Centenary awards without Ribadu: A huge mistake, By Saleh Ashaka
“The extent aggrieved persons could go to get even was exposed when Obasanjo left government and the politicians swooped on Ribadu…”
Much has been said about the centenary awards and the calibre of persons that made it on the list of awardees. While some have praised the selection for its painstaking thoroughness, others have criticised it for falling short of expectation or even goofing in some areas. It is pertinent to point out that while the reasons for forming an opinion may vary, what can be regarded as the greatest case of oversight if at all it was that, is the bypassing of one individual whose contribution to national development through crusade to stamp out corruption in the country has remained unparalleled.
The centenary awards which was in 13 categories, honoured those who have contributed to the making of Nigeria like Queen Elizabeth II of England, Lord Fredrick Lugard and his wife, Lady Lugard; and the heroes of the struggle for independence like Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa, Herbert Macaulay and Chief Obafemi Awolowo. There were also those honoured for their pioneer efforts in professional callings, commerce and industry, for pioneering democratic transitions etc. Many also received awards for being heroes in global sports competitions, their pioneering roles in public service, accomplishment temporary entrepreneurship, academics, as well as internationally acclaimed artists, literary icons and journalists, outstanding bravery and public spiritedness, outstanding promoters of unity, patriotism and national development, and exemplary service in the promotion of peace and moral excellence.
But in all these categories which recognized the efforts of Nigerians both alive and dead, no mention was made of Nuhu Ribadu, whose contribution to the development of Nigeria has been acknowledged globally and who till date has continued to draw a positive image for Nigeria by his doggedness in fighting corruption and other forms of financial crimes.
The impression created by this oversight if allowed to go, has the dangerous prospect of implying that bravery and personal sacrifices as contributions for the attainment of national greatness can be conveniently overlooked without the slightest challenge which could in turn discourage others from toeing a similar path since they would not be recognized in future.
One would have expected that if nothing else, the former EFCC chairman’s name would have been among the top three in the category of outstanding bravery and public spiritedness. While the efforts of those in the category cannot be brushed aside, it is also pertinent to state that Ribadu has exuded qualities and recorded great feats that put him in the bracket of those to have been so honoured.
As EFCC chairman, Ribadu braved all odds to ensure that corruption which has held the country by the jugular for donkey years and which has defied all efforts to contain it is eliminated; and in the process put himself in harm’s way several times.
Before the setting up of the EFCC with Ribadu as its head, it was thought impossible for politically exposed persons and high government functionaries to be brought to book on accounts of sleaze.
It is common to hear then when anybody is undertaking the path of prosecuting such officials, which few persons like late Gani Fawehimi have done, that the person is wasting his time.
But Ribadu came and put a stop to all that. His tenure as EFCC chairman was about the only time in the nation’s history that sitting governors would with all the immunity they enjoy be exposed for what they do to the public and made to account for such.
They were investigated and many of them got no respite until they were convicted.
The temptation of stashing public funds in foreign especially Swiss accounts began to look less inviting thereby ensuring that the much needed capital which would have found their way out of the country is retained within for economic activities. It would also be the first time that a sitting Inspector General of Police, who represents the highest in terms of hierarchy in the law enforcement arm in the country, would be investigated and jailed for graft. The danger the agency and its personnel headed by the Ribadu were exposed to in the course of carrying out their duties were confirmed in the many instances attempts were made on their lives as in one instance in Jos, Plateau State, when some of the officials were beaten and their lives threatened.
The extent aggrieved persons could go to get even was exposed when Obasanjo left government and the politicians swooped on Ribadu trying to ridicule and penalize the former EFCC boss for what he did to their ego in the course of carrying out his duties. He was eventually forced to leave the country and take up a job in Afghanistan.
He was even demoted, but the Police Service Commission reinstated him in May 2010 as an AIG.
Ribadu led the anti-graft war by example as he shunned many attempts to bribe him. He returned the sum of $15 million (About N3 billion) offered as bribe to him by former governor James Ibori. He also returned huge sums of money from people like Emma Nwude and others that he was investigating.
These are monies Ribadu would have pocketed and nothing would have happened but he chose the path of honour for the benefit of his country. Those that have been found for resisting lesser degrees of temptations like those who pick and return monies in taxis and airports have been rewarded in order to encourage them and others to uphold exemplary lives; but not Ribadu who was completely snubbed in the centenary awards.
After returning from self exile, Ribadu bore no grudges with what the system did to him but chose to continue to give his best to the country and accepted to serve in the committee which investigated operations in Nigeria’s oil industry. He later confirmed that the allegation coming out from the CBN regarding the missing money is a confirmation of the findings of his committee. He challenged a situation where the NNPC would be the producer, manager, seller of the crude, receiver of the monies, the regulator, the one that receives the money on behalf of the federal government and uses it the way it likes and remits to the government what it likes.
Many Nigerians still feel it is not too late to honour such a man so that many youth can be encouraged to a life of selfless service.