PATRON -CLIENT POLITICS AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA
Richard A. Joseph… is usually credited with first using the term prebendalism to describe patron-client or neopatrimonialism in Nigeria. Since then the term has commonly been used in scholarly literature and textbooks. The Catholic Encyclopedia defines a prebend as the “right of member of chapter to his share in the revenues of a cathedral.” Joseph used the term to describe the sense of entitlement that many people in Nigeria feel they have to the revenues of the Nigerian state. Elected officials, government workers, and members of the ethnic and religious groups to which they belong feel they have a right to a share of government revenues Joseph wrote: “According to the theory of prebendalism, state offices are regarded as prebends that can be appropriated by officeholders, who use them to generate material benefits for themselves and their constituents and kin groups…” As a result of that kind of patron-client or identity politics, Nigeria has regularly been one of the lowest ranked nations for political transparency by Transparency International in its Corruption Perceptions.
As Oluwafemi stated: many Nigerians may not know the term, but they know the practices and attitudes to which it refers.To understand prebendalism, it is necessary to grasp what is a prebend. The dividing line is when the office holder is able to appropriate the office, that is, convert it into his or her piece of the state. In contemporary Nigeria, and other peripheral capitalist countries, there is a short time-horizon in which resources accruing to the office can be diverted for personal and related uses, or for the capital accumulation which it facilitates. “The prebendalization of the patrimonial state”, in the Wikipedia excerpt, is therefore an apt formulation. Prebendalism is not necessarily Nigerian. It is entrenched and a pervasive nature in a country; and how prebendal attitudes were woven into what Ken Post and Michael Vickers had earlier described as a “conglomerate society”, i.e., a nation composed of cultural sections defined by ethnicity, language, region and cultural practices. Patron-client mechanisms were fundamental features of a dynamic system that linked the appropriation of state offices in Nigeria to the material and welfare of thepeople.A key consideration is what happens to the state itself. A prebendalized system, however, is inherently unstable. Aspirations to build a capable state, a democratic system, and a coherent nation are ultimately foiled by prebendal practices.