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Richard A. Joseph, director of The Program of African Studies at Northwestern University, is usually credited with first using the term prebendalism to describe patron-client or neopatrimonialism in Nigeria.Joseph, Richard A., Democracy and Prebendal Politics in Nigeria: The Rise and Fall of the Second Republic, Cambridge University Press, 1987 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."The Catholic Encyclopedia,

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 in 1996, "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..."Joseph, Richard, "Nigeria: Inside the Dismal Tunnel," Current History, May 1996

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...
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