Opposition presidential candidate Nuhu Ribadu, a man who once went after Nigeria's top politicians as the oil-rich nation's anti-corruption czar, struggled Saturday to have someone listen to him.
"Listen to me! Give me five minutes!" the former police official shouted above a rowdy crowd in Lagos. "Give me your ears!"
The crowd quieted slightly for Ribadu, the candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria, but his face was missing from the posters and placards waved by supporters who crowded into Tafawa Balewa Square. The raucous rally Saturday showed his party's strength as the main opposition in Nigeria's coming April election, but raised questions about whether the former investigator loved internationally will receive the same attention back home.
Ribadu once served as the head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the main anti-graft agency in a nation where how billions of dollars in oil revenues gets spent remains hazy. He fled Nigeria in 2008 after being demoted, receiving death threats and surviving what his lawyer called a drive-by shooting. He returned last year and recently became the presidential aspirant of the Action Congress of Nigeria, which is the dominant political party in Lagos and southwest Nigeria.
The party, whose symbol remains the palm-frond brooms used to sweep away trash through the country, wants to overpower the ruling People's Democratic Party in the coming election.
"The broom revolution has come to Nigeria!" Ribadu cried out to the crowd.
He later criticized the ruling party, which has held power since Nigeria became a democracy more than a decade ago.
"They will give you lies, they will not bring you electricity," Ribadu said in a nation of 150 million where power remain scarce.
But the crowd seemed eager for another man to take the stage, Lagos state Gov. Babatunde Raji Fashola. Fashola won the popular support of Lagos with his beautification and busing projects in the megacity. The lawyer, who carries a stack of books in his Land Rover ranging from "Giving" by Bill Clinton to "Confessions of an Economic Hitman," remains heavily favored to win a second term as governor of Nigeria's megacity.
Fashola also derided the ruling party, saying its leaders were "desecrating the image and honor of our leaders."
"It's not just enough to win," Fashola said. The ruling party "must lose its deposit in the southwest."
The People's Democratic Party, led by President Goodluck Jonathan, remains the only force with the money and muscle to manipulate Nigeria's fraud-filled electoral system. While Jonathan and others have promised a free and fair election, both the opposition and his party have said they want to control the southwest _ setting up what could be a violent election.
At Saturday's rally, violence also broke out as unemployed young men scuffled among themselves for campaign trinkets. A politician tossed out a handful of money during the singing of Nigeria's national anthem, setting off another struggle. An Associated Press photographer also suffered minor injuries after a security official used a stun gun on him.
As the rally ended, the crowd rushed after the politicians' black Land Rovers. A police officer fired a Kalashnikov rifle into the air and others used stun guns on the swarming crowds. Ribadu later rode out on top of one vehicle, throwing T-shirts that immediately started another fight.
A police officer in a flak jacket and helmet shrugged at the melee.
"Nigeria, election," he said, shaking his head and walking away. More gunshots echoed down the street.