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I’d rather die than beg you

Posted by By ERIC OSAGIE on 2005/12/26 | Views: 565 |

I’d rather die than beg you


An angry Nuhu Ribadu, chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has described as "the biggest joke of the century," the report that made the rounds that he had gone to Minna Hill Top to beg ex-President Ibrahim Babangida over his (Ribadu’s) alleged statement that people like Babangida will never be allowed to rule Nigeria again.

An angry Nuhu Ribadu, chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has described as "the biggest joke of the century," the report that made the rounds that he had gone to Minna Hill Top to beg ex-President Ibrahim Babangida over his (Ribadu’s) alleged statement that people like Babangida will never be allowed to rule Nigeria again.

In a knockout interview with your favourite Sunday Sun, Ribadu, winner of THE SUN’S MAN OF THE YEAR AWARD, thundered: "For God’s sake, how could I have said sorry to him? For what? This is the greatest insult to me. Someone will say I said sorry to anybody. For what?

“How could I for God’s sake? Me, Nuhu Ribadu apologise to Babangida? This is the greatest joke of the century. They are 419 people who have been peddling this kind of story. I’d rather die, I’d rather hang myself than go and beg Babangida.

I have never been to his house in my life. I don’t even know my way there. So, how could I have gone there to beg him?"Ribadu says he stands by his view, which provoked the uproar in the first instance, "that corrupt people and crooks will never be allowed to rule the country."

Asked if it is true his Commission is investigating the former president, the EFCC helmsman replied: "The work we do here, we don’t talk about it when we are investigating someone. We do not tell people. I have never said I am investigating anybody, so Babangida will not be an exception. We work without making noise."

So, what does he think of Babangida as a person?
Ribadu: "I think this is a personal opinion. I am entitled to my own opinion. I better keep quiet on that."
IBB was not all Ribadu spoke on. He also had a message for public officers who dip their itchy fingers in the public till: “The New Year [2006] will be rough and tough for you.”

And he swears he is not kidding. "We’ve got to rid this country of crooks," he says, his eyeballs bulging from their sockets. "Those who loot the treasury are worse than armed robbers. There will be no hiding place for them in the New Year and forever."

Tough words? Well, this is Ribadu, the tough cop who has been doing tough things since he got in the saddle as boss of the anti-fraud outfit.Ribadu wore a well-cut suit this Wednesday afternoon at his Wuse Zone 2 office. He is slim-built, athletic if you like. He has a somewhat shrill voice that sounds like a whisper, which soon rises when the question demands some elaboration or when he needed to drive a point home.

Generally, for this reporter, there is nothing in his demeanor that gives him out as the guy who has been causing ‘earthquake’ all over the country with his high profile investigations and [in some cases] conviction of big guns like Tafa Balogun, ex-Inspector-General of Police, Adolphus Wabara, ex-Senate President, some 419 kingpins. And of course, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha, the ex-governor of Bayelsa State.

Ribadu has a legion of admirers, just as he has an army of critics. There are those who say he’s doing a swell job, while others contend that he’s just a tool in the hands of President Olusegun Obasanjo to beat his critics and adversaries into line.

"People are entitled to their opinions," Ribadu says. "People will find different excuses when you find them doing the wrong thing. All the work we are doing is for our common good, for our own people. Nothing less."

For over an hour, Ribadu took us on a journey through his life, his job at EFCC, criticisms of his work, President Obasanjo, Tafa Balogun, DSP Alamieyeseigha and IBB amongst others.
He told Sunday Sun how he joined the police force with a mission to help track crooks who are stealing the country blind.

"What many people don’t know is that I had a mission when I joined the Force. I am not your regular kind of cop. I knew why I joined the police. I knew it would be an avenue for me to track all those who have been stealing from us. Using their positions to impoverish the rest of the society."

And he swore: "Never! I can swear 10 times that I have never taken a bribe in my life. Either in the past as a regular police officer or now in the EFCC. If anybody has ever given me bribe before, let him come forward and say so. I challenge that person."

On the dangers of his job, Ribadu says he has since conquered the fear of death. "I don’t fear death," he says. "Death can come any time, any where. So, why should I be scared? Even if you are not doing my kind of work, you are still at risk. People are dying every day in Nigeria. Armed robbers and what have you, accidents etc. To live is to be at risk. So, fear doesn’t exist for me."

This is Ribadu’s own story as told by him in his own words…

I hate dishonesty like hell
"I have always believed in fighting for what is right. To stand for what is right. To abhor, to detest, to dislike dishonesty. To hate bad people. To disagree with them. And they are so many. I see them all over. I will never agree with such people. This is my own nature. It is your choice to be an armed robber if you like. It’s your choice to be a responsible citizen. I choose to be a good cop. I have always been this way…

“I think the turning point in my life was when I had the experience to do my NYSC with the Special Investigative Panel that Gen. Buhari established in 1984 to try corrupt government officials. That gave me satisfaction. It impacted positively on my life. When I finished my NYSC, I got several job opportunities. But I abandoned all to go for the police, because I felt that would give me the opportunity to do this kind of work I am doing. And it gave me satisfaction. I felt this was where my happiness would be. Do what will give you satisfaction. Ever since I have been happy doing what I am doing."

Beat police officer
"Yes, I joined the Force as a regular police officer. I did the beats. I joined the police as a qualified lawyer. I was one of the first people to do so in Nigeria. I was a qualified lawyer. I had everything that you can imagine. But I put all that aside to join the police.

I also reduced myself by accepting a lower rank. Because at that time if you enroll as a qualified lawyer, you get a step higher than the regular graduate does in the civil service. But when I joined the police I was placed on level 8, an ASP. But I grew in the Force. I was a police officer on the beat in Lagos. I manned checkpoints or roadblocks.

“I was a DCO. I worked in Ajegunle, Mushin, Apapa, in the police stations there. I have chased armed robbers. I fought with robbers. I did all these while as a regular officer. I was at Alagbon for a very long period. All these things I endured, because that was what I wanted. That was what I liked. And that has been my life. When I graduated from university and qualified as a lawyer, I had options. I had the option to work anywhere I wanted, but I choose the police, even with the terrible image it had. People were surprised and shocked when I chose to join the police.

They were asking, is there something wrong with me? I wanted to convince some of my friends to come and join but failed. My father didn’t object. He said whatever I wanted to do with myself, I could. But others, family members and relatives objected. But I have no regrets."

I’m not your regular cop
“Would I love to be a police officer again if I return to this life? May be not. But you see my case is not even about police work. I want to fight for justice wherever I am. I am not like your typical police person. No. I went into the police with a mission. Very, very clear mission. I did not join the police to be the regular policeman or officer. No. And I never really did the kind of policing that Nigerians are used to."

I have never taken bribe in my life
"Can I beat my chest and swear that I have never taken bribe in the whole of my career? I swear to Almighty God, God be my witness, I have never taken bribe in my life. I swear 10 times. I swear to Almighty God again and again. And I will never take bribe. And I will challenge anybody in the world who says he has ever given me bribe, please let him come forward and make it public.

“Because that way he will be helping the country. I have never taken bribe and I have never given bribe. I have never compromised. Never! What can compromise me? Maybe your humility, your simplicity. That works with me more. If you are honest with me in your presentation, chances are that you will get me. There is nothing I hate more than arrogance. Especially if you will come to the point of saying you will buy me. I am not for sale and I will never be for sale."

No, I am not afraid for my life
"To be honest with you, what I am doing is just a normal work. The moment you join a profession like ours, law enforcement or military, you know you are willingly going into a dangerous profession and it means that you are going to be called to even lay down your own life, to put yourself at risk. And it is your own volition to do it. When I joined the Police Force, I knew I was going to fight bad people. I knew I was going to fight dangerous people. I made up my mind to be a good cop.

“So, if you want to do the work honestly, it involves taking risks. You have to do your work
courageously. In Nigeria now, who is really safe? Living in Nigeria at a time was even suicidal. So, it’s not even different. How many people are being killed today for doing nothing? For God’s sake, someone will move into your own house, you don’t even know him; he will shoot and kill you. You are driving on the streets, someone will come and take something that belongs to you and in the process he may take your life. So, life itself is risk. You must do your work fairly and honestly."

EFCC is no monster
"I have heard it said that we have become a monster, that EFCC is excessive and witch- hunting people. That Nuhu Ribadu has become the policeman of the country etc. First and foremost, let me start by saying we are human beings at EFCC. We are not saying we will be 100% perfect. We have never claimed to be perfect. And nobody will ever do that. We may have mistakes here and there, but never, never with any bad intention.

“Our aim is to achieve good for our own people. To help in changing things. Honestly, I can swear to you. The issue really is that what is happening in the country is like shock to many people. We are not used to rule of law. We are not used to enforcing laws. Because we have never been used to doing the right things, we have never seen a big man being brought to justice.

So, it’s shocking to see a big man in chains.
“But it is a normal thing in places where there is rule of law. What is the difference between a big person and a small person committing the same offence? We are only used to seeing a poor man or coupist or the political offender in chains. But the corrupt person, the corrupt individual is worse than a coupist. The corrupt person destroys more. The damage he is doing to the society is more than the damage of the coupist we are used to seeing in chains.

“And most of the cases were political. But for the first time in this country, we are going by what the law says. Rule of law. If you steal, you will be brought to justice. If you are a fraudulent person, you will be brought tojustice. And whoever you are, you will pay for your sins. And for the first time, Nigerians are seeing something different. A chief executive of a bank in chains. An Inspector-General of Police in chains. An ex-governor in chains.

They have never seen it. So, the shock is there. Therefore, they easily will say we are a horror organisation, excessive and so on. It will take a while for Nigerians to digest or understand what we are doing or how things are done properly.

“In the U.S., the moment you are arrested and brought to court, you will be in chains no matter who you are. It is symbolic. Everybody: Michael Jackson, O.J Simpson, and the Enron chief. I was in the United States recently and I was there when the governor of Louisiana was being taken to court, he was in chains, he was in handcuffs. So, it is a very normal thing. But in Nigeria, we are not used to it. Also, you must remember that the people we are fighting are crooks. The people we are dealing with are not gentlemen. They are crooks.

“We know a fraudulent person who is one of the most celebrated 419 men sponsoring write-ups against us, simply because what he was used to could not work with us, i.e., bribing public officials, bribing law enforcement officials and escaping justice. He tried everything, it did not work. We made him to remain in prison. He remained in prison, even though he is still playing with justice; he is still playing with the court. But we will ultimately get him to justice.

“We will get him convicted. So, such people are terrible people. They are the ones spreading all these rumours, claiming that we are monster etc… How else do you want us to work other than to get a crook? Have we ever killed anybody? Have you ever heard that we have tortured anybody? So, they are not used to this. They are used to going to bribe law enforcement officers, bribe the judiciary and escaping justice. When they can not escape from us, they say we are monsters, we are bad people, simply because we have refused to compromise. The cases we do are not personal. We just do our work."

Tafa Balogun and I
"I have read it where they alleged that I have something personal against Balogun. That I am bitter with him because he refused to promote me. How can people say such stupid things? They said my happiest moment in the Police was to see Balogun in chains? Well, let me tell you something. Balogun was even close to me. Of course, he was close to me.

Did he himself say that I hate him? Well, I don’t. I have never hated anybody. I will not hate anybody. And I will not hate Balogun. For what? But then, is it a
justification, is it a defence for stealing over 17billion naira? I am a police officer. I know what has happened. It is not justified, it is not right for an individual, and he is convicted for it now. He stole over 17billion naira. So, are you saying just because of promotion, I should leave this man? "
No, he didn’t stand in the way of my promotion

"Never, he didn’t stand in the way of my promotion. How could he have? In fact, Balogun even promoted me, for your information. Yes, he promoted me. I was not in the police after I resumed here as executive chairman of EFCC. So, what promotion are they talking about? The day I was appointed EFCC chairman; I ceased to be part of the police.

You can’t promote someone who does not answer to you, who you do not oversee, who you do not supervise. And what is the promotion? To promote me to be more than the chairman of the EFCC? I receive salary more than the Inspector-General of Police. Promotion entails two things: salary and higher responsibility. You can not promote me more than what I am today. I am an executive chairman of EFCC. My salary is consolidated. My salary is far, far more than that of any police man in Nigeria today."

I felt sad for what Balogun did
"Oh yeah, I felt sad seeing what Balogun did. I felt sad seeing my former Inspector-General in chains. I felt disappointed. I really felt it. I am a human being. I felt sad for the stealing and the way he ended his career. It’s an unfortunate thing. It is not something that we are proud. It brought shame to all of us. It wasn’t the right thing to do.
And more so, I also detest, I abhor the humiliation of an individual. That’s why I issued a statement after Balogun was paraded in handcuffs. I said: “if Nigerians felt offended by the sight of Balogun in chains, I am sorry." I didn’t apologise to Balogun. I said I apologise to Nigerians, but the right thing had to be done. We ask you for your understanding but you will realise that what we are doing is for the good of all of us."

Me, giant killer?
"Well, some people have referred to me as giant killer. We got Balogun, Wabara, Alamieyeseigha etc. In Alamieyeseigha’s case, some people tried to read politics into it. That we are after him because he is VPs man; he is not supporting the president etc. I ask why should I have personal thing with Alamieyeseigha? For what? What about Tafa Balogun? On whose side was he? What about ministers we have been investigating? What about Wabara? What about all the others?
“In Nigeria, anybody you touch, he will give you reason why you are doing it. Why don’t people ask how come a governor could have over 10 million pounds abroad? How come a governor will take himself out of the country and will be arrested by the UK police, he will jump bail and come back shamelessly into our own country? Here, today, we have found over 10 billion naira worth of properties that he owns, including shares and monies in banks. We have enough to nail him. We are in court already. We do take our cases seriously. Any case that we have in court, we are almost a 100 percent sure that we will have a successful prosecution. We will get conviction."

2006 will be tough for corrupt public officials
"Nigerians should wait and see. 2006 is going to be a different year for corrupt public officials, corrupt Nigerians. We are not talking about governors alone. We are talking about people who are stealing. We are talking about people who are involved in fraudulent activities. If you are one, you are putting yourself in danger. You are at the risk of being caught, humiliated and brought to justice. Whoever you are. We are not saying that governors are the only bad people in Nigeria. We have also some good governors in Nigeria. Honest people who are working. It’s not an issue of reducing it to governors. Of course, we
have governors we are investigating and there are others likely to come under investigation very soon."

Alamieyeseigha’s case
"We are happy with what happened in the case of DSP Alamieyeseigha. It is a landmark and it is a good development. It shows that even if you enjoy immunity, chances are the immunity will be defeated, you can still be brought to justice if you do the wrong thing. And more governors will follow."

Alamieyeseigha’s conduct in detention
"DSP is calm. He is taking everything calmly. He is a cool guy. I am so pleased with his conduct and his behaviour. I met with him personally. Is he sorry for what he did? Sort of, if you ask me. That’s what I understood. Fundamentally, he may not be a bad guy. He’s being very calm and honest about what happened. This is my personal view. It has nothing to do with the quality of the case we have against him."

EFCC on track
"Yeah, I think we are on the right track. I am very much convinced that we are doing what is right. From the onset, we set goals for ourselves. We actually set short term and long term goals for ourselves. In the short term, we wanted to send a message that things will not be the same again in Nigeria. And that we have to establish rule of law and order, justice, transparency, discipline and accountability. Then, we must send a message that nobody is going to be above the law in this country.

That whoever you are: big or mighty or small, you will be subjected to the same process, to the same justice system. And then, we said those who are being celebrated, crooks and criminals within us, bad people who contribute to the bad image of this country, who clearly are responsible for bad governance, failure of institutions that has made it difficult for us to take care of ourselves, to solve our own problems."

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Comments (3)

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Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

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Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.