Nuhu Ribadu: An Unrepentant Fighter For Justice
Nuhu Ribadu

Early life and Education

Few people knew about his childhood. For those who know him, he left them surprised by the turn of events, particularly his quest for the Presidency of Nigeria. His childhood friends and classmates say he was a quiet, studious boy, with a hidden well-spring of passion, who surprised others with his sense of justice.

His schoolmate, Hamma Aliyu, recalls standing next to him in the school dinner queue: “Our school cook prepared food for the exact number of pupils each day. But some boys will eat their dish, and secretly take up another clean plate, and return to the cook, claiming they had not yet eaten.

“Nuhu Ribadu,would declare loudly, ‘what if some person has not yet had his meal? You are eating his share.’ He’d be furious”, Aliyu laughs.

Another school-friend, Usman Iya Abbas – who works on his election campaign – is remembering a teenager whom others looked to for help during playground arguments. “We would say: ‘Where is Nuhu?’ He was our judge, our mediator”, he says.

“If he knew you were in the wrong, he would say so, even if the boy was far bigger than he was. I remember him once crying out: ‘You dare touch this person again, and I will join him in fighting you.’ I saw his face. He was ready to jump on him.”

Nuhu Ribadu, Nigeria’s pioneer anti-graft policeman was born in Yola, Adamawa State, on November 21, 1960. He attended Aliyu Mustapha Primary School, Yola from 1966 to 1973, and Yelwa Government Secondary School, Yola from 1973-1977. Between 1978 and 1980, he was at the College of Preliminary Studies, CPS, Yola, for his A-level studies.

In 1980, he gained admission to study law at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, graduating in 1983. He graduated from the Nigerian Law School and was called to the bar in 1984. He joined the Police immediately after his national service. He holds an LLM degree with emphasis on the jurisprudence of corruption in Nigeria from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. In 2008, he was at the Harvard Business School where he did a programme in the strategic management of law enforcement agencies.

Career and Work Experience

Nuhu Ribadu has become a household name in Nigeria and beyond on account of his glorious public service record and personal integrity. This trained lawyer and fearless crime fighter, carved a niche for himself as someone who is patriotic, passionate, honest, courageous and compassionate. He is the pioneer Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), an agency the Obasanjo administration created and tasked with countering corruption and fraud which he literally transformed into one of the most effective and renowned anti-graft agencies in modern history. Yet, his major tribute to anti-corruption crusade was his selflessness, resilience and exemplary conduct in his spirited fight against the cankerworm.

With uncommon commitment and dedication to duty, Ribadu worked assiduously to clean the Aegean stable created by grafts and frauds. He courageously brought to book hundreds of fraudsters, scores of high profile looters and economic saboteurs in spite of temptation, booby traps and threats to life. In three years, the EFCC under his leadership built the now most celebrated Crimes Training and Research Institute in the West African region. The agency also recorded over 200 criminal convictions under his leadership.

Ribadu is known for his ruthless pursuit of corrupt individuals, winning him respect within his country and abroad. The 60-year-old, the youngest candidate running for president, has more than 170,000 fans on Facebook and has previously been voted by the Nigerian press as “Man of the Year”. Ribadu graduated with a law degree and spent the first 18 years of his career working for the Nigerian police, where he became head of the legal and prosecution department in Abuja, the capital.

In 2003 he was selected by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, to run the country’s highest anti-corruption establishment – the EFCC. During his term he gained a reputation as a corruption hunter, bringing more than 1,000 cases against politicians and businessmen. He won international praise for arrests of graft suspects and seizures of assets and received the World Bank’s 2008 Jit Gill Memorial Award for Outstanding Public Service. But he was also criticised of being a political pawn, only chasing enemies of Obasanjo.

When the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was inaugurated in 2007, Ribadu was fired and accused of failing to declare his own assets. Two years later he fled Nigeria for Britain and the United States after a reported attempt on his life, which he claimed was a result of making dangerous enemies during his time at the EFCC. He returned in 2010 when charges against him were dropped following the death of Yar’Adua, and since opened a bid to lead the Action of Congress Nigeria (ACN), one of the coalition parties that formed the All Progressives Congress (APC). He pledged to reduce government spending, tackle poverty, develop the Niger Delta region and fight corruption. But few believe he will make any headway due to his lack of experience in politics.

While hitting hard on the perceived political opponents of the Obasanjo administration under the guise of anti-corruption fight, Ribadu was rewarded with the rank of Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), in March 2007. The African Union put him on its advisory board on anti-corruption matters; and he was invited to join the advisory board of the friends of the World Bank/UNODC initiative on stolen asset recovery.

He is a recipient of several awards as a police officer, prosecutor and Chairman of EFCC. He received the Inspector General of Police Awards in 1997, 1998 and 2000, and the Special Commendation of Mr. President in 2005, for the successful prosecution of several advanced fee fraud, banking fraud and sundry economic crime cases. He was also specially commended by the Accountant General of the Federation for successfully prosecuting some corrupt public servants in 1999. Since 2004, notable newspapers and magazines in Nigeria have repeatedly voted Ribadu as Man of the Year, in recognition of his outstanding achievements as a committed crusader against corruption and other related crimes. In 2008, Ribadu completed the senior executive course of the Nigeria Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies where he was conferred with the Membership of the National Institute, MNI.

In June 2010, Ribadu was awarded the Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) by Babcock University, Ogun State, in recognition of his “resolute courage” as well as his “fierce stance against corruption in the face of sponsored disgrace and certain death that has resulted into positive changes and global acclaim hitherto considered impossible”.

In 2012, this anti-graft cop accepted to head an inquest into government’s revenue from the oil sector, an assignment he handled with his characteristic passion and dexterity, turning in a report that has since become reference point on reforming the Nigeria’s oil industry. In a quest for higher call to service, Ribadu has since 2010 being involved in active politics.

He was a main challenger to former President Goodluck Jonathan, a folk-hero to millions of Nigerians in the 2011 presidential poll. But, this quiet, graft-busting ex-policeman also provokes hostility and criticism – including from some of own supporters – over his decision to run for the ACN. Back in his days as head of Nigeria’s anti-fraud police, Ribadu bought more than a thousand cases against politicians and tycoons accused of corruption. But his heroic standing was dented by his acceptance of the ACN nomination and with it, the questions that have long swirled around the party’s boss, Bola Tinubu. The Nigerian media report he currently faces charges of operating 16 foreign bank accounts during his time as Lagos State governor.

An ACN spokesman dismissed the allegations, saying: “He has not been charged to court, and he has not been convicted of any offence. He is a free man.” Throughout Ribadu’s campaign, his rallying cry has been his own credentials. “The good people have been bending their backs, and the bad people have been riding on them”, he told Nigerians.

Ribadu’s success as EFCC’s big boot bought him to public notice. While his work was applauded by many Nigerians, he was also accused of allowing himself to be used as a political tool, pursuing only enemies of former President Obasanjo. A change of administration in 2007 meant his investigations were threatening some of the new administration’s wealthiest backers. Ribadu was accused of failing to declare his own assets, suspended, stripped of his title, and sent on a training course. In 2009, he left Nigeria, saying that his life had been threatened. It was only when charges of impropriety were dropped, after the death of President Yar’Adua and another charge of leadership that he returned home from self-exile.

Damning poll

In spite of his international plaudits and 136,000 Facebook admirers, Ribadu’s campaign had a bumpy ride. There were the inevitable questions over whether the Ribadu war-chest would be sullied with dirty or looted money.

“I will never allow any tainted thing to come into my campaign,” he insisted to the BBC. “I want to see money from ordinary Nigerians coming in. I want little, little contributions.” That pledge shattered protocol in a political culture accustomed to politely avoiding discussions about party funding. But other criticisms remained – that Ribadu was a single-issue candidate, with few clear policies on trade, power, the economy or education. Most damning of all, a recent poll published by the Nigerian civil society ANAP group, revealed that only 48% of Nigerians were even aware he was running for President.