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Immanuel James: In Defence of Nuhu Ribadu



In my tiny village in Imo State, after the Christmas Eve Mass of December 24, 2003, a minor incident happened – one that perfectly illustrates Mallam Nuhu Ribadu’s current travails. As church members trooped home after the midnight service, they encountered a famous drunkard who was wobbling along the road, drunk. “Look at them!”, he snorted, “They have gone to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ! Three months from now…by Good Friday…they’re still the same people to shout, ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ “.

The chant for Ribadu’s crucifixion, years after he had been celebrated as one of Nigeria’s finest public servants, should not surprise anyone who understands the character of public opinion in this country.

At a time when Nigeria had become a huge compost of graft, Ribadu arrived with unprecedented vigour. He instituted structures of Financial Intelligence in the EFCC, such that even “Yahoo-Yahoo” urchins were traced to their houses and entrapped like rats. He retrieved staggering sums of money to the nation’s coffers. He opened our eyes to the enormity of the industry of executive thieving, and embarked on an athletic pursuit of fleeing funds, barring threats to his life. Heads began to roll. Tafa Balogun. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. Well over 270 convictions were recorded, though many other prominent cases were stalled by judicial and political intringues.

Nigeria earned the right to contribute to global discussions on anti-corruption. The anti-corruption war was not probably as successful as we would have liked, but work had at least begun, because that man happened to this nation. Nuhu Ribadu became the symbol of a new patriotism especially for young Nigerians, a patriotism too brave to be true, too firm to be compromised. The media sang, the masses gyrated, the thieves kicked, all to the rhythm of a hopeful nation.

There was a tinge of cynicism, however. Analysts, critics, pundits, and all other members of the theory department seized the narrative: he is prosecuting only members of the opposition party, they retorted; well he has sent a few PDP thieves to jail but those ones are Obasanjo’s enemies; ok, why has he not probed Obasanjo, is that one clean? Typically Nigerian, the discourse became mired in petty, irrational logic.

Corruption acquired demographics, from gender to political party to ethnicity. A new phrase – ‘politically motivated’ – made its entry into our political lexicon. That an indicted thief was guilty of theft was immaterial, so long as somewhere within the space for logic, point could be made that prosecution was influenced by gender, ethnicity, or partisanship. Ribadu was accused of selective prosecution. Funnily enough, the same people that wielded that accusation alleged that he was removed because he stepped on the toes of people in government. If he was selective, how come he stepped on toes?

In the past week, just like my village drunkard had predicted, Ribadu, again, has become a candidate for the cross. Many Nigerians, operating only the left part of their memories, have taken to several media, cursing, kicking. For defecting to the PDP from the APC, Ribadu, they insist, has stripped himself of whatever integrity he had to begin with. They have excavated old excerpts of interviews where he swore never to join the PDP. Somewhere in the heap of accusations is that sanctimonious mantra – he lacks consistency. One understands that a certain sense of political heartbreak can warrant such a wholesale desecration of a rather glorious individual; one understands also that the human memory, especially when it is lodged in a Nigerian political entity, is heightened in the recollection of ‘wrongs’.

Consistency. The word appears sexy enough for the stamp of eternal good. We often love those stories, of men who presented their throats rather than give up an ideal; of individuals who starved to death just so that they might make their points. Consistency is an exciting concept in legends, politics, religion, love, etc.

But it is not an absolute good, consistency. The human experience is a dynamic process. Society. Life. Circumstances. They evolve. They continue to manifest new dimensions in a manner that makes the ever-consistent individual become unfit for progress. That individual who does not review himself upon the encounter of new circumstances, who clings tenaciously to his established tradition, while other factors of his environment have moved, is to be pitied, not celebrated. He merely exists; he doesn’t live. Living is an evolutionary phenomenon. Existence is not.

Ribadu’s defection to the PDP is a political decision, one that should be examined strictly in that context. It is the outcome of political permutations in the interest of his legitimate pursuit of power. Let’s assume, perhaps rightly so, that the PDP is the party to beat in the guber race in his State. Then, does it make sense for him to remain in a tottering opposition and let a less-vibrant character in the PDP gain that power?

The APC, the opposition party upon which many Nigerians had anchored their hopes for a new paradigm, has proven to be a hoax. Bedeviled by internal contradictions, by which it manifests both progressive and regressive politics – as if by compensation, the party appears to be on its way back to where it came from: Action Congress. Just months to the presidential election, a major opposition party has not even produced a presidential candidate. It does appear that so long as the South-West is under lock and key against external incursion, the chief architect of that party is satisfied. I could bet my upper teeth that the APC will be relegated to South-West relevance in the coming elections. I want to be wrong.

It is uncharitable for Nigerians to lampoon Nuhu Ribadu. Among the spoilers of his integrity are people who steal petty sums in their clubs and offices, yet they have the effrontery to condemn a man who refused to accept billions and shut up. In the EFCC, he made his mark: being the pioneer chairman of that body, there was none whom he could emulate – and there has been none to emulate him! Ribadu may not be a saint, but he belongs in the club of patriots who have made this nation specially

We cannot continue to discourage patriotism in our youth by undermining the heroism of those who show the way. Let us give him the benefit of the doubt as he tries working within the same system he had sought to sanitize from the outside.

Photo Credit:

Writing is my means of saving me from myself! Immanuel James, author of 'Under Bridge', is the winner of the 2014 ANA National Prize for Prose.


  1. bruno

    August 25, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    This is why I hate religion they use it to sugar coat, brain wash and manipulate the minds of the ignorant and naïve. So after reading this article,I’m I suppose to love mr ribadu. I can’t take you seriously when you start to mention christmas and jesus and church and blah blah blah. Stop it just stop it

    • Osas

      August 25, 2014 at 9:09 pm

      You need help. shut up if you have nothing to say.

    • ak

      August 26, 2014 at 6:14 pm

      Bruno is right.

      This James guy used the perfect plot- cruxifixion of Jesus as a parallel to Ribadu, because he knew you Christians will join him because of that.

      Am i lying? All of you are happy because he has set up the story.
      Comparing Jesus to Ribadu… indirectly saying Ribadu is your savior.

      Jesus resisted every opportunity to exalt himself and instead re-directed the glory to God. That’s what Ribadu should have done. Your time of exaltation will come in due season.

      Nigeria is too volatile for this kind of prostitution.

      Have you heard the Ribadu man speak? He is a tout, brash, angry for no reason. Look him up on youtube.

      Mr James should read the part of the bible where Jesus says,
      ” No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

      Mr Ribadu has shown who he truly serves: PRESTIGE AND POWER.

      Political decision my foot. If Ribadu had thought of joining PDP, he should not have been running his mouth like diarrhea against PDP when he was in AC/APC.

      You have seen his fruit: he does not have stability.

      Do not be foolish and elect him. At the end of the day, he will simply be looking out for his interests and not yours.

      A nation where the people themselves elect a blind man to lead them because they themselves are blind.

  2. ak

    August 25, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    Abeg abeg abeg.
    Don’t defend the man.

    A man who is not steady in his ways is a farce.

    He is unreliable and will bite you when you least exoect it.

    Nuhu Ribadu is a dishonorable man,

    What happened to the old days where a Man valued his Word and committed absolutely?

    • dizzy

      August 25, 2014 at 11:28 pm

      What good old days?? please state the year exactly!
      Fantastic that you would jump to punish a man for one small percived ‘crime’ of not being consistent , and ignore a MULTITUDE of his good deeds. una try well, well..
      keep throwing stones oh! im sure you are the most upstanding consistent relaible man the world has ever seen.

    • ak

      August 26, 2014 at 6:18 pm

      People like you are the problem with Nigeria.

      Too small minded. Cannot see past your own nose.

      A man joined a party because of its ideologies. spoke vehemently against the opposition party and now is running to the opposition party so he can win the elections?

      Did you see Shadrack,Meshack and Abednego bow down to the King and call him a God? just so they could live and retain their positions?

      Did you see MLK surrender the fight for civil rights just so he could live?

      Did you see Rosa Parks give up her bus seat just so she could not be beaten?

      But here you see a Man- He has sold himself to the devil of all devils in Nigeria -PDP- and you, blind man, are supporting him. Even if you cannot see, can you not smell/hear?

    • ak

      August 26, 2014 at 6:24 pm

      Even Paul says Let us not give up the good fight.

      If you do, all your good works would have been in vain.

      A man who does good all his life, and one day, murders his wife, will not be remembered as a good man. Even if he does good works till the rest of his life. He is still a murderer, and can murder you too.

      Same thing with Ribadu.

      Regardless of his motives, he has shown himself to be unreliable and untrustworthy. Who even knows whether his previous achievements were all a lie?

  3. bruno

    August 25, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    They always use religion to sugar coat and soften issues why? example when a man steals and there’s no evidence against him but everyone knows it him, the thief bring religion into the matter, the thief starts to say god is my witness, just like patience jonathan crying and shouting there is god oh cause in the back of her mind she knows she’s corrupt and her husband has failed nigerians,

  4. Radiant

    August 25, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Alas, Immanuel James, this is also true about the PDP
    “The APC, the opposition party upon which many Nigerians had anchored their hopes for a new paradigm, has proven to be a hoax. Bedeviled by internal contradictions, by which it manifests both progressive and regressive politics – as if by compensation, the party appears to be on its way back to where it came from: Action Congress. Just months to the presidential election, a major opposition party has not even produced a presidential candidate.”

    Truth is convenience increasingly. Save for the part of your ‘write up’ that recognizes Mr. Ribadu’s works and urges that he should not be lampooned, the rest is convenient to you.

  5. ama

    August 25, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    I kinda agree with the poster ……dir are no permanent friends or enemies in politics………dat being said Ribadu defecting to PDP is a huge joke on him……..after everything……yet he goes back to his vomit …..indeed everyone has a price

  6. kz

    August 25, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    F**k Nuhu rubadu…. That man himself has undermines the patriotism in young Nigerian by being showing how desperate he is to get power….As far as im concern Ribadu Betrayed we Nigerian that Believe in Him….#Reallydissapointed and #willneverforgivehim
    And please dont try to convince us that what is wrong is sometime right pls… Wrong will be always wrong and Right will be always Right

  7. Ibukun

    August 26, 2014 at 12:48 am

    But how does staying with APC make any sense? what is the use of an honorable man without an active platform to function? I think what really matters here is what Mr Nuhu Ribadu makes of the move.

    • amaa

      August 26, 2014 at 4:01 pm

      I totally understand the writer it what he makes of the move that will determine if he sold his soul to the devil or not. If he wins in Adamawa and performs remarkably all this cross carpeting issues will die a natural death . Let us wait and see thank God for Google

  8. Tosin

    August 26, 2014 at 7:29 am

    Respect for Ribadu. Whether Ribadu or Marwa or somebody else becomes governor, it will be a better future for Adamawa state which has suffered so long with NO GOVERNANCE under the zero-performing Nyako. You need to go up there to see what it means to have no government performance at all. Now with people like Ribadu, there will be a difference. Thank God for Ribadu. Mah mann!

  9. chu

    August 26, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Nigerian politics do not have ideologies they live by, they are just a moving train and people are looking for what is favourable to them, so it is possible to move from one party to the other indiscriminately. But if the parties had values they live by, Nigerian politics still has a long way to go.

  10. hhgcchch

    September 29, 2014 at 10:46 am


  11. mark anthony Osuchukwu

    December 28, 2014 at 10:23 am

    I have said and will keep shouting it on the roof top!! “Religion has done more evil than good in the entire world ” I don’t want anyone to agree with me!! Tell yourselves the truth biko!! What kept Nigeria in this pitiable condition!!

    Ibe James you rock jhoor!!

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