The Nuhu nullity: I had started out titling this piece ‘The Nuhu nullity,’ but the recent capitulation of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu being a complex matter, the narrative kept morphing as one plodded it. First it seemed the grandest of all betrayals that Ribadu, the former anti-corruption czar and erstwhile presidential candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) jumped ship from the ‘progressives’ camp back into the ‘evil’ camp of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
For the simple-minded, Ribadu is among the last of the principled-minded in the land. As executive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from 2003 to 2008, he enjoyed the glistening facade of the knight in shinning armour, the super cop and the nemesis of corrupt officials. Many were taken in by the well-kept front, especially international agencies that showered him with funding, awards and accolades. But under a new president, he had a run-in with the centre and eventually teamed up with opposition elements. It was under this unlikely umbrella that he rather prematurely ran for presidency in 2011, failed woefully but remained in their fold till this grievous volte face a few days ago.
Ribadu has not only suddenly joined the hated ruling PDP, he is moving on the double to pick the party’s governorship slot for his Adamawa State’s October election. Everything seems to be happening in a frenzy, both for Ribadu and his bemused on-lookers. It is rather difficult for many to conjecture how Ribadu could crawl into a PDP camp he had once described as ‘satanic’. Many are still trying to fathom how he would achieve that psychological denouement to mingle and clink glasses with the people he said ruled Nigeria since 1999 and the only things they brought upon “us are insecurity, suicide bombings and corruption at the highest level.”
Yes we can understand the perfidious dance-steps of our professional and wayward politicians. We understand an Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a Segun Oni, an Ibrahim Shekarau and so on. We know it is all about gravy politics and the momentary relevance of the small-minded. Those who are perceptive would also understand that we are running out the end-stage of this shambolic political experiment. We are at the barefaced stage when the thief is quicker to catch the owner of the house.
Notwithstanding, Ribadu’s capitulation seems the watershed; it is the turning point as well as the reference point that people will cite: “if Ribadu could decamp…” it would be said by all. He has perjured the polity and repudiated its essence. He has finally defrocked the troubled belle and stolen the last vestiges of her dignity. But sadly, this act also represents the Nuhu nullity. He is like the protagonist in ancient tradition that is as much the sacrifice as the calabash he carries. In other words, Ribadu has also nullified his own essence. Whatever he represented, real or imagined, he has managed to debunk all by himself.
The Nuhu ribaldry: We can also term it the Nuhu Ribaldry or the Nuhu metamorphosis. He had always been a part of the raging crowd, the ill of the land. All they want is position, power, authority, the gravy and the good life. They are flippant, ephemeral, vain and unreflective. They define patriotism, national interest and development by their personal and exclusive dictionary. Nigeria for them is a zero-sum game; they either have their way or there is no way. He and his ilk believe they are the answer to Nigeria’s numerous questions but we know that they are the now jaded questions we have been asking since independence.
Ribadu had lived and flourished under a burnished image over these years. To be charitable, if the polity had been upright and the system built on probity, he may have stood as a notable pillar. But the country is cannibalistic and it abhors rectitude thus Ribadu may be said to have done nothing more terrible than swimming in the stream of his birth. With a second degree in law, he had joined the police and acquitted himself fairly well. But when he was catapulted to the helm of the then new anti-corruption body, he simply played the game of the day, the game of his failed country.
And he played it to the hilt. He turned EFCC into a fearsome Gestapo for the then unscrupulous President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He was the gloved hands of, as well as the dog-handler for the former president. With the agency he kept a face by putting some petty fraudsters to jail while he kept up the real job of hounding down ‘enemies’ of his boss. The main victims were state governors many of whom were kept under perpetual investigation while in office but none was successfully prosecuted after office. Though the states were not examples of sterling leadership, but Obasanjo’s administration ended up as one of the most corrupt in Nigeria’s history. Ensconced at the vortex of power, Ribadu could have been alternate president at his peak. Many, like Peter Odili, former governor of Rivers State, must still live with the sad memories about how Ribadu ruined their political career by a mere whisper to the president.
Sympathy for Nuhu: But discerning minds will have nothing but sympathy for our dear Nuhu. Once upon a time, a loony in my village market used to say that though he may not know what he was doing he sure knew what was ‘doing’ him. Nuhu on the other hand, may not quite understand what ails him.In explaining his defection, Ribadu had said that there is no difference between PDP and CPC. That may be correct and he has exemplified that proposition. But why choose one over the other? There must be a third option somewhere. In another breath, he told his supporters that, “For now, I wish to assure you that my defection is in pursuit of a good cause and never out of my selfish interest..”
No sir that is a ruse. To speak of “a good cause” is either to delude himself or to deceive us. Can’t he see that we are in a virtually failed state? And here is what Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson say in their book, Why Nations Fail: “Nations fail today because their extractive economic institutions do not create incentives needed for people to save, invest and innovate. Extractive political institutions support these economic institutions by cementing the power of those who benefit from the extraction.”
My dear brother Nuhu Ribadu is only hard at work seeking to cement his power to benefit from the extraction in Adamawa State. Can’t he see that all the institutions of state have been damage and dissipated? Let us end with another word from Acemoglu and Robinson: “When extractive institutions create huge inequalities in society and great wealth and unchecked power for those in control, there will be many wishing to fight to take control of the state and institutions. Extractive institutions then not only pave way for the next regime, which will be even more extractive, but they also engender continuous infighting and civil wars.” Accept my sympathy my dear brother.