The pioneer chairman of the anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Nuhu Ribadu, at a recent public event confirmed previously widely held speculation that under him, the outfit was a witch-hunt medium used by then President Olusegun Obasanjo to hound dissenting voices especially within his party at that time, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Ribadu revealed that 99 per cent of those who had issues with the agency under him were from PDP, the political class. For him, it was proof that Obasanjo did not interfere with the operations of the anti-graft agency. In other words, he wants the rest of us to accept that he should be held responsible for any action or inaction during his tenure in office. Of course that is to be expected even as we also know that he was his master’s voice who was doubly promoted for a hatchet job well done.
No matter what, Nigerians are not easily deceived because they knew that most of those implicated in one form of corruption related- issue or the other were politically exposed people who held strong views about the goings-on in the country at that time, a situation made worse if those views ran contrary to the thinking in Aso Villa. EFCC, under Ribadu, was a deadly weapon Obasanjo used to keep perceived recalcitrant politicians in check just to ensure that he is the be all and end all in the political firmament.
From this standpoint, in our view, it is not surprising that the operational foundation laid by the agency in those early days were faulty and intentionally so. It was further made weaker by the wobbly pillars that held the structure. It accounts for the suspicious record of success that the agency claims even now with all the efforts of the current occupant of the office to turn things around for the better.
In our opinion, corruption is not all about politics and politicians. Granted that the politicians, in the kind of democracy we practice, are in the commanding heights of the distribution of resources which provided them the leverage, in most cases, to help themselves with the nation’s milk pot in a manner that betrayed the trust reposed in them by the public. Granted also that members of the political class then and now call the shots in the management of national affairs. And because of the low integrity of some of them, coupled with the subsisting systemic improprieties, they succumbed to the temptation to drink up the whole milk, an attitude that was made obvious by the opportunities that were corruptly created and the unrestrained possibility of exploiting them. Still, we insist that the anti-corruption campaign ought to be extended to other areas within the public service and, without doubt, the private sector.
The Civil service, for instance, is unarguably, the cesspool of corruption in the polity. But because they know how to cover their tracks, no one dares to look in their direction. No politician, no matter how powerful, can pull through a scam in the public sector without the active connivance of the civil servants. Regrettably, when the hammer falls, the politicians take the flak while the civil servants walk away smelling fresh like rose. The only notable non-political figure that was dragged into the net was the former Inspector General of Police (IGP), Tafa Balogun, who paid the price for professionally objecting to the appointment of Ribadu on the ground that, as Deputy Commissioner of Police, he was too junior for the position. This is not to say, however, that the former IGP was altogether innocent of the allegations against him. But if he were Obasanjo’s friend wouldn’t he have gotten away with it like the former President’s nephew did in the Ministry of Defence?
We recall that it was the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), a United States of America agency that exposed the rot in FIFA that brought down Sepp Blatter. We are not saying that EFCC should begin to make such international forays. That is not the point in our argument. The EFCC must not see itself as an agency created solely to bring down erring members of the political class as was the case under Ribadu. Our argument is that, as an agency set up to stop economic and financial crimes, it must reinforce its structures so as to be able to fulfil its mandate which includes looking beyond the political class. There are other thieves in the civil service and the private sector who are collaborators of the politicians. EFCC must, necessarily, pursue, catch them and bring everyone to justice too.