Years after he described his new boss in uncharitable words, Nigeria’s recently appointed National Security Adviser, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu has now completed a 180-degree turn, accepting a sensitive job from someone he was sure was one of the most corrupt Nigerians alive. As ironic and confusing as this may sound, what can be deduced from it is that President Bola Tinubu was either innocent of the allegations slammed on him by Ribadu when he was EFCC Chairman or Ribadu was telling cheap lies, or perhaps, both.
For over two decades, Nigeria has been fighting bloody battles to liberate the country from the shackles of incessant insecurity which is fast tearing its fabrics apart. Every government which has been formed in Aso Rock Presidential Villa, faced with its own peculiarities, has had to fashion its own response to the menace to stem the ever-rising tide of insecurity. Sadly, most of these governments have failed to arrest the situation. Not even retired military-turned-democratic Presidents could make so much of a difference as far as the ugly cankerworm called insecurity is concerned.
Many Nigerians do not know that one of the biggest reasons this failure has been recurring is that most of the individuals nominated to hold sensitive positions of authority as far as the security architecture is concerned are actually products of chronic political patronage.
The most sensitive position which has suffered this malaise is that of the National Security Adviser (NSA). Virtually every President Nigeria has had since the return of civil rule in 1999 effected appointments into this position based on political considerations and the failure has always been evident albeit regrettable.
All over the world, the NSA is always the coordinating and rallying point of any government as far as security architecture is concerned. Leaders who are desirous of ensuring the security of lives and property have always ensured that appointment into the office is made devoid of any other considerations, other than competence, loyalty, and patriotism.
In the case of Nigeria’s current President, the mistake of his predecessors has been repeated. What is more worrying about his choice for the position is that in choosing the new NSA, he not only went for a morally bankrupt, controversial and unrepentantly corrupt personality who is very politically exposed, he appointed someone who nailed him on the cross two decades ago with a repugnant exposé on his person.
The erstwhile chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, is one of the most controversial personalities that has walked through the doors of public office in Nigeria. As far as the position of the NSA, he is not even the proverbial round peg in a square hole because he is not even a peg at all.
It is rather perplexing and perhaps more bemusing that President Tinubu chose political considerations in a decision where common sense should have prevailed. He knew he needed a technocrat for the position, not a politician with a vested interest in the position. What he obviously needed in that position was an individual with strong character, armed with major professional capabilities that could give his optically illegitimate government the biting teeth it needed to frontally address the humongous security challenges confronting Nigeria. But sadly, he bungled the chance.
Ribadu is not a new name to Nigeria and Nigerians. Every living thing in the country was witness to how the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC was run under him. He was the man that showed Nigerian Presidents that the anti-graft agency was more useful as an attack dog in political witch-hunting than waging serious wars against financial crimes. What else could have motivated his appointment as NSA if not the same attribute he exhibited while holding office as EFCC Chairman?
It is true that Nigerians have, over the years, proven that they have short memories. However, it is certain that a sizable number of the Nigerian population has not forgotten how Ribadu appeared as EFCC Chairman in 2006 before the Senate on a report the agency had just released. During that appearance, without batting an eyelid, he mentioned five governors as the worst thieving governors in the country.
During Nuhu Ribadu’s tenure as EFCC Chief, several key political figures were cited for corruption and embezzlement charges. This included Orji Uzor Kalu, the Abia Governor, noted for his substantial corruption allegations involving theft and money laundering. Interestingly, the same Kalu is now a significant figure in Nigeria’s ruling APC today, attending party meetings alongside Ribadu.
Another notable figure was Ahmed Bola Tinubu, then Governor of Lagos State. In a September 2006 submission, Ribadu detailed what he described as Tinubu’s malicious theft patterns. Tinubu, once indicted for drug trafficking in the US, was branded an international thief by Ribadu. Despite these accusations, the Lagos State government never sued Ribadu for defamation. Fast forward a few years, Tinubu has morphed into Ribadu’s political godfather and financier, a dramatic change in their relationship.
Ahmed Sani Yerima, the then Governor of Zamfara State, was also singled out by Ribadu for direct theft of state funds. His fraudulent actions were labeled as a tragedy by Ribadu. Today, Yerima is a member of Ribadu’s party.
Furthermore, Ribadu accused George Akume, not only of being a thief but also a heartless one who assaulted EFCC operatives during an attempt to retrieve incriminating documents against him. In an ironic twist, Akume has been appointed as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, a role that necessitates close collaboration with Ribadu under Tinubu’s administration.
Ribadu’s testimony also implicated Abdullahi Adamu, accusing the governor of essentially hijacking the state treasury and local government accounts. Adamu now ironically holds the position of Chairman of Ribadu’s political party.
Amid these substantial about-turns, Ribadu’s inconsistent stance, lack of honour, and ethical flip-flopping stand out. Nigerians await his explanation of whether Tinubu is still deemed corrupt, or if circumstances have changed.
Ribadu has yet to transition from rhetoric to concrete problem-solving. His inability to remain consistent is a significant concern for his role as an NSA. Despite his portrayal as a progressive populist, his record indicates a willingness to compromise ethics for political power.
As EFCC Boss, Ribadu was infamous for targeting President Obasanjo’s adversaries, yielding little in terms of notable convictions. His most touted achievement was a six-month sentence against former IG Tafa Balogun, which was, in essence, a plea bargain resulting in a mild punishment.
President Tinubu’s decision to hand over the office of the NSA to Ribadu may pose significant risks. Given Ribadu’s track record, there’s a high possibility of a decline in credibility, professionalism, and consistency within the office, similar to the decline witnessed during Ribadu’s EFCC tenure.
Tinubu’s administration, known for attracting controversial figures, may result in significant political shifts as corrupt characters align with the current administration. The eventual impact of Ribadu’s appointment remains to be seen, but the signs suggest potential disaster.