Nuhu Ribadu, the pioneer chairperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) has says corruption is all that is wrong with Nigeria. He compares corruption to the termite and its capacity to penetrate and crumble any edifice. Ribadu who chaired the 11th edition of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, (FRCN) Annual Lecture on “Fighting Corruption and Building a Sustainable Nigerian Economy” delivered by Dr Obadiah Mailafiya, development economist and international civil servant in Abuja said fighting corruption is about tomorrow, about our children, about the name of Nigeria and about the black man. For the pioneer EFCC Chairperson, whatever conceptual dog fight over and around corruption, it is reducible to abuse of public office for personal gain. On this, he said corruption is identifiable once in sight.
Declaring that there is no alternative to fighting corruption, Ribadu argued that corruption not only increases the cost of doing business, it also takes a chunk of the population out of the channel of redistribution, destroys public trust and takes everything – dignity, honour from the leader.
For him, it is in fighting corruption that disagreement surfaces, a position he exemplified with his tenure, including the summoning of his team before what can be called the Nigerian conclave with the allegation that his anti-corruption team was over stepping its bound and exposing the country to risks. “God bless Obasanjo. He believed in us, he allowed us”, Ribadu said even as he added, “what we went through was hell”. He said the day an Inspector-General of Police was arrested, it was like the heavens would fall. Relating that to the recent dawn raid on judges, he said that too would pass. Ribadu spoke of the strangeness of handcuffing big guys to popular consciousness in Nigeria, intoning the refrain, “where are these people coming from” that he said greeted the handcuffing of Fred Ajudua, Maurice Ibekwe and a bank MD when he was at the helms in EFCC.
His claim, however, is that it was after these high impact arrests that the Financial Service Authority as well as the big financial institutions in the US in particular and the Western world in general began to open up to the EFCC, taking Nigeria seriously and communicating. If we must fight corruption, some people must be picked up, he argued, insisting that if there is one area there must be elite consensus, that must be fighting corruption.
Ribadu’s contribution has made some people to ask if it isn’t the case that a tragedy is playing out in Nigeria. A tragedy in the sense that, frustrated by the attendant procedures, elite conspiracy, party incoherence and the crisis context underpinning it, the president may resort to undemocratic tendencies in prosecuting the anti-corruption war, thereby making heroes of those who ought to be in jail? This possibility looks so frightening but very, very likely. One reason for that is the observable emergence of careerists in anti-corruption sloganeering, including people who never knew that a concept such as corruption existed before May 29th, 2015. Second is the applicability of the trend in singing every good idea into obtuse governmentality. That tragedy becomes even more tragic when a tested player such as Nuhu Ribadu joins the fad. Nuhu Ribadu is beyond joining the fad anymore when it concerns anti-corruption war because he is now a national resource person in that respect. He is the sort of person whom every new president of Nigeria ought to have a one on one before firming up his position on fighting or condoning corruption. Such a one on one would have nothing to do with whether or not Ribadu he is a member of the party in power. Rather, such a meeting is like what they call literature review in academic works – you must know what grounds have been covered to be able to say why what you are trying to do still makes sense.
Empirically sound submissions, the type that should come from a person of his standing in this matter. But did he get the context right? Can the anti-corruption war make any headway without taking cognisance of its context?
In spite of his military background, General Buhari’s political personality raised popular expectations to great heights within the context of the potentials of charismatic leadership. Analysts speak of him as one member of the elite who could get the elite to rethink the collective stupidity and unthinking class leadership that characterises political power in Nigeria. It is within the logic of forcing class reflection that there was hardly an alternative to Buhari as at 2015. But there were even more crucial items in that process than stand alone conception of corruption. First of such on the list of most analysts would be the fundamentally exogenous nature of the economy and the society itself. Without a word on this, the president mechanically isolated the economy, corruption and security as the issue. Associated with this were issues of the absolute dependency and unproductive nature of the economy, having surrendered to speculation and predation. With predation as its key driver, it became totally unregulated and took off redistribution completely. The result is the anarchy which the president reduced to insecurity and hence his privileging of security as an agenda of governance. But security in this context is presented in itself rather than a by-product of its economic context and the associated elite rascality corresponding to the logic of primitive accumulation.
The implication is that Nigeria achieved charismatic leadership in 2015 but a charismatic leadership that has become rapidly alienated and risks ending up disastrously. Why? Ribadu essentialised elite consensus in the same way that General Abdulsalami talked about it a week or so ago. But is there anything in sight along that line, whether in relation to managing the economy or fighting corruption or whatever? So, when Ribadu says there is no alternative to fighting corruption even when the economy has gone haywire, he is bound to raise people’s hairs. Fighting corruption is absolutely desirable but as some observers point out, does the president still have a party that can help him conduct the campaign? Corruption war cannot be won by DSS, Police or EFCC alone. It requires much, much more than that. As it is now, dramatic of arrests is helping some people rather than helping the government. And many are already calculating how many more months Buhari has to go.
The risk is a president thoroughly frustrated as to find a contingency in unorthodox approaches which would produce nothing fundamental before long. The very few people he might successfully bruise between now and then would, somehow, navigate their way into national consciousness because Nigeria is a country of compromisers. That would leave him a bitter and broken soul should he fail to get re-elected in 2019. Bad strategy would have killed a good idea. People in the category of Ribadu should not be part of those escorting the president to this scenario.
It is only Nigeria that invites and sublets her economy to her competitors for advisory, for consultancy and for direction, be it on the economy, on agriculture, on industrialisation and even on energy. So, it can spend 30 or more years trying to take off on steel industry and yet fail to make it. If Buhari wants to unmake history, that is where to start. But in whichever direction he seeks to move, politicisation of the populace is the only way to move. Any other strategy can be a risk. The second part of this report will look at the merit system under the Sardauna which Information Minister, Lai Mohammed and Samson Shuaibu, an ex – DG of FRCN brought to the fore. And the third instalment will then be on the lecture itself as brilliantly delivered by Dr Obadiah Mailafiya.
Suffice it to mention at this point that FRCN needs to ensure that when they say that a particular resource person is delivering the lecture on a particular topic, let the resource person be given the time to do that. Nuhu Ribadu described Dr. Mansur Liman, the incumbent DG of FRCN as a decent human being and one of the best appointments the regime has made. There is nothing sycophantic in saying that this is absolutely unchallengeable. Now, let us see Dr Liman un-cluster the FRCN annual lecture series of the protocol regime in Nigeria. When a resource person has been advertised in relation with a topic, there is an obligation to hear him first. In the spirit of making all voices to be heard, any other person with contrary views, reinforcement, comments or suggestions can come later. What happened today is not in the spirit of that function. But it was a great symbolic event, nevertheless.
It is probably best to end this section with a sharp extract from a newspaper report:
“When he came to Nigeria in 2000, Bill Clinton told the government and Nigerians too that, bad as the looting of oil money by people in Government is, it is only one side of the tragedy. That even if no persons had stolen the money, Nigeria would still be in trouble “if you didn’t use the oil money to get into some business other than oil”. He said point blank in the address to the business community that unless the base of the economy was broadened with particular reference to agriculture and manufacturing, concepts such accountability, honesty and fairness would all be claptraps and the economy would not benefit the people. Five years after he spoke, where are we on agriculture and manufacturing in Nigeria?”