By Yakubu Dati
News of the appointment of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu as National Security Adviser to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has reverberated with glee across the length and breadth of the nation; reigniting hope that the current administration is indeed set to bring a turn around to the security challenges besetting the nation.
Reason for the excitement are not farfetched as people recall Ribadu’s tenure as the pioneer chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), when the global community began to take Nigeria seriously owing to its approach to fighting corruption and exposing financial crime through the agency.
The period was replete with daring tales of thorough investigations of public officials at a scale that was never envisaged in the developing world; arrests and prosecution of high profile and politically exposed suspects that hitherto seemed unimaginable.
As Ribadu held sway as the boss of the anti graft commission Nigerians experienced breath taking thrills that were were the stuff of box office hits and bestseller plots; full of action, suspense, surprises and comic relief all in tow, to the delight of ordinary Nigerians who had thought that fighting corruption in their country was beyond any agency or government to tackle.
But Ribadu, on assumption of office as EFCC chairman, with the mandate to fight corruption and fraud, proved many wrong as he decided to do what was thought impossible and took on the high and mighty without exception.
As an Assistant Commissioner of Police, ACP, Ribadu then only 42, brought an uncommon zeal and commitment to his responsibilities in a manner that was lacking in many government agencies and soon, became the cynosure of all eyes.
The nation was put on a new phase as Nigerians on waking up are eager to know what syndicate the agency has been uncovered or which untouchable personality has been exposed.
The list of those brought to book included sitting governors, ministers, heads of security agencies and others who were adept at book cooking but did not escape the eagle-eye of the Ribadu led agency.
The then EFCC chairman fearlessly treaded on territories considered out of bounds to mere mortals and succeeded in exposing billion naira underhand deals in states; ministries; extra ministerial departments; agencies; parastatals and conglomerates.
As a Lawyer, Ribadu deployed his legal knowledge to spread his dragnet to fish out those suspected to be engaged in financial crimes but we’re hiding under the cover of “immunity from prosecution” to fleece the country of its resources.
Nigerians easily recall a remarkable case where Ribadu successfully prosecuted his boss, the then Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, who was investigated, prosecuted, convicted, jailed and made to return about £150 million under a plea bargain arrangement.
Between 2003 and 2007 when Ribadu held sway as the head of the anti graft agency, his unblemished records of achievements attracted international attention resulting in the withdrawal of the US Treasury FINCEN Advisory on Nigeria, de-listing it from the FATF list of non-cooperative countries and territories, and its admission into the prestigious Egmont Group.
He almost single handedly restored a positive image for Nigeria thereby increased investor confidence in the nation’s economy which began to experience a boost.
Ribadu came to national limelight as a star prosecutor at the Human Rights Violation Investigation Commission of Nigeria, popularly known as Oputa Panel, which was created to investigate human rights abuses during the military era, and was later appointed Chairman of the Petroleum Special Revenue Task Force.
As the new NSA, his wide range of skills will enabled him to navigate the treacherous security labyrinth which required coordinating the efforts of various government agencies involved in national security including the military, intelligence agencies, diplomatic corps, and law enforcement agencies.
His training as an intelligence police operative, after a degree and a Masters in Law, Ribadu is equipped with deep experience in law enforcement, community engagement, and internal security measures.
As an alumni of the prestigious National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies who retired as Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), Ribadu has the cognitive training as a police officer to de-escalate situations, work within communities, and focus on prevention and response. This can be particularly useful in handling domestic issues, civil unrest, and threats that require more nuanced responses than straightforward military action. More so as he has the capacity to draw from international resources as a TED Fellow and a Senior Fellow in St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford, UK.
The new NSA is the third retired police officer after the late Gambo Jimeta and Ismaila Gwarzo ,to be appointed to the position.
With this background, the initial fears that a non military personnel may not command respect as NSA quickly died down when Ribadu was confirmed as many recall that even while he served as the boss of the anti graft agency, he was able to win the confidence and cooperation of all the security agencies which enabled him achieve results.
Besides, Nigeria is facing more of domestic issues that require civilian oversight and a balance between military and civilian perspectives.
Similarly, there’s growing confidence that Ribadu’s pragmatic approach to intelligence gathering and crime-fighting while serving as a police officer and later as head of the EFCC that earned him global recognition and awards, will be re-enacted as he takes charge as the NSA.
This makes him better poised to contend with non-traditional threats like energy, power, infectious and diseases outbreaks, among others , to ensure comprehensive decision-making.
It is said that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has a knack for identifying talents, his recent appointments which have put round pegs in round holes has renewed hope that his administration is on the path towards charting a new course for Nigeria.
The new Security Service Chiefs, drawn from the mentees of revered retired Generals, is an acclamation of their heroic contribution to nation building. Their critical involvement is unambiguously encapsulated in the Renewed Chage Agenda of the administration.
As an Alumni of the prestigious National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies who retired as Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), Ribadu definitely suits the description of reggae legend, Bob Marley that “who the cap fits, let him wear it.”
There’s no reason to fear. Hope is here!
Dati is based in Abuja.