The political classes are abuzz with details from the latest tell-all memoir revealing what was really going on behind-the-scenes in a nation absorbed with political intrigue and obsessed with the future of the Presidency. I’m not talking about why John McCain picked Sarah Palin, but rather what in the world was going on in Aso Rock when President Umaru Yar’Adua was losing control of the Nigerian government.
Credit:World Economic Forum/ cc
Recall that an enfeebled Yar’Adua was elected in April 2007 in a poll the US called ‘deeply flawed’. (Full disclosure: I joined the State Dept’s Bureau of African Affairs in May 2007 and Nigeria was part of my portfolio until October 2008.) Although Yar’Adua initially showed some hopeful signs of continuing previous reforms, it quickly became obvious that his administration was dismantling a promising anti-corruption agency and squandering Nigeria’s opportunity to break with the past. Nuhu Ribadu, the architect of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, was inexplicably sent away for training while much of his hard work putting cases together against corrupt governors was being systematically reversed. (Ribadu, a CGD Visiting Fellow in 2009-10, tells his compelling story here.) Most worrying for observers, and for those of us inside the USG at the time, was the growing sway of James Ibori, the corrupt former governor of Delta State, whose supporters were penetrating deep inside the Yar’Adua administration. Ibori’s influence—and Ribadu’s personal safety— became major sources of friction in US-Nigeria relations.
Fast forward to today and we now know that Yar’Adua was gravely ill and died in May 2010. Ibori was eventually arrested in Dubai, extradited to the UK, and last month pled guilty to a raft of corruption charges. Ribadu recently returned to Nigeria to head a task force investigating corruption in the fuel sector.
So while things seem to be turning in Nigeria’s favor again, there is a looming question out there: How did a criminal cabal orchestrate a near-takeover of the Government of Nigeria? Power, Politics, and Death, a just-released memoir by former Yar’Adua’s special media advisor Olusegun Adeniyi, gives an insider’s account of that crucial period. I’m itching to read the whole book, but if this media report is indicative, then it looks to be highly credible.