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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Discourse 341. Ribadu and the Fate of 'Baidu

Discourse 341
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

Ribadu and the Fate of ‘Baidu

The question has always arisen whether “good people”, to put it in that simple way, should serve under “bad governments”.

The latest of such occasions in Nigeria is the appointment of Malam Nuhu Ribadu, the founding Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and a Presidential candidate under the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria, as the head of Petroleum Revenue Special Taskforce (PRST). The body was recently constituted by the federal government to ensure transparency in the stinkingly corrupt Nigerian Petroleum industry. A giant task, given the interests at stake and the powerful people behind them.

Quite a good number of Nigerians, particularly among his political associates and personal friends, have objected to the appointment on different grounds. Some believe that ethically, the good should shun the bad, irrespective of the situation. Such people believe that this government is corrupt and it is merely looking for a means to launder its image which was terribly battered by election rigging, incompetence and, recently, the removal of fuel subsidy. They argue that it is bringing in Ribadu not to allow him perform but to give the public a semblance of response to its agitation for probity in the industry. “The appointments”, the government confessed in a statement issued by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, “were consistent with the policies and promises of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and underpinned by yearnings of the people for transparency in the petroleum industry.”

Their skepticism is not baseless. In his search for support when he came to power, Jonathan promised Nigerians that he will conduct a free and fair election. We believed him, then. To show that he was honest in his promise, he appointed one of the most respected academics in the country, Professor Attahiru Jega, to head the Independent National Electoral Commission. We hailed the appointment, en masse, to the extent that even the opposition believed that come April 2011, it will give the ruling PDP a good run for its money. It will occupy the Presidential Villa.The elections came and PDP had their way, though, to be honest, the opposition was misguided by its overconfidence and naivety. Rightly or wrongly, the opposition bitterly placed the blame at the doorstep of the professor. Ribadu, it is feared, will be greeted by the same fate. Though his record and zeal in fighting corruption are hardly contestable, he may end up frustrated and the PDP government will, as usual, have its way.

Some think the appointment is morally reprehensible, since Ribadu was the presidential candidate of the largest opposition party during the last election. Once you pitch your camp with the opposition, the idealists would argue, you must remain there, as a matter of principle. Ribadu has rightly criticized the ruling PDP during the last election using some of the most uncomplimentary remarks in the English dictionary. To accept a position in such a government, less than a year after the elections poses what could be described as a political contradiction. Such opponents to the appointment are supported by the general belief that one of the reasons behind the failure of democracy in most African states is the incoherence and backsliding of the opposition parties.

Supporters of the appointment will easily and quickly rebut the political argument by arguing that in contemporary Nigeria the opposition parties do not stand on a higher moral ground than the PDP. They commit the same excesses. Their governments are equally as corrupt and hardly have a the people at heart. Governors of opposition parties, for example, supported removal of subsidy with no less vehemence than their PDP counterparts. In the case of Ribadu and the ACN, many of his supporters know that he does not owe the party as much as it owes him, given the manner it handled his campaign and its woeful failure to secure votes for him in its domain. Would he decide to shun it any day, such supporters believe it would be a good riddance.

From another angle, many have opined that accepting the appointment is like nailing the coffin of his political future. How could Ribadu later resign and fight against the PDP government he has accepted to serve? Added to these are the cynics who would, as they have done already, interpret the appointment as a pay back from the ruling party, in line with the argument that both he and Shekarau were hired to divide opposition votes, especially in the North.

Finally, there are few who look at it from the point of view of ego. Accepting to serve in a taskforce set up by a minister – Diezani Alison-Madueke for that matter - falls well below his ambition to be the President of Nigeria. And even when seen from the angle of fighting corruption, this task would only be a fraction of the wider brief of EFCC, a department to which Ribadu was a celebrated founding father.

It seems from his response that Ribadu was not unaware of these criticisms when he finally decided to accept the appointment. His reasons:

“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.

“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 capacities to my country what I have readily offered many foreign communities, from sister nations in Africa to far flung places like Afghanistan. This, If nothing, makes my decision very personal, freeing all affiliations (social and political) of complicity, but investing the decision also with the unique character that even people reach evaluations in favour of their larger communities, it doesn’t necessarily blemish their moral identity.

“This is therefore a national call. In answering it, I go back to the template of my own parents who taught me that honest public service is the greatest asset a person can offer his community. It was the same lesson I learnt from his biographical example when my own father returned home as a federal legislator in Lagos to take a job as a local official in Yola – it is all about community, and it is sometimes bigger than our personal ego.”

Those who support his acceptance do so on grounds similar to those that informed Buhari to accept the Chairmanship of Petroleum Task Force (PTF) in 1995 under the late President Sani Abacha. Buhari’s friends then, like Ribadu’s today, were divided on whether to accept the position or not. Those who oppose it brought the strong ego argument. “Look”, they argued, “you were once a Head of State like Abacha. Abacha was the person who announced the coup against you in 1985. The regime, to which Abacha was second in command, incarcerated you for four years without any charges and even prevented you from visiting your dying mother. They put an end to your good intentions for a disciplined and corrupt free Nigeria. They ruined government and the economy. How would you accept to serve under one of those people?”

But those who favoured Buhari’s acceptance put forward an equally strong argument, from the point of view of public service, as Ribadu did above: “It is either you accept it and Nigerians benefit from your honesty or the opportunity will be given to a corrupt person that will misuse it to the detriment of Nigerians. Is your ego better than Nigeria? It is not you or Abacha. It is Nigeria. So accept it and, in so doing, use the opportunity to prove that those who turned against you were wrong, that good things are still possible in Nigeria. That is the best way to pay them back.” Buhari, painstaking as usual, took some time to make up his mind. In the end, he went for the job, but under conditions that he will be allowed a free hand. “Granted”, said Abacha, a promise which he faithfully kept until his death. He never sent a single name to Buhari for contract award, Buhari would later attest. Allah jikan maza sun fadi!

The rest is now history. The PTF that Buhari headed is remembered today as one of the most efficient departments of government in our recent history. In the end, Buhari proved that honesty combined with competence could translate into good services to his country. And when he joined politics, his days at PTF were extremely helpful in canvassing the enviable support he today enjoys among the commoners.

The same fate awaits Ribadu when he succeeds, say those who support his acceptance. His success, in spite of PDP and under ministers like Diezani, will be a good investment for his future in politics.

There is no doubt that the petroleum sector is among the most corrupt sectors in our public service, perhaps second only to the Presidency. Nobody really knows how much petrol is drilled from Nigerian wells daily. Not the President, not the Petroleum Minister, not the GMD of NNPC. Just nobody. Figures are just given to NNPC by different oil companies and NNPC itself is for obvious reasons reluctant to know the exact quantities. Then NNPC would in its turn hide some and present some to the federal government. When it was challenged recently by the National Assembly, NNPC literally said its enabling law gives it the status of an independent commercial venture with the freedom to use its revenue without recourse to any government institution, that it is the profit it declares which it forwards to government. I doubt if there is any decent Nigerian who will not support any measure that will end this impunity.

So If Ribadu succeeds to bring probity to the sector, in spite of the circumstances, I am sure Nigerians will be large-hearted to acknowledge his achievements, as they did to his brother earlier.

However, it is failure that Nigerians, including me, fear most for Ribadu because even his past record at EFCC will be washed away in the drain of criticisms that will ensue. This would reincarnate the Hausa parody called kamun gafiyar ‘Baidu.

‘Baidu was one day hunting for rodents. He was happy to have caught one. Just as he was enjoying the pleasure of his success, another rodent appeared. But ‘Baidu did not know what to do: Would he content himself with his first catch and let the second go, maybe he catches up with it another day, or would he try his luck by throwing the first rodent at the second, perchance both get injured by impact and collapse? With only a fraction of a second to think, 'Baidu opted to attack the second with the first and, behold, both rodents escaped, leaving him empty handed. Poor ‘Baidu!

I wished I had a wind of the deal of the appointment was sealed. This essay would not have come at a better time. Now, we can only pray that Ribadu succeeds in the task and comes out of it unblemished. Yet, one thing remains. Many people have requested me to advise him that he resigns any moment he realizes that the government is not serious. Not only that, he should come out to categorically state the reason behind his resignation. I have used that strategy to threaten my former governor, Muazu, and it worked. I enjoyed a free hand under him. I hope it works too for Nuhu if he decides to use it.

Goodluck, Allah rene.

9 February, 2012

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Short Essay 26. How N500 Can Save Your Laptop, Phone from Theft

Short Essay 24
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

Secure Your Laptop and Phone Forever from Theft With N500 Only!

I lost a MacBook Air last week after enjoying it for just eight months. In just few minutes, $1,200 was gone!

The misfortune of losing a car, a phone, a laptop or other digital devices has visited each of us at least once, so far. The bitterness usually is not of losing the gadget itself, but of the information it carries. Some contacts are never recovered, some files are lost forever.

But not anymore. Thanks to the ingenuity of the human brain, today softwares have been developed to track your car, laptop, phone, and other gadgets. Today, these devices can be stolen only from the indolent.

The first tracking software I knew after the GPS was the car track from an American company that costs N70,000 or so, including installation fee. (MTN offers a similar service but with much less efficiency) With it you can know the location of your car anywhere it is in the world, anytime; its kinetic status; etc. More interesting is that you can ground it by switching its engine off through sending a one word SMS command. Nothing changes even if the car snatcher kills his victim or ceases the phone. The software enables them to save the GSM number of the car track with nine other people, who can also search for its location. If car owners will adopt this, car theft will become an unprofitable venture.

Then after the car track, a friend, Ismaila Zakari, told me about the laptop and phone tracking devices. I went on the Internet to search for them. Though there are many promising ones developed in the past two years or so, my checks show that they are still largely unknown here, except the Blackberry facility. Due to its excellent ratings and ease of use, I think Gadgettrak will be good. It costs $1.99.

Gadgettrak allows its user to know, through updates or query, at any time, the location of an iPad, for example, and even a picture of who is using it. It sends to its subscriber's email inbox the coordinates of the location and a link to Google Map that helps identify the coordinates easily. Users can downloaded the software from Apple Store. I has a provision for adding a facility that will include in the report a picture of the user - or the thief as the case may be - for a paltry sum of $0.99. Other details about services, registration and safety measures are available on the site of the company:

I advise my readers to go for these things without delay, especially given the insecure nature of our environment. If I had this on my MacBook Air, I would have located it easily. Even now, it could be just some few meters from me. I would have just taken the report to the police, who would help in visiting the location and retrieving the MacBook in addition to arresting the thief.

But I must also hasten to warn that they could equally be dangerous. The people you share your car track number as backups, for example, can also know your location. You may not be able to lie to your parents or wife about that anymore. And since car track mostly involves using a SIM card from one of the local GSM operators, professionals can easily trace you.

For these reasons, if you have something to hide from some people, you need to escape this exposure by being clever when registering the gadget such that they encounter more difficulties when they try to trace you. You can create a dedicated email account, for example. If you have nothing not hide, then feel free.

Technology will never cease to fascinate me. I have always said it is our saviour. Yet, let us just remember that your phone, computer and all digital gadgets are identities that can easily be used to locate you. Kabiru Sokoto and Abu Qaqa have known this lesson now the hard way. The ATBU undergraduate chap who registered the Al-Mansoorah website through which Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the 2010 Christmas bombings in Jos was promptly traced and arrested with ease. His Facebook postings did not help matters either. Actually, it is not the informants that betray Boko Haram most, but the phones and computers the group often use in coordinating its activities. In the same vein, kidnapping could not go anywhere because in all cases it was easy to trace the location of the kidnappers.

That is why many of us do not believe that our government is putting enough effort in stopping crime and subversive activities in the country. These technologies - and even more sophisticated ones for surveillance and espionage that can be acquired by governments - are cheap, available in abundance and user friendly. But corruption or unpatriotic intentions of leaders are preventing our government from allowing the police to acquire them. Yet, I am optimistic that the government has to finally yield to their necessity.

I am waiting to see tracking chips implanted in cows, somewhere in their tissue, beyond the present detachable types that dangle on their ear. Wao! The Fulani will embrace that revolution wholeheartedly.

Also, the imperative of making the national identity cards project succeed will soon dawn on the Nigerian government. And I will not be surprised if the new one would carry a tracking chip. With the ever increasing security challenges, this is a temptation that government can hardly avoid contemplating, despite the serious challenges it will pose to our personal liberty. I doubt if we will welcome that.

Without waiting for the authorities, you can go ahead to help yourself now by googling your antitheft software. With less than N500, you can buy it, download it and enjoy the wonderful feeling of safety.

5 February 2015


A reader just asked how to acquire the software in Nigeria. Simple. I got mine within 10 minutes, with a card. This is how it goes.

To buy anything on the Internet, you need a card, Visa Card, for example, from your bank which you can use to purchase different things online. You use the same card for ATM and points of sale in Nigeria and overseas. It will require you to open a dollar account with a deposit at least $200.

Once you have that your pocket is the limit on what you can get online. You can open accounts with online shops like Amazon and iTunes. Once you want a software like Gadgettrak, all you need to do is to go to its website. There, it will lead you to iTunes store, for example, where you just click install on the icon of the software. It will seek a confirmation from you by asking your iTunes password and once you input the password correctly, behold, it will deduct the money from your account and start downloading into your computer instantly.

Better informed readers can make further clarifications below, please.