Gender and Political Violence in Nigeria

Mojúbàolú Olúfúnké Okome, Ph.D.
Professor of Political Science
Brooklyn College, CUNY


How does gender impact on Nigerian politics, and conversely, how do the politics shape gender relations? This paper will demonstrate the consequences of political violence and political terror on the shaping of gender relations and vice versa in post-independent Nigeria. How does the incorporation of women affect state (and police) violence and corruption. Why have womens' organizations been subject to abuse? Have they been more targeted than male organizations? Is there an ethnic bias to police repression?
This paper will focus on three kinds of political violence in Nigeria. In the first place, there is official violence against the citizenry. This is manifested as violence from the police and security forces. Second, there is violence that comes from the nature of the state. This comes from the male-dominant and masculinized culture of the state, a state that is devoid of women in significant positions of authority, and hostile toward women and those constructed as playing feminized roles in society, e.g. the poor, the dispossessed, and the “trouble-makers”. Third, there is violence that results from the nature of Nigerian politics. Nigerian politics has a winner take all character to it because the capture of the state amounts to capturing the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs.
To further complicate matters, ethnicity, religion, and social class have cross-cutting effects on the manner in which state relates to society. All three sources of violence – official violence, violence from the nature of the state, and violence from the nature of politics -- can be conceptualized as consequences of the manner in which Nigeria’s particular experience of globalization shaped its political history. All three sources of violence affected Nigerians in a gendered manner. The gendering and ethnicization of Nigerian society are themselves processes originated from the relationship between colonizer and colonized. At the moment of colonization, these relations were racialized. With the departure of the colonizer, the relations became subject to the control of predominant ethnic groups and classes that were invested with power as a result of the colonial experience. These relations also were affected by religious cleavages.
My argument implies that women were, and are disproportionately affected by political violence. They have been targeted or subjected to violence as a result of state acts of omission or commission. My argument is also that those who were/are defined as playing the feminine roles in society were/are disproportionately affected. In colonial times for instance, the masculinization of the state and of the security apparatuses did not incorporate any Nigerians into positions of authority or invest them with the kind of power that enabled them to exercise power and authority over Europeans whether male or female. The British colonized Nigeria. While the wives of British colonial officials and other British women had no official positions of authority within the colonial state, on the homefront, they regularly exerted power over their household staff. In most cases, these were men. If these men were without status in the eyes of the colonial state, their wives were even lesser non-persons. That Nigerians eventually gained recognition and incremental extension of citizenship rights that culminated in independence was a result of tremendous struggles on a variety of fronts. It is also noteworthy that some of those struggles were spearheaded by women. The Aba women’s war of the 1920s, the Abeokuta women’s struggles from the 1920s to the 1950s, the Lagos market women’s struggles also of the 1920s were all part of women-led resistance against abusive colonial power. The colonial state repaid the women with violence. They were shot at, killed, detained, prosecuted, jailed.
My point in characterizing Nigeria’s relations with the British and other Europeans as part of the development of globalization is that the epochal events that marked that experience include the sum total of the interactions between Nigeria and the Europeans who engaged in a variety of relations with her. Exploration, trade, (both in slaves, and in the so-called legitimate goods,) exploration, pacification, and colonization were markers in these relations, as were a variety of resistance wars, protests, and the selective incorporation of the culture of the colonizer. As a result of the colonial experience, the state and its constituent institutions were imposed on the people of Nigeria as the management stratum of an occupation force.
The use of violence to cow critics, opponents, and the citizenry was the stock in trade of the colonialists. The inheritors of the colonial state were different in race, but not in sensibilities. They maintained a colonialist stance vis a vis the population. This tradition continues to date, in spite of constitutional prohibitions against the abuse of office and power, and in spite of post-colonial efforts to transform the nature of politics. Only with genuine, thoroughgoing democracy will such transformation succeed. The prognosis for the near future is that things will get worse before becoming better because the economic problems that the country faces introduces an element of complexity to the equation.
The effects of political violence on gender: Questions and preliminary answers
What does political violence have to do with gender, and what does gender have to do with political violence? How does one convince a skeptic that gender is important in Nigeria, that looking at gender reveals anything new or important about the case? If a variety of opposition organizations are attacked why look at gender? Do the police engage in any kind of discriminatory targeting?
The gendered targeting by the police and security forces in Nigeria is manifested just like in the colonial state, toward the powerless by the powerful. To the extent that the police and security forces discriminate in their choice of targets, they discriminate in terms of targeting those that are declared to be enemies of the state, those that are characterized as troublemakers, these could be ethnic minorities, students, and the youth, the poor, political opponents. In particular, those who challenge the state’s control of the primary sources of its revenues are met with the uncompromising use of state-deployed violence. The constituent groups have changed at various times.
To the extent that contemporary Nigerian society is gendered such that masculine roles are conceived as powerful, and feminine ones as powerless, gender is influential in two ways. There is the gendering of relations of power that affects women’s biological bodies. There is also the gendering of relations of power between state and society that affects social groups in the following manner: some social groups are conceived as playing feminine roles vis a vis a masculinized state that brooks no opposition. Unlike women, the groups are not necessarily located in female bodies or permanently located as feminine. Therefore, although they are treated as feminine when subjected to state sponsored violence, they may become rehabilitated, and incorporated into the state at a later time. Women suffer disproportionately in all the groups that have been targeted by the state because they cannot transform their bodies. Women who wield power then must depend on connections that they develop with the male-dominated state. Connections as wives, mistresses, female kin, social associates.
The influence of gender is further complicated because the oft-assumed automaticity of the disadvantaged female gender does not always jell with precolonial conceptions of femaleness. While some female roles are disadvantaged, other female roles are advantaged. A biological female may simultaneously be advantaged or disadvantaged depending on the particular social relations that she is engaged in. In her natal kin group, a Yoruba woman for instance is privileged vis a vis wives who marry into the family. Vis a vis her husband’s family, she is disadvantaged, because she is the wife in this latter relationship, whereas in the former, she is the husband. Although biologically female, she is referred to as “husband” and is accorded all the rights and privileges accruing to the role. With the advent of Christianity and the with the success of the Colonial state, such social relations were privatized and not treated as worthy of recognition or acknowledgement.
Further, in unqualified trivialization of the significant successful struggles of Aba women, the women of Abeokuta, the women of Ogharefe in the Niger Delta, the women of Ogoniland, and Women Traders Associations at different times, the colonial understanding of the woman’s role in society is accepted as frameworking the role of women in Nigerian society. Women are thus defined as the weaker sex, the less powerful, the irrational ones, those who are materialistic to a fault. David Laitin is not alone among Africanist scholars in arguing that there is discrimination based on ancestral city, thus, hometown associations and relations structure the determination of us/them social, political, and economic relationships. There is a sense in which social relations draws upon common points of origin. Aba is an Ibo town in the East of Nigeria. Abeokuta is a Yoruba town in Western Nigeria. Ogharefe is a town in the Niger Delta region, and Ogoniland is a 400 square mile ethnic community in the Niger Delta. The women’s struggles in these locales were undertaken by women of the same ethnicity. No observable efforts were made to exclude women from other ethnic groups/parts of Nigeria, but they were not included because they were either not present in significant numbers.

Official violence against the citizenry: violence from the state security forces
State sanctioned violence is a direct consequence of the state's failure to make the safety and security of citizens and residents of Nigeria a matter of primary importance. It also is a result of the colonial roots and nature of the state. Police violence also is one of the manifestations of the culture of impunity that has permeated Nigeria's post-colonial history. Instead of being the guarantor the security of life, limb, and property, the state from its colonial inception has used the police as a force against the people, a force utilized to defend the state against the people, and a force to maintain quiescence in the face of abuse of power and privilege.
With the intensification of Nigeria's economic problems, the imposition of policies of Structural Adjustment, in compliance with the World Bank and IMF’s conditionalities, Nigeria was further incorporated into the capitalist world system. Its incorporation is however, was to maintain a role of supplying raw materials exports to the world economy. The expectation was that if the domestic environment was made more attractive to foreign capital investors, investments would pour into Nigeria of the sort that was experienced by the Asian tigers. The state was never able to guarantee the unqualified ability to discipline the population however, because most of the expected gains of structural adjustment did not materialize. Instead, economic declines deepened. The state again was implicated, because there was wanton looting of the treasury by the military regimes and the brief civilian interregnum between 1979 and 1983. Many Nigerians believe that there is still gross mismanagement of public monies.
As structural adjustment entered into its second decade, the Nigerian economy is the worse for wear. The poorly remunerated police became as riddled with corruption as other parts of the state apparatus. The loyalty of the officers and rank and file could be purchased by criminal elements as well as by rival political factions who use them to discipline their enemies. Women had no significant representation in the post-colonial regimes, whether the regimes were civilian or military. They had no significant representation in the security forces. Those women that engaged in political activism, like the organization, Women in Nigeria, and Women Traders' Associations felt the wrath of the State through police violence when they demonstrated against policies of structural adjustment, when they went to international conferences and criticized the state’s policies, when they entered into business as sex workers, when they were arrested for drug trafficking.
Nigerians are divided by ethnicity as well as class. As previously indicated, ethnicity and class have cross-cutting effects. I will first talk about ethnicity. There are over 250 distinct ethnic groups in the country. Post-colonial politics has been dominated by the three major ethnic groups – the Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba, and Ibo. However, the minorities have become restive, particularly those in the oil producing regions of Nigeria. Their restiveness arises from the feeling that while the petroleum on which the state is so dependent is found in their territories, they get few of the advantages accruing from oil revenues. Instead, they have suffered environmental degradation, loss of livelihood, punitive state action that was mobilized against them by a combination of security forces and oil producing companies. For many of these ethnic groups, petroleum is a scourge rather than a blessing. Many people have heard about Ken Saro Wiwa, the leader of the Ogoni environmental rights and social justice movement. Saro Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists were subjected to trial by a military tribunal and sentenced to death by hanging. Ogoni women were instrumental to organizing concerted action against Shell and the Nigerian state from 1998 to date. The women provided moral, material and emotional support for the Ogoni nine when detained, gave voice to the struggle of the Ogoni in demonstrations on the home front, where they were subjected to rape, assault, and shootings by security forces, and also organized and publicized the Ogoni situation internationally, at the United Nations, and in conferences and other fora. Finally, the healing of the rift between the family of the Ogoni four – the murdered Ogoni leaders whose deaths were the pretext used by the State and Shell to crack down on the Ogoni community – and the families of the Ogoni nine who were summarily executed by the state. In consequence, there has been more unity, more voice, and more effectiveness of the Ogoni struggle as compared with those of other groups in the Niger delta.
Class is important. Some women marry into power while others are incorporated, sometimes as tokens into the corridors of power. The elite women who were incorporated into the state were immune from the problems of police violence because they were protected by the imprimatur of the male dominant and patriarchal state. Like their male colleagues, they too are able to use their political connections as tools of intimidation against opponents, critics, and detractors. Elite women who were incorporated through marriage often used their marital connections to deploy the power of the state to dominate, and punish perceived enemies, and to reward and include perceived friends. The most prominent examples are the two Maryams – Babangida and Abacha. These two women used the power of the state to access resources that were used to the benefit of their ancestral states and towns, to reward friends, to institute projects that both raised the stature of women, and increased their formal power within the state apparatus in the case of Maryam Babangida, and in the case of Maryam Abacha, to erase the first Maryam’s influence and replace it with her vision of what the ideal Nigerian woman should aspire to. Both women, as the wives of military heads of state that were also the heads of the supreme military council (military cabinet), were very powerful, and were not averse to using their power in non-constitutional ways. Since the military regimes had suspended the constitution, they had even more leeway.
More recently, in May 2002, the city of Jos in Plateau State (in the Middle Belt of Nigeria) erupted in violence. The violence was sparked off by conflicts between rival gangs of the People’s Democratic Party. Twenty people lost their lives, and several others were injured. The story is that youth hoodlums disrupted a peaceful party congress. They were dispersed by security agents, and they attacked the people at the congress. Also in May, members of the Nigerian Union of Journalists in Enugu State protested that they were being harassed and intimidated by those suspected to be agents of the state government. Physical threats, threats to fire tehm and to detain them were used to prevent them from carrying out their jobs. In the same month, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun ordered more men and officers to be recruited into the Mobile Squad of the Nigeria Police. The purpose of the mobilization was “to sustain the peace keeping capability and swift response to crises” by the Squad in preparation for the 2003 elections. The IG also “praised the mobile unit for its outstanding performance since Operation Fire-for-Fire was launched.” The police in the estimation of the IG would rely on the MObile Unit as the focal point of an eight point strategy in the onslaught against criminals and crises management” (All stories from Guardian May 4, 2002)
The Nature of the State as a cause of violence
People who study Nigeria notice many ethnic, religious, and economic stresses. For example, if you read the NY Times, or Washington Post, or listen to BBC news, you’ll be familiar with the Shari’a issue. Islamic law has been adopted by majority of Nigeria’s Northern states. In the North also, there have been numerous instances of clashes between Muslims and Christians. Kano, Kaduna, Zaria, are just a few examples of cities in which these clashes erupted.
In the Middle Belt, there’s been ethnic conflict between the Jukun and Tiv. In Lagos and Ibadan, there were clashes between a faction of the Oodua People’s Congress and the Hausa/Fulani youth. The minorities of the Niger Delta have been engaged in many instances of ethnic conflict. The Ijaws vs. Urhobo and Itsekiri, and each of them vs. Chevron; the Ogoni vs. Shell and the Nigerian government; These groups call volubly for a change in the revenue allocation formula in a way that acknowledges their contribution to Nigeria’s well-being by rewarding them handsomely. Thirty years after the civil war, Ibos feel marginalized and excluded from political power. Finally, most Nigerians think the state is corrupt and inept. There is no confidence in the police. All this in an atmosphere where there is ubiquitous corruption, the pursuit of crime as an avenue for advancement due to the foreclosure of legitimate means of deriving an income, the intensification of ethnic and religious prejudice because people are so disillusioned.
Nigeria had military rule (result of multiple coups d'etat) from 1966 (six years after independence) until 1979, and then from 1982 to 2000. Curiously, one of the regimes, the Murtala Mohammed /Obasanjo regime decided to coopt women into all levels of the Federal bureaucracy, although not into the Supreme Military Council. There were also women judges appointed, women police and military officers recruited. However due to the centralized nature of the military governments, and the male dominant and patriarchal nature of the central command, the women were never able to change either the nature of the state or the character of governance. The women's organizations that were attacked and harassed were those that publicly criticized the government, and those that demonstrated against government initiatives like policies of Structural Adjustment. They were considered enemies of the state.
Although Nigeria has a federal system of government, it is remarkably centralized. Its centralization is due to the centralization of the sources of state revenue. Nigeria’s overwhelming dependence on petroleum revenues for up to 80% of its foreign earnings and Gross Domestic Product, and the monopolization of control over the sources of revenue by the Federal government has made the federal government the puppeteer, and the state governments the puppets. States cannot operate without the financial subventions received from the federal government, thus, defying or challenging the state means that a state governor could be disciplined through the tightening of the federal purse strings. This affects gender relations because again, the central state plays the masculine role of controlling the access of constituent state governments to financial resources.

The nature of Nigerian politics as a source of violence
On the formal political scene, the approach of the year 2003, when the country’s next elections will be held signals a call to arms. There has been much in-fighting within the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The Afenifere, the Yoruba caucus of which the late Attorney General was one of the founding members, is not immune from the confusion. In fact, the organization had just successfully ended a mending of the fences by the time of the Attorney-General’s assassination. In Osun State, Bola Ige’s home state, the governor, supported by him, and the Deputy Governor, who considered himself cheated out of a position that he had assiduously prepared for, have been at loggerheads for the past two years. Two prominent politicians had been assassinated in the months preceding the Attorney General’s assassination. Some political analysts actually decried the resurgence of violence in politics as in the days of yore. The use of murder squads, area boys, university based cults and militia to wreak violence and spread political terror is the intensification of an enduring feature in Nigeria’s post-independent politics.

The Third Republic: Prospects and Portents for Political Violence
Nigeria now has a democratically elected government. Next year, the second post military elections will be held. There are more women politicians than ever before, but they are still a very small minority. Many fear that there will be an upsurge of violence because it is customary for politicians to use intimidating tactics to ward off opposition. It would be interesting to see what the women politicians actually do. Nigeria ended the year 2001 with more bad news. The Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Mr. Bola Ige was assassinated. The question that immediately comes to mind is this: If the Attorney General could be so boldly assassinated, who is safe in Nigeria? This is not a mundane question. Anyone that has visited or lived in Nigeria in recent times is aware of the palpable insecurity that is manifested in the living conditions of the general populace. The middle class and wealthy live behind barricades of varying levels of sophistication. Guard dogs proliferate in response to the armed robbery that has become almost ubiquitous. The robbers have become more and more daring each passing day, and vigilante groups have replaced the police as the maintainers of law and order. Most people treat the police as though they were a joke, particularly because they are outgunned by the armed robbers and the militia. States like Lagos and Anambra have formally hired vigilante groups to provide security. In the universities, one of the lasting effects of the last 2 military dictatorships is the proliferation of secret societies that are dubbed cults. The organizations spread terror through their acts of wanton destruction. Increasingly, unemployed youth turn to armed robbery, supplied with weapons from the Nigerian peacekeepers in Sierra Leone and Liberia, the two last military dictatorships, and through massive international arms smuggling. The country has become an embattled zone where neither life nor limb, nor property is secure.
Shari’a and Lack of Equal Protection for Women

From January 2000, when Shari’a law was introduced to Zamfara state, two women have been sentenced to death by stoning in Nigeria. The first victim of draconian Shari’a justice was Bariya Ibrahim Magazu, a woman who was both pregnant and unmarried. Although she claimed in court to have been forced to have sex with three men in her village, the men’s denial was taken by the court as sufficient to determine her guilt for fornication and the sentence of 100 lashes was imposed, and executed before a large crowd just one week after she delivered her baby. The advent of Shari’a law in Zamfara and other Northern States has also allegedly brought a reduction of crime to those states. There have also been amputations, and other floggings of both men and women who were found guilty of different crimes.[i] The administration of Shari’a law in its most recent manifestation has institutionalized legal systems in which women as a class are discriminated against. Both Bariya Ibrahim Magazu and Amina Lawal were pregnant as a result of cohabitation with men. Both women alleged that they were forced to have sex. The courts in their wisdom sentenced each woman to death by stoning, while leaving the men unpunished, presumably because there was insufficient evidence to convict them. Not only are the cases examples of cruel and unusual punishment, they also exemplify the non-existence of the standard of “equal protection of the laws,” they show that there are glaring disparities in the justice system in Nigeria, and are thus, examples of discrimination against women in the Shari’a states. These cases also show that the Shari’a states have thrown the gauntlet of a constitutional challenge down, and are daring the Federal Government of Nigeria to challenge them. This is because establishing the new manifestation of Shari’a law, they are making the claim that Federal law ought not to take precedence to State laws in cases of a conflict of laws.
Women in Nigeria ought to rise up and fight against Shari’a laws and the lack of concern by the Federal government through protests, the writing of memoranda to the various governments. Women’s groups across the board ought to contribute to the defence of any woman that is similarly convicted. Nigerian women also ought to strive for more and better representation at all levels of government by women who would push a woman-centered agenda. That this has not happened thus far is indicative of the lack of awareness of the collective interest of women as a whole. The women’s groups that have stepped up to the plate to contribute to the defence of Bariya Ibrahim Magazu and Amina Lawal are to be commended. Other women’s groups ought to take a leaf from their book.

Globalization and Political Violence
Another aspect of this problem affects individuals and groups in society on a personal level. With the strengthening of globalization's reach into the political economy of Nigeria, some powerful individuals gained tremendous economic advantages, usually by skilfully deploying their political connections. At the same time, there has been increase in poverty, want, and misery for the masses of the people. Crime, social strife, and sectional conflicts have increased. Some of that crime is international (the drug trade). Those who made money in the trade engage in arms trafficking, among other things. Gangs of armed robbers use weapons acquired from these sources and also from corrupt arms dealing by some of the military peacekeeping personnel in the Liberian and Sierra‑Leonean civil wars. Much of their weaponry is superior to the police force's arsenal. Many of these gangs are composed of educated but jobless male graduates. When they conduct their 'operations', apart from robbing and sometimes killing people, they also rape women. Some of these gangs are so bold as to write letters that are addressed to the neighborhoods that they plan to rob that give advance warning of their intent. In such letters, the people are exhorted to prepare for the rape of their daughters and wives. The police are never any help when notified of such threats, thus, many people would much rather rely on militia groups for their defense than the police. So, many neighborhoods cooperatively hire members of well armed militia to guard their gated and barricaded neighborhoods. The rise in vigilantism is indicative of the informalization as well as privatization of law enforcement. It is also a symbol of the state’s failure to make the protection of citizens and their well being one of its priorities. More concern is devoted to guarding the oil producing areas in order to police the people of the areas so that the unemployed and disillusioned youth would not sabotage the property of the oil producing companies. Women in these areas are increasingly turning to sex work. Nigeria is also gaining notoriety in Germany, and especially Italy as a source of sex workers. Drug trafficking mules are very often women. Many of these women claim that they were recruited for about $2,000 to $5,000 by people whom they are unable to identify. They are instructed to just show up in New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, etc. and the people that are expecting them would pick them up, or they’re told to check into hotels and wait for the contact. The drug trade is being internationalized. It is commonly believed that the law enforcement apparatus is deeply involved. The armed forces are also reputed to be embroiled. In the effort to fight the scourge of drugs and crime, Those who feel the violence of the state are not the kingpins, but the bit players. My contention is that the state is masculinized and these individuals are feminized.
A final dimension that I want to introduce is the involvement of the United States. Not only is globalization structuring Nigeria’s economic participation in the international capitalist economy as producer of raw materials, but it is also structuring Nigeria into a patron-client relationship with Western countries, particularly the United States. After the end of the Cold War, the United States determined that it would identify and work with regional powers in Africa who would champion the construction of a security system that it would oversee and manage through remote control. Nigeria is the West Africa partner,[ii] Egypt in North Africa, South Africa in Southern Africa and there is a vacuum in Central Africa after the ouster of Mobutu Sese Seko. As part of the Nigeria-US defense arrangement, foreign aid in the form of training for Nigerian Police and Military would be part of a package that also includes training vigilantes in community defense. [iii] According to Foreign Policy in Focus, According to the United States Army European command, 60 US army personnel and “numerous civilian contractors” were dispatched to Nigeria after the explosion in the Military Cantonment on January 27, 2002.[iv] Of course, this is humanitarian aid, but it is disquieting because the privatization of US defense by employing such contractors put operatives in charge of matters crucial to recipient countries’ security without the contractors being accountable to anyone other than their employers. Such contractors can also carry out operations that the US government does not have congressional clearance to undertake.[v] According to the New York Times, the personnel of the military contractor, DynCorp in Bosnia was found operating a sex slave ring.[vi] The Nigerian government is so eager for technical and military assistance that it is not conducting any kind of due diligence to evaluate the ramifications of such aid to Nigeria’s national interest. Those who may be immediately affected by the misbehavior or lack of professionalism of the military contractors would be the most vulnerable. At the very least, given the economic exigencies that prevail in today’s Nigeria, we may end up with more Nigerian-American babies with absentee “baby fathers” than we care to have. At the worst, we may have unscrupulous military contractors who are not beyond perpetrating human rights abuses on our women. Should Nigerians wait until the problem becomes manifest before pushing the government to tell us more about the content of the military and technical advice that is being dispensed so magnanimously? Nigerian women ought to be in the forefront of those seeking answers to these problems.

The Nigerian government of course is preoccupied with creating an enabling environment for foreign capital. If the violence that permeates society could be invisibilized somehow, the government would conclude that this is all for the good. If the US training could be the means to this end, the Nigerian state is game. Let me return to gender. As a direct result of the use and deployment of state sanctioned violence, some groups are kept out of politics, and other groups kept in. Women in biological bodies are kept out. So are the poor, the dispossessed, the “troublemakers.” While being a part of the state apparatus invests some individuals with the legitimate ability to use violence to punish and discipline the enemies of the state. It also affords them with the ability to exercise extra-judicial power with impunity. In a country that is in the throes of the reorganizing imprimatur of the World Bank and IMF, as well as in a flirtation with democratization, but with a still powerful memory of military rule and still prevalent use of security forces to impose the will of the state on rebellious or restive communities, where the existence of the state itself is subject to multiple challenges, a state with ambitions of becoming a regional power, not just in West Africa, but in the rest of Africa, state sponsored political violence increases the repetoire of tools at the disposal of power holders, but it will also prove to be their undoing.
To the extent that the Nigerian economy does not improve, to the extent that people’s call for the dividends of democracy (measured in bread and butter terms) remain unanswered, to that same extent will social strife and violence proliferate, with the rise in contra-police forces that would challenge the state in multiple ways in multiple locales. Women in biological bodies, the poor and dispossessed majority will not be big players in this conflict, but they will suffer most of the losses. The control over their bodies, labor, resources and space are some of the domains of the conflict between the state and its local, regional, and national challengers. I see this as a necessary but tragic route that has to be traversed en route to the achievement of democracy. What is good? It’s good that there is an efflorescence of groups in civil society that are challenging state excesses. It’s good that some of these groups are women’s groups fighting for expansion in women’s citizenship rights. It’s good that many of these groups are emerging from Nigeria’s ethnic minorities, and that they’re fighting for an expansion of the economic as well as political rights of their peoples. It would be extraordinarily remarkable if the ethnic groups could unite in their common struggles against their dispossession by the state. It would be even better if as a first step, the state becomes more responsive to the needs of the people.
[i] Rena Singer The double-edged sword of Nigeria's sharia: Islamic law cuts crime, but critics say it violates human rights. The Christian Science Monitor

[ii] Ambassador Aubrey Hooks “Promoting Security In Africa - The U.S. Contribution” Presented in a meeting series at the Council entitled "American Policymakers on Africa" In cooperation with the Council on Foreign Relations Thursday, February 10, 2000 .

[iii] “Box 4: Outsourcing: Private Military Companies (PMCs) “ Foreign Policy in Focus May 2002 See also, Leslie Wayne “America’s For Profit Secret Army.” The New York Times October 13, 2002, Section 3.

[iv] “Operation Avid Recovery, Feb - Apr 02” US Army European Command

[v] “Box 4: Outsourcing: Private Military Companies (PMCs op cit.”

[vi] Leslie Wayne, op cit.


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