Treatment of corruption in Everyday is for the Thief by Teju Cole

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Teju Cole, through his celebrated and expressly revealing book, titled ‘Everyday is for the thief,’ gives a practical, rigid, buoyant, and profusely critical view to the issue of corruption in Nigeria.

His gargantuan analysis about the perpetration of corrupt practices in various spheres of life is such a holistic and, at the same time, accurately specific approach, that it cannot be overemphasized.

The beginning of the book through the very last page gives a pellucid portrayal of corruption as a social vice that has eaten deep into the fabric of our everyday lives and lifestyles. The approach of Teju Cole to the subject of corruption, in Everyday is for the thief is immensely evaluative and just, for the title itself, being a Yoruba adage with a proverbial meaning, speaks of nothing less than this.


This excerpt from the book drives home all ends of corruption in the book.

“The informal economy is the livelihood of many Lagosians. But the corruption, in form of piracy or of graft, also means that most people remain on the margins. The systems that could lift the majority out of poverty are undercut at every turn. Nothing works precisely because everyone takes a short cut, and for this reason, the only way to get anything done is to take another shortcut” {Page 21}

Simply put, the book reveals cases of corrupt practices, facts to be deduced, and their effect on our societies, as well as the entire state.
The treatment of corruption by Teju Cole in ‘Every Day is for the Thief’ is amplified and literary vocalized with the adequate use and adoption of significant occurrences. There are various instances and occasions in the novel that comprehensively shows how corruption permeates the entire sector of the society.

Corruption in the Consulate

The first five pages of the novel display how the consulate of Nigeria in the United States of America is absorbed by corruption in the practice of its functions. The illegal payment of an expediting fee of fifty-five dollars, in addition to the actual eighty-five dollars that the passport cost in the consulate, is the first corrupt practice examined by the novel. The unnamed narrator expresses his surprise thus;

“I have mentally rehearsed a reaction for a possible encounter with such corruption at the airport in Lagos. But to walk in off a New York street and face a brazen demand for a bribe: that is a shock I am ill-prepared for.” {Page 12}

Moreover, on many occasions in the satirical novel, misdemeanours of scrupulous Police Officers are shown, as they demand for bribes from roads users, seeing it as a lucrative job, and hereby placing themselves at specific places with divisional territories. If law upholders are corrupt, who is safe?

Yahoo – Yahoo boys

Furthermore, the issue of corruption and fraudulent practices in the novel is heightened with the revelation of ‘yahoo – yahoo boys’. The malicious act of youths between the ages of twenty and forty, also called 419, is one of the highly reflected corrupt practices in the novel.
To worsen matters, the narrator is duped of up to #600 in a petrol station. This particular occurrence causes serious food for thought for the narrator.

With the above mentioned instances, inter alia, the treatment of corruption in the novel points to certain undeniable facts.

Corruption as Everywhere

Firstly, the book reveals that corruption is everywhere in the country, and beyond. This is revealed through the narrator’s experience at the consulate, airport, cybercaf√©, museum, supermarket, petrol station, among other places he visited.

The Long-Existing vice

Second, the novel’s treatment of corruption reveals that the social vice has existed in Nigeria for a long time. From close observation, the novel was written more than a decade ago – as at the time of writing this note. But then, the state of Lagos and Nigeria, as described in the novel, is almost the same, nothing has really changed. Corruption still permeates every section of our society hitherto.

Teju Cole – The Wrong Fight

Thirdly, the novel evidently points out that we fight against corruption in such a way that it remains indomitable. Our fight against corruption are written on papers and bill boards, but not embedded in our acts. This is revealed by some scenarios in the book. For example, the ability of the narrator to contact the consul general by no other means, but through the corrupt consulate official, Abdul, as shown on page thirteen of the book.

Conventional Legitimacy

Also, corruption, as expressed by Teju Cole in ‘Every Day is for the Thief’, seems to have gotten some degree of conventional legitimacy, as people no more see it as a crime. At least, money must change hands. On page twenty, the narrator puts it thus:

“that a high-ranking government official would embezzle public fund is given. What annoys people is that he stole so much so quickly.”

In a nut shell, the novel portrays that corruption is still inalienable. If the salary of civil servants would be such a pittance that they can hardly provide for their basic needs, then we expect nothing other than corrupt practices.

Also, if the punishments for corrupt practices will not conform to the weight of the crimes committed, we have no choice than to fold our hands and watch corruption rampage our society.


In conclusion, the treatment of corruption in ‘Every Day is for the Thief’ by Teju Cole, and its significances, is relatively inexhaustible. The consequences of corrupt practices as analysed in this book, such as poverty, hindered growth and development, bad infrastructural facilities, traffic congestion, etc., are not far-fetched.

It is therefore of little wonder, that the narrator had insomnia before leaving the country, apparently due to smell of fuels and noise of generators at nights. If corruption is not checkmated, things will fall apart, and the centre will not hold.

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