Friday, December 05, 2008

Ribadu's Growing Travails

It is disturbing that despite the many serious socio-economic challenges facing the country, so much attention is being consumed by the shadow-fighting between some government agencies and the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Nuhu Ribadu.
Since the ouster of the ex-head of the EFCC nearly a year ago, he has been in the news mostly for the wrong reasons. For a man who, many believe, performed reasonably well on the tough task of fighting corruption, Ribadu’s long ordeal gives reason for concern. Whatever might have been his failings, the spate of harassments to which he has been subjected is becoming a national embarrassment.
Apart from the manner in which he was removed from office and then demoted from an Assistant Inspector-General to a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Ribadu has received the sort of treatment fit only for common enemies of the state. The latest in the series of what has been rightly described as the "obsession with Ribadu persecution" is the shoddy treatment he received from the powers that be at the recent graduation ceremony of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS).It is not our intention to join the long, winding debate on why he was barred from the graduation ceremony. Rather, we are concerned about what such episodes convey to the outside world and what they say about the nation's commitment to the fight against corruption. The general impression right now is that Ribadu is being persecuted for daring to step on powerful toes. The government ought to be concerned about this for two main reasons.
First, it tends to suggest that those who are prepared to render selfless service without minding whose ox is gored cannot be sure of state protection should the need arises. But even more devastating is the erroneous impression it creates that the present government is not serious about fighting corruption. Ribadu, wrongly or rightly, approximates the nation's best effort at fighting corruption. He of course had his weaknesses, but he proved for the first time in the nation's history that it is possible to bring corrupt senior public officials to book.
As it is, not one single person among those charged with corruption by the EFCC under Ribadu can be said to be corruption-free. Understandably therefore, many, if not most Nigerians, see Ribadu's current travails as sheer persecution by some influential people and officials of government who have an axe to grind with him.
If there is any evidence of wrong doing against the former EFCC chairman, it should be made public. The courts are there for such cases. Otherwise, let the harassment and shadow-chasing stop. There are more important issues to engage the attention of the government. Clubbering a man who showed courage in fighting what is decidedly Nigeria's greatest challenge-- official graft-- is certainly not one of them