The former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu has indicated his interest to contest for the Presidency in 2011. The Economic Confidential was represented at some of his media interactions with selected media in Abuja where he also disclosed all he knew about the case involving the wife of the President, Patience Jonathan Goodluck on alleged money laundering. Excerpts:
As a former EFCC chairman, won’t those corrupt elements fight you back and prevent you from becoming the nation’s President?
I have always been fighting in my life. When I was in the Police Force, I fought armed robbers, I survived. I fought gangsters, I fought 419 fraudsters, big time corrupt people and I have survived. I am still standing as Nuhu Ribadu; I believe I will also survive this.
Can you confirm or deny that you have written to the Labour Party to be its presidential candidate?
Are you planning to be President in 2011 or 2015?
For God’s sake, what is the issue about 2015? Are we yet there? Have we conducted the 2011 elections? How can you talk about 2015? You think the country should continue sleeping till 2015. You think that you are comfortable with the situation today. I love my country; Nigeria has no time to wait anymore.
Are you saying the old brigade politicians should give way?
My coming is going to be like the best Nigerian should come forward whether you are old or new or woman or man. It has to be all of us and I want to be part of that team that would certainly save our country and give it a new lease of life. I won’t want to categorize it as a generational thing. But certainly, you know what I am now, and if you want to judge it on the basis of that. I want to see the possibility of capturing the vision of majority of Nigerians who today are the young ones. And I certainly belong to that.
Aren’t you afraid of political Goliaths like President Jonathan, ex-president IBB, ex-Head of State Muhammadu Buhari and ex-VP Atiku Abubakar?
But David won goliath eventually. Pray that I will be the David.
Can you be more forthcoming on the elective post you are vying for in 2011?
Ribadu: What do you think I am fit for? I have always been a Federal person. I have experience in public service. I had put 25 years of my life into the service of the Federal Government of Nigeria in the Executive capacity. After that, of course, I served outside Nigeria . I have worked and acquired international experience. It is for you to decide where I fit in best. I have given it to the nation. I had the chance to set up an agency (EFCC); I ran it for five years. I was in an Economic Team. I was a Federal Prosecutor, probably more than any other person in that capacity. I was a police officer, a community worker, I put all my life into public service at the Federal Government level. It is only natural for you to really put that into where the experience can best count.
How far have you gone on your campaign?
We just wrote a letter to Nigerians; very important letter explaining and then introducing ourselves to Nigerians and also appealing to our countrymen and women to come along to help us save our own country. We had a very important event with Nigerian youths. They put themselves together and they also called me to be part of it and we had a very good interaction with them. I have had also wide consultations around and across the country to afford time and chance for me to look at the political parties critically. I have decided as a starting point to go with a new party called ACN. Of course it is the first vehicle and I believe it’s surely going to be bigger than that.
Can you elaborate?
Today, I am comfortable with what is happening in Lagos, Edo, Ondo and Anambra states. The leadership there have shown that the possibility of good governance are there. I want to see the possibility of bringing good governance to the Federal Government of Nigeria. And the examples of these gentlemen encouraged me to go the direction and the platform like I said is ACN. My intention is if the registration of new members of the new party starts, I do intent to go to my own ward in Yola and pick the ticket and get registered as a member of the political party. But my prayer, my hope is that all the progressives; all those who are doing well for our own country; all those with this massive dream of a better Nigeria will come together and stand as one to move forward with the intention of saving our own country.
What gives you that confidence that the progressives can…
I believe it is possible. I believe it can work. I believe change is in the air in Nigeria today. It’s not that the progressives have not worked before but they were robbed of the victory. This time Nigerians are going to say “no”, time has come for us to change. Nigeria is changing. People are waking up; people are saying that it is time for us to have free and fair elections; it is time for our votes to count. This time I can assure you it will work. It did not work before because of stealing of elections, rigging. These people were victims of stolen elections. Now there is change, now Nigerians are saying that we are tired of this horrible way of stealing governments. Now it is old-fashioned, this crude way has to stop. If Zimbabwe would organize free and fair elections, why not Nigeria ? If Ghana would organize a free and fair elections, why not Nigeria ? If Sierra-Leone , Liberia , countries that are coming out of civil war can organize free and fair elections, why not Nigeria ? If Guinea just coming out of trouble now could organize a free and fair election, why not Nigeria ? The time has come for free and fair elections in Nigeria and if free and fair election is going to be the case I can assure you the progressives would take it. This is what I believe is happening and what is going to happen and what is encouraging all of us to come together to give our country a chance, a new lease of life, a new hope. It will work and I am sure you also would like the same conclusion based on what is happening today.
Which of the elections the progressives have been denied victory before?
Most parts of the elections we had in our country. What of the elections that they themselves accepted and agreed that it was not right. Are you not a Nigerian? What did you hear in 2007? The president came out publicly and said that the election that brought him was wrong, was rigged and we took it. So, it may be your own judgment and conclusion on that. And not only that, I mean you can see what happened in all the Republics that we have had in this country; first, second, third Republic. So, to be honest we have had elections where people won and they were never allowed to rule. It is glaring. I am sure this time it is going to change because simply Nigerians are saying no.
Why are you so much optimistic about the sanctity of the electoral processs in 2011?
Simply because the world has changed; the world has changed. We cannot be left just behind for this too long. Things are taking place in the world and in Africa . It must come to our own country because we deserve it, because we are entitled to it too. Time for you to win an election and they say “no, they cannot give you” is over. Let it be a reality. I mean in this country we have had individuals who won elections and they said ‘you cannot rule, you cannot take over’. It was a coalition of progressives who when they came together, they said they were not going to be deterred and issues like religion, ethnicity could not come and did not come. We had a state that was even Muslim/Muslim that won an election in this country. What a progressive change? We want to re-enact it. But not necessarily we are going to do exactly, no. We are going to say that progressives would come together, this time they will work hard and that this time their votes would count and let’s pray to Almighty God to support us in this noble course.
What will be your number one priority if you become the President? Or, what are your priorities?
I want to remake Nigeria. The point is: Remake means a new thing, a fresh thing, a fresh hub, a chance for us to love ourselves to build a nation out of our own country. I want to immediately, instantly provide those basic things. They are so important to us. I must insist that we must have security immediately, instantly there is no time to waste on that. I want to see that we can immediately solve the problem of power.
How can you address power problem?
I will do it; I will come out with my programme and policy. It is not something you can give in one word. I want to make a full stop to corruption finally. I want to ensure from now on that Nigerians are going to enjoy free and fair Education. I want to ensure that we will have good and decent hospitals. We will have hospitals, we don’t have to go out of the country and spend our money to build others like in India , Egypt and Ghana . Time has come for us to build our own. I want to make sure that this money that goes out as school fees that we go to pay in the UK , Ghana , and everywhere is going to stop immediately. We must have the schools that will give us the best in our own country. I want to see that Nigeria will be able to give jobs to its young ones. I want to see a Nigeria that probably will have the chance to industrialize. I want to see a Nigeria that will give justice to its own people; justice across; justice that can give a chance to us to have peace and stability for us to grow. I want to see the possibility of giving our country opportunity of equal treatment, fairness, respect to people. I want to see if it is possible for us to give a leadership that can listen; leadership that can take advice; leadership that is going to be collective.
What are your programmes?
Like I said the detailed programmes will come out. We are going to be precise and very clear programmes and policies on how to go about it. But the intention is there. We want to bring out the energy in all of us and see if we can make a country that all of us will be proud of, a Nigeria that will be respected by the world, a Nigeria that will have a voice, a Nigeria that will play its own role assigned to it by God and destiny.
What of Nigerians in the Diaspora?
They must come in and participate fully because they constitute some of our best. Nigeria educated them, spent money on them. They must be given opportunity to come and contribute and it has to start from now. Let them get in; let them participate in this process, this most important process, i.e. this transition, this democracy that we are about to experience.
How could they be involved?
Let there be free and fair election; they must come and play a role in that regard. And if that succeeds we are likely going to have a new Nigeria. But for them to come, some of them you know have some fears or reservations. It is understandable because if you come there is no job for you to do here, if you come, in fact it’s so insecure. In your own country, you would not be safe. If you come you would be kidnapped. Those are the issues that we want to come and solve and stop immediately. I am so much particular about security and luckily I am from that sector, I am a professional. I will bring security, I will bring peace, I will stop these conflicts; continuously people killing each other wrongly. It will stop. We will stop it. We will stop it in a way that we are going to bring love among our people and respect.
How long do you think it would take you to achieve this if you are elected?
The point is that it would not require too much time for you to achieve this. My experience in the EFCC showed me that it could be done within a short period of time whatever we want to do. At the time when they said that we were not going to confront corruption; nobody gave us chance. But in two years it was introduced, Nigeria started changing and we started giving convictions; we started recovering huge amount of money. In two years time, Nigeria would be a different country altogether; a new country that everybody is going to be proud of.
You are only known as the boss of EFCC for five years. Suddenly you want to be the President of Nigeria. How would you introduce yourself to an average Nigerians on your aspiration?
I have been in public service all my life for 25 years. Tell me one president in the country who has ever had that experience in public office, one single person. Obasanjo became President in 1976. When did he join the military? He did not get 25 years for your information. And for your information that is not only that, before 25 years I was a Graduate of Law. In the police I was a senior police officer. I was a prosecutor. I did so many jobs; lawyer, police officer, prosecutor, Interpol crime officer. And then after that I got a chance to set up an agency; government agency that delivered administration. Already, number one agency that people talk about today is EFCC. It is my own work. I was opportune to be a member of an economic team that managed the economy of Nigeria for four years. I was a member of the management team and participated in every single leading thing that took place in the economic management of our country. I was a fellow of St. Anthony College, Oxford University. I was a Senior Fellow at Centre for Global Development in Washington D.C. Tell me one single person whoever became a President would line up these as his own qualifications.
But this is real politics. Do you think you’ve made adequate preparations that would fetch you the presidency?
My belief is that we belong to a group of disenfranchised Nigerians and we are in the majority. We want to see if we can mobilize ourselves and bring a change to our own country.
Where would you get money to prosecute your election?
Partly, it’s going to come a lot from contribution of ordinary Nigerians. But any person who wants to support and assist, please he is welcome. We are going to rely heavily on individual contributions.
Before you left EFCC, you were said to have filed a case against the First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan and it was pending. How would you end the case?
Never. I never handled a case against Patience Jonathan; never, it’s a lie. You know it is so sad because in our country this is how we go about maligning people and has nothing to benefit from it absolutely. But today thank God I am not in his government. So, I can open up and say. If I were to say it earlier people would have thought that maybe I was looking for job from President Goodluck Jonathan. I am not looking for anything. But the truth must be told. At the time when this thing came we were investigating. It was a case involving one Ibo Lady who was reported by a bank through suspicious transaction report. You know we have existing relationship with banks. If any suspicious transaction takes place in a bank, the bank would report to the EFCC and then we would investigate. I think there was a lodgment of about N70million into a bank and then they reported. Of course we do investigate such thing and then the woman was invited and while we were investigating, of course we found out that she did a contract in Bayelsa State and then we followed it. If we are investigating, we always follow up and if we end up getting anything that is criminal, we charge the person. If there is nothing criminal, we do not do anything about it.
Was the case thoroughly investigated?
We did a thorough investigation involving that woman and we found out that there was another man also like a partner. But they were all money that they earned from contract which we did not have any difficulty or have issues with. While they were doing that, I don’t know from nowhere somebody went and said that (leveled allegation against Patience Jonathan). I think it was the time of 2007 transition when I think Jonathan was a governor and those opponents who were contesting with him I believed went to the media that his wife was invited or questioned or arrested with some money. But it was total lies, some rubbish. And from N70million, it became $13million. Okay, while we were doing that we were told that the woman knew or the man (her partner) knew the wife of the governor. If you know somebody it does not necessarily mean that it is a criminal offence.
Were these people cleared by the EFCC?
Of course, completely. Never, never. It is so sad how people go about destroying the names of some people simply because they want to take advantage of it. I am not the type who does that.