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Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Nuhu Ribadu and Political Action in Nigeria

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
June 14, 2013

Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) presidential candidate and former anti-corruption chief Nuhu Ribadu speaks during the flag-off of the ACN governorship campaign in Lagos March 5, 2011. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters)


This is a guest post by Charlotte Renfield-Miller; a master of arts in law and diplomacy candidate at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy specializing in development economics and human security. She is currently completing a graduate internship with the Africa Studies program at Council on Foreign Relations.

Nuhu Ribadu is a former presidential candidate who opposed Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan in the 2011 elections. As the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, he campaigned against official corruption and was well-respected within the donor community. Many outside of Nigeria were chagrined when he was dismissed from his post without credible explanation, seeing it as the federal government stepping away from the anti-corruption struggle.

Subsequently, Ribadu has been an articulate critic of Nigerian governance. Speaking at Ahmadu Bello University on June 8, he called the current state of Nigerian politics a “sinking ship,” and criticized it for “perpetuat[ing] a tyranny of interests.” He said that politicians have taken advantage of ethnic, religious, and regional divides to keep Nigeria fragmented and preserve the status quo. Ribadu encouraged Nigerian youth to combat the “exclusionists” by identifying themselves primarily as “Nigerian” rather than as belonging to a particular ethnic or religious group.

The government’s response to the speech consisted of personal attacks on Ribadu, accusing him, inter alia, of disseminating “falsehood,” and for insulting his own country’s government. Reuben Abati, the presidential press spokesman, accused Ribadu of bitterness over losing the presidential election of 2011 and of a “selfish” desire to stay relevant.

Ribadu’s emphasis on national unity across dividing lines has precedent. As he mentioned in his speech, the January 2012 protests against the end of the fuel subsidy represented a unique moment in which Nigerians came together despite their differences. They demonstrated a new possibility for Nigerians to bridge ethnic and religious differences by focusing on governance issues. Ribadu’s message likely resonated with his university audience. The Ahmadu Bello University Student Representative Council responded to Abati’s attack on Ribadu, calling his “outburst…an embarrassment to Nigerians and the academic community.” It remains to be seen whether that resonance will translate into political action as the next electoral season approaches.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Chike

    Nuhu Ribadu has rightly taken a principled stance against corruption and waste – and his stand on national unity is well known.

    However, anyone who thinks the next election will be driven by “national unity along dividing lines” is delusional.

    The anti-fuel subsidy protests that this writer alludes to for example, barely occurred in most of the Niger Delta & the South East – so I don’t know of any idea that unites the Nigerian people (except sharing oil money which unites the elite).

    PS: when is the CFR going to get somebody who thinks like a Nigerian to explain Nigeria to its readers?

  • Posted by Ace Samson

    Ms Renfield-Miller, please do not attempt to make Ribadu relevant.
    Ribadu claimed all the State Governors in Nigeria were corrupt, went as far as to single out Tinubu of Lagos State. He then turned around and ran for Nigeria President under a party CONTROLLED by Tinubu.
    On a VOA’s program in Washington, DC, Ribadu BOLDLY declared OBJ was not corrupt, only to restate that OBJ is not the MOST corrupt politician in Nigeria.
    Ribadu also claimed on a BBC interview that his car was shot up by assassins, he further went on to show a gold Honda Accord 4 door car with a cracked windshield as the that was shot up by assassins claiming he was saved because the car was bullet proofed. A shot up bullet proofed car with only a crack across the windshield?
    Ribadu was fired from the police for disobeying an order. Ribadu was a police officer first and foremost but he became bigger than the police and refuse to accept a posting to different part of Nigeria, because he was afraid of his life?
    Young graduates die everyday in Nigeria because they are posted to God forsaken places in Nigeria to serve as youth coppers.
    Please don’t make Ribadu relevant, Ribadu is as crooked like the rest of the elite Nigerians! And he’s been using foreign media to his advantage but ordinary Nigerians know the real Ribadu … you might really want to talk to them.
    Ribadu makes noise about corruption but failed to declare his assets. Ribadu claimed his father inlaw bought them a government house. How can his father inlaws buy a government house when the father inlaw was not on government? Again you might want to talk to real Nigerians …

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