In This Review

A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria
A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria
By Daniel Jordan Smith
Princeton University Press, 2006, 289 pp
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At the center of this anthropological account of the pervasiveness of corruption at all levels of society and politics in Nigeria is the so-called 419 scam, in which Nigerians prey on the greed and gullibility of Westerners with endless variations of the classic confidence game. Using his experiences from over a decade of living and working in Nigeria, Smith shows how forms of corruption have seeped into every facet of everyday life in a country of astounding inequality and poverty in spite of, or perhaps because of, its great oil wealth. Smith argues that corrupt acts are often culturally acceptable if they benefit family and kin, not least because Nigerians believe that pervasive corruption is integral to both their own national political economy and the international economic system. Even as he is unwilling to condemn much of this everyday corruption, Smith suggests that it has a deeply dysfunctional impact on Nigerian society, feeding a deep discontent. He attempts no policy prescriptions and too often relies on admittedly entertaining anecdotes rather than systematic data, but his book offers a sophisticated and deeply troubling portrait of a contemporary Nigeria in which there is an almost complete absence of civic spirit.