The Psychology of Nigerian Corruption


The 2014 scientific conference of the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas (ANPA) took place in Anaheim, California between July 17 – 20. The theme of this year’s conference was “The Mental Health Challenges in Contemporary Health Care”. I was privileged to be one of the invited speakers for a panel discussion on mental health service development in Nigeria. My talk focused on opportunities to improve access to mental health care by utilizing and adapting existing human and structural infrastructures in the country. I also emphasized the need for pursuing a development model that synergized Nigerian diaspora experts and local talent; a model that has been successful in the so-called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries.

The conference was well attended, with the Nigerian minister of health Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, the former Nigerian Minister of State for Health Professor Muhammad Ali Pate,  the Nigerian Ambassador to the United States Professor Adebowale Adefuye, the Consul-General of the Nigerian Consulate in Atlanta Ambassador Geoffrey Teneilabe in attendance.

It is almost a constant for every discussion on the prevailing ills of the Nigeria society to devolve to a discussion on corruption. Such was the case, during the question and answer session that followed my presentation. An attendee – a representative of the Nigerian embassy in Atlanta – asked a question that got me thinking and contemplating the inner workings of the minds of Nigerian politicians.  To paraphrase, the question was:

“Why are Nigerian politicians so corrupt? Why do they loot in billions of Naira and still loot some more?”

The gentleman was curious to know if there was any psychological basis for such corruption.

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Demystification of Mental Illness is a Critical Step in Improving Mental Health Delivery in Nigeria

On my most recent trip to Nigeria as  part of a Yale School of Medicine Global Mental Health collaborative program with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital,  our project team visited a suburban pentecostal church on the outskirts of Lagos. This particular church specialized in “prayers and deliverance” for  the “possessed”.

One of the more striking cases was that of a young man in his early twenties who was dumped at the gates of the church premises by his family. Apparently, the young man who was originally from Abia state, had developed a sudden change in behavior.  He thought that the cell phone company MTN was controlling his brain with a S.I.M card. His symptoms did not respond to initial prayers by his family and local pastor in Abia state necessitating transfer to a “specialist church” in Lagos state.

My immediate impression was that of a first episode psychosis.

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