I waited for the big news from Yola last Thursday with bated breath. Apart from the newspaper speculations, all my contacts in the Adamawa state capital were saying the same thing: Nuhu Ribadu was set to defect from the APC to the PDP. In Nigeria where political parties operate in ideological vacuum, politicians move from one political party to another as freely as the wind blows; it is no big news. But Nuhu to me is not an ordinary Nigerian politician – he is a brand. He became a household name in Nigeria immediately on assuming office in 2003 as Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. To some of us who had known and associated with him for decades before his elevation to that position, his stellar performance there was nothing new. That was the Nuhu we knew in his true colours: courageous, incorruptible.
His plunge into partisan politics on his return from self exile in 2010 was a new ball game. Nigerian politics and politicians are in a special class of their own globally. At a point when you think they are taking the right turn, you will discover to your amasement that they have taken the left. And when you think they are facing northwards, you may just again discover that they are actually heading southwards.
The freewheeling style of politics here has dire consequences for the country. Sometimes our politicians lead the country to the brink; in fact they lead us to a point where if other countries in Africa found themselves, they could as well seize to be. Paradoxically, Nigeria survives because our politicians believe in nothing. The man you see threatening fire and brimstone today may soon upturn himself and become so pacifist in his approach to the same issues that you will think he is now talking from the pulpit. In Nigeria, every politician has a price and once he is “settled”, his reasoning does not go deeper than his pocket.
To those of us who started singing “God save the Gracious Queen” before we switched over to “Nigeria, We Hail Thee”, we must be courageous enough to accept Wole Soyinka verdict that “we are wasted generation.” We have made so much mess out of our independence that in the early 80’s, the humorous Sam Mbakwe as governor of Imo state cried out loud that we should invite the British to come back and govern us. The emergence of the likes of Ribadu on the political scene gave some of us hope. He made an impressive show of his debut. Straight ahead, he emerged as the Presidential candidate of a major political party. This could be an Obama in the making I thought. For when America was broke and demoralized, they did not turn to an elder statesman, a wealthy business tycoon or a famous war hero general to pull it out of the depths of despair; they turned to a young untested fresher Senator for deliverance. Tragically for Nigeria, that kind of idealism is only meant for history text books. Those of us who ended up working, even on the periphery, for him to emerge as President soon discovered some bitter home truths. On the campaign stomp at Gboko, Benue state for instance, Nuhu attracted a crowd that surprised everybody, including I suspect himself too. It was very moving to see him dance to Tiv music and repeatedly sing what was then the ACN battle cry in Benue – “shorchangi” meaning it is time to change the dance steps.
To our amazement, those who catapulted Ribadu to his Olympian height as presidential candidate were not even enthusiastic about the prospects of his becoming the President. How else do we explain a situation where he lost in all the ACN controlled states except Osun? Overnight, the party hierarchy decided to abandon their presidential man in favour of Goodluck Jonathan. Still, I believed and still believe that Ribadu did the right thing by contesting on the platform he did. In a country as vast as Nigeria, we need people with his gumption to show that there is an alternative route. How could he have contested on the PDP ticket or even joined a party that elevated him and then tried to destroy him to an extent that he had to abandon his homeland?
But the experience with the ACN should have served as a lesson to him on the duplicitous ways of Nigerian politicians. The more you look into Nigerian politics, the less you see and the more you see, the less you understand. It is perfect magic. That is why this story about his jumping from the APC to the PDP sorely for the purpose of getting the guber ticket without primaries caught some of us who know Ribadu off balance. It is a move devoid of principle and very opportunistic. Nuhu as a brand should avoid this kind of brisk short cut to “food is ready” politics. It will destroy him and the good image he has built for himself and the generation some us a hoping have the potential to rescue us.
As the EFCC chairman, Ribadu had gone to the senate to say he had irrefutable evidence that 23 State governors – most of them PDP – were involved in “direct stealing” from the purse of state treasuries. He was waiting for their tenure and immunity to expire before clamping them into jail. And by the time their tenure came to an end, he tried to carry out his threat. But while some fled, others used their clout with the Presidency to block his advances. Alhaji Muazu Adamu was one of such accused men who fled in the face of damning evidence of “direct stealing” against them.
Today, Muazu is the National Chairman of the PDP. How will Nuhu in all good conscience defer to this man? There is also Michael Kaase Aondakaa, the man who as Attorney General and Minister for Justice led blistering attacks on NuhuRibadu at the EFCC. He got Nuhu out to NIPPS and then followed him there to stop his graduation and finally succeeded to frightening him out of the country. Today Aondakaa is a guber aspirant in Benue. If both men succeed, it will be nice to attend a meeting between the Adamawa state PDP governor Ribadu and his Benue state PDP counterpart Michael Aondakaa.
There are so many issues. Already Markus Gundiri an aspirant on the PDP ticket to the guber seat in Adamawa has said that Nuhu was an active collaborator with Murtala Nyako in running Adamawa aground. Somebody from the PDP family phoned from Adamawa last week to not only confirm this to me but to even confide that Nuhu authored Murtala Nyako’s inflammatory letter on genocide against the north. The sharks are out there in the PDP waiting to devour him. Whatever Ribadu decides to do with the options open to him is his own business. It is his cross.