Fighting Corruption without the State: Civil Society Agency and the “Otokoto Saga”

Authors

  • AKACHI ODOEMENE

    1. Department of History & International Relations, Redeemer's University of Nigeria (RUN), Mowe, Ogun State, Nigeria
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    • Department of History & International Relations, Redeemer's University of Nigeria (RUN), Mowe, Ogun State, Nigeria. E-mail: akaigolo@yahoo.com


Abstract

The violent outburst of Owerri's civil society in September 1996 arguably signaled a new order in the fighting of corruption – through self-help efforts. This outburst was a demonstration of public discontent over the activities of a few rich citizens in that town who were believed to have been involved in varied corrupt practices in making “fast” wealth. It was also a vociferous indictment on the State and its agents for ineptitude in fighting corruption, and complicity in criminal acts. Drawing from both primary and secondary sources in social research, this study critically examines the chain of events preceding, and the dynamics of the developments surrounding the societal conflicts in Owerri, Nigeria, popularly dubbed “Otokoto Saga.” It analyzes the varied dimensions of the societal conflicts, the authentic roles of civil society agency in a “self-help strategy” and the responses of the State (and its actors) to the inadvertent eruptions. It further shows how Owerri's civil society agency “forced” the state to take critical steps towards the restoration of sanity in the town. The paper argues that civil society's critical awareness of its own roles in maintaining a corrupt-free society was instrumental to their violent reactions. It concludes that deep-seated fear and frustration underlined the reactions of the civil society, while moral panic and outrage triggered such reactions.

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