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Ribadu and Sanusi: In the eye of the storm

Tempting as making homilies to great men are, it is not the direct concern of this week’s column. It is about younger men of no…

Tempting as making homilies to great men are, it is not the direct concern of this week’s column. It is about younger men of no mean statures and mettles—no mean targets for argumentation and debate. Nuhu Ribadu , controversial ex-Czar of EFCC and the immediate past presidential candidate on the platform of Action Congress of Nigeria  (ACN) and Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). These two men have provided cause for serious national disputations. Thsey have always been men with an incredible capacity for stirring up the polity, which is, however, never too calm for comfort. These are men of fibrous hearts, unassailable courage and indomitable propensity for generating public admiration and disquiet, if not uproar, at once. They are men who never shy away from daring, from embarking on adventures in domains where angels would even fear to tread. They are men of great passion and unquestionable patriotism for this country for which many of their peers consider it both fool-hardy and suicidal to risk their necks for.  They are also men who, in their service for this country, have had cause to step on many toes.

Recently, they have taken actions for which many have called for their heads, literally, and for which in their vintage mien, they have needed no advocates or external forces to come to their rescue. But tongues are still wagging. Nuhu Ribadu’s choice of national service against all odds, indeed against his party’s ‘injunction’ that no ACN notables should accept job offers from the PDP government, has been the subject of unrelenting criticism, even vituperations. Ribadu has been offered a job by the Federal government; they have asked him, and he has accepted, to chair the 21-man Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force. Should he have accepted or should he not have? That is the question. In self-justification, Ribadu has not been and can hardly be found wanting. A national call takes precedence over personal, party, sectional or any other considerations. Un-placcably committed to the eradication of the corruption cancer-worm that had ravaged irreparably the nation’s body politic, and in evaluation of the RSTF job as an extension of his crusade of the anti-corruption war, Ribadu finds no difficulty at all in accepting the assignment, irrespective of the source of the offer. In any case, he does not feel it demeaning, nor is he demeaned, to climb down from the high pedestal of a gunner for the position of the Number One citizen of Africa’s most populous nation, one euphemistically referred to as the Giant of Africa, to serve in a small, however important committee of a Ministry. History and legacy are his veritable armour. His own father had returned from an important position at the centre of national government to accept a job at the local council of his home. No qualms.  Many commentators from various interests have had cause to pooh-pooh his defense. Not least among them are those, who from a political slant and bent, found the offer as government’s attempt to curry populist favour—bring credible persons to endorse their incredible and flawed government. In particular, The Nation’s columnist, Palladium, feels Ribadu may rubbish his hard-earned integrity by accepting a job from a President whose integrity he finds suspect ( a flip-flop President), having barely run away with such possibility under Chief Obasanjo.  From a slightly different political angle, the ACN dismisses Ribadu’s action as personal to him. He is on his own, they say, for flouting Party decision. Many would be tempted to wonder why a Presidential candidate would be so eager to flout party directives. Was he not part of that decision? Was he not genuinely chosen as the Presidential candidate of ACN? Was he having his own back—on a revenge cause—having been done in by his party at its stronghold of the South West during the Presidential election?

We may not have heard the last of the numerous reasons, pros and cons, for Ribadu’s acceptance of this task. We know, of course, that transcending party and personal barriers to serve the nation has something heroic about it. What we don’t know, as yet, is whether that is the authentic motivation behind Ribadu’s action. Another area of concern is if Ribadu can successfully deliver and triumph in this dicey assignment from this rather embattled and troubled Ministry. Should he win, the nation, and undoubtedly the Jonathan Administration, will reap credibility benefit, which it needs, in dire proportions. I do not envy Ribadu.

Neither do I want to wear the present pin-stock shoes of Sanusi Lamido, especially on his recent donation spree—which many have queried in intent and motivation as well as proportion. The Governor of the Central Bank is a man after many discernible hearts in Nigeria, especially since he brought the hammer down on the head of fraudulent Chief Executives of some recapitalized banks, who his predecessor in office, Prof Soludo, had been treating with kid-loves, some have been more courageous in describing his relationship with some of these bank erstwhile barons as amounting to mutual back-scratching. Sanusi has come out in public perception as a man of sterling and Spartan disposition, until the last subsidy crises, when he began to double-speak, prevaricate, at least. But it in his latest acts of institutional phillantropism—giving donations to affected victims of Boko Haram attacks in Kano and Madalla–  that sparked off the rage against him in many quarters.

The arguments are that; a) is it the business of the Central Bank to give donations to disaster victims? What is the job of NEMA and its emergency relief operations? b) If it is his business, why did he have to wait until the Kano tragedy? This, in view of the fact that he comes from Kano and he is allegedly an heir-apparent, is considered an insensitive action. Before Kano, the argument goes, there had been Bauchi, Maiduguri, Yobe, Suleja, Madalla, and so on; c) Why the disproportionate offer to Kano and Madalla?

The answers to these and many more pertinent questions require great wisdom, researched facts and extensive space to provide. I have none of these luxuries. Just some tit-bits.  Government’s response, in terms of relief to victims and through the appropriate relief agencies has been grossly inadequate. The victims need huge reliefs. Sanusi’s response would have been in order if he had structured it properly or even thrown the resources and the ideas to the right agencies. He has exposed himself rather badly, being a man of great thought and grey matter, and having earlier made a sociological/ materialist diagnosis of the root cause of Boko Haram as economic hardship and poverty. He should have taken a more structured, fundamental and systemic approach than he did. Certainly, all victims need aid. The Federal Government ought to have centralized its relief effort under its designated agencies, rather than leaving it to the whims and tokenist, disproportionate humanitarian lets of individuals and institutions like the Central Bank—no matter how well-meaning.

We have not heard the last of these two titans, (Ribadu and Sanusi) who have long national careers on their way, but who must make hay, cautiously, not timidly though, in propelling and driving themselves, compulsively, towards their assured destiny.

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