New book by alumnus Daniel Agbiboa offers fresh perspective on corruption in Nigeria

15 March, 2022

A new book by alumnus Daniel Agbiboa explores the reality of corruption in Nigeria via ethnogrphic fieldwork among informal transport workers in Lagos.

They Eat Our Sweat: Transport Labor, Corruption, and Everyday Survival in Urban Nigeria is published by Oxford University Press.

Accounts of corruption in Africa and the Global South are generally overly simplistic and macro-oriented, and commonly disconnect everyday (petty) corruption from political (grand) corruption.

In contrast to this tendency, They Eat Our Sweat offers a fresh and engaging look at the corruption complex in Africa through a micro analysis of its informal transport sector, where collusion between state and nonstate actors is most rife. Focusing on Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital and Africa's largest city, Daniel Agbiboa investigates the workaday world of road transport operators as refracted through the extortion racket and violence of transport unions acting in complicity with the state.

Steeped in an embodied knowledge of Lagos and backed by two years of thorough ethnographic fieldwork, including working as an informal bus conductor, Agbiboa provides an emic perspective on precarious labour, popular agency and the daily pursuit of survival under the shadow of the modern world system. Corruption, Agbiboa argues, is not rooted in Nigerian culture but is shaped by the struggle to get by and get ahead on the fast and slow lanes of Lagos. The pursuit of economic survival compels transport operators to participate in the reproduction of the very transgressive system they denounce. They Eat Our Sweat is not just a book about corruption but also about transportation, politics, and governance in urban Africa.

Daniel completed the DPhil in International Development at ODID in 2016.

Daniel Agbiboa (2022) They Eat Our Sweat: Transport Labor, Corruption, and Everyday Survival in Urban Nigeria, Oxford University Press