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Ribadu’s Comedy of Errors

Author: Amaze Obi
Posted to the web: 10/2/2005 9:48:58 PM

Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is already used to doing the bidding of his master, President Olusegun Obasanjo. Since he was appointed as the head of this omnibus commission, Ribadu has brought so much hysteria to bear in the system. The commission itself is a product of hysteria. It was put in place by a government which came into scene with a false notion of what Nigeria was and what must be done to right the perceived or imagined wrongs. A certain turn of events had returned Obasanjo into office after 20 years of wandering in the wide wilderness called Nigeria. His return was supposed to be seen as an act of God. But instead, it was seen as a personal triumph, or as a measure of the super human qualities which Obasanjo possessed. If he were not a different breed of human being, he reasoned, how could he be found so fitting or indispensable in a country of about 120 million people? This impression, no doubt, created a deep feeling of excitement in him. The mood around him became that of frenzy. Before him, things had been so bad. Nigeria had been so mismanaged. The wrong people had been in the saddle for 20 years. Corruption must be the greatest burden the country has to be saved from. Indeed, Nigeria's own equivalent of the biblical Messiah had come. But this messiah, to be able to arrive at his Damascus, must work with some disciples. Corruption had to be stamped out of the system. Bad eggs who give Nigeria a bad name must be fished out and stigmatised.It was in this mood of hysteria that Obasanjo set up the EFCC. Given all the high expectations and the sanctimonious posturing that had gone into government business, even if it was merely impressionistic, the man in charge of this commission that has been mandated to sanitise the system must look tough and act tough. This was how Ribadu set sail. Ever since, he has been serving his master faithfully, He had, without hesitation or even reflection, taken up any assignment given to him. When a governor needs to be shot down or blackmailed, EFCC will bare its fangs and pretend to be probing him. When a minister needs to be disgraced, EFCC has to be sent to spill the bean. If it was time to humiliate a former Inspector General of Police, the Commission would also be a willing tool in the hands of government. This has been the pattern.But a new dimension has now been introduced to the commission's assignment. From probing others, the EFCC is now being made to appear as if it can also investigate the president.In the desperate bid to give Nigerians the impression that he (Obasanjo) cannot be fighting corrupt Nigerians and at the same time be corrupt himself, he has chosen to ridicule Ribadu and his commission. He has asked them to investigate him over a private letter written to him by Governor Orji Uzor Kalu. Kalu had, in his usual bluntness, told the president what he knows about his (the president's) dealings. Even though Obasanjo likes to pretend to Nigerians that he is above board, Kalu has told him that he (Mr. President) is not what he pretends to be. Like many other Nigerians he has been pointing accusing fingers at, Obasanjo, Kalu said, is equally culpable. Far from being the upright man he pretends to be, Kalu put it to Mr President that he too had sinned and therefore does not qualify to assume the moral high ground.We must recognise the fact that Kalu's letter was a private one. His intention was not to tell the world what he knows about Mr. President. He simply set out to jibe at a pretender to the throne of morality. Such jibes are necessary at least for the purpose of telling those who like to ride the high horse that there are some who are not taken in by their antics. The import of such expose is that when next the pretender mounts the podium to sermonise or pontificate about morality, he will be fighting a duel with his conscience, knowing full well that there are some who see beyond those things that more than meet the eyes about him.Kalu has since realised this objective. But Obasanjo appears to be unhappy about this. He is not comfortable with the fact that somebody knows about his fragile underbelly. Thus, intent on latching on to whatever claims he lays to morality or uprightness, he decided to engage in the ridiculous. This is what his instruction to EFCC to investigate him amounts to. And because Ribadu is already accustomed to playing his master's game, he could not, possibly, see anything absurd about the instruction given to him by Mr. President in this regard. Knowing full well that he cannot ask his boss nasty questions, he chose to make us believe otherwise. He even had the temerity to tell Nigerians that his men had interrogated Mr. President and that he cooperated with them. What a comedy of errors.What stuff can this interrogation be made of? As for cooperating with them, how did the president do it? Even if some EFCC operatives should visit the president in a stage-managed scene, is there supposed to be confrontation or unpleasant exchanges between them and the president? The scenario painted by Ribadu really looks absurd. It is laughable. But it can also be revolting. When you divest the issue of its ridiculous connotations, what you will have left will be anger and insult. In telling us what transpired between Obasanjo and EFCC operatives, Ribadu assumed that Nigerians are fools. There can be no discerning minds among them. They must swallow the lie he sold to them hook, line and sinker. Nigerians must believe him. After all, they lack the ability to be incredulous.They are mindless proles. They lack the power of reason. Ribadu must have seen Nigerians in this light. If he did not take their intelligence for granted, he would not have told them such incredible stories about EFCC's dealing with Mr. President.Obasanjo may have been pretending about his government's anti-corruption drive. Ribadu may have been acting out the president's scripts in his commission's much vaunted 'war' against economic and financial crimes.But there has to be a time when the truth has to be told. Kalu has, through his letter, taken Obasanjo to task. The president should think about this. If he truly believes that he is not guilty as charged, he should try to go the whole hog. He should leave EFCC or any other agency of government out of the matter. There are many independent bodies that can do a good job of investigating him. That is how to prove to the world that he is an upright moral crusader.As for Ribadu, he should realise the fact that absurdity is not an all-time engagement. Even court jesters can get serious at times. The time has come for him to reassess the role he has been asked to play in this drama of ridicule. He should, for once, be himself. To be a perpetual role - player is to reduce oneself to the level of a nonentity. But I know that Ribadu is not a nonentity. He should therefore desist from playing any role that is capable of portraying him in that ignoble light.

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