The Ethnicization Of Corruption And Its Impact On Nigeria’s Foreign Image Under The Regime Of President Muhammadu Buhari (2015-2019)

Project and Seminar Material Under International Law and Diplomacy

The Ethnicization Of Corruption And Its Impact On Nigeria’s Foreign Image Under The Regime Of President Muhammadu Buhari (2015-2019)


The study examines the ethnicization of corruption and its impact on Nigeria’s foreign image under the regime of President Muhammadu Buhari (2015-2019), a study of EFCC in Nigeria. The study employed the survey design and the purposive sampling technique to select 150 EFCC staffs in Nigeria. A well-constructed questionnaire, which was adjudged valid and reliable, was used for collection of data from the respondents. The data obtained through the administration of the questionnaires was analyzed using the Pearson correlation analysis.

The findings revealed that: Link between Corruption and Ethnicity in Nigeria is potent. How ethnic corruption has affected Nigeria’s foreign image is high. Buhari’s anti corruption policy has significantly fought corruption in Nigeria. There are ways to reduce ethnicization of corruption in Nigeria and retain a positive foreign image.

The study concluded that Ethnicization of Corruption in Nigeria has significant effect on Foreign Image of the nation under the regime of President Muhammadu Buhari (2015-2019). The study further recommends that; Corruption fighting agencies need to interrogate the linkage between ethnicity and corruption in Nigeria;. Corruption fighting agencies need to measure the effects of ethnic corruption on Nigeria’s foreign image;. Corruption fighting agencies need to always analyse each presidency anti-corruption policy with a view to always curb the menace;. Corruption fighting agencies should try to prescribe workable recommendations to reduce ethnic corruption in Nigeria and restore a positive foreign image;. Corruption fighting agencies needs an urgent reappraisal;. Corruption fighting agencies must become contextually relevant to communities, not politicians members. Corruption fighting agencies needs to dissolve its fragments, even within individual ethnic groups, and coalesce into a collective voice if it is to be impacting.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of Study

Since 1999 when Nigeria returned to civil rule, after a long rule by the military, there has been no doubt that corruption has been a constant menace, making it difficult for democratic stability and survival to be sustained. This vindicates consistent ratings of Nigeria by Transparent International (TI), the global watchdog on corruption, as one of the most corrupt nations in the world and this portrays a bad foreign image of Nigeria worldwide.

The numerous effects of corruption – low quality standard of living for citizens, poverty, insecurity, democratic and political instability, grooming of thieves instead of scholars, electoral crisis, killings and generally developmental problems show how much corruption has eaten deep into our democratic roots ethnically, nationally, and even internationally, giving off a bad image of Nigeria.

Corruption being a global phenomenon has been at different times by various scholars proffered a definition. It can be seen as asking, giving, or taking a free gift or favour in exchange of a performance (Adekanbi, 1986) or bribery, favour or moral depravity (Olite, 1996). In light of that, it is clear that corruption is a deliberate attempt by the beneficiary to break the rules for personal gains; personal gain being power. Bayart (1986) stated that corruption affects the stability of government, destabilizes the state structures especially when the denied become violent.

Frazier (1957) sees ethnicity as a race or “culture contact”. He defines it as “the relation of people not merely as individuals in their interpersonal interactions, but as mere groups, which are differentiated because of both physical characteristics and cultural differences”. These “cultural differences” according to Frazier includes customs, values, habits, technology and resulting personality organisation of the members of the various racial and cultural groups. From Frazier’s explanation, it can be deduced that ethnicity possesses the following characteristics: first, ethnicity symbolizes a form of social interaction among groups of people who share a common moral order (a body of unwritten social laws which maintain societal order) and secondly, it can also mean a sort of unhealthy competition, jealousy, conflict or sentiment among groups.

Ethnicity is the process of politicizing ethnic identity. One usually speaks of ethnicity in the context of contestation between a particular ethnic group and or between ethnic groups and or with ethnic groups (Adam 2009).

In regards to Ethnicity and Corruption, it is important to note that before the advent of colonial rule in Africa, it (Africa) belonged to several social groups. The colonial state was deeply interested in utilizing all means to achieve its imperial ambitions. Raising ethnic consciousness out of the already existing tribal societies was one of the tactics used. Africa consisted of many tribes of which related in harmony in trade, marriages, communication, they had a well-developed political and social organisation. The colonial state took advantage of little disputes among tribes, creating loyalties and identities which led to Nigerians seeing themselves not as a social group anymore but as Hausas, Yorubas, Igbos, Muslims, Christians, and Catholics. All this was done to enable them “function effectively” within the colonial framework.

The already weak bond among Africans became weaker as the colonial state developed certain policies. Policies like indirect rule made an African begin to see how different he was from a fellow African man who did not share a common language with him, to stop seeing his brothers’ skin colour as something to unite them but a reminder that they do not ‘blend’. Even after the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914, each protectorate had a different leader. This was all a pleasure to the colonial state.

The colonial state fostered ethnicity to prevent the masses from uniting effectively against them. Even years after our independence, though downplayed; the seed which was planted by the colonial state has germinated and is still germinating.

Ethnicity and corruption are intertwined to the extent that the inappropriate pursuit of ethnicity can be corrupting as corruption and the pursuit of corruption can become an expression of ethnic loyalty and patriotism (Kenneth Amaeshi, 2017).

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Corruption has been a major obstacle to legitimacy, democratic stability and socio-economic and political development in Nigeria. It has been a persistent phenomenon in Nigeria since the First Republic till date. It has delved deep into every available loop hole, so much so that all attempts by successive regimes to take chances and make things better have failed. Corruption in other words is cancerous; eating into fragments of Nigeria, leaving behind just bones.

Many a times corruption is always explained with little or no attention to the dimension it is taking in the ethnic form. The Nigerian state, both the colonial and post-colonial, is founded on ethnicity and it is therefore used as a tool to maintain and rule over the masses due to the fact that individuals are attached to their ethnic groups. Ethnicity is a form of corruption that is hardly talked about in the current framing of the anti-corruption agenda in Nigeria.

Ethnicity is used to mobilize the masses against the fight of corruption. It is seen as an umbrella in which corrupt leaders hide beneath while they loot the nation’s wealth. This is exhibited in cases where individuals are well aware of how corrupt a person is but still vote him into power because they belong to the same ethnic circle and are assumed to bring home a “better fortune” for them, whereas in reality, they are giving crumbs.

In Chinua Achebe’s ‘A man of the people’, ethnicization of corruption is perfectly depicted; where a politician uses his own community to his own political advantage, because he is certain that his people do not mind him looting from the state as far as he leaves something behind. This typifies modern Nigerian politicians who know what they need to do to acquire support from the people of the same ethnic bracket.

A country’s standing in the international system although relying on other factors, is highly dependent on her image perception being positive or negative. A good image results in respect, influence and prestige while a bad or negative perception of a country’s image implies that such a country lacks respect, influence and prestige in the international system (Egwemi, 2010:131).

Nigeria’s foreign image has been grossly belittled by nepotism, leadership deficit, corruption, etc. which have negatively affected the international reputation of the country (Achebe, 1983; Nwoke, 2014: p.59) attracting comments describing the country as “fantastically corrupt”. Nigeria’s reputation is at its lowest.

Hence, there is an urgent need to restore Nigeria to its former glory. Thus it is against the aforementioned that this study seeks to examine the level of ethnic corruption under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and its adverse effects on the nation’s foreign image.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The broad objective of this study is to investigate the ethnicization of corruption and its impact on Nigeria’s foreign image under the regime of President Muhammadu Buhari (2015-2019). To achieve the above objective, it is necessary to develop specific objectives which have been categorised into four as seen below:

  1. Interrogate the linkage between ethnicity and corruption in Nigeria.
  2. Determine the effects of ethnic corruption on Nigeria’s foreign image.
  3. Analyse Buhari’s Anti-Corruption policy with a view to curbing the menace.
  4. Prescribe workable recommendations to reduce ethnic corruption in Nigeria and restore a positive foreign image.

1.4 Research Questions

  1. What is the link between corruption and ethnicity in Nigeria?
  2. How has ethnic corruption affected Nigeria’s foreign image?
  3. How has Buhari’s Anti-Corruption policy fought corruption in Nigeria?
  4. What are ways to reduce ethnicization of corruption in Nigeria and retain a positive foreign image?

1.5 Methodology

The research methodology for this study is quantative which will employ primary sources of data. The primary sources of data will include the use of questionnaire based data which focused on the Ethnicization of Corruption and its effect on Nigeria’s Foreign Image.

1.6 Scope of the Study

This research will examine the Ethnicization of Corruption in Nigeria and how much it has affected the Foreign Image of the nation as well as provide achievable solutions in curbing this persistent phenomenon and restoring a positive national image to Nigeria. This research covers the year 2015-2019, Buhari’s first tenure as President of Nigeria. Economic financial crime commission (EFCC) will be used as the study of the study.

1.7 Significance of Study

This research is very necessary because it reminds us that no matter what ethnic group we are born into, despite cultural, language, ancestral and historical differences we are all under one umbrella: Nigeria.

Most importantly, it is useful and contributes positively to the general body of knowledge, for anyone who is interested in curbing ethnic corruption in Nigeria and promoting a good image in the international system for the nation. Furthermore, this research will provide feasible solutions which will be used in constraining ethnic corruption in Nigeria.

1.8 Operational Definition of Terms


An offshoot of the word ‘Ethnic’, meaning to belong to a particular cultural group e.g. Igbo, Niger Delta, Hausa. Also a group of people who identify with each other based on similarities they share such as a common language, cultural, ancestral or social experience.


Carrying out an act that is morally and lawfully wrong. Dishonest or illegal behaviour which is harmful to an individual or a society. The state of being bad.

Foreign Image:

The manner in which a country is perceived, seen or acknowledged by other countries. Also called International Image.

1.9 Organisation of the Study

This research work is organised into five different chapters. The first chapter which includes this section gives a general introduction of the work. Background of the study, statement of the problem, significance of the study, objectives of the study, research questions, methodology, definition of terms and this section are all covered here. Chapter two deals with literature review and theoretical framework. Chapter three is based on the research methodology used in this research. Chapter four presents results analysed and chapter five summarizes the research, makes conclusion and proffers recommendation.

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