BY EMMA UJAH, KINGSLEY OMONOBI & EMMA OVUAKPORE
Presidential Candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu’s return to the country from exile elicited widespread publicity because of the special interests Nigerians place on the fight against corruption.
On his return to the country however, the retired AIG decided to plunge into the murky waters of politics in Nigeria and his party, the ACN is currently into merger talks with other parties towards wrestling power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. There is the question of whether Ribadu has the political clout to stand up to rtd Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in the event of a merger between the ACN and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). In a chat with Vanguard in Abuja, Ribadu barred his mind on these issues among others. Excerpts:
You see yourself as a proud police officer but most Nigerians see the police as a jungle filled with questionable characters. What is your take on this?
I disagree because there are so many good police officers. In the police you have our fathers, brothers, sons and sisters. They are the same Nigerians like all of us. Whether in the private sector or public sector or in the civil service even the military, it is the same thing. There is no difference between us and I also know that there are police officers who have done honest work in helping this country.
In other institutions you see such things happen but because of the nature of police work that is public-oriented, it is visible and relate with people, you see them daily and anything that is not appropriate you notice easily. This makes the people see the fault in the police. I will also like to ask, which other institution is working in this country?
Having served in the police force for 25years and as pioneer chairman of the EFCC, what else do you have to offer Nigerians through politics?
Like what I offered when I got the chance to head the EFCC. Before then I was an ordinary police officer but I had the opportunity to establish the EFCC, today EFCC is one of the greatest government institutions/agencies in this country. It has impacted a lot into the lives of Nigerians, and internally and externally it has promoted Nigeria. And that was an opportunity I got and I used it well.
Give me a chance to lead Nigeria and Nigeria will be a great country. Nigeria will be a country that can deliver and take care of its own people. A country that will certainly occupy its rightful place in the comity of countries in this world. When someone tells you that he would do something, just look at what he did before, assess his achievements or what he did in his life before and his ability in the past.
At a time, it was argued that corruption was so strong that it chased you out of the country. Now the same class as it were controlled the system, controlled the state which made your being in Nigeria difficult. Now you came back to join these people (politicians). To what extent can you work with these people?
I did my work. What I did was more than investigation; it was more than investigating people. I set up an agency of government that delivered; I created a structure that today is still standing. I was part of an economic management team that ran the economy of Nigeria. I came back because Nigeria is in desperate need for a change; the change means a shift from those who have been managing us. PDP itself is a disaster, it did not help this country because it is the cause of all the failures we have witnessed in this country today.
Before PDP we didn’t have trouble in the Niger Delta, before PDP we did not kill ourselves the way we have killed ourselves. And for the first time we are talking about an article of faith, PDP has to give way for this country to move forward. I have come back to join the group of people who believe in a change, we deserve it and are entitled to it.
I worked as civil servant and as a public servant and even before then, I was a lawyer and for 25 years of my life I worked in the service of Nigeria, contributing my little quota. I believe in fighting for justice, fight for the poor, the voiceless, and I have come back to pitch my tent with the opposition simply because I believe that the ruling party performed woefully and this is the time for a change. There has to be an alternative platform for Nigerians. I have decided to provide myself for the alternative platform that would provide that change.
Prior to your coming back from exile, there was the belief that you had an agreement with the presidency before you were allowed to come back. How true is this?
It is absolutely not true. There is no way someone like me can enter into an agreement. Anything like that will be selfish; I will consider it a selfish thing. I consider Nigerians first. I can never sit down and enter into a conspiracy agreement outside the interest of Nigeria. I am not in any agreement and if anyone believes that I could come back to Nigeria for selfish interest to benefit from an individual, the person has made a mistake. I am not that and will never be. I have not been used and they can never use me.
Not only for you to return but the charges against you were dropped, charges at Code of Conduct Bureau cuts in…
No, this is the sad part of it. I think that was extremely unfair to me and God will judge because they have been unfair to me. The reason I am saying this is because I worked in the public service for 25 years and they checked me in and out and have never got one single thing on me even an iota of any wrong doing while in service. (Mr. Michael) Aondoakaa (the former Justice minister) and his team went to court with my asset declaration forms and said they charge me for non-declaration of assets, not that I have assets not declared.
They know full well that no one can become chairman of EFCC without declaring assets and you cannot get Senate clearance if you have not declared your assets. They had my assets declaration forms in their own hands but in total disregard for rule of law accused me of not declaring. The intention was to ridicule me and possibly make Nuhu Ribadu get angry and come back and they finish what they wanted to do with me.
They took me to court and for one year the case was going on. I am going to give you the forms. (Displaying the forms): This was the one I filled before my tenure and after my tenure. You can take copies but they still disregarded it. Just when the court was about to deliver its judgment the Federal Government went in and withdrew the charge, very unfair and then go back to claim credit for it. How will you feel if it was you who had filled the forms and they still accused you of not declaring your assets?
The court had it; they that accused me had it in their hands, yet went to abuse the court process. In a normal country, Aondoakaa and those who did it should be facing criminal charges. If this government wants to be fair they should charge Aondoakaa and the rest to court for what they did, abuse of constitutional body; because I have the forms, you have seen it yourself.
There are merger talks between the ACN and Congress CPC, what are your chances if the talks sail through?
What is special about CPC? ACN has been having merger talks with other parties, we are having with APGA, we are having with Labour and we are having with ANPP, what is the big deal about CPC? Merging is not about individuals but fulfilling the aspirations of the party.
But CPC is the party with majority in the North.
How many states do they control?
There are feelers that Gen Buhari may be the ticket holder in a joint arrangement between ACN and CPC. What happens to your own ambition?
Who told you? Go to ACN and ask them before you now ask me. You know one side will continue to play their game. I think it is only one newspaper that has consistently reported this issue and you see, it has its own agenda. Let us leave it open but I believe that merger is a good thing for the progressives of this country to come together. Today ACN is the biggest party in the opposition in this country, there is no doubt about that and it is comfortable to drive that process of bringing all others to come in and CPC is not too different from the rest but I have the highest regards for Gen Buhari, no doubt about it. I believe he is a wonderful person, he is a good Nigerian.
Will you step down for him?
Why do you say that? Do you think the future of Nigeria is about individuals? Are we talking about Nigerians or individuals? If we are talking about Nigeria that should not be an issue at all? This is a damn serious business. We want to change our country. We want to see this country move forward and when you have that believe and that is your resolve you talk less about individuals including myself.
One can reasonably say you have successfully navigated through the murky waters of politics in Nigeria. Do you see politics as a dirty game?
We have not been doing things well in this country. When they say things fall apart and the centre cannot hold, it is what has happened to the country. That does not mean that people should not come into politics. When people mess up things, some people must come and clean it up. Politics is necessary and you can’t do without politics because it is only the vehicle with which you can get into government and have the mandate to do anything except you are in the civil service. It is important to our lives.
Whether it is good or bad, people must play a role in it or things cannot change. I faced the same thing when I joined the Nigerian Police in 1985, I had condemnation. Ah how could Nuhu Ribadu join the police? At that time I did not just bother, I did the best I could; I did not take money as a Police officer. Therefore you cannot be in politics for the bad thing. I joined the police and rose to the position of an AIG and I am proud of it. I left unscratched and untainted when it comes to corruption or anything.
So it is the same thing I am faced with today. It is not a self thing. We have good people who are in politics. Buhari is a good person and he is in politics. It is a game and you win or lose and if you are able to convince people you win well. Things are changing, you may not notice it that all the elections in Africa recently were won by the opposition and our election may be slightly free and fair in this country.
And you believe will win if the polls were free and fair?
Yes I will win.
What do you consider the biggest problem of Nigeria that you will tackle if you won?
How will you tackle it?
By creating jobs.
How will you create the jobs?
Through massive provision of a housing scheme which will have a spiral effect in different industries.
How do we access the lands for the project?
There is land all over.
But we cannot get the lands?
It is because of corruption. And as president of this country there will be no room for corruption. I do not need to tell anyone that because my past records attest to that. The houses will be built and people will see them and I will reduce corruption to the barest minimum in this country.
What do you think is the cause of these crises in the country vis a vis Jos, Boko Haram, Niger Delta?
It is bad leadership, bad management. A leadership that has not been able live above board, inability to understand that this country is one and that we are all the same, and the failure of institutions and leaders who take advantage of these difficulties. Our leaders who take advantage of our seemingly unimportant differences whether it is religion or tribe and promote negative relations between people.