By Nnamdi Igbokwe
Since independence in 1960, the Nigerian government is estimated to have lost over 400 billion dollars to corruption, and has consistently ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. This begs the question: what is so distinctive about Nigeria’s corruption? My general contention is that the starting point to understand corruption lies not in the cultural antecedents of colonization in Africa during the 19th century, but rather, more principally, in the ideological dictate of global capitalist development in the 20th century. Thus, the specific task of my research is not to designate the precise point of corruption’s origin, but rather, is to delineate how corruption developed in Nigeria, over a specific period of time (1970 - 2015), against the backdrop of the capitalist world economy. My investigation explores the evolution of what I term, Nigeria’s “Capitalist Militician”TM – the hybridized melding of military officer, politician, and agent of capital accumulation and distribution in Nigeria, who exists as a singular triumvirate public figure and operates at the nexus of politics, economics, and state institutions.
My research is divided into two explanatory pathways to which several collections at the Hoover archives were directly germane. First is the the external formation of liberal global economic policy and the second is the internal configuration of the “Capitalist Militician” in Nigeria. The first pathway examines global markets, the making of the modern world economy, and the new orthodoxy of economic development of the 20th century. The Register of Fredreich A Von Hayek Papers were immensely informative, namely Hayek’s commentary on state coordination, economic liberalism and market freedom. Additionally, my investigation of the numerous speeches, papers, and letters, of the Great Britain Register of the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Register of the Mont Pèlerin Society Records, evidence similar dominant modern development themes relating to liberalism, laissez-faire ideology, and free market economics.
Likewise, I explored several other collections that offered great insight into the evolving world economy of the 20th century. The Register of Winfred Armstrong Papers, for example, contained revealing material on International Development Organizations such as Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), Overseas Development Council (ODC), International Finance Corporation (IFC), World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). All of which held similar correspondence relating to economic policy models for Africa, and economic coordination efforts to homogenize its development. The Godfried Harberler Papers further contained communication that called for a new liberal international economic order for the 20th century. These papers revealed a direct economic accelerationist orthodoxy of the post-war era with memos between Harberler and the Institute for International Economics. Most noteworthy was my discovery of letters between Harberler and Jacques Polak discussing the history of Political Economy, the rise of modern capitalism, and coordinated efforts by external powers such as The League of Nations to push a global uniform economic policy agenda.
Prior to my arrival at Hoover, my research mostly suggested that the world economy of the 20th century had a singular ideological edict. However, in reviewing the repositories at Hoover, I discovered that the world economy of the 20th century was, in truth, purposefully made. The origins of the “world economy” actually began in earnest, post-World Wars as designed plans were launched by a network of economic experts, thinkers, and policy makers, several of whom were members of international organizations such as the Mont Pelerin Society and the Institute of Economic Affairs, to launch a global capitalist economic system that could be managed and therefore mandated across developed and underdeveloped nations alike. This coordinated effort fully informs the externalities of the “Capitalist Militician’s” emergence, and leads to my second explanatory pathway; an internal analysis that examines more proximate features of corruption’s proliferation in Nigeria from 1970 – 2015 vis-a-vis the evolution of this ideal type.
Following nearly two years of fieldwork in Nigeria, which includes over 60 interviews with active and retired military officers, I was anxious to contrast my findings with applicable archives at Hoover.
Following nearly two years of fieldwork in Nigeria, which includes over 60 interviews with active and retired military officers, I was anxious to contrast my findings with applicable archives at Hoover. By focusing on the military’s direct integration into policy, politics and economics, I was fortunate to come across other pertinent collections that informed this strand of my research. These included The The Register of the Nigerian Subject Collection 1929-2003, The Inventory of the Larry Jay Diamond Clippings Collection, The Register of the George D. Jenkins Papers, and The Register of the Leland Barrows Papers. Collectively these compilations contained federal reports, budgetary records, and government administration / ministerial dossiers compiled during Nigeria’s military rule. All of which helped further ground my exploration of the “Capitalist Militician’s” role in Nigeria’s political and economic development.
After investigating the contents of 13 collections and over 150 boxes in total, the Hoover Archives has undoubtedly proved crucial to the completion of my doctoral research as it held an unparalleled multiplicity of global economic and policy collections that enabled me to uncover a far more exhaustive history relating to my research on the evolution of the modern world economy, and proximately the making of the “Capitalist Militician.” I would like to extend my thanks to all of the staff and archivists that were ever so helpful during my time at Hoover. I remain honored and grateful to have been chosen as a Silas Palmer Fellow at the Hoover Institution Library and Archives.
Nnamdi Igbokwe is a PhD Candidate in Political Economy at The Johns Hopkins University. His dissertation is titled “The Making of the Capitalist MiliticianTM - A Study of Political Economy of Corruption in Nigeria from 1970 - 2015”. He can be reached at nigbokwe[at]jhu.edu