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How Times Change Us: I Saw Ribadu in Rwanda, By Reuben Abati

June 11, 2013

I ran into him at the reception lobby of the Hotel Des Milles Collines in Kigali. He had just arrived and was trying to check into the hotel: Nuhu Ribadu, the erstwhile Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission who lost his job under rather controversial circumstances, and who is regarded as having been unfairly treated by the Yar’Adua government.
I hugged him. He had lost nothing of his humility, his sense of humour and his humanity. He didn’t look like a man who had just been rough-tackled by the unpredictable Nigerian state whose moral compass is subject solely to the whims and caprices of whoever is in charge, and not necessarily principles and values.
The following morning, we sat together on the same long table, and I slipped a note to him. I wanted an interview with him for The Guardian. It is about time he told his story at great length. He read my note, and picked up his pen. I noticed that he is a Southpaw, and I chuckled remembering how so many southpaws tend to find themselves in the hot corners of history.
In his response, he had said “we would discuss.” We were both attending a conference organised by UNECA in collaboration with UNDP to assess the efficiency and impact of anti-corruption institutions in Africa. There were anti-corruption chiefs in attendance from various African countries.
Ribadu wouldn’t grant an interview, but he was ready to discuss. “I think it is better for me to remain silent now”, he says. “I am using this period to reflect on what we did. You know when I took up the job in 2003, I resolved that I will try my utmost best. And walahi, I tried. I took the assignment seriously. Maybe I failed, but at least we proved that it is possible. So, I have been thinking and trying to figure out what further should have been done or could have been done differently.” We were soon asked to introduce ourselves.
When it was Ribadu’s turn, he told the meeting: “I am Nuhu Ribadu, former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria, currently recuperating from a bloodied nose”. The hall cracked into laughter. But the other anti-corruption chiefs and operatives would not laugh later when Ribadu took part in a country case studies panel.
There has been so much speculation about Ribadu’s whereabouts in the Nigerian press. But the fact is that he is currently a Senior Fellow at St Antony’s College in Oxford University in the United Kingdom, working with Professor Paul Collier, the leading authority on African economies and politics. St Antony’s College has become the sanctuary for many progressives who get into trouble in the developing world.
Ribadu stays in a residence that was recently vacated by Anwal Ibrahim, the embattled former Prime Minister of Malaysia whose only offence was that he fell out of favour with his boss, Mahathir Muhammed. “Such a nice man”, Ribadu says. “he left me his plates and cutlery and kitchen utensils.”
One of the persons Ribadu met on arrival at St Antony’s is John Githongo, the Kenyan newspaper columnist and anti-corruption campaigner who had to flee from Kenya in 2005, after he discovered that the majorly corrupt persons in the country are his own colleagues: Ministers and the big men of Kenyan society. Githongo got their confessions on tape, but they told him bluntly that they are the ones milking Kenya dry.
One fateful day, Githongo packed his bags and fled to London, from where he sent a letter resigning his position as Permanent Secretary for Ethics and Governance in Kibaki’s NARC Government. He has now returned to Kenya where he enjoys massive media and civil society support, and his book, written by Michela Wrong and titled It’s Our Turn To Eat will be released in London on February 23. It will go on sale in Nairobi the same day.
Unlike Githongo, Ribadu did not run away immediately he discovered that he had fallen out of favour. He stayed and tried to fight the system. He was sidelined and sent to a course he didn’t ask for in Kuru near Jos. Behind his back, they gave his job to someone else, without regard to the security of tenure. Then, they demoted him in what looked like a routine administrative exercise, but the political undertones were writ large.
Source-Premium Times

Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.

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