Ribadu: A defection not-so-surprising

Olumide Iyanda

Buzz by Olumide Iyanda

Email: oiyanda@yahoo.com Twitter: @mightyng

Olumide-IyandaAnd so – after months of denial – former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, has announced his “carefully considered decision” to dump the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The only persons who didn’t see that coming were either blissfully naive or in denial. Even as a chieftain of the country’s main opposition party, Ribadu never took his criticism of the government at the centre beyond words. For him, there was no harm serving a PDP-led Federal Government “regardless of our affiliations, our differences, and our engagements.”

Ribadu contested the 2011 presidential election on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), one of the parties that merged to form what is known today as APC. He lost to PDP’s Goodluck Jonathan. That election held on Saturday, April 16. On February 7, 2012 – some 10 months after – the Federal Government announced that Ribadu had been appointed chairman of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force (PRSTF) following the nationwide strike and protest against the removal of fuel subsidy in January. The task force was mandated to investigate and recommend ways of sanitising the oil industry, which reeked of corruption.

A statement from ACN’s conveyor belt of press releases told Ribadu back then that he was on his own if he accepted to serve the Jonathan administration as chairman of PRSTF. According to ACN’s National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, the party “wish to reiterate our position barring any member of our party from taking any appointment whatsoever from the PDP-led Federal Government. Any member of our party who takes such an appointment does so in his personal capacity.” The former police officer however left no one in doubt of his desire to accept the offer.

Speaking from Afghanistan where he was on a United Nations assignment in 2012, Ribadu said: “Regardless of our affiliations, our differences, and our engagements, it is at least safe to say that we have a national consensus on the deadly impact of corruption on our march to greatness, and on the capacity of our people, particularly the youth, to earn a decent, promising life. If we would effectively isolate and defeat this scourge, therefore, we must all see it as a pre-eminent national security threat. We must see it as a war within our borders, a war that has assumed a systemic and endemic character, but to which all must now urgently enlist with our different capacities, or accept to all go down with the ship. At this point in my life, it is also easy to answer the honest question if it is inappropriate to invest my modest talents and capabilities to my country what I have readily offered many foreign communities, from sister nations in Africa to far-flung places like Afghanistan.”

If ACN had a problem identifying with a task force birthed by a PDP government, Ribadu assured Nigerians “my decision (is) very personal, freeing all affiliations (social and political) of complicity, but investing the decision also with the unique character that when people reach evaluations in favour of their larger communities, it doesn’t necessarily blemish their moral identity.”

Like most things Ribadu, that task force ended its assignment on a controversial note. Its report was first leaked to the press amidst allegations that the Presidency wanted to kill it to protect some big oil thieves in government and private establishments. When the report was finally presented to President Jonathan, some members of the committee called on the government to reject the document, claiming it was flawed. Of course the report is now gathering dust somewhere in Aso Rock.

Like the “prodigal son” Ribadu soon returned from his journey to the land of the enemies. He went back to ACN, played a prominent role in the emergence of APC and – like his good friend Mallam Nasir el-Rufai – went on a verbal crusade against the PDP.

Blaming the self-proclaimed biggest party in Africa for almost all the things wrong with Nigeria, Ribadu once said the “PDP has failed Nigeria. It is time to give the opposition a new chance. I call on other opposition parties to join the new train of progressives.” Former Special Adviser on Political Matters to President Goodluck Jonathan, Ahmed Gulak recently quoted him as saying “even for a free presidential ticket, I can never join PDP.”

Presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, in one of his many interventions said the former EFCC boss had “taken to political prostitution and developed a penchant for irresponsible and reckless utterances.” Speaking further, Abati declared: “It is only a shameless man that will turn around and accept to be the political lackey of a man he once openly accused of corruption at various times between 2004 and 2007. Now that he has been used and abused by the undemocratic overlords that reign over the ACN and fearing that he may soon be dumped now that that vehicle is about to be subsumed into the so-called All Progressives Congress, Ribadu is desperately seeking fresh relevance.”

Things are different now. From describing reports of his planned defection as “malicious falsehood” in April, Ribadu has since turned around to say “my defection is in pursuit of a good cause, and never out of any selfish interests as portrayed by a section.” And with both eyes on the Adamawa by-election slated for October 11, that good cause is already pitching Ribadu against his old friends in APC and some new ones in PDP. The former call him a sell out while the latter are wary of his mission in Adamawa.

As it was with ACN in 2011, the name of a globally recognised anti-corruption crusader looks good for PDP. Those at the state level may want to shut the door against him, but some chieftains at Wadata House like his image next to their party logo.

Unlike former Federal Capital Territory Minister, el-Rufai, Ribadu is not waiting for the devil to repent and convert to Islam before leaving the APC. And that decision may have been taken before he wrote “I am still a committed member of APC and I have no reason to lose confidence in the party” on Twitter in April.