Contrary to anything happening in Nigeria in the last week or two, what has really caught my interest of late has been the resignation of CIA boss Gen. Patreaus over allegations of having an extra marital affair. Even as the full details had yet to be made public, the man owned up and quit office. I think Patreus found himself in the wrong country.
That man should have being a Nigerian. If he came from my part of the country, for instance, as a four-star General, he would have, before now, been conferred with a handful of Nze and Ichie titles, and he would have reminded his accusers that there is no way an Nze could be restricted to ‘eating’ just one ‘thing’. There has to be variety. In fact, it would have been his wife who, desperate to keep her husband in public office (and the lucre therefrom), that would have come out to declare that this other woman that everyone is raising hell about, is indeed the prospective junior wife whom her ‘loving’ husband had earlier told her he was about taking.
In fact, Patreus’ mother would also have disowned him for resigning over such an inconsequential thing as infidelity. When did you become such a coward? she would ask him. How many wives did your grandfather have? Do you know how many other women, apart from me, who had children for your father? So it’s ordinary two women that you can’t manage? Sio. And she would follow it up with a long drawn hiss. Yes, Patreus should have come from Nigeria, where it is no big deal that a married public officer (the men, that is) is moonlighting outside.
He should have come from a Nigeria where a girl I once met at a hotel bar had a good laugh at me when I tried to fend her off by flaunting my wedding band and telling her I was married, already had three kids and was expecting a fourth. She did not just stop at laughing at me, she actually invited her friend over to join in the mockery. Where the bush was I coming from? Where did I ever hear that marriage stopped men from keeping a string of lovers? This is Nigeria. Patreus should have come from our country where every executive trip out of base is preceded by an advance team of university girls.
Where, as a member of the entourage, you sometimes open the door of the room allocated to you to discover that a lady is already in there, in some degree of undress, waiting for you. If Patreus were a Nigerian, he’d have asked other Generals how they do it. He’d have known that he is entitled to 10 wives or more – and countless concubines. And if he decides to play the pious man and stick to four, he could always divorce one and marry one more – that is if he really wants to marry them.
Other than that, he can actually have children from as many women as he likes and it would not even amount to an impeachable offence, public discourse, or anything anybody should be resigning over. But I guess it would be improper to be talking of Patreus and America when there are more pressing local issues in Nigeria – issues like the controversy of the Ribadu report on Nigeria’s crude oil earnings – and how government officials, agencies and local businessmen have been playing Ludo with the money.
But unlike many other commentators, I am not one of those who believe the government wanted to rubbish Ribadu with the report. Or that Oronsaye was actually a mule in the committee. For every time that line of argument comes up, I ask the protagonists one question: what real danger did Ribadu pose to government to warrant such a grand plot to mess him up? Is he such an electable quantity that the presidency and PDP would want to get him out of the way ahead of 2015? But I can sometimes be naïve about these matters. However, I am enjoying my naivety about this one issue for now.
That is why ever since the public face-off between Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and Mr. Stephen Oronsaye at the submission of the report of the Petroleum Revenue Task Force, I have not stopped blessing the soul (and guts) of the former Head of Service. Guts; for daring to speak up even before the president (although there is a new line of thought that now seems to suggest that the presidency may have had a foreknowledge of Oronsaye’s ‘impending boldness’ long before the former head of service raised his hand to speak on that fateful Friday. But the fact remains that none of what he said that day has been faulted, beyond the fact that he did not attend the meetings of the committee.
Now, much as I am not one of those who think Ribadu is infallible, I have never been in doubt that he is a diehard patriot who wants the best for his country. My only problem with him has always been that I do not think he is as through as the jobs we have entrusted him with demand. There is a world of difference between passion and procedure. Yes, we know our crude oil business in this country since we first struck oil has remained what the name suggests: crude. We know that the petroleum industry is bursting at its seams with rogues in smartly tailored suits. We know more than 80% of what Ribadu alleged are true, but we are not going to do wuru wuru to the answer, simply because we already know the answer.
We are still going to go the long tortuous way of due process, so that everything would be properly documented. This is more so, when we take into consideration the fact that genuine integrity as well as false, but giant-sized egos are at stake. And to make matters worse, there is plenty of loose cash in the sector to throw after whatever cause respective industry players want to pursue. It is an industry that can buy and compromise all of us – from politician to judge and journalist. From cleric to human rights/pro-democracy activist and Senior Advocates of Nigeria.
There is even enough money to even hire the masses to come out, enmasse, and occupy Nigeria, to demonstrate against even popular causes. We are talking of petro-dollars, remember. Of course that is not saying that anybody was compromised – neither Oronsaye nor Ribadu. It is just that doing a job as sensitive , and as dirty, as cleaning up the oil mess in Nigeria needs a lot more thoroughness than was obviously exhibited. If Oronsaye was intentionally planted in that committee to neutralize Ribadu, then the former EFCC boss obviously played into the hands of those who sponsored the former head of service. However, in accomplishing that alleged task, Oronsaye has also displayed total lack of commitment to the task of rebuilding Nigeria.
How on earth could he not have found time to attend even one meeting of the committee? And why would he think that a committee where he was neither chairman nor secretary would suspend its work until such a time that Oronsaye is available to attend meetings? Did the president not give a time frame for the completion and submission of the report? So, Oronsaye might place all the bureaucratic red tapes he learnt in his so many years in the civil service, but he must always remember that he is working with someone who is in a hurry to get Nigeria fixed and who, therefore, would not mind overlooking a few time-wasting processes to give us what we want.
However, while we are eager to tell the public what they want to hear, we should also not forget the maxim that it is better to let nine criminals escape justice than allow one innocent man get punished. That is why extreme caution is needed for a job like the committee’s. with so many figures – in billions of dollars flying around, there is the temptation to grab one figure mid-way, without knowing its origin or final destination.
A minor bookkeeping oversight could make us begin to look for money that is not missing. It requires patience to trace. It is a battle we are forever fighting with our accountants and auditors and advert executives in our own little organizations. I dare say, that patience, is not one of Ribadu’s better known virtues. I, for one, used to be a great admirer of Nuhu Ribadu. But that was long ago.
That was before I had what I would consider a ‘personal’ encounter with him. It was first with the Orji Kalu case, and latter, the case of my employer, The Sun Publishing Limited. In each of those I desperately tried to find a correlation between what Ribadu was saying in the press and the substance of the matter at hand, but found no connection at all. He went to the National Assembly and declared that some 32 or so serving governors were thieves, even as the EFCC that Farida Waziri would later inherit did not seem to have a complete file on more than three governors, or a water-tight case against any of them.
But today, all those ex-governors have to live with the burden of a ‘thief’ tag that is still hanging on their necks. But instead of us blaming Ribadu and his EFCC team, we pushed the blame to the judges and the courts. We say they have been compromised. We cite the case of former Delta State Governor James Ibori who was freed by a judge here, but was later convicted in the United Kingdom.
But we forget to add that the judge in Nigeria did not have the same case and evidence (and diligent prosecution) that his UK counterpart witnessed. Even at that, have we not seen a huge cloud of doubt now hanging over that conviction – as regards the hanky panky the British investigators played? In the case of Kalu, for instance, Ribadu declared that the erstwhile governor of Abia had, three years into his first term tenure, stolen about N88 billion from Abia state.
It was a big lie. How? At the end of Kalu’s eight-year administration in Abia, the state had yet to earn as much as N88 billion. Today, one of the reasons the case has dragged on is because Ribadu’s successors at the anti-graft commission have had the impossible task of manufacturing credible evidence to support a lie.
The same appears to be true of the spurious two N400 million cheques manufactured in the case of The Sun newspaper. But rather than see the matter as a case of someone trying to play to the gallery, Ribadu’s media and internet friends turned round to accuse Farida Waziri of taking the steam off the war against graft: reason? She was not 24 hours in the media sentencing persons she had yet to arraign. They made so much noise against Farida that her employers soon began to listen.
The rest, as they say, is now history. Yes, we have to fight corruption, but must we hound every businessman and politician into jail without taking time to sieve out the few who might not be just as corrupt as we suspect they are? By closely following the two cases, I mentioned above, I have clearly seen how outright falsehood was fabricated about political opponents, given some form of executive authentication by the EFCC and sold to the public as ‘incontrovertible evidence’ of fraud.
This was even as those who committed the most heartless of public treasury looting continued to make a mockery of all of us by waving their corruption-free certificate (stamped by Ribadu’s EFCC) in our faces. Of course, all this does not support Dr. Doyin Okupe’s position that the report only served political interest of some people (although I agree that a key assignment given to the committee to ‘investigate and recommend’ was thrown back to government unattended to).
What I see in all of this is that Ribadu desperately wants to fix corruption in Nigeria, but he just does notseem to know how. In a saner country, Ribadu and many of us in the media would by now either be in jail or down to our bottom dollar (naira, in this instance). Because many of those we tried and convicted on the pages of the newspaper would have sued us out of business. For every now and then, the EFCC as we knew it then, would mount the podium to publicly pronounce judgment before trial (by declaring another public officer a rogue). And because the EFCC said so, we would amplify it by splashing it on the front pages. Nobody bothered to hear from the accused.
One after the other, we branded all the governors who ran the states from 1999 to 2007 as thieves, even as we turned a blind eye on the Presidency from where Ribadu’s puppet strings were being pulled – and where the biggest looting was actually taking place. And as if to tell all of us to go to hell, Ribadu soon issued the head of that presidency with a corruption clean bill of health.