Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Going beyond Nuhu Ribadu

IT is not unusual for a man to go through trying times - once, twice or many times over in his life time. I have witnessed some, read about the heroics of certain men who are constantly faced with one problem or the other; the Bible is replete with many such examples. I have gone through some myself, as I believe, like any one of you out there. We have been told On many occasions it is part of human nature. How a man copes with the mountain high battles is another story. But as inspirational speaker Robert Schuller would say, "tough times never last, only tough people do". For Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, himself a tough cop whose name alone was almost synonymous with fear barely two years ago, as he went about his anti-graft fight, these are indeed trying times. He would only be deceiving himself if he claims he has not been humiliated by the faceless, powerful elements in our midst that he took on in his attempt to either serve the nation well, or to do his master's bidding to justify his rating.

The humiliation he suffered last Saturday in Kuru at the graduation ceremony of the Senior Executive Course 30 of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) was one too many. Ribadu was reportedly forced out of the occasion where he was supposed to be a graduating student, right there before his colleagues, family and friends. It is left to conjecture whether he prepared for the ordeal he went through with security men whose action or inaction has also become a subject of investigation by the Presidency which claimed it never ordered anyone to stop Ribadu on his day of honour.

But it is clear that the man found himself in a tight corner on how he should be dressed for the ceremony. Ordinarily, a serving officer, they say, must be in ceremonial uniform for the occasion. But Mallam Nuhu knew if he appeared in the Assistant Inspector General rank to which former President Olusegun Obasanjo promoted him - two steps above his Deputy Commissioner status - he would be tried for insubordination and if otherwise, that is in a deputy commissioner, DCP outfit, he was done for. Here is a man who has legally challenged his demotion by his employers from AIG status which in the first instance, qualified him to attend the course.

Part of the humiliation strategies was to recall him from NIPSS on the grounds that he was not qualified to be there as a DCP, his removal as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) during which time he stepped on powerful toes, allegedly on the instruction and with the backing of Obasanjo, his boss - the only man he reported to as EFCC chairman. Of course, Obasanjo allegedly found it convenient to hound his real and imagined enemies and the opposition with that terror machine Ribadu controlled - justifiably or otherwise.

But for his excesses, whether he used his powers for sinister purposes or not, it is to the credit of Ribadu that he remains, arguably, the best anti-corruption officer Nigeria desired considering the rot in the system. If not for Mallam Nuhu, would we, the people, have the audacity to tell some of those thieving governors we elected to serve us that they are nothing but pen robbers? They were confronted with huge cash of unimaginable proportions, and looted the treasury to their satisfaction. Let them prove their innocence in the law courts. If only Ribadu had not been selective in his anti-graft war, as he was variously accused even while he was running the show! Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar (Obasanjo's sworn enemy) some days ago in an interview he granted The Guardian described Ribadu as reckless. May be he knew better, having tasted the bitter pill himself.

In his ordeal, I doubt if Ribadu should lay any claim to the rule of law that he did not promote in office as EFCC chairman. He seemed to have forgotten that tomorrow was yet to come. The tactics were high handed as many people say, and his traducers were waiting for him, daily plotting his downfall. To a certain extent, they have succeeded and are still in business of pull-him-down. He should not be surprised if they take him to the cleaners completely. His survival depends on how he plots his own battle strategies and how many arrows he has left in his quiver. In short, his ordeal is not over yet.

The hunter has become the hunted. Ribadu is facing a probe by an organisation he headed until about 18 months ago. What an irony? That is part of the lessons of history we are learning today. He should be able to take his medicine with a straight face, too; let every man see, at any point in life, what it means to be at the receiving end for life to take on more meaning to us all. If the man deserves to be investigated, let them do it, but within the limits of decency.

While Ribadu's travails lasted, the Presidency was embroiled in a comedy of errors, making one blunder or the other - from his redeployment to his demotion to the humiliation at Kuru last week. So much loophole was left in the handling of the matter that people were wondering if the directives to intimidate the man were actually coming out of Aso Rock, the Police Service Commission or the Inspector-General of Police,the overall boss of Ribadu. In trying to wriggle out of the mess, the presidency has ordered the NIPSS management to release Ribadu's certificate of course participation. That is commendable, because the man deserves the document as evidence of his labour, so long as he was not found wanting academically or morally by the institute.

Probing his maltreatment by overzealous security details would at least tell who ordered the action and on what basis. The public would like to know and very soon for that matter. Demonising Ribadu and haunting him across the country only attracts more sympathy for him. He deserves some pity really as an officer who meant well for the nation in the anti-corruption crusade and did his job with so much passion that placed the EFCC in the lime light even on the international scene. The agency under him started attracting support funds from relevant international organisations for the fight against sleaze. It remains to be seen how far his successor Mrs. Farida Waziri can go under the present government which is only mouthing rule of law and seemingly paying little attention to the anti-graft war.

Next level. Mallam Nuhu, reports claim, is being sent to Edo State to resume work. That is the next stage of trouble for the tough cop. He's expected to continue his work there as a deputy commissioner. The man is clinging to the rank of assistant Inspector General which the police commission contends he was just a beneficiary of a largesse by Obasanjo. The case is in court. Will Ribadu resume as DCP in Edo or any other posting as normally should be directed by an employer or will he hold on to his AIG rank? Oh, what an interesting drama this is turning out to be?

Now, beyond Ribadu. The great lesson is that if a man is given a job to do, it is incumbent on him to do it within the limits of decency. Whatever is happening to him today is a fallout of his romance with Obasanjo's crude tactics of getting even with his opponents, although Ribadu has tried desperately to deny this many times. Those he hunted down unfairly then who are still in the system after Obasanjo's exit are the faceless powers creating nightmares for him now. We can make an analogy here. Where are the Bamaiyis, the Al-Mustaphas and the Jokolos and such crude tacticians today? There is a season for everything.

If this world is a stage in which we are all players, then let each man play his part well. We can only wish Ribadu well in his survival battles