A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria by Daniel Jordan Smith

A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria by Daniel Jordan Smith

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Daniel Jordan Smith presents an outstanding work full of insight and appreciation of Nigerian culture. The content is enriched by his years spent working there, his marriage to a Nigerian woman and his obvious affinity for the Nigerian people. Smith’s primary aim is to reflect upon popular Nigerian sentiment toward corruption but also to explore just how entrenched corrupt practices have become in society. The book focuses on two main elements; how Nigeria is as much a ‘culture of corruption’ as it is ‘against corruption’ (p. 6).
The standard discourse that exists between Nigerians themselves as well as the rest of the world is that Nigeria has a history of debilitating corruption. Smith’s work is therefore appealing to a variety of audiences. The portrayal of this corruption in the media is fundamentally flawed; primarily because the roots of the term originate from a western conceptualisation that has too long been improperly applied, thus preserving stereotype and generalisation. To counter this representation of Nigerians, Smith gives a delicate account of the complicated system they find themselves having to navigate each day. He uses a substantial amount of stories, anecdotes and interviews from his time spent in Nigeria which creates an accessible narrative for the reader.
Chapters one through five introduce different forms of corruption within all levels of society, with the remaining two chapters focused on radical social attempts to combat corruption such as vigilante justice. The well-known email-scam is the first introduction to corruption – the common expression for it being 419, originating from its reference to fraud in the Nigerian penal code. 419 evolved to signify all corrupt activity in society; at the communi...

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... change for the better. The future is something left up to the imagination of the reader. Another lacking feature was of greater interaction between Smith’s insightful studies along with other literature in the field. To someone who is unfamiliar with corruption in Nigeria this was a fantastic introduction to its concepts but it also meant that the readers is left unsure of where Smiths arguments about Nigerian’s culture of corruption lies within the rest of the academic literature. This notwithstanding, overall Smith has accomplished creating a thought provoking and educational read.

Works Cited

Olivier de Sardan, Jean-Pierre. 1999. A moral economy of corruption in Africa? Journal of Modern African Studies 37 (1): 25-52.
Smith, Daniel J. 2008. A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.

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