Appointed As

Institute for Humanities Research


ACLS Emerging Voices Fellowships program


Arizona State University

PhD Field of Study

PhD, Political Science, Johns Hopkins University

Dissertation Abstract

"The Making of The Capitalist Militician: A Study of The Political Economy of Corruption in Nigeria, 1970-2015"

Corruption is frequently regarded as the single greatest obstacle preventing growth and development in Nigeria. In explaining this challenging condition, scholars have consistently applied descriptors like endemic, crippling, rampant, and destructive to characterize its extreme presence. Despite wide-ranging literature on the subject, corruption’s puzzling persistence in Nigeria is seldom directly explained or completely understood. When pursued, scholarship has been exceedingly divided as Nigeria’s corruption condition is either evaluated by internal variables such as culture or assessed through external factors like global demands for resources. This dichotomous tendency has placed corruption analyses in competing corners. Consequently, unified methods are missing in the literature. To address this gap, I explain the development of corruption by integrating internal and external analyses of Nigeria’s political economy from 1970 - 2015. Through my integrated approach, this dissertation introduces the concept of The Capitalist Militician™, a new institutional actor and arbiter of state power in Nigeria that represents the melding of military agent, political agent, and capital agent. I explore the evolution of this figure by utilizing a synthesized framework built on four exogenous variables and four endogenous conditions. The exogenous variables are related to external global capital and include (1)
Twentieth-century liberal economics and neoliberal ideology, (2) Globalized development policies, (3) Economic outcomes of uneven capitalist development, and (4) Multinational corporations, foreign direct investments, and natural resources. The endogenous conditions represent internal institutional characteristics such as (1) Underdevelopment, (2) Incoherence, (3) Political materialism, and (4) Capital consciousness. Taken together, these eight elements are constitutive of TCM’s formulation, and thereby explain the evolution of corruption in Nigeria. Based on archival research, surveys, and personal interviews with over 60 military officials, this dissertation evaluates the rise of corruption through the rise of TCM and challenges two widely held divergent conclusions: corruption is either rooted in the internal cultural residue of colonialism, or corruption is externally caused by economic dependency of resource exploitation. Instead, I argue that the development of corruption is more clearly understood by pursuing a synthesized analysis of both internal and external variables, which in Nigeria’s case surrounds the emergence of TCM. This study is part of an underutilized but growing body of multi-method research on corruption that demands further attention. My findings reveal that the synthesis of singular methods presents new pathways of understanding and can offer significant contributions to future corruption scholarship. Furthermore, when internal and external variables are analyzed in concert, not competition, more comparative opportunities arise to better examine the development of corruption across time and space.