ABUJA, Nigeria – Nigeria's former anti-corruption czar Nuhu Ribadu kicked off his presidential campaign Wednesday ahead of April elections, promising to be the candidate of the oil-rich nation's teeming and frustrated youth.
Ribadu gave a speech in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, as the candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria. While the party remains the strongest opposition group in the nation, it still faces an incredible hurdle to beat the People's Democratic Party, which has controlled the country since it became a democracy a decade ago.
In his speech, Ribadu promised to speak to the young as the "half century of our nation's history (has) loudly left them behind through failure of governance." He compared the upcoming election to the political changes that swept through Egypt and Tunisia.
The former head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said he would fight the corruption that enmeshes a country earning billions of dollars from oil revenues.
"The cancer of corruption has terribly affected the inner soul of our social, political and economic life, and it now almost singularly constitutes a major disabling factor on how to rebuild our nation," Ribadu said. "Unless we actively disable the capacity of corruption to regenerate, through a cocktail of excellent laws, professional enforcement engagements, and a vigorous public education ... no governance policy will work here."
Ribadu, a Muslim, enters the race after the nation's Christian president won a decisive victory in his own party's primaries against a Muslim candidate. By being a Muslim from the country's north, Ribadu might be able to win some support for his party, which remains powerful only in southwestern states dominated by the Yoruba ethnic group. Religion and ethnic identities still carry tremendous power in a nation of 150 million that came out of a civil war more than 40 years ago.
However, Jonathan's People's Democratic Party remains the only one with the money and political connections necessary to manipulate flawed elections in Africa's most populous nation.