Were the word ‘courage’ an automobile, it would have broken down from serial overuse as the word was endlessly deployed during the 3-hour book launch in celebration of the achievements of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.
No doubt, the gathering was that of the progressive class. The programme which started with prayers, had the former Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Chukwudife Oputa as chairman of the occasion. Present also was the Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi; Charles Oputa; Governor Muritala Nyako of Adamawa state, Chief Bisi Akande, Action Congress of Nigeria chairman, journalists, friends and members of Team Ribadu drawn from across the federation. The opening remark was delivered by former vice chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Yola, Professor Abdullahi Ribadu. The senior Ribadu was excited at the progress his brother had made so far and disclosed that the ceremony was not only for the book written by Nuhu himself - My story; My Vision -but also for Dr. Wale Adebanwi’s A paradise for Maggots: The Story of an Anti-corruption Czar. “This event and Nuhu’s aspiration is a test of the culture of public service that runs through the family”, declared the visibly elated Professor Abdullahi. In his view, Ribadu has remained as consistent as the palindrome Mallam. This he gave as the plausible reason for Nuhu’s preference for the self effacing title, Mallam, notwithstanding his pilgrimage to Mecca a couple of times and a honourary doctorate degree under his belt.
The acclaimed Socrates of the Supreme Court, Justice Oputa was next to mount the podium. Almost 90, nimbleness was conspicuously missing but the intellect was still intact. ‘’Nuhu had insisted that I should be here to present a paper but I told him ‘No’, as I believe it’s time to give room to the coming generation to do that. I only agreed to come and sit and watch here but now I have been asked to speak. Lawyers are talking people. The only lawyer you would find without this ability is the one without a tongue.’’ He duly informed the audience that the event was a celebration of integrity. To him, reason, intelligence and conscience condition man for good. “Discipline is needed to integrate all and education is needed to support it”. Justice Oputa later made a case for true federalism in Nigeria; he requested Nigerians should emulate the Indians who have successfully integrated all the states in the country and jettison the penchant for the incessant recourse to indigene/settler question. ‘Our watchword should be the 1960 anthem, ‘though tongue and tribe may differ but in brotherhood we stand.’ His strong views drew a warm applause from the largely youthful audience. He parted with this remark: ‘It’s not what you are called that matters but what you have done to uplift your motherland.’
The book reviewer, My story; My Vision, the Vice Chancellor, Bayero University, Kano Professor Abubakar Rasheed was next to address the audience. Professor Rasheed, a friend of Nuhu and course mate at NIPSS, Kuru wondered why the My story; My Vision was coming now. He sought to provide the real reasons why Ribadu was feared by some, admired by others and why he was largely controversial. He described Ribadu as ‘an untested but trusted politician.’ ‘No doubt, he’s committed to the Nigerian project and missed sharing his birthday with the Nigerian state by 51 days. With his pedigree and law degree, he could have had anything illustrious but he chose the dangerous path’, he added. The reviewer was quick to remind the audience that Nuhu’s stint at the EFCC was the agency’s golden years and that Ribadu is an influential figure within and outside Nigeria and as such should be taken seriously.
The book tells the story of Mallam Ribadu and mixes it with his vision; it is divided into three parts and each part is divided into chapters and sub-sections. The first part chronicles Ribadu’s early years starting with how he was raised by parents and imbued with Fulani values of selfless commitment. The Special Investigative Panel of 1984 was one of the events that piqued his interest in investigative policing. He was an active observer of the proceedings and saw how policemen brought sanity into the Nigerian system through their meticulous investigations. The first part also chronicles how the Mallam was profoundly influenced by a number of Nigerians: Dr. Mahmud Tukur, Sunday Ehidero, Alhaji Kumasi, Gani Fawehinmi, Femi Falana, the late Dr. Bala Usman amongst others. The reviewer believes that the second part is the best written part as it captures the professional life of the author especially in law enforcement, the threats and challenges he faced in the line of duty. The third part of the book highlights the blueprints for the country’s transformation and Nuhu’s vision for Nigeria. The reviewer concluded by asking that in return for what Nuhu has done for the country, people should try to know him better, understand him, support him in his bid to re-engineer Nigeria’s socio-economic structure. ‘Kindly obtain, read and digest the content of the book’, he charged.
Governor Muritala Nyako of Adamawa state followed suit. He said he was sure that there was no 419er seated in ThisDay Dome, venue of the event. His witty observation elicited chuckles from the audience. He was happy that the EFCC recently rated Adamawa state as the most transparent and vowed that he would continue to learn from Ribadu via the content of the book. Nyako’s remark that he was “pressed to be at a Jungle” and as such would not be staying long would provide talking points for subsequent speakers as eminent men and women from different walks of life took turns to congratulate Nuhu and make donations. Present at the event were Chief Akin Osuntokun, Dr. Sani Uba, Mr Sunday Ehindero who mentored Ribadu, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, first executive governor of Gongola State, Nenadi Usman, Chief Dele Momodu and Chief Victor Umeh, APGA Chairman. Dr. Adebanwi’s book on Nuhu Ribadu was reviewed by Idowu Obasa, Chairman Onigbongbo Local Government, Lagos State. Entitled Of corruption and an intervention Obasa drew from the Marxian viewpoint of philosophers interpreting the word corruption in different ways while the point is to change it. According to him, the paradise for maggot is an imagery to help capture the essence of the issue. Obasa went on to quote Dr. Bala Mohammed on Ribadu. He described him as – ‘a one-man jurisprudential squad…’ Another scholar was later to see him a radical motif of an egalitarian society. Obasa, pressed for time, abruptly ended the review by rhetorically asking if the cesspool of corruption in Nigeria would ever be empty. The book puts Nigeria’s problem as corruption and Ribadu as a solution.
The event was beamed live on Africa Independent Television, aired a number of radio stations and streamed on the internet. It took an interesting turn when it was time to accommodate goodwill messages. Speakers took turn to fire veiled political salvos. Former Senate President, Ken Nnamani proclaimed that courage, which is not found wanting in Ribadu is what the country needs if it is to join the comity of industrialised nations by 2020. He later hinted that the “jungle” Nyako referred to earlier was the National Executive Committee meeting of the PDP which he was also due for. Alhaji Ibarahim Kumasi, Sarduana of Katsina and Former Inspector General of Police also agreed that Mallam Nuhu was not deficient in courage. ‘Nuhu has a great future ahead of him’, Alhaji Kumasi said. Governor Fayemi of Ekiti state described himself as an example of tenacity of purpose urged Nuhu to go ahead with his quest and assured him that fighters are winners. Mr Sunday Ehindero, touted as the Mallam’s mentor did a quick review of Nuhu’s life. ‘He was appointed as a cadet officer in 1986 and I was officer in charge of Advanced training. He is a timorous soul. He has a bold spirit and he’s very humble. As commissioner of police in charge of legal department, we both powered police prosecution with the encouragement of Alhaji Kumasi, the then Inspector General of Police.
Babagana Kingibe, introduced by the master of ceremony as a fine orator and one of Nigeria’s brilliant diplomats started with an impressive analogy of the “jungle” using the cartoon which featured Mobley, Khan and a lot of other animals with idiosyncrasies. To him some “jungles” have more Mobleys than the other. He also claimed membership of the PDP ‘jungle” for which Muritala Nyako was heading. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was next; he was represented by Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila of the House of Representatives. He advocated the need for people to come to the paradise that is the Action Congress of Nigeria and that the ACN is offering a clear break with ‘the jungle’. He described Ribadu, amongst other high-falutin words as “a quintessential officer and gentleman.”
Kanu Agabi, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General waxed philosophically by saying that the hope that we all have is that our expectations would not be dashed. ‘For every generation there is someone available when a task is to be done… Ribadu is one of the few that opposes evil with their hands, mind and word of mouth’, he informed.
Wife of late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Ganiyat represented the Fawehinmi family. She told the audience she had express instruction from her late husband, Gani Fawehinmi before he died to always support any endeavour involving Mallam Ribadu. She also made a donation of an undisclosed amount for copies of the two books for Gani Fawehinmi’s chamber. Hajia Najatu Mohammed in her two-min goodwill message stirred emotions. Speaking passionately, she noted that he (Nuhu) operated under the tyrannical regime of Obasanjo and still came out with clean hands. To her, Muritala, Idiagbon that are seen as fellows with integrity had it easier than Nuhu Ribadu. In her assessment, Ribadu had done so well.
Professor Harris Ejuko said to be the oldest professor of Law on the Ahmadu Bello University campus was happy for the success his student whom he taught criminal law during his undergraduate programme and second degree effort had recorded. He stated that the EFCC can never be what it was when Ribadu called the shot.
Femi Fani-Kayode was quick to refute Hajia Najatu’s position as he was apparently displeased with her observation. ‘For the same Obasanjo regime that is being discredited to be the same that produced the likes of Nuhu Ridadu, El-Rufai, himself, Nenadi Usman, Uba Sani and a number of others who are present to celebrate and support him …’ I am proud of him. If he emerges as the ACN candidate, a lot of people would join the party.’ Femi credited Ribadu for his values as he always stuck to his guns even when they tried to intervene on a number of cases whilst they were both in the Obasanjo cabinet. He revealed that Ribadu’s final words were ‘The work cannot work unless you allow me to do it my way’, with this one knew Ribadu’s mind was made up. Ribadu in a show of gratitude appreciated all for their presence and believe in him.
The books were unveiled by select guests to the admiration of the audience. Another book titled Ribadu’s Quotable Quotes complied by Lewis Asubiojo was also distributed for free at the event. ‘Ribadu’s attempt to engage history should be encouraged’, with these words Mr. Idowu Obasa concluded the vote of thanks. Donations were made within modest means and a good number of them undisclosed.
It’s been a while I had to put on the gab of a reporter. This was done at the instance of a friend and brother, Dotun Eyinade, who also brilliantly edited the piece. He was pressed with other engagements and so couldn’t make it to the event to carry out Dr. Wale Adebanwi’s instruction to have a good reportage of the event. It was a sharp reminder of my undergraduate days when I was more of a journalist than a student.