By Rotimi Fasan
THE bad drama starring Malam Nuhu Ribadu and Mr. Steve Orosanye that played to a full Aso Rock audience when the Ribadu Task Force presented its report has come and gone but comments are still being made by a larger Nigerian audience that viewed the ‘home video’ posted on the internets in different parts of the world.
In a popular scene that must have been played back many times over, Malam Ribadu had given a summary of his committee’s activities and must have felt satisfied with his presentation when the bottom suddenly came off the entire presentation.
This was the point when his deputy on the committee, Orosanye, interjected to give what totally sent the report that took nearly 10 months to prepare into the trash can. Orosanye, in a manner that appeared carefully choreographed, pointed out that the report that Ribadu had so carefully summarised was incomplete as it lacked input from important sectors and individuals that would have made it the thorough job that it was meant to be.
Orosanye gave the impression that Ribadu sacrificed thoroughness for speed, that is a desire to quickly produce a result instead of producing a useful report. Considering criticism of Ribadu for failure to follow due process and procedure when he headed the EFCC, Orosanye’s comment was clearly an indictment of Ribadu’s administrative skills.
It was clearly a bad report sheet from his own deputy and an indication that things couldn’t have gone well with the committee’s work. To rub it in, Orosanye made no attempt to be diplomatic.
The President gave the Taskforce a timeline within which to complete its work. And so what, Orosanye queried, if the work was not ready at the expiration of the time.
Not even Ribadu with his touted bluntness could have spoken before the President in the manner Orosanye did. But the former Head of Service of the Federation had shown Nigerians anyone could practically tell the President that he does not have the last say on issues- right in his face .
One is not by this saying that Orosanye should have acted like a yes-man before the President but his anger seems to have taken the better part of him. Could he have spoken in such manner before President Obasanjo, one might ask? Jonathan sat quietly through it all even as Orosanye made efforts to rephrase his comments apparently out of realisation he might have spoken too harshly.
But his comment got Ribadu smoking and he let it all out, telling the President Orosanye’s commitment to the committee was doubtful and his appointment represented a conflict of interest having got himself onto the boards of the NNPC and CBN, bodies over which their committee had oversight functions.
He also told the gathering that Orosanye had been a sleeping, non-performing, in short, runaway member of the Task Force who had not attended meetings but had only flown into the country on the day of the presentation- as it were- to scuttle the committee’s work. For Ribadu, Orosanye had no role in the committee except that of a spoiler.
The two combatants could have continued back and forth had the President not intervened. It was clearly an embarrassing moment but whether the gathering saw it as such is another matter. Apparently, Ribadu would not have spoken about Orosanye’s non-performance had he not confronted him before the President.
And the question might be asked why Orosanye had to wait until that moment before speaking up about Ribadu’s failure to follow procedure had he not been sure that his comments would throw a spanner into the work of the committee.
Without any desire to pursue the line of opposition parties who believed Orosanye must have been planted in the committee to subvert its work, it will be interesting to know if he had been given prior assurance that his open challenge of the manner the report was put together would send it into the waste bin where it appears now fated. While the President tried to pour oil on troubled waters, his spokesman, Doyin Okupe, was not that careful.
Apparently piqued by the comments of opposition elements, Okupe slammed and tore the Ribadu report into shreds. If his comments are anything to go by, nearly a year’s efforts that went into the report have been wasted for the report is as good as dead.
But should the disagreement of the Ribadu Task Force members signal the end of the report? Is the Jonathan administration ready to consign all the efforts and resources it had committed into producing that report to waste?
How should Nigerians respond to this? Would they be wrong to conclude that setting up the committee was in the first instance a diversionary tactic to lull the people into believing that Abuja was responding to their needs in the wake of the demonstrations that greeted the hike in petroleum prices last January?
Meanwhile, Nigerians continue to waste precious hours looking all over for petroleum. Cost of public transport has increased dramatically and there is nobody providing coherent explanation for what is happening. As at this point today, the official pump price of petroleum is N97 per litre but everyone knows that the product goes for as high as N120 and N130 in different parts of the country.
In some parts, a litre of petroleum goes for N140 yet government pretends it has not increased price of petroleum per litre. But President Jonathan has told us where the country is headed with his comment last Wednesday that nothing could end the scarcity of petroleum except government removes so-called subsidy from the product. It does not occur to the President when he makes statements such as this that he insults the Nigerian people when he talks of phantom subsidies that go into the pockets of the children of super rich people.
When the President sat quietly through the exchanges between Ribadu and Orosanye, unable to make clear where he stood on the matter, what did he think such exchanges say of him? If people he had entrusted with an important task on behalf of the people could walk into his presence to put up the kind of display that Nigerians saw in living colours, what does that say of how the President’s subordinates see him? As an effective leader that should be taken seriously? President Jonathan leaves much to be desired in his handling of state issues.
He seems to drift in whatever direction the wind blows; a president in hostage to subordinates too powerful to be under his control. These are people who obviously think they are the rightful owners of the seat he occupies. And so what, if he does not know this?