Levi Obijiofor: OBJ, Farida Waziri and Ribadu

by Levi Obijiofor


In a leaked United States’ embassy cables published by WikiLeaks in 2011, Ribadu was reported to have informed former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms Robin Sanders, that corruption under Obasanjo’s government was far worse than it was under the government of Sani Abacha.

What does Mrs. Farida Waziri, former chairperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), know about Olusegun Obasanjo that she is unwilling to reveal in the media? This is an important question that emerged last week after Mrs. Waziri warned Obasanjo against blotting her name. The caution came after Obasanjo cast aspersions on Mrs. Waziri’s integrity and her achievement record during the time she served as EFCC boss.

In a statement she signed and released last week, Mrs. Waziri threatened to dry-clean Obasanjo’s dirty linen in public if he continued to shred her good name and image. She warned: “I will like to warn that those who live in glass houses don’t throw stones and as such Obasanjo should not allow me open up on him. Respectable elder statesmen act and speak with decorum.”

What does Mrs. Waziri know about Obasanjo that she is withholding from public knowledge? What could Mrs. Waziri possibly say about Obasanjo’s character that would overturn the propaganda that Obasanjo constructed about his integrity and his immaculate record as an anti-corruption crusader?

To understand the context in which Mrs. Waziri was forced to defend her achievements, and clarify her academic qualifications and service record, let us go back to Obasanjo’s provocative comments, which were widely reported in the press last week.

Obasanjo stirred Mrs. Waziri’s anger when he suggested that she was a wrong choice to replace Nuhu Ribadu in 2008, as the chairperson of the EFCC. Obasanjo expressed his views in Zero Tolerance, an in-house publication of the EFCC. Obasanjo argued that the fight against corruption slowed during Mrs. Waziri’s tenure, which implied that the woman was not fully committed to the campaign against corruption because she lacked the qualifications and experience.

Obasanjo rubbed in further insult into Waziri’s sore joints when he said that James Ibori, the convicted corrupt former governor of Delta State, was the person who not only influenced Waziri’s nomination as EFCC chairperson but also provided a character testimony that enabled Mrs Waziri to scale the screening process. Obasanjo’s gross reference to a man as dishonourable as James Ibori insinuated that Mrs Waziri was as corrupt as the people whom the EFCC was mandated to apprehend and prosecute.

If you agree with Obasanjo, the argument could be made that the chair of the EFCC could not be seen to be socialising with disreputable men and women.  Obasanjo’s offensive comments implied that the EFCC lost direction, vigour and steam during Mrs Waziri’s tenure because of her poor credentials, her association with discredited politicians and her lack of experience.

Without restraint, Obasanjo said of Mrs Waziri: “I know that the woman they brought in to replace Ribadu was not the right person for that job because I understood that one of those who head-hunted her was Ibori. If Ibori, who is now in a UK (United Kingdom) prison for fraud, head-hunts somebody who will fight corruption in Nigeria, then you can understand what happened.”

Obasanjo was not yet done with shredding the integrity and track record of Mrs Waziri. He said: “Go and look at the condition or the qualification; go and look at the type of interaction that anybody holding that job will have with a similar organisation elsewhere; did Waziri have that type? What connection did she have with the FBI, what relationship did she have with Metropolitan Police in London? It’s not a picnic.”

Anyone who knows the man Obasanjo will understand he is capable of saying anything about anybody in a public forum. The man is conceited, narcissistic, awful, lacks humility and he is always unable to demonstrate etiquette in public places. Obasanjo set out to irritate Mrs Waziri by attacking her moral character. But it must be seen also as a case of the kettle calling the pot black (pardon the use of this tired cliché).

Mrs Waziri angrily refuted Obasanjo’s allegation that she did not have the relevant qualifications to serve as EFCC chairperson. Not only did she deny Obasanjo’s allegation that she was recommended for the EFCC job by James Ibori, she also said: “The truth is that I never met Ibori in my life until after months in office as chairman of the EFCC when I used to see him in the Presidential Villa. It is on record today that I initiated the investigation that drove Ibori into the waiting hands of the Interpol and the Metpolice.”

In a reply that revealed the extent of her fury against Obasanjo, Mrs Waziri systematically dismantled Obasanjo’s allegations against her, in terms of her seniority in the police force and her academic qualifications. She said: “To further expose the height of mischief in the allegations, the past and present chairmen of the EFCC have both worked under me, yet someone can open his mouth to say I am not qualified to head the same agency. This is in addition to my educational qualifications such as a first degree in Law, a Master’s degree in Law and another Master’s degree in Strategic studies. I doubt if Obasanjo himself can boast of this level of educational qualifications.”

Mrs Waziri placed on the record her long years of service, as well as her professional and academic qualifications. These were qualities Obasanjo said she did not possess which made her unfit to be appointed the boss of the EFCC.  Mrs Waziri said: “Again for the record, I served in the NPF for 35 years and got to the pinnacle of my career before my appointment as the EFCC chairman. If Obasanjo’s real age has not blurred his memory, I will like to remind him that I was a Commissioner of Police, Admin Force CID, CP, General Investigations, CP, Anti-fraud, CP , X squad, CP, and Police Special Fraud Unit where I secured the first conviction in a case of Advance Fee Fraud in Nigerian history.”

Obasanjo’s biting criticisms of Mrs Waziri’s record as chairperson of the EFCC were designed to upset the woman. And the remarks most certainly achieved that purpose. The remarks represented the most uncharitable commentary anyone of substance had made about Mrs Waziri since she was quietly eased out of her job as EFCC boss by President Goodluck Jonathan in November 2011.

You would think that Mrs Waziri had stepped on Obasanjo’s toes that warranted the deeply offensive remarks that Obasanjo made about her. In the context of the critical comments by Obasanjo, one would understand why Mrs Waziri should hit back a day after Obasanjo’s critical comments were published widely in the Nigerian press.

Still, in line with his exaggerated opinion of himself and the achievements of his government, Obasanjo spoke glowingly about the accomplishments of the EFCC under Ribadu when he (Obasanjo) was president. He said: “When I was there, the EFCC and ICPC worked tirelessly and we moved this country from the corruption perception index being number two from the lowest to number 45 from the lowest. We should have graduated from being number 45 to being number 50 to being number 60, to being number 100. But we are not doing that, rather we have started sliding down.”

There is no doubt that the EFCC has lost its energy and fighting spirit but Obasanjo cannot just attribute that to Mrs Waziri alone. Surely, Mrs Waziri had her shortcomings when she chaired the EFCC. But the same could be said of the EFCC during the time it was chaired by Nuhu Ribadu. In essence, during the time Obasanjo reigned as monarch with unlimited powers, the EFCC engaged in excesses that amounted to human rights abuses. The EFCC disobeyed the law and ignored judgments by the high courts. In fact, during Obasanjo’s presidency, the EFCC operated as a lawless agency that targeted only the enemies and critics of Obasanjo’s authoritarian style of leadership, including politicians who disagreed with Obasanjo’s third term ambition.

In fact, during Obasanjo’s second term as president, the EFCC was a wild bulldog that barked repeatedly but failed to bite hard enough except for those politicians who were carefully selected for special treatment because of their confrontational views against Obasanjo.

Anyone who believes that Obasanjo represented a genuine emblem of anti-corruption when he was president must be heavily deluded. Not only did corruption fester during Obasanjo’s tenure, as we now know, you will also find that a number of persons who worked closely with Obasanjo at the time have also confirmed the man’s moral flaws. If in doubt, ask Nuhu Ribadu, the man whom Obasanjo wants us to see as the perfect chairperson of the EFCC. Mercifully, Ribadu exposed Obasanjo’s anti-corruption campaign as a sham. For clearer insights, let us revisit history.

In a leaked United States’ embassy cables published by WikiLeaks in 2011, Ribadu was reported to have informed former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms Robin Sanders, that corruption under Obasanjo’s government was far worse than it was under the government of Sani Abacha. That was an extraordinary disclosure by a man who should know. WikiLeaks said Ribadu’s comments were made when he held a four-hour private meeting with Ms Sanders in late December 2007. A key item on the agenda of the meeting was Ribadu’s transfer from the EFCC to the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS).

Ribadu’s revelation of what he knew about the extent of corruption in Obasanjo’s government effectively shattered the myth about Obasanjo’s moral uprightness. Obasanjo’s presentation of himself as an undisputed anti-corruption Czar is not exactly accurate.


Read this article in the Sun Newspapers


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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