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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


Salihu Haruna said...

Ribadu would need more than impeccable track record to avoid the fate of Baidu

Nura M. Daura said...

Many thanks to you Dr. Tilde. For me, your last paragraph said it all. I pray and hope he succeeds too, for the benefit of us all. But if he sees any sign of unseriousness then he should quickly resign as it's not by force.

Kamal Tayo Oropo said...

Comparing the situation under which General Muhammodu Buhari served under the Abacha regime may not be too charitable. The circumstances are a bit different. There are too many selfish, religious and tribal egoists surrounding d incumbent govt. However, one is not unmindful of political party-induced treachery Ribadu endured during his attempt at the d presidency. Wishing him best of luck

Anonymous said...

I equally concurred the opinion of those who call on Ribadu to, immediately, resign if he notices that government is not serious. He should let Nigerians know the reason behind his resignation so that no one is left in doubt. I'm personaly wishing Ribadu a fruitful stay in that capacity.

Anonymous said...

One advice you should give him is that he needs to organize the Task Force in a manner that room will not be given for excuses. Strategy number one is nobody should hire secretarial staff for him. Strategy number two he should develop a template that can capture at a glance the activities of all the agencies that are involved in petroleum sector. Thirdly information gathered should be systematically released to the public. Last but not the least is partnership with other agencies like NEITI, Customs and CSOs.

Mamman Maina said...

Thank u sir. I'm alway appreciate your write-up. More greese to your elbow!

Maliki K Umar said...

Malam Tilde, don't forget that Ribado was in the PDP. He is welcome back. It is pleasing that whenever there is a job that requires uprightedness, firmness, etc. The Fulanis still fit into it. Buhari, Sanusi,Jega, Ribado,Lamurde....They have all discharged themselves creditably!
Alhamdu lil Allah.

Anonymous said...

Alhamdulillah, Assheikh. This week's essay is apt and well written. While I share the sentiments expressed by some Nigerians about the need to take up the appointment and opt out if Ribadu sees the danger signs, I also will like him to to request, I dont know whether he has done that already before taking up the appointment, to select the people he would be working with.
I can attest that back in 2003, you were offered appointment to serve in the administration of Ahmadu Mu'azu as a Special Advisor/Chairman Special Schools Management Board after losing your bid to be a senator on the platform of ANPP. Few people supported your idea of accepting that appointment as some even accused you of doing a hatchet job for the PDP by contesting the election on ANPP platform.
I am happy to be one of those who advised you to take up that challenge and to date you you are still being remembered for the impact you have made in just four years. Today your futuristic efforts have started yielding results as many young Bauchi youths are now being churned out as doctors and engineers. In any case, Islam and Christianity have all told the story of Moses who was raised in the house of Pharaoh.
So performance does not lie in the environment by the willpower of those entrusted with the task.

Raymond Eyo said...

Interesting write-up, Sir. You did a thorough analysis of, especially, the odds against Ribadu's acceptance of the job and you made an even more poignant conclusion. But, Sir, the bottomline is this: Buhari had a free hand over the PTF. Ribadu doesn't have such over the PRSTF! That's the difference that may just make Ribadu suffer Baidu's fate! GOD help Nigeria!

Anonymous said...

Let us pray that he meets the expectations of those nigerians who, irrespective of their political allegiances, ethno and religious diversities pray daily for a better Nigeria. The issue of coming back to PDP as observed by one commentator is immaterial here because what is at stake is ensuring transperancy as well as accountability in the oil sector and above all wiping out the endemic corruption therein. If Ribadu succeeds, it will be a plus to him and it will motivate others with a similar passion, no matter how little, to be more convinced that our situation is reversible for the better. Thanks Dr and keep up the good work. May Allah reward you abundantly.

Anonymous said...

The setup of this regime compared to Gen. Abacha's is completely different, Gen. Abacha was able to prevent his wife from interfering as well. GEJ cant do that. Once madam grammar wants you out shikenan. Da muguwar rawa..... Allah ya bada sa'a.

Anonymous said...

I pray that he succeeds in this onerous national assignment. It will do us a lot of good. And as the authour said, if he sees that the govt is not serious, he should resign and let us know the reason for his resignation.

Anonymous said...

Ahmad Dr says:Nice analysis Sir,I feel Ribadu's acceptance is in Good faith,and I will join him in spirit and person to serve in the betterment of this country.Keep on the track sir.

Anas said...

Thank you very much Dr Tilde for this peace. I must confess I have been following your write-ups and I am always impressed by the way you identify issues and suggest leeways of solving problems of the Country. As a Nigerian who wish to see that the country continue to remain one with the least corruption possible, I whole heartedly agree with Ribadu's reasons for accepting the job. But I want us to remember that the task force is emphatic on the oil revenue generation only. I stand to be corrected. But who will monitor and ensure the implementation of the jobs that need to be carried out with the accrued revenue. For example ensuring 1. Security of Energy Supply and 2. Security of Lives and Properties. Lots of Nigerian would agree that if not for corruption, these 2 issues if solved would have gone along way in making Nigerians happy. I would wish that similar approach (like Ribadu's task force) be extended to the job implementations because this is actually where an average Nigerian feels the positive impact of the governance.

abdul said...

hilary clinton is erving under obama as we speak.she was his closest opponent in the democratic presidential primaries.

Abdussalam El-Suleiman said...

My dear Dr., your discourse is a master piece. I can only pray to Allah to continue to enrich us with your type. I have never known your background cos I am not the current affairs type, however a line struck me most in your write-up i.e having worked with Gov. Mu'azu. I can now see reasons why Gov. Mu'azu was a "desert magician" as aptly described by TELL magazine. ATBU Bauchi is my almamater. Good luck Ribadu

Adeiza. said...

I refer to the last commentator on this discourse, Abdulsalaam. Don't make thesame mistake like me. When I first saw Tilde's publication, I thought that was a masterpiece, then came another, and another all masterpieces. So, save your breathe. Tilde is iconic and may his ink never dry.

Muhammad Kabir said...

I hope Ribadu will be given a free hand like Buhari's PTF under Abacha regime. May GOD guide him and make it easy for him.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this piece. Its illuminating and simply stands as one of your masterpieces.

Anonymous said...

Kakasara kaka! Allah yakiyaye.

Anonymous said...

Thank u Dr! May Allah increase ur knowlegde

rufainuman said...

What are the real functions of the Office and can Nigerians be oblliged a copy of the enabling laws if any? I feel this is a knee jerk reaction from the fuel subsidy debacle and it was hurriedly pushed through with no clear schedule of responsibilty. I wish Ribadu wwell in his decision to accept this.

Anonymous said...

Jazakallah for this incisive article. I hope & pray that Ribadu comes out of this exercise smelling of roses. His flirtation with partisan politics has not been great so far!
On a personal note, recently I was asked to express an interest in a post in the current dispensation but I declined (kindly of course) for the simple fear that I may be found wanting. What frightens me most is that our system is not only simply corrupt but is also very corrupting. While at this stage of my life, I very much doubt if any direct acts of bribery can engulf me, I worry about “collateral damage”. I’ve seen colleagues over the past 20 yrs who have gone to Nija with good intentions only to fall far short of their expectations! These are individuals whom I had the greatest respect for while living with me abroad. I will never ever have imagined that they will be found wanting under any circumstances! They are never the same again. A very good friend of mine who returned 2 yrs ago to head a Govt parastatal told me last year (quote) “If I had known what I know now, I would probably never have returned to nija”
Having said that, I still find myself sometimes being not sure if my decision to decline the recent offer was necessarily the right one. Part of me still feels kind of ‘guilty’ for declining. However one thing that it did do to me is to become less critical over the actions of those in the firing line in nija. May Allah (swa) forgive my ‘kasala’ for not being brave enough to give it a try!
I’m therefore holding my breath & will be praying for the likes of Ribadu & SLS to succeed where many have been tested & failed. I will also continue pray for you (& the few like you)  who have been brave enough to be part of the system & yet manage to ‘escape’ with your sanity

Suleiman Zangina said...

Thanks for this piece Dr. Tilde. I agree with you, but believed that Ribadu has a track record of being used by Masters as demonstrated under Obasanjo and Goodluck in the last election.