by Danjuma Azemobo Musa

 Nigeria’s ever boisterous grapevine would never lack in interesting stories. However, the popular maxim “there is no smoke without fire” however readily comes to mind when one digests any information so received. The newest story around town is the leaked Nuhu Ribadu PETROLEUM REVENUE TASK FORCE report.

As a result of the leaked report, Petroleum Minister Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke has taken centre stage again. Based on excerpts from the supposed report published by Reuters, an online news portal, there are calls from various quarters for the Minister’s resignation or sack. Unfortunately, the call is coming from her regular traducers and aggressors; labour and civil society organizations including a motley crowd of cyber activists who hardly understand the stages and processes involved in submitting and dealing with official reports.

Among the several laughable reasons advanced to justify the call for Allison-Madueke’s sack is that she should not be allowed to sit as judge in her own case. Meanwhile, the committee is not a judicial panel of enquiry but an administrative task force. It is purely an advisory ministerial task force whose report and recommendations the Minister must carefully scrutinize to ensure that the task force followed the letters of its terms of reference. The process of this scrutiny involves reviewing the original report by another committee to ensure that a thorough job was done. That is what I believe the Minister was in the process of doing before the report was mischievously leaked to the press. While not trying to discredit the actual work of the task force and the report submitted, it is important to point out that though Mallam Nuhu Ribadu chaired the Task Force, its report is not gospel.

It is unfortunate that someone would choose to leak a report to the press just to mislead Nigerians and embarrass government. That is the height of dishonesty. It is even more unfortunate that people who should know better have assumed roles in a script which was carefully prepared without their knowledge. What is the rationale behind the insistence by the Leadership of Nigeria Labour Congress and some known and unknown Civil Society Organizations that the Nuhu Ribadu Petroleum Revenue Task Force Report be accepted “wholly”? Common sense, if not courtesy demands that you review any recommendations made to you by a committee you set up.

The source and motive of the leakage is even more curious. Source traced the leakage to recent moves to reconcile Mallam Nuhu Ribadu with his erstwhile friend and political elder brother Mallam Nasir El-Rufa’i and to El-Rufai’s well known “RIDICULE THIS GOVERNMENT IN ANY WAY POSSIBLE” campaign.

Disturbed by the seeming loss of relevance in the scheme of affairs in the corridors of power, some mutual friends of Ribadu and El-Rufa’i buoyed by support from some vested northern political figures moved to reconcile the duo. They were said to have approached a controversial political figure from the North-west who was a major proponent of northern presidency in the wake to 2011 general elections for his blessing. He was said to have called Ribadu to prepare grounds for the peace parley. The team then met Nuhu Ribadu first and spoke with him on the need to forge a united front ahead of 2015. He was told how he frittered away enormous goodwill he garnered as then EFCC Chair when he allowed Tinubu and ACN to use him against his own in 2011. He was told that this administration would only be using and dumping him at will. Ribadu was said to have complained that he had tried several times to reach out to El-Rufa’i but that the latter had not been too receptive. He indicated his willingness to make peace with El-Rufa’i whom he said he has enormous respect for.

The ‘team’ then proceeded to make a peace overture to Nasir El-Rufa’i who was said to be initially furious that anyone could approach him with such talk as reconciliation with a ‘traitor’. He said rather than rapprochement what Ribadu needs is to be ostracized from mainstream political relevance in the north. In his fury, he was said to have muttered “if you think you can trust that man then you can go to bed with a serpent?”

He was however prevailed upon when several ‘Northern Elders’ placed calls to him drawing his attention to several Qur’anic verses that teach the virtues of forgiveness. He accepted that for the sake of the unity of the north and to wrest power come 2015 he was going to accept his ‘brother’ back.

Then began a series of interactions between Ribadu and El-Rufa’i. The inside source further went ahead to say that it was at this point that Ribadu confided in Nasir of the ‘rot’ in the oil industry his task force has unraveled. El-Rufa’i was at this point said to have developed interest. Seeing a propaganda tool he could use to embarrass the government. It is further said that Mallam Nasir El-Rufa’i indeed got a copy of the report long before it was presented to the Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources and that the idea and timing to leak the report to Reuters was strategic. Reuters was chosen because it is a credible online news portal which provides easy reference to most social media network activists.  The timing was also such that social media critics especially on twitter and facebook can hype the news to a state of frenzy. The catch-line that was let out was “the Minister wants to tinker with the report because the report indicts her and Mr. President”. The whole idea was to embarrass the minister into being on the defensive and making public statements on the report even before she has time to look at it.

The strategy seem to have yielded the desired result as the presidency has waded into the matter and have ordered the report to be presented to him on Friday 2nd October 2012 in line with what Presidential spokesman Dr. Reuben Abati describes as this administration’s commitment to transparency, probity and accountability in the petroleum industry. However, it does not end there according to inside sources. The next phase would involve a sustained smear campaign against the person of the Honourable Minister in the media especially print and social networking media. While this is going on, there would also be sustained attack on the person of Mr. President whom would be portrayed as weak, indecisive and involved in graft with the minister as a front. The idea is to embarrass the Minister to a point where the president may yield to pressure and fire her or redeploy her from the petroleum Ministry.

For a government that was vilified for the appointment of Ribadu  to head the task force on petroleum revenue after his misadventure with Tinubu led opposition ACN, it amounts to a case of callousness for him to have leaked official documents and causing same to be published to embarrass government. A twist however to the tale is that it is believed that Mallam Nuhu Ribadu may not be in the know of or support the leakage of the report to the press. Already, there appears to be division and acrimony among members of the task force. For instance a member of the task force Chief Anthony Ikoli was quoted as saying “the committee work is factually yet to be definitively concluded.

If this really transpired, bitterness and not patriotism is what drives opposition in Nigeria.

As the Taskforce hands over its report to President Goodluck Jonathan on Friday, 2nd October 2012 it would be interesting to see if the submitted version will be the same with the one leaked to the Press.


Danjuma Azemobo Musa