Spin doctor is a slang which describes a person who publicizes favorable interpretations of the words and actions of a public figure, especially a politician. Surprisingly public relations persons object to being described as such because they believe the phrase has derogatory connotation and is more appropriate for those who specialize in turning black to white and vice versa. However as could be observed from commentaries over the redeployment saga of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, almost all major opinion molders including the media, clerics, scholars, lawyers, activists amongst others have engaged in spinning to either eulogize or castigate the parties in the brouhaha over the man’s redeployment for capacity building at the prestigious National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) in Jos Plateau State. Everyone seems to be an unsolicited spin doctor for the parties involved.
On the other hand, the professional spin doctors use the media anonymously to divulge sensitive information or reckless insinuations, to cast aspersion on presumed opponents while portraying their principals in favorable spotlight in the battle of wits. Since the case involves security and intelligence, the attempts by the so-called reliable sources to hide their identities are efforts in futility. In this age of advanced technology, editors and spokespersons must be aware that telephone lines and messages are easily tapped and intercepted for various purposes.
The most unfortunate scenario staring us on the face as a nation is the politicization and personalization of the redeployment which, mind you, is not removal. The painful irony is the angle it is taking: EFCC vs the Government or Nuhu Ribadu vs President Yar’Adua. Definitely the uproar has given the nation, not only the leaders a bad image. Why should we go through this unnecessary bickering which overheats the system in the New Year? In fact some have gone to the extreme to question any achievement of the new administration and read ulterior motives on its professed seven point agenda insinuating as well that the rule of law slogan is used as a smokescreen to protect corruption. The situation took a frightening dimension when international community and foreigners were dabbling into a purely internal affair.
There is no doubt that Ribadu was able to court the goodwill of the public, especially the media by his receptiveness to their enquiries and for daring the untouchables. He therefore deserved all the solidarity, taking into cognizance that as human he has obvious shortcomings which explains the alleged selectivity in the choice of his preys. EFCC as anti-corruption agency, under him undoubtedly performed exceedingly well in raising the consciousness of Nigerians on the ills of corruption. It is a memorable legacy that within a short time he established a well-organised institution where staffs are provided realistic welfare package to dissuade them from corrupt practices and even set up a well-equipped training institute.
It is instructive that most of the officers in EFCC that create a perception of incorruptibility, are not from the moon but products of our same much vilified Nigerian Police on secondment. It is quite a case of black pot producing white pap even if they are righteous converts of late. In the first instance there could not have been a necessity for the creation of ICPC and EFCC if the police had not failed in their responsibilities in crime prevention and protection of life and property. The two anti-corruption agencies should have been departments under the police force. EFCC is a clear lesson that with political will we can make radical transformation. Were Ribadu and his team typical consultants who are entitled to commissions for recovery of funds, from what they have recovered so far, definitely they could have been a new generation of billionaires without cutting corners.
The grievous mistake committed by Nuhu Ribadu was his refusal to reason with members of the last legislative arm during the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo who had intended to amend the act establishing EFCC to make it more autonomous like other constitutional bodies whose membership tenures are guaranteed such that members cannot be removed or redeployed without the consent of majority of the legislators. In fact even the federal civil service commission has no power to sanction, appoint or promote staffs of such bodies. Example can be cited of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC). As it is presently constituted, the law does not confer the EFCC with such autonomy and independence.
Surprisingly too much emotion and sentiments have been poured on the redeployment instead of addressing the basics. The nomination of Ribadu for the course is befitting of his status. The National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) is the highest leadership training institute for top functionaries in public and private sectors in Nigeria. It is not for nothing that the institute is often referred to as Mafia Nigeria Incorporated (MNI) instead of its official acronym for Member National Institute. It has served as a training ground for most top ranking leaders who later became Presidents, ministers, governors, chief executives of corporate organizations, chiefs in security and public service etc. Its serene environment is tonic for the kind of strenuous but strategic studies undertaken and yet it has a component for local and foreign tours for participants to understudy other environments in providing practical solutions to our myriad of problems.
We must remember that most of the victors and losers of the 2007 Elections have their fates sealed by Nuhu Ribadu’s EFCC when it cleared or indicted them through a report of investigation. Surprisingly some indicted public figures, who were presumed as corrupt were alleged to have funded victories of the cleared candidates. These are some of the moral questions. Politics is a dirty game. But I wonder: Isn’t it reasonable to expect relief in whatever way for financiers who induced the system to influence the electoral process after they might have entered into agreement for soft landing? Some say NO POLITICIAN is EVER CLEAN. We know that big corporations all over the world fund and install governments to protect their interests.
I want the next stages of EFCC to be mindful of our reality and peculiarity. It should consider treading softly on our indigenous entrepreneurs whose investments have provided legitimate employments to our youths and provide social service to our society. Like I always say, where we to be forced to choose between two evils, we can only settle for a lesser one. For instance if Otunba Mike Adenuga of Globalcom, has a case to answer in corporate competitive scheming, we must consider the fact that he has successfully broken the monopoly of foreign communication operators with affordable and quality service; his firms also provide thousands of jobs and engage in massive corporate social responsibility than other similar organizations. I should not be misunderstood here, just being frank and expressing a belief that most organizations engage in hanky-panky to win patronages. We need to support and encourage ours with all incentives and reliefs in the business world without harassment and intimidation.
We only hope if another dogged fighter like Prof. Dora Akunyili of NAFDAC is nominated for similar a programme or assigned a greater role, we won’t interpret it to mean that the government wants to flood the market with fake drugs to exterminate the entire citizens. There is nothing more dignifying than leaving the stage when the ovation is loudest. Failures of most leaders result from attempts to overstay their usefulness. The contributions of those, whose tenures were shortened, even in controversial circumstances, still linger in memory years after they had left. I remember Murtala Muhammad and Muhammad Buhari/ Tunde Idiagbon administration. I believe Nuhu Ribadu can still play a greater role in future. Since Mallam Nuhu Ribadu himself has admitted he has nothing against the redeployment for studies and that the government did that in national interest, may I therefore call on spin doctors to sheathe their swords now that the position is clear?
Yushau A. Shuaib, author of “A Dozen Tips for Media Relations”