This paper presented at a conference on ‘Reclaiming Feminism: Gender and Neo-liberalism organised by IDS and Birkbeck College from 9-10 July 2007, examines the reform programme of the Obasanjo government (1999-2007), as laid out in the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEEDS). Initiated halfway through the first term of Obasanjo’s tenure, this was the first explicitly articulated ‘economic and development agenda’ during his administration, as opposed to the characteristic one-off programmes previously developed on an ad hoc basis. Initial expectations of the government’s goals and intentions were high, given the long-awaited end of military rule and Obasanjo’s status as the first elected civilian head of state for decades since the Second Republic of Shehu Shagari. In this paper, the author reflects on processes that are involved in instrumentalist and opportunistic uses of ‘gender’ and ‘empowerment’ by the state, specifically the Olesugun Obasanjo two-term administration of Nigeria (1999 to 2007) and its NEEDS programme. She argues that NEEDS works ideologically to manufacture hegemony and the illegitimacy of dissent with regard to the Obasanjo government’s reform programme. These effects are produced through the workings of particular processes; in this she examines the most evident of these - appropriation. She make her argument in two ways: first, through epistemological challenges to the use of particular discourses in the text; and secondly, through exposure of the hiatus between governmental rhetoric and practice.