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When corruption fights back: democracy and elite interest in Nigeria's anti-corruption war*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 April 2011

Wale Adebanwi*
Department of African-American and African Studies, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA
Ebenezer Obadare*
Department of Sociology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045, USA


This essay analyses the construction of the anti-corruption war under the civilian government in Nigeria between 1999 and 2008. We consolidate existing insights in the literature in three key ways. First, we show that in democratising contexts like Nigeria, the gravest threats to anti-corruption campaigns often emanate from a combination of intra-elite rancour and political intrigue. Second, we provide an explanation of what happens when, literally, corruption fights back. Finally, we suggest that where anti-corruption efforts are not backed by other radical institutional reforms, they fall prey to the overall endemic (systemic) crisis, a part of which, ab initio, necessitated the anti-corruption war.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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Wale Adebanwi wishes to thank the University of California, Davis, CA, for funding his fieldwork trip to Nigeria and the United Kingdom. Ebenezer Obadare thanks the University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, for the General Research Fund (GRF) which aided his research. Both authors wish to thank informants in Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the United States. We are indebted to those who granted us interviews, including Mr Nuhu Ribadu, Mr Nasir El-Rufai, the members of the Media Team of Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, Mr Ibrahim Lamorde, other agents working with the EFCC (who wish to remain anonymous), and many newspaper editors and politicians in Lagos, Abuja and Ibadan, Nigeria. We also thank Messrs Kunle Ajibade and Femi Ojudu of TheNEWS magazine, Lagos. Finally, we are grateful to the journal's three anonymous reviewers for their comments, queries and suggestions.



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