Nigeria’s Supreme Court has finally confirmed the election of Umar Yar’dua as the duly elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The ruling, though based on legal technicality, put paid to efforts by two ‘losing’ Presidential candidate to annul the elections which was so stupefyingly fraudulent that it left Nigerians totally flabbergasted. The international community was left reeling with incredulity at the impudent nature of the electoral theft.
The election fraud perpetrated by the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP – it claimed to be the largest party in Africa) was so audacious and so mind-boggling that Nigerians (they are used to electoral, financial, political shenanigans), were too bewildered to react in any meaningful way. It took time for the other candidates - former military strongman, General Buhari and former vice-president Atiku Abubakar, a while to collect their wits and head for the courts. Almost two years after the elections, the apex court has ruled that the litigants failed to prove their case.
Many were Nigerians who breathed a sigh of relief after the apex court’s pronouncement. They are of the opinion that their President will now have the time and the presence of mind to manage the affairs of the nation which has been left tottering. Yar’dua’s presidency started life as ‘Baba Go-slow,’ he has since been promoted to ‘Baba No Motion, because of the snail-pace of the administration.’ His rule has been characterized mainly by sheer ineptitude. For example, it took him a good five months to effect a cabinet reshuffle. And it was done in such shoddy a manner that many Nigerians wondered if their President really had what he take to rule them.
That Nigerians are a patient people can be seen by the stoicism with which they bore years of mis-rule by their leaders – military as well as civilians. Few African nations have been badly mis-governed as Nigeria, yet the people continue to hope for the best even from clearly hopeless rulers like Yar’dua. That the nation still plods ahead say much about the doggedness of the average Nigerians. Many Nigerians go through life without getting anything from the state apart from occasional slaps from police officers and kicks from soldiers. Nigerians, like most Africans, are eternal optimists. They believe that tomorrow will bring a brighter day, even though their rulers continue to short-change them.
But the sheer ineptitude of their current ruler is taxing Nigerians sorely to the point of threatening to push them beyond the threshold of their tolerance. An African adage says that the eyes that will last until evening will not begin by oozing pus in the morning. Yar’dua performance after almost two years in office can inspire confidence only in the incredibly optimists. For those not in the know, Nigeria’s presidents are entitled to two four-years terms. Yar’dua has spent almost fifty percent of his first term and yet he’s only managed to compound the woes of Nigeria. He has worsen the plight of his compatriots to such an extent that very few harbor the hope (illusions) that he can remedy or salvage anything in the remaining time he has in office.
Although he was the first University graduate to rule Nigeria, Yar’dua, in office, has displayed such ineptitude that he made unlettered army Generals look like rocket scientists. A dullard does not even begin to describe this vapid, colorless, characterless man from Katsina.
With Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigerians knew and felt that there was clearly someone in charge of their nation’s affairs. Yar’dua appears like a somnambulist sleep-walking his ways around. He has given Nigerians neither vision nor direction. He appears like a man totally out of his depth. About the only thing he has so far was to surround himself with his Hausa\Fulani tribesmen whose only qualification is their unfettered sycophancy.
And to the amazement of Nigerians, the only area where the Yar’dua’s government has displayed any zeal of seriousness is in the persecution of former anti-crime czar, Nuhu Ribadu. Even the harshest critic of former President Olusegun Obasanjo believed that the establishment of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) was a significant plus for his administration.
In pre-EFCC days, Nigeria was noted as haven for 419-scam artists, yahoo-boyism. And as rulers continue to confuse public treasury with personal accounts, the country consistently topped the league of the most corrupt nations on earth. Obasanjo tapped police officer, Nuhu Ribadu, to head the EFCC. Within four years the agency registered enough success that not even the most vociferous noises of its numerous critics can dilute. Ribadu did not eliminate corruption from Nigeria, but he ensured that corrupt officials stopped treating the Nigerian people with disdain and impunity. He curbed the excesses of state governors who collect their state’s allocation from the federation account and travel out to lodge them in their foreign accounts. Ribadu and his men also sent the yahoo boys scurrying out of the country. The successes of the EFCC are too numerous to recount here but suffice it to day that under Ribadu, Nigeria’s EFFC became a force that members of the corrupt elite have to contend with.
Before he left office, Obasanjo re-confirmed the appointment of Ribadu as the anti-corruption boss, or so it was thought. Nigerians awoke to a rude shock when it was announced that Ribadu was been removed as the head of the EFCC. There were strong protests from across the land. The Presidency did a flim-flam before coming up with the excuse that Ribadu was being sent to the Nigeria’s Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS, to further his studies. The NIPSS organizes specialized courses for very high-level government officials. Nigerians who thought that that was the end of Ribadu’s travails were sorely to be disappointed. The police authorities somehow found fault with Ribadu’s rank.
Obasanjo had given Ribadu a double promotion before he appointed him the head of the EFCC. The police authorities said that the promotion was faulty and they demoted him by two ranks. That was not all that stinks in the drama – the police authorities also post-humously demoted a dead officer! Nigerians smelled persecution and Human Rights lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi, went to court to challenge the demotion. Ribadu also went to court challenging his demotion and asking the court to stop the police authorities from further harassing him.
Then came an interesting conundrum: NIPSS restrict its admittance only to the top level of the of civil service echelon. Ribadu went to attend his course as an Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) which happens to be the cut-off level for police officers. When the police authorities, apparently acting on orders from above, demoted him from Assistant Inspector General of Police to Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), they unwittingly let out that they are crass incompetent fools.
The authorities have removed Ribadu as head of the EFCC; they have exiled him to a study at NIPSS; they have demoted him, what next to do? Ribadu successfully completed his course and was slated to graduate. It happens that as part of the graduating ceremonies, graduates of NIPSS must meet and shake hands with the President of Nigeria. Ribadu used the occasion to turn the table against his tormentors. In a clever move that made the Nigeria Police Farce (sic) looked utterly stupid, Ribadu turned out in a civilian garb instead of his uniform. He met and shook hands with President Yar’dua and this sent the police authorities into a deep, nasty funk. They set up a committee to probe Ribadu and look into what they considered his insubordination and disrespect to the Presidency. Their argument was that as a serving, loyal officer of a disciplined force Ribadu should have gone to the President in his officer’s uniform.
Only an intelligent and clever person could have avoided the trap that Ribadu escaped. Had he gone to see Mr. President in the uniform of a DIG, the police authorities would have cried insubordination. And had he gone in as AIG, it’d appear that he has accepted his demotion which was a matter pending in a court of law.
The panel constituted by the police authorities has since recommended the dismissal of Ribadu from the Nigerian Police Force. It is not certain whether or not the authorities will accept the recommendation of the dismissal of a brave and outstanding officer whose only crime was stepping on the toes of thieving politicians.
What is bewildering Nigerians is why Yar’dua regime which is slumbering in other areas of governance find it necessary to expend so much efforts and resources in persecuting Nuhu Ribadu, one of very few Nigerians who didn’t abuse their position of authority to loot the national treasury. Under his chairmanship, the EFCC recovered some four billion dollars stolen wealth for the Nigerian state. Under him, Nigeria’s status in the world of corruption improved tremendously. The Nigerian government won kudos for been seen to be genuinely fighting the canker of corruption and the EFCC won many laurels as its officials were seen to be bold, fearless and totally committed. For crying out loud, Nuhu Ribadu was charged to do a job by a President and to all accounts he rendered competent and impeccable services to his fatherland? Why hound such man? It show height of gratuitous ingratitude for Yar’dua to persecute a noble Nigerian who chose to serve his nation instead of getting plum jobs at the UN or another international organizations. History will surely judge the mindlessness and pettiness of Umar Yar’dua harshly as he continue to squander Nigeria’s resources in persecuting one of the few shining stars in the nation’s darkened constellation.
It was Ribadu’s wish to see a Nigeria where corrupt politician would not dare show their faces in public again. His mission was to ensure that Nigerian politics was so totally sanitized that crooks and their godfathers will stop holding the nation to ransom.
Many were those who lamented Ribadu’s high-handedness whilst at the EFCC, but those people are forgetting that corruption cannot be cured by waving kid gloves at the perpetrators. The future of Nigeria has been crippled by leaders who failed to utilize the people’s money for the benefits of the people. It is said that Nigeria has earned close to half a trillion dollars from oil yet there is not much to show for it. The youth of the Niger Delta have taken up arms because corrupt officials ensured that they continue to live in poverty whilst laying Nigeria’s golden eggs. The country yearly allocate fantastic sums for road construction and maintenance, yet many fine Nigerians continue to lose their lives because the road networks are so bad. Ribadu didn’t spare his own police comrade; among the first casualties of his anti-corruption jihad was an ex Inspector General of police who stole the money allocated to the welfare of his officers. Nigerians continue to fall victims to violent armed robberies because the police are too disillusioned to fight crime.
Some Professors at Nigeria’s premier university, University of Ibadan (UI), recently took Yar’dua to the cleaners. In an address read on his behalf at the 60th anniversary of UI, Yar’dua queried why the university was not listed among the 1000 best in the world. This did not go down well with the Professors. They chronicled the various shortcomings that have reduced university education in Nigeria into a huge joke. They cited lack of basics like water, electricity, library facilities, internet connectivity, poor salary, etc, etc. They asked what his government has done to address all the shortcomings. Finally, they challenged Yar’dua to tell them what would be his own score were world leaders to be rated. There has been no response so far from the President and his handlers.
Yar’dua is a sorry apology of a leader. He reminds one so much about the colossally inept Shehu Shagari who allowed his ministers to loot the Nigerian Treasury and later turned around to blame illegal West African immigrants for Nigeria’s economic woes and sent many of them packing!