By Kunle Oyatomi
Early in the week, the goodnews that Ribadu has been â€œreinstatedâ€ was published. Well, we had expected some form of restoration before a re-positioning of the man within the state apparatus. The former â€œironâ€ cop is welcome, even if to an indeterminate characterisation. Hopefully, things will get cleaner soon for us to know the new role Ribadu will play in the scheme of things.
However, Ribadu is an interesting subject not just by himself but for what he has come to personify in a rather oblique way. He represents both sides of the use and abuse of power.
It is interesting how these things happen but what we cannot take from our leaders and their principal disciples is that uncanny ability to misuse political power, and abuse institutional authority to punish, victimise and intimidate their opponents.
As a principal disciple of Obasanjo, Ribadu was in power and he did exercise power â€” the institutional authority of the EFCC. True, he did a lot of good work with his powers; but not without the blemish of abuse all the same. At least Obasanjoâ€™s perceived opponents and adversaries who suffered through the quaint use of the powers of the EFCC under Ribaduâ€™s watch can best testify to this.
But, within months of Obasanjo leaving office, Ribadu was himself standing on the spot from the abuse of power. Such was the heat of this abuse that the young-old man fled the country before he was thrown into the Yarâ€™Adua â€œGulag.â€
So, Ribadu became a tool and a victim of both sides of the coin â€” the use and the abuse of institutional authority.
Power intoxicates an unscrupulous operator into its misuse, and at the same time can mollify an abused victim; but we are never too sure that a victim will always emerge the wiser after an experience. What we are sure of is that the abuse of institutional authority to victimise, harass and punish perceived opponents or adversaries is a very unlawful thing to do.
Morally, it signals a state of ethical under-development of any leader who abuses power. Politically it also points to a degree of immaturity, and a tendency toward criminal abuse of public trust to misuse institutional authority to molest and punish your personal enemies.
Many Nigerians love the positive side of Ribaduâ€™s use of power. Others were uncomfortable with his perceived abuses. But since he became a victim of abuse himself we can only hope that his stint in self exile would have been instructive enough to bring back a new Ribadu to us. Now that you know how it feels both ways in the exercise of power, you will possibly make the best public use of it.
Welcome Home, Ribadu.
Reform the electoral system now
Never before in our history has Nigeria felt such degree of urgency as we feel today. There is palpable worry everywhere that things should be happening faster because they are not fast enough. The worry is accentuated by the volume of work undone to restore confidence in the future. We cannot stop emphasising the reforms necessary to restore confidence in the electoral process.
There is the review of voters register to be done. We are nowhere near agreement on how to delineate the constituencies. The procedural reform necessary to make each individualâ€™s vote count is yet to be spelt out. We still have a big job on our hands to prevent rigging in the 2011 polls.
If in the next 60-90 days we do not have a clear picture of the kind of electoral reform Mr. President will put in place to ensure a credible electoral process for the next election, then it will be increasing improbable that the reform exercise itself will not run into serious trouble with the constitution in terms of when the elections should hold. This job is by itself an enormous task for the President. He needs to work with people to get things done quickly.
The National Assembly is crucial in this exercise. Mr. President needs all the skills of persuasion he can muster to bring the National Assembly on the same page with him; otherwise, things can get a lot more difficult. And that will be unhelpful for everybody.
Beyond that, this democratic society we are trying to build from scratch will totter and tumble, and all our efforts in the last 12 years would have been in vain. President Goodluck Jonathan should recognise that he is under pressure locally and internationally to make this countryâ€™s democracy work.
It is the democratic process that made it possible for him to be president. And he owes it as a duty to generations of Nigerians yet unborn to strengthen this democratic process â€” which is what reform of the electoral process will help him to achieve.
Regardless of the urgency which this reform process demands, it should be stated clearly here also that it must be done well within the constitutional framework provided for the life span of this presidency. To keep things late therefore will be counterproductive. Everything should be done by the president to effect reform of the electoral process early enough to avoid acrimony and corruption setting in. The process is already corrupt; to keep reform of it lingering will compound the corruption.
President Jonathan will have to stretch his ability and imagination to their elastic limits to get this job done. It will take WILL and CHARACTER both of which must influence what the president does in the next 60-90 days. That is not a lot of time really, but certainly it is enough for a determined person who is conscious of his destiny with history, to make the difference to the life of a sinking country.