a direct result of this anti-terrorist drive, President Obasanjo of Nigeria in 2003 created the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to be the key agency of government responsible for fighting terrorism. Nuhu Ribadu, at the time a serving officer with the Nigerian Police Force was appointed the Commission’s first Executive Chairman. The focus of the Commission shifted fairly quickly from deterring terrorists (we unsurprisingly don’t have many suicidal fundamentalists in Nigeria) to silencing political opposition.

To be fair to Mr. Ribadu, almost everyone his Commission was ‘allowed’ to go after at the time was tinged with the sickly stench of corruption and gross embezzlement. Unfortunately this very zealous but selective anti-corruption crusade was more like a witch-hunt and Ribadu’s numerous public speeches were starting to sound more and more like the rabid rhetoric of a mad inquistador. His brashness and personal attacks on people being investigated were also making him elephantine enemies who had long memories.

I am a student of politics and power, and sadly Ribadu was neither a politician, diplomat, nor technocrat. He was just a police officer with visions of becoming the man who erased corruption from the Nigerian lexicon. His Waterloo came when Nigeria’s new president Umaru Yar’Adua was sworn into office in 2007. If Ribadu had been a politician, he would have realised the obvious: that his was a political office and that his remit, his mandate was of a necessity determined by whoever was President. If he was a diplomat, he should have negotiated a compromise between the new Government’s vision and his Commission’s fight against those Nigerians who were bleeding the country dry. If he had been a technocrat Ribadu would not have been blinded by the light shining off the numerous awards and trophies he had collected from international organisations. He would have shied away from journalists and reporters who had built him up as the most powerful person in sub-Saharan Africa and he would have quietly gotten on with his job.

Anyway, he’s gone now, so happy trails to our anti-corruption tsar. The EFCC will continue throwing thieves into jail, and our war against corruption and money laundering and terrorism (of course) will continue. I’ll accept that whoever fills Ribadu’s shoes will most probably be President Yar’Adua’s stooge. I’m more than happy with that because I feel that a Yar’Adua-stooge is better than having one that may have been Obasanjo’s puppet.

And regardless of the President’s agenda, I 100% believe that coming from where we’ve been as a country, a half-hearted fight against corruption is better than none at all.
Jan 10, 2008

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