Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Politics as usual for Nigeria

If Nigeria's political culture were more like Britain's we'd expect the return of Nuhu Ribadu to Nigeria to have a major impact on the politics of next year's presidential election. However, all there are at this point are big questions.

I'm just picky, but I don't like The Economist's editors choice of "prodigal" in this headline; "exiled" would be a more accurate description of his status in my mind.

A prodigal policeman returns
WHILE flitting between Oxford colleges and Washington think-tanks in the past 18 months, Nuhu Ribadu [left] kept insisting that what he really wanted was to go home. Nigeria’s former anti-corruption tsar was in self-imposed exile, having made powerful enemies while probing his country’s political elite. But last month he returned, setting tongues wagging about his next move.

As the first head of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), set up in 2003, Mr Ribadu spent four years pursuing politicians and civil servants who were embezzling the country’s vast oil revenues. He was one of several youngish reformers brought into government by President Olusegun Obasanjo to shake up the corrupt political system, and for a few years they were given their heads. In particular, Mr Ribadu went after several of the country’s 36 state governors…

But few Nigerians who challenge vested interests are tolerated for very long. Mr Obasanjo’s reforming zeal ended in a squalid campaign to get his ruling party re-elected in 2007, at which point Mr Ribadu was deemed to be more of a nuisance than a help. He was sent on leave for a year with scant explanation. Fearing for his life, he fled abroad…

But Mr Ribadu’s fortunes have improved since Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s new president, took office in May…

The ease with which Mr Ribadu’s efforts were undermined shows how Nigeria’s progress still relies more on individuals than rules and institutions. When good people fall out of political favour, they can easily be ousted and their actions reversed. “In such a situation, one man’s legacy can be wiped out at a stroke,” laments Femi Falana, a campaigning lawyer who has often worked with Mr Ribadu.

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