“Nigeria is not on the brink,” says Georgetown University professor


The surge of violent terrorist attacks in Nigeria means that the outside world has turned a gimlet eye on the country. What they make of the situation however, is not extraordinarily positive, as most see the country as close to imploding.

Cue Georgetown University School of Foreign Service Professor Gwendolyn Mikell, who is one of the few out there who has taken a more positive stance on the future of Nigeria and one of the few who sees a brighter future for the country. She is succinct and to-the-point in her analysis of the North-South divide saying, “It is not so much about religion. It is about power; it is about money.”

In a six-minute interview with Faith Complex, a video show that aims to have “a conversation about religion, politics and art”, she explains her more positive view-point, emphasising that Boko Haram may indeed be a flash in the pan and that civil society and government may be able to help each other hasten the sect’s demise.

She has held the views expressed in the video for a long time. In fact, two years ago she published an opinion piece echoing these views on The Huffington Post, a rebuttal to Former US Ambassador John Campbell’s pessimistic and dour article on the teetering future of Nigeria.

The main flaw in Ambassador Campbell’s somber portrait is that he reduces Nigeria to two monolithic, antagonistic and inexorably colliding blocs, one Northern, the other Southern. This is a false reality since Nigeria is a nation of roughly 150 million people with more than 200 ethnic groups. There is no insuperable Mason-Dixon line separating a wholly Muslim North from a wholly Christian South. These hypothetical blocs are convenient intellectual fictions that do not accord with the complexity of the country’s vast national tapestry. There are portions of Southern Nigeria where Muslims are in the majority or are large minorities as there are swaths in the North where Christians are the majority or a significant minority. As in our own country, Nigeria’s cultural, ethnic and religious diversity is at times a source of tension but also a tremendous national asset and a source of national pride. Despite occasional local outbursts, Nigeria’s Christians and Muslims occupy the national space with considerable peace and tolerance.

From her Georgetown University profile:

Gwendolyn Mikell is Professor of Anthropology and Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She was the Director of the African Studies Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown (1996-2007); and Senior Fellow in African Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations from 2000-2003. Her research and writing have been focused on political and economic transitions in Africa, and on gender and peace building during African transitions. She has held a number of prestigious positions, including President of the African Studies Association (1996-7), and fellowships at the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, the Smithsonian Museum of African Art, the Institute for Developing Economies in Tokyo, the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana, Legon, and the Univ. of Natal in South Africa. Currently, she is completing a book manuscript on African women and peace.

She bridges the worlds of academia and international affairs through her work in conjunction with the G8 Workshop on the Africa, the African Center for Strategic Studies, and the National Democratic Institute. She has been a consultant with the Carter Presidential Center on Nigerian and Ghanaian electoral issues, the United States Information Agency in Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, the Foreign Service Institute, the African-American Institute, and the Museum of African Art. In addition to extensive travel in Africa, Europe, and Asia, her economic and political study missions include ones to Japan and China, the White House Conferences and workshops on Africa, and the Department of State dialogues and projects in Nigeria (2003, 1996).

Dr. Mikell’s books include Cocoa and Chaos in Ghana (Howard University Press, 1992; Paragon Press, 1989) and African Feminism: The Politics of Survival in Sub-Saharan Africa (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2005;1997), and has numerous articles on various topics published.

Source: The Huffington Post

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