I no longer have any problem whatsoever with defections, re-defections and counter-defections of Nigerian politicians from one political party to another. The only reason why I am having a little problem with the issue now is because it involves Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.
I have had three major encounters with Ribadu. Although I have been seeing and hearing of him for the past nine years, but the first time I met him was some few weeks to the 2011 presidential elections. I met him in Kano during an interactive session at Mumbayya House in which he answered some questions from a group of people drawn from diverse interests. The event was so organized and colourful that I began to wonder who were the sponsors of his candidacy, especially that I never know him to be a very wealthy person.
That night, I was among those who asked him some questions on how he intends to govern a multi-dimensional Nigeria, most of which he convincingly answered. He referred some other questions to his running mate, Fola Adeola, who didn’t do badly either. I carefully observed Ribadu as he kept answering questions and I noticed some extra-ordinary sincerity in his eyes which I believe came directly from his heart. I only found him somehow wanting when one fellow asked him on whether during his time as EFCC boss, he was used by Obasanjo to witch-hunt political enemies of the President? Ribadu tried very hard to convince his audience that that was not the case. Unlike in the case of the other questions, I noticed the unusual additional energy Ribadu expended in defending himself, hence I was not convinced. Regardless of Ribadu’s shortcomings during his time as EFCC boss, I think few will argue that he did an excellent job in the commission and he must be credited with setting the standards for fighting financial corruption in Nigeria.
Many people viewed Ribadu as a joker at that time, but after the end of that interactive session, I did not only resolve to support him in the elections, but I also held him in high esteem and one of the best among the elites in this country.
My second encounter with Ribadu came about ten days after the first when we met in Yola, the capital city of his home state, Adamawa. Our meeting with him was organized by a handful of youths and political organizations with the purpose of getting a satisfactory explanation from him as to why they failed to reach a consensus between him, Shekarau and Buhari so that they could face Jonathan as a united and strong opposition.
Ribadu was a very simple and humble man; he left the high table and walked to the midst of the mini crowd which we formed. He collected the microphone and delivered one of the most brilliant political lectures I have heard which lasted for over an hour.
His words were inspiring as much as they were encouraging and enlightening. He admitted that a lot of difficult reasons have not allowed them to reach a consensus because some of them deliberately refuse to cooperate and hence it was too late to stop Jonathan from winning the election. But he assured us that change is a sure thing in 2015 and he will be part of it. Has Ribadu now abandoned the quest for change or is the available option at hand not good enough?
My third and last encounter and last encounter with Ribadu was early this year when I read what I assume to be his lengthiest interview with a weekly Hausa newspaper, whose editor is a good friend of mine. That paper dedicated about ten pages to the interview in which Ribadu extensively discussed his private, professional and political life. When reading that interview, I felt like I was having a conversation with him. He absolved Tinubu and other Yoruba political leaders from the blame of the failure of the defunct ACN to win the South West in the presidential elections. He also explained the rot in the Nigerian oil industry. He lamented the non-co-operation of the petroleum minister, Deizani Madueke to the Presidential Task Force on Petroleum Revenue which he headed as well as the failure of the presidency to act on the report of the task force. I could recall one of the committee members saying that Ribadu was the only person in the committee who refused to collect a single Kobo as allowance throughout their sittings. He turned all financial offers down and stressed that he was doing it for his fatherland. Therefore, those who thought that he accepted the President’s offer to head the task force for financial gain were mistaken.
I have noticed the build-up and the suspense to Ribadu’s defection to PDP, but I can’t exactly say why he made that decision which from the little I know of him seems to be largely in parallel with his convictions and principles. Meanwhile, why is joining the PDP always being regarded by many Nigerians as a sin?
Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo noted that: “Why Nigerians so sternly dislike the PDP is a factor that is hard to explain. The difference between the party and the opposition is the one between six and half a dozen. Their constitutions were written by the same people just as they are populated by members who have inter-defected back and forth over a period that makes it seem like the Nigerian party membership is a ride on a pendulum. So I wonder where the issue lies.”
Now that Ribadu has joined PDP at this crucial moment, it will be very difficult or may be premature to judge him. We have been made to believe that he is nursing the ambition of becoming the next Adamawa State governor and that ambition played a major role in his defection. If this is true, then the Ribadu I know must have a mission and a vision which is far much bigger than just becoming governor. I believe that by sacrificing his presidential ambition to a lower ambition of a governor, then he must be up to something, or was he not really serious with his presidential ambition? I am afraid, under a free and fair exercise; Ribadu cannot clinch the PDP gubernatorial ticket. This is obviously because; I don’t see the stakeholders of Adamawa PDP surrendering the hard-earned dividends of their long time battle to a person who just joined the party. Whether the presidency will successfully force that on them is a different matter entirely.
Defections have become so common in Nigerian politics. I keep wondering how a whole former presidential flag bearer of an opposition party will just join the ruling party for flimsy reasons. Ribadu’s long silence before the defection was confusing; he is a man of honour and excellence. The real truth behind why he joined PDP, I don’t know and I am not in a position to judge. But something deep inside me tells me that he acted against his conscience.
Amir Abdulazeez, the President of Foundation for Better Initiatives (FBI), can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org