The other week, my peep into the present day Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) represented by Ibrahim Larmode was sorely misinterpreted in certain quarters. They thought I set out to lampoon Larmode. They thought I was writing him off as a non-performer. But that was a wrong reading of my article. Such interpreters missed the point. I have no reason whatsoever to jibe at Larmode or the commission.
I have not even met the EFCC chairman for the first time. What I actually set out to do, which I somehow side-tracked, was to look at the changing roles and modes of operation of the EFCC. In thinking along this line, I was motivated by the loquaciousness of the first EFCC chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, and the taciturnity of the present occupant of the seat, Larmode. Could there be a nexus between the helmsman of the commission and its perception by the public? That was my unstated motivation. I used to be passionate, for good or for bad, about the activities of the commission when Ribadu was in the saddle.
A little research into this Column will tell that much. After the exit of Ribadu, I had reason to leave the commission alone. So many things changed and my excitement also left me. When therefore I saw what was going on between Larmode and the House of Representatives Committee over budget, I was forced to recall what was and what is. The immediate feeling I had was that the Presidency has abandoned the commission for whatever reason. I thought that the best thing to tell Larmode was to work according to the rules dictated by the Presidency and bother less about taking the commission to the glorious height he may have envisioned for it. That was my message.
That was the point I set out to make. But I am delighted by the interest my harmless interjection generated. Maybe some day, I will get to know Larmode and his commission well enough to begin to take an excited look at its activities. While waiting for that occasion to come, I have been reminded of those things we used to say or feel about Ribadu’s EFCC by Dr. Peter Odili, the former Governor of Rivers State. Snippets from his yet-to-be released biography seem to suggest that Ribadu did not help the cause for which the commission was set up. According to Odili, Ribadu was the hatchet man of Olusegun Obasanjo as the president of Nigeria.
The then president used him to haunt his political enemies, real or imagined. Odili has told the story of his own experience. He was framed up by EFCC so as to discredit him from being nominated as presidential running mate. The plot worked. Odili lost out. That is Odili’s story. But there are many other Odilis in the Nigerian scene. His experience was not exceptional. It was routine. It was the order of the day in those years of Obasanjo’s imperial presidency. Odili’s revelations, as a matter of fact, would have amounted to nothing if they are not a vindication of what people thought and felt about the situation then. Ordinarily, many Nigerians would not have bothered about what Obasanjo did in this regard.
They would have dismissed it as the principal character and characteristic of politics in Nigeria. But what rankled in all this was the moral sanctimoniousness that Ribadu brought bear on his actions then. In the Nigerian setting, it may be explained, even excusable for a political appointee to do the bidding of the authority that appointed him. They call that loyalty in politics. You cannot be seen to be smarter than the man who appointed you. It would be an affront for you to do so.
You would also be playing wrong politics if you openly disparage the ways and idiosyncrasies of the authority that has provided you the political space in which you may be luxuriating. To this extent, loyalty of some sort is understandable. But when you bring braggadocio and high level pretentiousness to bear on the charade, it becomes nauseating, and even revolting. This was Ribadu’s point of departure with a good number of people. They felt that it was justifiable for him to identify with Obasanjo. But their worry was that he was brash and abrasive about it. He was not just this, he was also believed to have acted in ways and manners that seemed to portray him as being morally upright.
Many felt, and some still feel insulted by such holier-than-thou posturing. Such people feel that what they got from Ribadu was a morally hazardous blow. They do not and cannot comprehend how a man will willfully place himself morally above others when in truth he is as bad, if not worse than some of the people he was painting black. This must be the point that Odili’s biography is about to bring home. Was Ribdau truly a moral crusader as he wanted Nigerians to believe then or was he a bully who wanted to whip everybody into his master’s crooked line using the instrumentality of the EFCC?
Odili’s biography and the issues arising from it will lay this matter bare. The present leadership of the EFCC under Larmode should take interest in how this issue will be resolved. It will help them to run a better anti crime commission in the years to come.