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Dear Council on Foreign Relations

Today, you host one of Nigeria’s best-known women.  Farida Waziri heads my country’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).  I am happy she is in the United States this week, and that you have been so generous with your time, having hosted her in Washington earlier in the week.

I take it you have not invited her to admire her great collection of jewelry.  Since you discussed corruption in Nigeria with her on Monday, and are scheduled to do the same today, it seems to me you are investing valuable time on this subject.  Now what?

If this is just a talk show, you compound the situation in Nigeria, and give United States foreign policy in Africa a severe black eye at the same time.  Waziri is no corruption fighter; in one and a half years in office, as you will see when you examine her website (, her triumph has principally been in putting away clerks and housewives.

  Corruption where it hurts is not only alive in Nigeria, it is protected.
My point, therefore, is that if what you are doing is not a game, but truly to help in the search for answers, your tried and tested method of meeting policymakers in a roundtable is a dead end in an issue such as corruption and good governance in Nigeria.

Last Monday, for instance, she said to you in Washington that she and President Umaru Yar’Adua have “zero tolerance for corruption.”

Everyone at CFR knows that to be arrant, sloganeering nonsense.  Yet nobody challenged that assertion.  There, then, is where your format may be no more than an outdated political tool.  In one and a half years in office, Mrs. Waziri has done not one thing that would make anyone in Nigeria—including her own staff—place her level of discomfort with graft in high places at more than 10 per cent.

Here is one example.  When she arrived last year, one of her first orders of business was to disperse the EFCC’s core professional staff.  It was therefore hilarious last Monday when she told your carefully-assembled coffee group that when she assumed office, she met no structure, no accountability, no professionalism, and no integrity.

Hopefully, you know better.  The EFCC certainly had some problems when she arrived, but she has created far more, through manipulation and incompetence, during her tenure.
The truth is in your own files.  When you hosted our Foreign Minister, Ojo Maduekwe in December last year, he confirmed that many of the agency’s highly-trained investigators, some of them trained here in the United States by the FBI and in the United Kingdom, had been eliminated by Waziri.  Maduekwe even said that the fallout was “becoming a major foreign policy issue.”

As a Nigerian, I will admit that we do not often do well in these situations.  Rather than address the sticky issue, Mr. Maduekwe nonchalantly called on the United States to “train more people (for the EFCC).”

He said blithely, “Now she has sent them away.  Why don't we make progress, Ambassador?  Let's not get stuck and maybe she'll -- the chairperson of EFCC sending those FBI (outfront ?) -- let's not make it an issue because if we make it an issue, the two partners, United States and Nigeria, that are agreed on the need to improve the situational capacity and fighting corruption, we'll all lose in that sense, you know.  You have the capacity, are rich enough to train more people…”

Mr. Maduekwe did not have the courage to tell you how some of those people were hounded out of the EFCC for no better reason than that they were thought to be loyal to her predecessor.  One of them, who is known to have tenaciously investigated some of the most corrupt governors, was almost killed.  First, he was first posted to a ridiculous job, and then suspended from the police. 

Little wonder then—if Hillary Clinton’s recent comments in Abuja are anything to go by—that the US is in no hurry to process disposable high-level personnel for Nigeria. 

But where does this leave the people of Nigeria?  In a quandary, that’s where: not only does our anti-corruption agency play games in the so-called battle against corruption, its head is being treated like a celebrity by otherwise respectable American groups. 

I do not write this simply to put Waziri down.  She took over from Nuhu Ribadu, who I supported relentlessly as a newspaper columnist when he first assumed office. 

But if the EFCC under Ribadu became a tool for hounding opponents of Olusegun Obasanjo, under Waziri, it has become a tool for protecting Yar’Adua’s friends.  They have the keys to the best champagne in Aso Rock, our “White House.”  In a newspaper interview in Nigeria last April, Yar’Adua said those contemptible indicted governors were his “friends.”

That is why it is an insult that, on this side of the Atlantic, you offer Waziri opportunities to paint herself and President Yar’Adua in the colors of an anti-corruption fighter.  None of them can make the claim in Nigeria.  With the “right” people, they have no objection to corruption.

Still, I do not agree that you should cancel today’s scheduled event.  In the future, however, I suggest you alter the structure of the discussions to permit some input from Nigerians outside the government.  Otherwise, even in your own game, you would really be going in circles.

For us, Waziri can offer you all the slogans and clichés she wants this week because she knows you will buy them all.  It is your dollar.  Enjoy.
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