Authority Stealing: Anti-Corruption War and Democratic Politics in Post-Military Nigeria

By Lawson, Letitia | African Studies Review, September 2013 | Go to article overview

Authority Stealing: Anti-Corruption War and Democratic Politics in Post-Military Nigeria


Lawson, Letitia, African Studies Review


Wale Adebanwi. Authority Stealing: Anti-Corruption War and Democratic Politics in Post-Military Nigeria. Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 2012. xxxi + 450 pp. Notes. Index. $55.00. Paper.

In Authority Stealing, Wale Adebanwi details the struggles and (limited) successes of Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under its founding chairman, Nuhu Ribadu (2003-7). The EFCC was created by an Act of Parliament at the behest of President Olusegun Obasanjo, soon after Nigeria's transition from military rule in 1999. While its establishment signaled a new commitment to fight corruption, Adebanwi shows how from the start the EFCC was pitted against the political elite that created it. Separate chapters of the book deal with the EFCC's campaigns against "419" fraudsters, Nigeria's powerful governors, members of Parliament, the head of the Nigerian police, the vice president (and other would-be presidential candidates), and private bank officials. The central argument of the book is that Ribadu, driven by personal courage, commitment, and nationalism, took on the corrupt Nigerian elite in a contemporary reenactment of the David and Goliath struggle, winning several early battles but eventually losing the war as he was removed from his position by Obasanjo's successor, President Umaru Yar'Adua, in the interest of protecting the guilty. Adebanwi concludes that absent "fundamental restructuring of state and society," the problem of corruption will remain unsolved, despite "the [critical] efforts of the Nuhu Ribadus of Nigeria" (396).

Analytically the book does not go beyond previous studies of the EFCC published in the Journal of Modern African Studies (by Lawson in 2009 and Adebanwi and his co-author, Ebenezer Obadare, in 2010), but it is really a work of long-form journalism rather than scholarly analysis. It is an excellent, richly detailed source for readers with little knowledge of-but great interest in-the micro-underpinnings of the more visible macro-phenomenon of prebendal politics in Nigeria over the last decade, drawn primarily upon local media reporting and interviews with principals. It also works well as an inspirational morality tale, portraying Ribadu, and several other committed individuals, as heroes struggling to reclaim Nigeria's future from the clutches of its corrupt elite. Although Ribadu was ultimately "beaten in the game of power in which he was embroiled" (348), he played the game, inspired many inside and outside of Nigeria, and perhaps showed the way forward-which reverberates through Adebanwi's telling of the story, which is both a celebration of Nuhu Ribadu and a clarion call to other potential Nuhu Ribadus. One is reminded of the wisdom of Chinua Achebe's elder in Anthills of the Savannah: "To some of us the Owner of the World has apportioned the gift to tell their fellows that the time to get up has finally come. …

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