Butchering the Ribadu report By Zainab Suleiman Okino
My colleague on the Editorial Board, Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, has no kind words for Steve Oronsaye. He has no reason to hate him, he says, but he detests the man’s ways, his cavalier attitude and his readiness to do a yeoman’s job, and as a ready too (to fix unpopular and anti-people programmes.
This appears to be so in the case of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force headed by former EFCC Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, of which Oronsanye is a member. Last week when the report was submitted by the committee, the document was instantly discredited by Oronsaye. This open treachery is already raising a lot of questions.
To be sure, many Nigerians did not give the Ribadu committee any chance of success because of the circumstance of its initiative. It came about after the House of Representatives indicted the managers of our oil revenues, of mismanagement and blatant theft of the country’s oil resources. The House’s work and that of Ribadu, were responses to the January fuel subsidy protest that almost brought this government down.
So, with the open confrontation between Ribadu and Oronsaye in the presence of the president last Friday, those who viewed the committee with suspicion, those who said it was only a smokescreen to douse tension and give the impression that the government is serious about putting an end to the oil sector cabal’s duplicity, have all been vindicated.
This recent development has overshadowed the substantive issue of the massive corruption in subsidy payment, just as the Farouk Lawan bribe matter took the shine off the House’s subsidy probe until it fizzled out. It then means that again, government has succeeded in rubbishing their ‘effort’, which invariably confirmed their insincerity.
Shortly after Ribadu presented his findings, Oronsaye was reported to have raised some objections against them. He said he was not privy to the content of the report, the process was flawed and what was presented to the president was hurriedly put together after the president demanded for it and, therefore, ‘cannot be implemented’.
At this juncture, Ribadu spilled the beans revealing that Oronsaye and his friend never attended their meetings and only flew in on the day of the submission of the report. “We worked every day for about three months. Steve Oronsaye never participated even one day in the deliberations of this committee. Not even for a single day…all the members are here, they can bear witness to all.
During the work of the committee, Oronsaye got himself appointed on the board of the NNPC. The other gentleman, Bernard Otti, became the director of finance of NNPC. By the time they were appointed, the honourable thing they should have done was to resign from the committee. They refused to resign. Steve has not been in the country, he flew in this morning to come and do this and I think our president deserves more respect than what you have done now”.
Poor Ribadu! He still believed then the president had no hand in the script. His statement is apt and loaded, but I think he missed the point. What deserved respect for a president, who can shamelessly use his own hands to destroy his support base, a goodwill, gotten on the altar of religious and regional sentiments anyway.
Oransaye and Bernard Otti, had been nominated as Ribadu committee members before they became NNPC board members, yet they did not deem it fit to resign from the earlier appointment. Can the president pretend he did not know? If no mischief was intended, why appoint them on the board of an organisation they are over-sighting and investigating? Are they the only qualified Nigerians? How qualified is Oronsaye anyway? Here is a former head of service who, even after retirement, wields enormous powers within the precincts of government.
Dr. Jonathan or Mrs Dieziani Allison (any difference?) appointed him to the NNPC board; how could the president put on a bold face and trivialise the altercation, as he did during the event? The art of deception may be part and parcel of politics and the PDP government; however this open disdain for the people, which is what the whole charade is, is not political correctness. Neither is it smartness. It’s an assault on the people’s sensibility.
If Oronsaye did not have government’s backing, if the government did not plant him as a mole in the committee’s work, how did he gather the courage to speak the way he did at the presentation, when submitting a minority report would have been the honourable thing to do? Ribadu spoke about the possibility of compromise, leakage, and the difficulty of doing an honest job in a country like Nigeria. He should not worry.
With Jonathan, Nigerians are beyond shock. But let it be clear that this show of shame is further proof of the president’s lack of tact and oversimplification of national issues. It shows he is not in charge, especially with the audacity (of the actor) involved. That disagreement is to the president’s disgrace and not credit. The bombshell is a hatchet job, and an embarrassment, to the man himself, the president. We should, however, not forget that the world is watching and laughing at our follies.
Ribadu said after Orosanye’s outburst among other things: “Mr President, it is your government, it is your work and whatever it is, it is you and nobody else. This recommendation is for you to use…” Need I add that the president must not forget that the verdict of the people of this country, positive or negative, is on his administration, and not on Oronsaye, and not even on Ribadu.