Date Published: 10/28/09
Ibori-Ribadu Reputation Fight By Idang Alibi
Any one who has taken any interest in the current accusations, denials and counter- accusations between former Delta State Governor, Chief James Ibori, and former EFCC Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, will agree that Ibori has decided to go on the offensive. The former governor who has been accused of all manners of crimes, some of which are already in contention in the law courts, must have been advised by his media and political handlers to be on the offensive as offense, any form of offense, is a better form of defense
As part of that offensive strategy, Chief Ibori, on Friday September 25 th, addressed a press conference in which he called Ribadu a serial liar. Four days later, on Tuesday the 29th of September, he appeared on the very popular early morning Channels TV programme Sunrise. He told his interviewers that he used to maintain a low profile but that he has now decided to occupy the centre stage. All through the forty or so minutes he was guest on that programme and was impartially grilled by the panelists, Ibori played the role of an innocent victim of a vicious political campaign against his good name in a most consummate manner. At the end of it all, I could not but acknowledge to myself that the guy is smart.
For tried as the panelists did, Ibori never admitted to any single wrong-doing throughout his tenure as governor of Delta State. As I have pointed out, he cut the picture of some pious cleric who was a victim of a most vicious political persecution with Ribadu as the spearhead. With the many allegations against him, he left some of us wondering what he has done to any one that he should be singled out for so unfair attack. Like a defense attorney trying to get his client off the hook, Ibori kept talking about evidence, about technical aspects of the cases against him. He did little to win us to his side that he is a clean man who never stole a kobo from the treasury in Delta State where he governed for eight years.
When I listened to Ibori, I shook my head in sadness and asked myself this question: is there no room for remorse in the hearts of some of our people? I want to say that I am fully aware of the fact that Chief Ibori has not been convicted for any offence. I know that not even a million accusations and allegations can amount to one conviction. I am therefore not insinuating that Ibori is guilty of all or any of the very many allegations against him.
But my concern is that a man who has allowed himself to become a ‘victim’ of so many allegations as Ibori has ought to exhibit some sensitivity to people’s sensibility by not showing so much boldfacedness in not only proclaiming his innocence but in also mounting an offensive against those he perceives as his nemesis. Could all the allegations against Ibori be false? It is possible they all are. But the honest question which requires a very honest answer from Ibori is: if he is not corrupt as alleged, has he ever committed any single offence against the law of the land? If he has, no matter how minor he thinks it is, he needs to exhibit some remorse rather than mounting the rostrum to tell us how such a good and innocent man he is.
The Iboris of this country can keep on talking legalities but we the people are the judge of the conduct of our leaders. We know those who served or are serving us with integrity. We know those who never did and are not doing so even now. We may not secure any conviction in a court for those who ill-served us but let them not because of that mount the hobby horse to tell us of their cleanliness.
In his contest against Ribadu over integrity, Ibori is bound to lose miserably because many Nigerians are likely to trust Ribadu’s version of the events more than they are prepared to believe Ibori.
Ibori and other of our men who are out of power but still on the corridors of power, should find time for reflection and try to genuinely repent of the sins they may have severally or jointly committed against the Nigerian people. As I said, some of them have not been convicted yet by a competent court and, from the look of things, some of them may never ever be. But in the court of public opinion, we all hold them guilty of the sin of looting and or misgoverning Nigeria. Even if the likes of Ibori have not stolen, they are guilty of monumental misgovernance of Nigeria.
As a Niger Deltan, I feel bad that the glaring failure of some Niger Delta governors like Ibori have done so much to undermine the genuine agitation of the Niger Delta for a better deal from the Nigerian Federation. When you ask that the Niger Delta should get more in order to develop the place the answer you get is what we have done with the 13 per cent derivation money we get from the federation account?
Even if Ibori is as clean as he claims, he ought to show a class remorse for members of his ruling generation who have ravaged or despoiled this land with their unconscionable thievery and incompetence and lack of integrity.
As a human being I do not think that Nuhu Ribadu can possibly be a saint. But when he performed as Chairman of EFCC some of us could clearly see that the man is not a typical Nigerian. He showed that he is a gentleman who has managed to conquer his greed. If Ribadu was tempted to reap where he did not sow he is certainly not as rapacious as some of the leaders we have seen in recent times. Nor do I think that whatever wrong Ribadu may have done is capable of having the kind of ruinous effect the misdeeds of some of our former and present governors have on our thoroughly gang-raped nation.
Whatever may have been his mistakes, whatever may be his personal weaknesses, Ribadu is an exceptional Nigerian. Even if at the end of the day, hard evidence is brought to show that Ribadu is a rogue or a fraud as Ibori is labouring so hard to do, some of us will still commend him for the uncommon passion he exhibited in his fight against graft and malfeasance in our country
Between Ibori and Ribadu, only God can say who is telling the truth and who the lie and who is just bending the facts a little. But time will tell. What I find interesting and worth remarking on is how time and circumstances change things in a country like Nigeria.
When Obasanjo and Ribadu were in-charge here, Ibori behaved like a cornered rat. Ribadu accused Ibori then of offering him a record-breaking bribe of $15 million. At that time I know of one prominent citizen who undertook a pilgrimage to the CBN to see for himself how $15 million in cash looks like. I can not ever recall hearing Ibori stridently denying this allegation. Until now that he is in-charge.
So part of the drama that is unfolding before us now is a demonstration of a change of fortunes in the lives of the three men. Obasanjo and Ribadu had their own time. Now it is Ibori’s. He is widely known as one of the main backers of Yar’Adua to power. And as is customary with some of the wielders of power in Nigeria, whoever is on the ascendancy at a particular time will use the power available to him not necessarily for the public good, but to advance his personal agenda. In Nigeria, a man who feels “in charge” tries to pursue personal vendetta using a little blackmail, bare-faced lies, a little twisting of the facts of history and many other tools to achieve his objective.
Commentators will debate whether Ibori feels cornered by the mountain of allegations against him both here in Nigeria and in London and so feels impelled to try to win in the court of public opinion or he is coming out more forcefully now as a signal to his nemesis and traducers that no one should dare to dare him any more because he is in firm control of the national space. It is widely perceived by many discerning Nigerians that Ibori has behind him the chief law officer of the Federation, the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice, Chief Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, a man who sounds and acts more like a defense attorney than a man who is charged with bringing accused criminals to justice. Ibori can also count on his side the President of the country Umaru Musa Yar’Adua a man he had helped to power.
Ibori has said quite a lot since he took to the offensive. He has calculated that if he can not quite win the hearts of Nigerians to see him in a more positive light, let him at least deal some unkind cuts on the reputation of Ribadu. And so he has alleged that Ribadu begged him to help him become the IGP and that Ribadu also asked for his assistance for a United Nations’ Organisation job. Now Ibori is operating from the comfort of home; Ribadu from the cold home of exile; Ibori is speaking as a man in power; Ribadu is a man who has fallen out of power; and Ibori is occupying the centre stage, Ribadu operating from a small corner in his lonely exile home. No two contestants could have been so easily unmatched.
What we can also see in the Ibori-Ribadu reputation slugfest is that Nigeria is an interesting place for political watchers, commentators and chroniclers of history in a hurry. We can see how a hero of yesterday can suddenly be made to appear like a villain today while the villains of yesterday can now mount the stage and sit in judgment over the hero; how the hunter can become the hunted. But one thing is certain: time is a settler of all disputes. Let contenders contend. The verdict of history is superior to all their contentions and contestations.
What is very interesting is Ibori’s undisguised strategy to rally Yar’Adua to his side by going to town with the allegation that Ribadu had come to him with a plot to sack Yar’Adua from power. It is possible that Ibori has the evidence but any reasonable Nigerian who knows the relationship between Ibori and Yar’Adua will doubt if Ribadu will come to seek to enter into a conspiracy with Ibori of all people in order to topple Yar’Adua judicially or in any other way. I do not think that Ribadu is that stupid. No matter how desperate he may want to sack Yar’Adua, Ibori will be the last person he will ever go to in order to get that done.
Idang Alibi is a columnist for the Abuja-based Daily Trust newspaper and can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org