Bamidele Salam frowns on the role of some opposition parties in the controversies that dogged the submission of the Ribadu committee report
Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, the enigmatic retired police officer who later became chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) during the days of former President Olusegun Obasanjo is not new to controversy. Right from his appointment into the anti-graft body, his tenure and exit as well as his foray into the murky waters of Nigerian politics, Ribadu has tasted from the sublime to the most vicious criticism of the vocal critical public. Despite significant successes recorded in his fight against corruption, the police-activist was at various times dubbed an agent of the Obasanjo presidency whose actions or inactions were dictated by the whims and caprices of the former president.
The online whistle blower, Wikileaks, quoted unnamed Nigerian opposition leaders as describing Ribadu as a willing tool in the hands of an increasingly unpopular Obasanjo. The opposition leaders aided by a section of the Media accused Ribadu of witch-hunting real and imaginary enemies of the former president and his political party. Even when the EFCC went after known acquaintances and political associates of Obasanjo, the opposition found some 'actual" reasons behind the ones given by the anti-graft agency; the most common ones being that the person arrested was against the third term agenda or constituted threat to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party(PDP).
It was double jeopardy for a Ribadu who suffered much vilification by those who in normal societies should be his backbone as well as from those corrupt elements he was appointed to fight. When Ribadu was eventually eased out of the EFCC by Obasanjo’s successor- acting "in the best interest of the public" and apparently spurred on by public opinion, those who painted Ribadu black quickly embraced him, acknowledged his credential and even found him worthy of flying the flag of the main opposition party as its presidential candidate.
The ebullient Ribadu committed his energy, integrity and hard earned money into a race that turned out catastrophic! By nightfall on the presidential Election Day, the anti-corruption czar turned politician had tasted a dose of what someone Lincoln called the sweet knife cut of political friends. If a man’s household are his greatest enemies as the bible would make us believe, Ribadu got an unpleasant confirmation as his political party ditched him and curiously turned in millions of votes to the ruling PDP.
It was a sorry Ribadu who quietly returned to his shell of intellectualism from where President Goodluck Jonathan fetched him out for a new assignment which is turning out no less controversial. The appointment of Ribadu as chairman of a special task force on the Petroleum sector appeared to me a clear indication of the resolve of President Goodluck Jonathan to rise above partisanship and offer Africa’s largest economy the kind of leadership it desperately needs to harness its vast human resource for the common good. Those who hailed that appointment saw in it a rare opportunity to confront the hydra headed problems of lack of transparency and non adherence to international best practices in the oil and gas sector of the Nigerian economy.
On the other hand are the critics of the appointment who reasoned that Ribadu would be arm-twisted to do the bidding of some vested interest in the oil sector. The unrepentant cynics even suggested that the committee was the Presidents method of weakening the opposition of which Ribadu is a prominent figure. I recall engaging a few of this second group in a sustained debate on this issue on a social network, Facebook, where we argued back and forth on the propriety of the ACN leadership asking Ribadu not to accept the appointment to serve his fatherland when no conditions have been attached to such an offer.
Well, Ribadu accepted the offer to serve on the task force and has turned in a report which is the source of some new controversies. The controversies on the outcome of the report as well as events preceding its official presentation are further proof of an urgent need to repair the mentality of the Nigerian opposition politicians and see Nigeria as a common heritage to be desperately protected by all and sundry.
In the first instance, I feel disappointed that a version of the Ribadu report was published on a foreign news agency, Reuters, weeks before the committee officially submitted its findings and recommendations to government. I hate to think that the committee chairman ordered or approved the leakage of such a sensitive document to a foreign medium. Whoever did that could either be an agent of the very forces President Jonathan is set out to confront in the petroleum sector or an overzealous player who has sadly exposed the team to avoidable errors of judgment.
While noting that the report published by Reuters has certain similarities with the one eventually submitted to the President, I note too that there are fundamental differences in form and conclusions. Sadly though, I hadn't heard any strong disclaimer of that leakage from Ribadu before the President issued an ultimatum to his committee to wind up and submit its report. This did not sound too good enough for a man who had a record of public service in matters of investigation and prosecution.
I wonder how Ribadu would have felt if while he worked as chairman of EFCC, his subordinate officers leaked contents of investigative reports which he had not even seen to the public. I am sure heads would have rolled if such had happened. Second, I hope Ribadu is at least amused at the fact that those who carpeted President Jonathan for setting up the task force and appointing him into its headship are the ones calling for the "full and immediate" implementation of its findings even when they haven't seen its content.
These professional cynics have made a number of demands including resignation of certain ministers and sacking of officials whose tenure constitute less than a quarter of the period under probe and whose conduct have not been found to be against any known law of the land.
For the avoidance of doubts, many Nigerians including this writer are angry at the rot that has permeated the oil sector in the last three decades of our Nationhood. However, anger for the sake of anger solves no problem. Rather, it behooves on all of us to constructively support the courageous moves of President Jonathan to sanitize this important sector.
The man who appointed Ribadu knew what stuff he was made of. Even though the committee has not fully discharged its responsibilities as indicated in its report where it cited time constraints for not being able to independently verify certain claims and submissions, we should avoid being tools in the hands of those whose real hunger is not for good governance but for power.
It is definitely not a mark of statesmanship for people whose voices are quickly adumbrated by the Media to make unsubstantiated vicious comments about the President on matters that require less noise and more actions.
Those who have held the Nigerian oil sector hostage for so long will definitely not be happy that a man has come to reform the weak structures they have exploited for so long. The President has shown that he means business with the setting up of the task force and his utterances at the submission of the Ribadu report and he deserves the support of all critical sectors of the Nigerian public to get to the roots of the matter lest we allow desperate politicians seize the momentum in the name of being active opposition players. God bless Nigeria.