Shareholder activism has become a force for good in the extant corporate governance literature. In this article, we present a case study of Nigeria to show how shareholder activism, as a corporate governance mechanism, can constitute a space for unhealthy politics and turbulent politicking, which is a reflection of the country’s brand of politics. As a result, we point out some translational challenges, and suggest more caution, in the diffusion of corporate governance practices across different institutional environments. We contribute to the literature on corporate governance in Africa, whilst creating an understanding of the political embeddedness of shareholder activism in different institutional contexts—i.e. a step closer to a political theorising of shareholder activism.