Corruption is one problem that has eaten its way into so many clusters, institutions, and countries. In Nigeria, it has clogged the very heart of the economic and socio-political system, causing more wrong than permissible. In his book, “The Survival Mindset”, Arnold Obomanu offers a systematic approach to combating corruption in Nigeria. Having read this book, I can attest to the fact that it provides that and much more. The book comes in 170 small-lettered pages, excluding the bibliography, further broken down into 3 parts and 22 chapters. For the purpose of this review, I would briefly summarize the three parts just so you get a hint about what the piece is about.
Part one of ‘The Survival Mindset’, titled ‘The Problems’, talks about the foundation upon which the corruption saga is laid. This part creates an immense level of empathy in the minds of the readers. More than that, the problems explained are very relatable and peculiar to the Nigerian society. If you were wondering why the title of a corruption book was ‘The Survival Mindset’, the first problem explained was the Nigerian mindset. Nigerians are seen as ‘type A’ personalities that always have to fight proactively, seize opportunities, and basically fend for themselves because nobody would do that for them otherwise. Hence, by power, influence, strength, and whatever means available; Nigerians are born into a society where they are forced to develop and depend on their survival instincts.
This very way of life has caused the very corruption bubble within which the country finds herself. In other words, corruption has become a way of life. The inherent flaws of the system has left little or no options for the citizens to survive without paying/ receiving bribes, cutting corners, and putting themselves first. Also, being a country that has for long searched for a ‘messiah president’, some part of the problem can be attributed to the failures of past leaders. A very common and aggregable challenge is the one that stems from tribalism, nepotism, and other forms of discrimination dominant in the Nigerian society. Of all the problems listed, the biggest problem lies in the reality of poor public service delivery.
Part 2 is titled ‘The Model’ and it showcases real life corruption issues with a proposed systematic approach to solving them. He carried out what he calls a corruption experiment and introduced his model of step by step problem solving methods. Using a regular queue challenge he experienced and a real politically successful anti-corruption and public service restoration issue, he analysed the successes derived from these using this model known as “ARIMP”. ARIMP is an acronym that shows the steps required to tackle any corruption problem that also stems from poor service delivery.
- Arrest the situation
- Restore service quality/standards
- Initiate new structures
- Migrate existing requests
- Protect service quality
He spoke about motivating desired behaviours by explaining the drivers of human behaviours known as structure, culture, and will. These things define the behaviour of humans. While structure and culture can be used to motivate desired behaviours of people, independent will can completely oppose to them. He explained the ills of corruption as it relates to the governance triad – the people, the politicians, and the public service. He also diagrammatically explained ideal scenarios, corrupt scenarios, and the changes required to create the ideal scenarios.
Part 3, titled ‘The Solutions’, outlined as many solutions to as many corruption problems faced in the society as possible. There has to be conscious prevention of the issues that birth corruption. The civil service needs to be more effective, there has to be a system of feedback and control, and all hands must consciously be on deck to effect the change that is sought. The author also explained the lapses in some other anti-corruption systems that have been put in place in previous times and how they could be improved. An interesting part of this was his mathematical representation of high-level corruption – “Structural Pressures – System Checks = High-Level Corruption”. It gives logical reasons why certain politicians swindle public monies. Political offices are temporary, expensive to come by, official activities may not be satisfactory financially, and there is a societal expectation for them to be wealthy.
This book broadly tackles corruption through every angle possible. It explains that enforcement alone cannot properly reduce endemic corruption, how injustice drives individuals to do wrong, how poor public service delivery lurks around the entire nation, and how the nation operates on a small fraction of its budget year in year out while the others are diverted to private purses. His approach to tackling the issue was perfect on paper and just might be the key to fixing corruption in totality. However, some strategies seemed too farfetched and only applicable to ideal situations. For example, he suggested that public sector organizations pay fines to unsatisfied customers every time poor service delivery comes to play. While these might have worked in a country like Netherlands, creating the structures that are required to get Nigeria to that level may be a façade. Then again, it is worth a try.
I recommend this book for all citizens of Nigeria, political or otherwise, as well as all persons who strive to restore sanity to decayed systems.
Without mincing words, this is one of the best books I have read this year (and I have read a whole lot). This book tackles all angles of corruption in whatever facet of life and in as many diverse ways as possible. It also exposes some of the most pathetic issues that Nigeria has, quite embarrassingly, swept under the carpet for too long. Reading this makes it a little soothing that there just might be a solution to all the chaos.
I rate this book 4.2 out of 5. You can give it your own rating below.
About the Author
Arnold Obomanu is a business analyst and newspaper columnist who led a national campaign to save gunshot victims in Nigeria. He is certified in organizational problem-solving techniques and has written several articles for leading national dailies.
NB: The author offered this book to LW, in exchange for an honest review.