Sunday Ogidigbo is the national coordinator of Team Ribadu, the mass movement that is powering the Ribadu 2011 presidential campaign. He talks about Team Ribadu and why the youths are lining up behind Ribadu.

What is Team Ribadu?

Team Ribadu is a political movement, founded in recognition of the legitimate thirst of Nigerians for a new kind of leadership marked by integrity and competence. It seeks to harness and support the tidal wave of young people, who are eager to get involved in the electoral process, in order to create political and social change. Team Ribadu is a bunch of young Nigerians that believes in the ideology that the man Nuhu Ribadu stands for. But Team Ribadu is beyond Mallam Nuhu Ribadu. Like Nelson Mandela was the symbol of the end to apartheid in South Africa, Martin Luther King Jr. was the symbol of the civil rights movement in the US, and Gandhi was the symbol of the independence struggle in India, Ribadu happens to be the symbol of a new Nigeria for us as a movement. While he was chairman of the EFCC, he dared to bring corrupt people to justice and he was a fierce advocate of good governance. Now that he is venturing into politics, we in Team Ribadu believe that he can bring about the much needed change in Nigeria. 

What makes you think Nuhu Ribadu is the best man for the job, come 2011?  

Who else is there? Are we talking about Atiku Abubakar, a former customs officer and one-time vice president for eight years or are we talking about IBB who annulled the freest and fairest election in the history of Nigeria? Or the current president who is an offshoot of a system that has held sway for 10 years? I don’t know who else if not Nuhu RIbadu.

John Maxwell said, in looking for a leader, be guided by three things: Courage, Character, Competence – and compassion, if I may add a fourth one. Nuhu Ribadu embodies all of these. The problem of this country, as the renowned novelist, Chinua Achebe, has said, is not resources but leadership. We’ve not had any strong leader – we’ve had people that rule over us; people that lord over us but not people that lead by example. They steal money and preach integrity. They dip their hands into our common wealth. The current government inherited over 20 billion dollars in the excess crude account. As we speak, the CBN has made it public that the account is less that 400 million dollars. What has happened to that money? It has not translated to anything concrete. It has not repaired our roads or our hospitals. We all know the role that corruption play in the mess we have found ourselves and we believe that Nuhu Ribadu, if given the chance to lead this country, being someone who understands and was in the forefront of the war against corruption, will put an end to the waste that is currently going on. As pioneer chairman of the EFCC, he did not only recovered over $5billion and also rejected a $15 dollar bribe that was offered him by a former governor.  That is the kind of leader we need; a man of integrity and character; someone that, if given the chance, will not be carried away and consumed by the trappings of power. 

But people argue that he hasn’t got the necessary experience.

It depends on what you mean by experience. If you are talking about experience in looting, you are right; he has no experience there. But let’s look at his credentials. This man is a trained lawyer who went into the police. He worked in the economic and strategy team in this country and has consulted for various front-ranking international organizations. It is not hidden fact that the EFCC, which he built from the scratch, became a well-respected and internationally-recognized crime fighting institution in the world. He was in public service for 25 years as a policeman and prosecutor. What more experience do you want? His vast global experience, nourished by more recent experiences acquired via fellowships at the world’s best universities like Harvard and Oxford, and even the Centre for Global Development in the US, where he is currently rounding off his fellowship, no doubt makes him most suited for the position. 

But it is not enough to have all the degree. A true leader must also have the passion, courage, competence and character to do what is right. I think this experience thing is overrated and over flogged, so for those who want to talk about experience, please do a background check on all the presidential aspirants and let’s see how many of them have such a robust experience. And if you are talking about experience in politics, I will tell you that every right-thinking Nigerian is tired of the thieving politicians, they are yearning for true leadership. Recently, the World Bank said that six out of every 10 naira goes into the hands of politicians. Imagine the level of growth we would have recorded if our resources are channeled to the right use. Team Ribadu is poised to support Mallam Nuhu Ribadu - who for us is a symbol of integrity - by raising a great army of supporters who will vote him into power.

Okay, talk about the activities of Team Ribadu. You just ended a camp meeting. What was the idea behind it?

Camp Ribadu was a three-day camp meeting where we had over 400 volunteers from all across the country who were trained on how to raise volunteers who will bring about a change in the country. They were trained in the aspect of voters’ registration, voters’ rights and how to raise volunteers. We had resource persons from all walks of life who taught and inspired the volunteers to make the 2011 election a different one. As I speak, we have state coordinators in at least 32 states in the country, including the FCT, and you will agree with me that the outcome of the forthcoming election is going to be determined by the youth.

Why do you say so?

Statistics show that over 18million Nigerians attained the voting age since the last voter registration exercise. That is a huge block and in most elections, you don’t have up to 20 million people vote on election day. And we are also looking at those within age bracket of 22 and 35. It is our strategy at Team Ribadu to get these people, to let them see that the destiny of this country lies in their hands. That is the message we want to take to every university, to every college, to every home. We want to tell the youth that it is time for them to take the destiny of this nation into their hands; that the generation of our parents failed us but we cannot fail ourselves or the generations after us.

What chances do you really think you have at Team Ribadu, seeing that the moneybags are everywhere creating huge campaigns?

I quite understand where you are going. About time we talked about money. Well money has a role to play in politics but so does ideology. Where there is a strong ideology and philosophy, then you will see that there is a limit to how far money can go. Like the camp meeting I spoke of, people came because they believed in this man; no volunteer at Camp Ribadu came because they wanted to be given money and that is the truth.

So are you saying you did not pay your volunteers?

Of course not! We did not! World over, the concept of volunteerism is about giving your time, money, expertise for a cause you believe in. And that is where Team Ribadu differs from other campaign groups. Ours is not a money-driven campaign group but an ideological and a value-driven one.  We were with Nollywood stars last week. They came to hear Mallam Ribadu. Some of them promised their support publicly. No one was given money. When you have a good product, when you have a candidate with integrity, money play second fiddle in the campaign process. In Ribadu you have someone who thinks and knows that we are first Nigerians before anything else and everyone who follows this line of thinking will definitely camp with him. Team Ribadu has representation from every part of this country. And of course, those who came for Camp Ribadu make up a small percentage of the team. We have a chapter in the UK, another in the US and Canada. There are lots of Nigerians in the Diaspora, coming together so see how they can be a part of the group, to contribute their own quota to the group so we can bring about the change we want in Nigeria.

How do I join Team RIbadu?

Team Ribadu is a volunteer movement and everybody is welcome. Becoming a part of the team is very easy. You go to our facebook page (Team Ribadu on facebook and indicate your interest. You know, this particular election is going to be very different because it is a youth election.  Most of those in our target group are internet savvy, the tweeters, the facebookers, the educated, those who are in the know. That is not to say that we will not reach the people in the other demographic groups, but people in this group are our primary target. Those who are not on facebook can pick a form from one of our state coordinators. And contribution to the team does not have to be in cash. We have doctors, lawyers, who can give their expertise to help the group. Right now, we have lawyers who work pro bono for us; just in case any issue arises with any of our volunteers. And you know what this volunteer movement translates to: if and when Ribadu becomes president, his allegiance will be to the people. When you elect a government into power, you can have a say; an input in the conversation of the day. If you don’t they won’t care about you. So if Ribadu is brought into power by the people, then accountability will be key.

So how do you plan to raise funds to support your initiatives?

So far, we’ve had people who believe in what we stand for, individuals, friends of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu; they have been giving us money to finance most of our projects up to this point.

Do I have to be a card carrying member of the ACN, the party under which Mallam Ribadu is contesting to be part of Team Ribadu?

Of course not! I, speaking to you, am not a card carrying member of the ACN. Same goes for many other Nigerians, most of whom have been robbed of their legal right to vote. All we want is a change and Mallam Ribadu is the symbol of change. He is more of a public candidate than a party candidate. He has succeeded in bringing people together and there are people in other political parties who have adopted him, including DPP, APGA, Labour Party and even PDP. 

Okay, in rounding off, what is the critical message of this movement?

Our message is simple. A New Nigeria, it is possible. A vote for Nuhu Ribadu will make that possible.


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