THE Presidency yesterday broke its silence on some burning national issues. Prominent among them was its position on the Police High Command’s selection of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, for a course.
It confirmed that the action of the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro, in picking Ribadu for the training received its consent.
In an interview with The Guardian in Abuja, Special Adviser to the President on Communications, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, described as “sheer blackmail and propaganda,” the current debate on the propriety or otherwise of Ribadu proceeding on course to the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS). He said that the public outburst against the move would neither do the EFCC chairman nor the commission any good.
Adeniyi also ruled out any plan to raise a probe panel on the eight-year tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, saying that such an action was not in tandem with the “philosophy of government” under President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
Confirming that Okiro’s recommendation on Ribadu to President Yar’Adua “has been approved,” Adeniyi stated that this “means Ribadu will attend NIPPS like other officers so recommended.”
Adeniyi claimed that Ribadu “mishandled” the NIPSS course issue.
According to him, “the President feels sad about the blackmail which has become almost a permanent feature now. The moment the EFCC chairman has issues with any public official, be it the Attorney-General or the IGP, the next thing you would hear is that the President wants to remove him to protect some corrupt former governors.
“If you believe a section (of the media and civil society) you would think President Yar’Adua’s pre-occupation since he came to office has been how to remove Ribadu. Please get me right, I believe in Ribadu and the work he is doing. But those doing the propaganda are not helping him one bit.
“Governance shouldn’t be reduced to intrigues and seeking advantage over others. Ribadu as a person and the EFCC as an institution have done very well in the fight against corruption.”
The presidential aide expressed sadness at “the way EFCC also mischievously presented the President as shielding some corrupt people. But I would not do or say anything negative against Ribadu or against the EFCC notwithstanding the dirty campaign and orchestrated falsehood coming from that end against my boss. What is painful is that the propaganda is coming at a time the President had decided to forward Ribadu’s name to the Senate for confirmation as EFCC chairman because he has no problem with him.
“So, to now input that the President has been holding meetings to get Ribadu out because he wants to protect some people is most unfair and no leader would tolerate such blackmail, which has become a daily affair. Perhaps, if the style had been different, for instance, the President had been alerted of the NIPSS idea in confidence with his intervention sought before going to the media with damaging but false allegations, the story might have been different because there are also people who could have pleaded with the President not to accede to the recommendation.”
He added: “The President has respect for him (Ribadu) as a person both in terms of performance and integrity. Those have never been a problem so nobody should input any wrong motives. But the danger in orchestrating the kind of propaganda blitz unleashed by EFCC in the last one week is that you also provide opportunities for your enemies to cash in. And that is what is going on today, which is most unfortunate.”
On possible replacements for the EFCC chief as he proceeds on the NIPSS course, Adeniyi stated: “I get amused by what I read because even at this point, the direction of government is not what my friends are speculating in the media. I think ultimately, it is Ribadu and his media friends that would help determine his fate one way or another. If he listens to some of us who are also his friends but on this side of the divide, this matter could still be resolved. But if he relies on media intimidation, it would be most unhelpful.”
Adeniyi described as unfair, reports meant to preempt the Presidential Election Tribunal, noting that “the President has never discussed with anybody what he would or not do when the matter is still before the tribunal. The President is very confident he would win the case. And even in the event that he loses, his lawyer has already answered the question that he would appeal. But in the unlikely event that the election has to be rerun, I believe that as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, he has no problem facing the electorate again.
“But the President is not moved by those stories. Some desperate people can continue to entertain themselves by seeking imaginary offices.”
On the clamour for the probe of Obasanjo, Adeniyi said the action was not “in tandem with his (President’s) philosophy of government. For a man who has been preaching due process and the rule of law, the idea of a probe is clearly out of the question. There are some issues we must first clarify, probe is a military terminology, a populist tendency to criminalise opponents, sometimes without hard evidence. The moment you say someone is being probed in Nigeria, you have already passed judgment on the character of the person who is deemed guilty until he can prove his innocence, a difficult task in such situation.
“No government committed to the rule of law as this one is would do that. What any responsible government does is that if there are clear cases of infractions, like abuse of office, such matters would be reported to the relevant agencies or the Attorney-General would file charges in court.
“I don’t know what Obasanjo did that would warrant a probe panel being set up for people to now go and be making allegations that cannot stand in a court of law so he could be humiliated publicly. I know the former President is not popular with the media so I can understand the basis for the call. But let’s be fair to the former President. While he is not perfect as none of us is, he did his very best for this country and doesn’t deserve the current harassment.”
Adeniyi denied reports that there was a feud between President Yar’Adua and Obasanjo on the policy direction of the current government and the latter’s chairmanship of the PDP Board of Trustees.
He noted that the President was not opposed to Obasanjo being helmsman of the PDP Board.
His words: “On the purported fight between them, there is no such thing. It is not in the nature of President Yar’Adua to fight. But people put all kinds of interpretations to decisions of government. Of course, you expect that when a new government comes in, some policies of the previous administration may be reviewed in the light of existing realities. For instance, and this is not an indictment but an expression of reality; perhaps due to the exigencies of the moment, the last government did not place much premium on the rule of law. So, a number of decisions were taken with genuine intentions that in the current circumstance could not continue.”
In such situations, he said, the decisions were slanted to make them “look as if the decision was taken to spite Obasanjo. That is far from the truth.”
– The Guardian