Ribadu: A Matter of Integrity

 By Toks Ero

That former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, formally defected to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is no longer news. Mixed reactions have trailed his defection with many Nigerians expressing utter disappointment and disbelief in his perceived unprincipled political and ideological somersault.

The act of defection to a seemingly more favourable or promising political environment is a normal and acceptable political culture amongst Nigerian politicians. Political parties in Nigeria, especially in this era, are nothing but mere platforms to stand for elections unlike in other climes where sympathy for a political party is predicated on definite ideologies shared by like minds and based on policies and programmes for the benefit and welfare of citizens.

Mallam Nuhu Ribadu was thrown into the spotlight in 2003 when he was seconded from the police by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to be the pioneer executive chairman of the newly formed EFCC, an agency set up to fight the scourge of political and economic corruption, fraud, money laundering and related crimes. During his heyday, Ribadu carried out his duties in a most zealous manner, even to the point of overzealousness – jettisoning due process and abusing people’s rights in the process.

While his actions in exposing, hunting down, and prosecuting corrupt officials were noble, many still suspected he was selected for the job as hatchet man for Obasanjo as his searchlight was more often than not on actual and perceived enemies of the president then. His activities attracted worldwide media attention such that he became the symbol of the fight against corruption, which fit perfectly into Obasanjo’s grand design to strip the country of the toga of corruption and demonstrate to an outraged and critical international community its commitment to fighting the scourge to a standstill. Nigeria has consistently featured on top of global corruption ratings, and rightly so. For example, the Transparency International corruption index still ranks Nigeria as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Corruption is evil and immoral, and the ferocity of Ribadu’s fight against corruption at the time created a moral and principled deity out of him in the eyes and perception of observers such that even in his post-EFCC era, many still believed Ribadu had much to offer the Nigerian nation in terms of positive change. I am not one of those. That is why I was neither disappointed nor surprised when he committed his recent political blunder by jumping ship from the All Progressives Congress, APC, to the PDP.

Inter-party defection only serves to portray the defector as a political opportunist and harlot seeking greener political pastures. I believe that today, as always, Ribadu is not different from any other typical Nigerian politician seeking to improve his political fortunes and relevance. I am definitely not surprised that Ribadu defected to the PDP. Evidently, the PDP represents a stronger platform to actualise his gubernatorial ambition in his Adamawa State. Ribadu comes across to me as an opportunist riding on the waves of his popularity during his stint at the EFCC.

For all those who had deified Ribadu and are consequently disappointed in him, I sympathise with them.  The man was just an ordinary police officer who by a stroke of fate was appointed by Obasanjo who pulled his puppet strings to hound political enemies. But politics has demystified Ribadu and further reduced his diminutive stature. He has overtly stepped down from his moral high horse – one he rode with reckless abandon in the discharge of his mandate as anti-corruption czar.

Our country Nigeria deserves men and women of honour and integrity who will hold tenaciously to their principled positions at any given time. Men and women of strong convictions who will not speak from both sides of the mouth or act at variance with what they hitherto stood for. A population inching towards 200 million can certainly afford men and women whose character and competence have not been tainted by suspicion and mistrust, whose motives are not being called to question.

While some may argue that our democracy is still evolving, I say present political players are making the evolution of ours painfully slow. The problems that plague Nigeria at this stage of our evolution can easily be solved by a sincere and honest leader with integrity, courage and strength of character than a “competent” one. University degrees are awarded to persons who have been found worthy in “character and learning.” Our rulers are not necessarily lacking in learning nor do they lack the requisite knowledge and experience to perform. What they lack is the character and integrity that make the difference in public office.

Societies naturally regulate both individual and collective conduct. I find it a step in the right direction that many Nigerians condemned Ribadu’s defection. It is an indication there are many who still place a high premium on strict adherence to principles, ethics and morality. As much as I wish him success in the actualisation of his ambition and future endeavours, Ribadu risks going down to ground zero politically if he fails in his governorship bid in the PDP or precipitates any crisis as a result of his failure.

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