Ufahamu Africa

Ep. 124: A conversation with Tarila Marclint Ebiede about about violence and governance in Nigeria

July 24, 2021 megandemint
Ufahamu Africa
Ep. 124: A conversation with Tarila Marclint Ebiede about about violence and governance in Nigeria
Show Notes Transcript
Joining us this week is Tarila Marclint Ebiede, adjunct assistant professor of international affairs at Brussels School of Governance, Brussels, Belgium. His research examines the reintegration of ex-combatants, political violence, the impact of violent conflicts on local governance, youth and violence, peacebuilding and security in Nigeria. We talk to him about his research, the recent news of a fallen military jet plane in Nigeria, and his new Conflict Research Network (CORN) West Africa initiative.In the news wrap, Kim and Rachel talk about that fallen military jet in Nigeria and share updates on the books you should be reading. … More Ep. 124: A conversation with Tarila Marclint Ebiede about about violence and governance in Nigeria
Kim Yi Dionne:

Welcome to Ufahamu Africa. I'm Kim Yi Dionne, your host, and I'm joined by my co host Rachel Beatty Riedl. Hi, Rachel.

Rachel Beatty Riedl:

Hi, Kim. Well in this week's news wrap we cover a lot including some updates on a recent book about bring back our girls campaign, and a military jet shot down in northern Nigeria along with some new reading recommendations. We also feature a conversation between Kim and Dr. Tarila Marclint Ebiede about violence and governance in Nigeria, and a new initiative he co-founded Corn West Africa,

Kim Yi Dionne:

yes, Corn West Africa refers to the Conflict Research Network, West Africa. In addition to his role with corn West Africa Tarila Ebiede is an adjunct Assistant Professor of International Affairs at the Brussels School of governance. And his research examines that reintegration of ex combatants but also political violence and the impact of violent conflicts on local governance, as well as research looking at youth and violence, peacebuilding and security, most of it with a lens to Nigeria. He earned his PhD in social sciences from KU Leuven. And he's currently a non resident fellow at the Center for democracy and development in Abuja, Nigeria.

Rachel Beatty Riedl:

Shout out to our friends at the CDD in Nigeria. Nigeria actually also features in this week's first installment of the African politics Summer Reading spectacular. One of my favorite things about summer. And Kim, your fellow editor and our friend of the podcast, Laura C. reviewed a new book by journalist Joe Parkinson and Drew Hinshaw entitled Bring Back our Girls: The Untold Story of the Global Search for Nigeria's Missing School Girls. Now, Laura called this book extraordinary. It was a page turner she couldn't put down so after our season finale in a couple of weeks here at Ufahamu, Africa, we'll be releasing audio recordings of all of the book reviews in the African politics Summer Reading spectacular in partnership with the monkey cage at the Washington Post, including this recent book review of bring back our girls.

Kim Yi Dionne:

It sounds like a thrilling book and it's about something that really captured the world's attention. And it's an important reminder that Boko Haram remains a threat in northern Nigeria. Something that Tarila and I talk about in our conversation. In fact, our conversation together begins with talking about a news event from this week, the downing of a jet in Zamfara state in northern Nigeria. Now Nigeria's Air Force say that armed bandits shot down a fighter jet on Monday as it conducted an airstrike against criminal gangs in northern Kaduna and Zamfara states. An Air Force spokesperson said that the pilot Flight Lieutenant Abayomi Dairo ejected safely. And, you know, there's not very much reporting about this in the international news media. But I've been reading a lot about it in kind of Nigerian websites and online and in particular, I want to point our listeners to Sahara reporters, where Usman Austin raises some important questions about the downed fighter jet, including, you know, whether it was brought down by a missile or anti aircraft fire or light weapon fire. And you know, this matters because it tells us, you know, the capacity of the people who are fighting the Nigerian military in northern Nigeria, right. Another question that Usman Austin raises in his piece in Sahara reporters is why did the Nigerian Air Force first deny that one of its aircraft had crashed, only to admit later that indeed, it was one of their alpha jets? Right, which is a pretty high powered fighter jet that actually flies at high altitudes, which again, kind of raises questions about well, what kind of, you know, ground military capacity does this you know, group of quote, bandits have that's able to shoot down a fighter jet with such great capacity? Now, these questions are important because, you know, as I've already said, you know, the answers to these questions would give us a better idea of the level of insecurity and threat that's faced in northern Nigeria.

Rachel Beatty Riedl:

Absolutely, Kim and really prescient in terms of thinking about what's happening there. And the announcement coming out of France this week that their mission in the Sahara will be coming to an end. So thinking about the withdrawal of French troops and what that kind of collaboration or lack thereof will mean across the region, with the end to its quote, unquote, forever war. Now, I also wanted to share a recommendation from a recent guest. Amal Fadlalla, who shared praise for a new Cambridge University Press book on human rights by Mark Massoud, which is entitled Sharia inshallah finding God in Somali legal politics. I'm really interested to take a look at this. It's based on research in the Somali areas of East Africa. And the book brings religion to the center of a long running 150 year struggle for national identity and human rights in the region. Now, one of the major cases in the book intersects with Amal's work that we heard about just a few weeks ago, with women's rights activists, it's about the ways in which contemporary women's rights activists are using Sharia to push for gender equality. And they're doing so interestingly, with a completely separate discourse, right when it's not resorting to discourses of international law, but one that relies on Sharia, as the baseline. So check out this book with a link from our website where we'll share it with you.

Kim Yi Dionne:

Yeah, I've really been looking forward to Mark Massoud's new book. I hope we'll have a chance to have him on the show, maybe next season so he can talk about it. You know, he's a colleague of mine here in the University of California. He's up at our Santa Cruz campus. And I even though I knew this book was coming out, I hadn't realized that it was a multi country study. And I think that's really neat. You know, and just thinking about that. It's reminding me of a book I read recently that was in the African politics Summer Reading spectacular cover a couple of summers ago. You know, it's, it looks in particular at Somali identity in Kenya. And so for our listeners who, you know, haven't already heard me recommend this book, it's called We do not have borders: greater Somalia and the predicaments of belonging in Kenya. It's by Karen Whitesberg. And it's, it's really well done and really interesting. Now, I wanted to recommend something to watch or to listen to. It's the Women's History Museum in Zambia's partnership with the Malawi based wellness Arts Collective, releasing their latest episode of the leading lady's podcast. So this new episode just came out this week. And of course, I'm very partial to it because it's about a woman from Malawi. So the episode tells the story of Vera Chirwa, who's a human rights activist, who not only fought for Malawi's independence from British colonial rule, but also against the dictatorial regime of Hastings Kamuzu Banda that ruled Malawi with an iron fist for more than three decades after the British left. Now this is really, if you don't know the story of Vera Chirwa, I mean, this is a woman who was imprisoned by the British during colonial rule, then was kidnapped in Zambia. During Kamuzu's rule taken back to Malawi and then imprisoned again for, you know, a dozen years, her husband dies mysteriously in prison. You know, and then with the return to multiparty democracy, she's released from prison. And then she becomes a special reporter about you know, the conditions of of African prisons. You know, there's so much to her story folks should listen to and or watch this video podcast that leading lady to put together it's really well done and and she's quite inspiring and and I feel like more people should know her story.

Rachel Beatty Riedl:

Thanks for sharing that, Kim. I can't wait to listen to it. And in terms of, you know, just thinking about stories that are inspirational and make us feel good, we wanted to reach out to remind all of our listeners as we're coming up to the end of season five, that we'd love to hear your good news, so please send us a quick voice memo. With your good news, you can record it on your phone, send it out to us at [email protected] and we will share it with our listeners in our season finale coming up in just a few weeks. Now let's listen to Kim's conversation with Tarila.

Tarila Marclint Ebiede:

My name is Tarila Marclint Ebiede I am an adjunct Assistant Professor of International Affairs at the Brussels School of governance in Brussels, Belgium.

Kim Yi Dionne:

Thanks so much for joining us this week. And it's actually quite a newsworthy moment given your own research expertise and the initiatives that you're working on. And so for our listeners who have already heard in the news wrap, there was news this week of a Nigerian Air Force pilot who managed to eject himself and then evade bandits after his plane was shot down in northwestern Nigeria. Now the Nigerian Air Force has said that the pilot Flight Lieutenant Abayomi Dairo navigated to safety under the cover of darkness. There are still questions surrounding these events, not least because the Nigerian Air Force had first denied that this that even happened when there was news that a jet had crashed. And some of these questions that have been raised include what kind of jet was Flight Lieutenant Dairo flying? And and that might seem like a straightforward simple question. But as Usman Austin has argued, the question has implications for the sophistication of this adversary in northwestern Nigeria that had shut down the plane, and that adversary's technical military capacity. So I wonder if you can put these recent events into a broader context of security in northern Nigeria? Are there reports of anyone who has claimed responsibility for downing this jet? Or perhaps you could give us a sense of the landscape of groups that threaten security in northern Nigeria?

Tarila Marclint Ebiede:

Thank you, thank you, thank you very much for having me. And just to say that, first of all, the jet that was downed was an alpha jet made by Dornier, and this is a high capacity war jet, I would think that is used by the Nigerian Air Force. And it's one of the, among one of the facilities used by the airforce in its counterinsurgency or military operations in the north east. And also now in the northwest, and this is a jet that goes up to 45,000 feet and 11,000 feet per minute or even faster. So, this tells you the capacity of the flight of the of the jet. What that means for not for not races or for the region is that the the group that is able to carry out an attack or shutdown, a jet of that capacity is quite sophisticated. And most research papers from researchers being in the northwest, and what is coming out from this research and what I see from this research is clearly that these these groups are quite sophisticated. They are getting more and more organized. And why we have focused extensively on insecurity in the northeast with Boko Haram and other groups. Now ISWAP that is eating up Boko Haram to become much more both

Kim Yi Dionne:

Right and for our listeners who don't know, ISWAP stands for the Islamic State of West Africa protectorate, is that right? Province. Thank you.

Tarila Marclint Ebiede:

Yeah. So we focus a lot on these issues. But in Nigeria, we've been hearing a lot about farmers in this conflict and framed as bandits. However, what we are seeing now is that so called bandits, you know, this this question of when does a state called violence terrorism right? So this is the state versus terrorism and media, everybody, for acts of terrorism, but what's happening in the northwest has been framed as banditry which banditry could just be simple criminal activity but shooting down an Alpha Jet. That's that's not a simple criminal activity. That goes beyond what we see from the research that we've been reading and coming and it's that in these communities, where these activities take place, that there is a growing, growing extremism, religious extremism. Similar to what we saw what led to situations in the northeast. And these groups are organized, not just against the Nigerian state, as well as with the case of Boko Haram from the beginning before it turned against people. But from the beginning, they're organized against their own communities. And I just read a paper by one of our researchers in in Sokoto state which is on the northwest, Sokoto state is on the border within Nigeria and Niger. And one of the researchers there from the wrote a paper of how memory is used to memorize people into these armed groups that fight against their communities. So in that sense, I don't want to see this as pure as criminality or banditry, but where there is memory involved, or memory, memory use for mobilization. It's a collection of political or social cultural issues involved in this conflict. And what we see in the Northwest, and especially with this case of the shooting down this flight, this alpha jet, is the spread of terrorism from the northeast to the northwest. And if that is the case, with the evidence, we need more analysis, of course. But if that is the case, which is this hypothesis is proved proven right. The way Nigeria is in a very, very difficult position, that it's moving security problems are moving out of the Northeast engulfing the northwest, that's 60% of the country's landmass,

Kim Yi Dionne:

right, and a significant portion of the population as well. And so I, you know, kind of continuing on this, thinking about it from the perspective of the state. You know, these questions that I've seen, and you know, I'm not someone who follows Nigeria closely. But I'm really taken with this story of this down fighter jet. And so I've been trying to read, but a lot of what I'm reading, which I think is somewhat typical of what I've seen of like Nigeria Twitter and Nigeria news, and that is skepticism, and questions, right. So particularly questions about, you know, what the Nigerian Air Force has said, and I wonder, two questions about Flight Lieutenant Dairo's incident signal a broader issue about public trust in the Nigerian military and public trust in the Nigerian state?

Tarila Marclint Ebiede:

That's, yeah, I will, I will think issues about trust in Nigeria, trust, Nigeria, society is low on trust overall. Yeah, low on trust. And this you see also in public and in civil military relations, attitudes towards the state the armed forces, over the years since Nigeria's return to democracy and then you asked, their long reality of military rule. And this is since 1999. This is the longest stretch of democratic rule that the country has experienced in its 60 year history. And then experiences for military experience from military rule, but also the conduct of Nigerian military even during this period of democracy is one that has put the military against its civilian population, and the military is seen as an agent or an institution to ensure regime security and regime security in the sense that whether it's a democracy or military rule, the military stance the military institutions are expected to belong to the to the incumbent administration, in ways that sometimes on the mind public trust. We have examples from the massacre that the protests, our military was used to repress EndSARS protests in October 2020. We have examples in action, insurgencies in the Niger Delta region or the middle belt or the southeast. So and oftentimes the military has often been slow to put out statements, when there are events, or when when decisions are made, don't reflect journalistic accounts of the situation or eyewitness accounts of the situation. And this explains why there is a broad range of lack of trust in the military and again the Nigerian military has positioned itself in a place where it is difficult for me to see the scene to serve the people. You know, and when when the military institution has positioned as anti against the people these issues of trust will come up I'll give you many examples. This same Airforce have bombed an IDP camp these same alpha jets, I have been used to bomb an IDP camp. The military denied and when it became public knowledge, the military said it was a mistake. And there was no one was held accountable for that. The military, this Air Force has been used to bomb a wedding ceremony in these rural areas and no one. So also accountability even if it's a mistake, as they were claiming the lack of accountability on the part of military to the people in my idea is a crime committed against the people always an error omission. This, this, these have led to issues of trust and lack of trust. And and people still question the narrative Flight Lieutenant Dairo's incident.

Kim Yi Dionne:

And so I wonder how you might think about Flight Lieutenant Dairo's incident in a broader understanding. And likewise, with these, you know, kind of considering these other examples you've brought up of, you know, the fighter jets, bombing an IDP camp or bombing or a local wedding. Right? I want to know, given your research expertise, I want to know about how violence affects or is affected by local governance, so not thinking so much about the state, you know, in Abuja, but, you know, really just kind of in these areas where these events are happening. Now, for folks who aren't familiar with local governance, I mean, the political and institutional processes through which decisions are made. So violence and local governance, what is this downed jet? Or what do these bombings of local weddings or, or this IDP camp? What do they illustrate regarding violence and local governance in northern Nigeria?

Tarila Marclint Ebiede:

Well, I think while we want to look at Northern Nigeria, it's also important to draw lessons from other parts of Nigeria and others experience similar levels of violence in the past, and by this, I am speaking of the Niger Delta, where I've done a lot of my own research, what this level of violence does to local governance is that it weakens the local institutions of governance and local political institutions and local culture, cultural institutions. And okay, let me let me let me put some background. So, in total, Nigeria is a federal system as you will have in the US, you know, you have the federal government, you are the state government, and you in the US or maybe cities or mayors. In Nigeria, we have a local government and beneath the local government, you still have the communities, the villages, the traditional institutions, that manage the cultural day to day affairs of people. However, beyond the Metropole, beyond the capital cities of Nigeria and beyond certain big cities, the further you go into the more influential and relevant these local governance systems are and when when when you go to these villages, it is the local governance or local public school systems that manage conflict disputes, allocate public resources, provide services and negotiate conflict between the people, the society and the state. And when farmers are caught, when there is there is lasting violence in these communities, one institution that suffers the most is the local political system, because new authorities new actors and groups emerge that seek to play the role of local traditional political institutions. And that in some communities, they are completely displaced while in other communities they are very weak and as such are unable to moderate social or public exchange or political interactions. In the north is where you see that communities are displaced. So when is that community that has been displaced even if the local institution ran, there was nobody to govern it and govern space even when people change for the emperor or whoever is the traditional ruler is displaced from his kingdom and moves to a different city. It's an interesting topic that I think researchers should look into: how financial institutions govern or function in displacement out of their communities of influence. This this, what we're seeing is overall that violence actors kill significantly or displaces or disrupt local governance institutions, in places in communities, where the state in itself is relatively upset. You know, and if you go to Northwest, I have just Zamfara. So go to those places. Once you move out of the capital, Rousseau, Sokoto, you know, and you go to the rural areas, you you go to all these places on the border between Sokoto and Niger. Those places have very limited state's presence, like the Nigerian state, and it exists local sheikhs -- Islamic rulers Muslim traditional ruler, as you know, it is these people that moderates everyday interactions, and where violent extremist groups and those terrorist groups are taking over or beginning to infiltrate into these communities. This is even before the state attacks come. The nature of these systems are quite different from other cultures in the sense that they are ideologies directly confront the leadership because their identities are religious, and interpret the Quran in their own ways that undermine the legitimacy of the existing local religious leaders. And in that way, it already divided communities. And so for example, they will be in Sokoto that guru era and they're not on the border with Niger, they will say that if you don't practice Islam, the way we preach it, that you are not a real Muslim, they want to they implemented Sharia laws, that is really extreme you know, and that level of violence already undermines local authority. And then comes the state to intervene that does not necessarily differentiate between the authority that has been created and the violent group that is strengthening that authority both seeks to flatten the whole area. And so what we want to see in these applications for for peacebuilding and post conflict reconstruction is that even in the aftermath of conflict an important institution that facilitates the integration of IDPs the integration of ex-combatants in social creation post Covid situations, community creation and development, it will be missing because we have been undermined by internal violence and also stiff violence in that in that yeah, it's not a good situation there.

Kim Yi Dionne:

No, it's it seems like it's a really important problem. I know that a lot of the the development work that I have, you know researched over the years has focused in particular on local leaders and to know particularly in this very critical moment of, you know, the kind of insecurity surrounding a post conflict moment, right. Your research on Disarmament demobilization and reintegration I think it's important for folks to know that even you know, the most advanced policy solutions like DDR require local power to co-facilitate these programs. And if the violence you know, the conflict that happened actually serve to undermine those local sources of power, then it's going to be even harder for these already challenging programs to be effective. So thanks for that. Now, I you kind of hinted to this in an earlier in responding to an earlier question, but I want to alert our listeners to know that together with Abdul-Gafar Tobi Oshodi, you have recently founded the conflict Research Network West Africa called corn, West Africa. And you built this network to create a community that supports scholars Based in West Africa, who do research on peace, security and conflict. So I presume this was, you know, the paper that you were referring to earlier it was was from a scholar in this network. Can you tell our listeners more about Corn West Africa? What do you hope it will do for these researchers in the network? And what activities have you already organized or that you have planned coming up?

Tarila Marclint Ebiede:

Thank you very much for this introduction, especially talking about Corn West Africa, which we are very passionate about. So the general background is that together with Tobi we did our PhDs together in Belgium, so we were PhD students in Belgium, and, you know, we will attend conferences in Europe, in America workshops around the corner. And we always felt lucky and privileged, we had a very good time together. I mean, there are challenges which we when you succeed, challenges, no longer matter. But no, so we had a very good time. And instead of thinking that the end of our PhD means that what what will this mean for for people back in Nigeria, in Ghana, in these countries that we come from, how can we go back and not have a community, you know, it was in transit was very new for us it was also about the fact that we weren't sure about what to do, we all knew that we wanted to go back, I wanted to go back to Nigeria to work. But then it was also a difficult economic period in Nigeria, so the universities were not recruiting people. And so we're in limbo, and Tobi actually wanted to go back. But he also had a job and aside from the job to do his PhD, so we had to go back. And so we struggled, and we found, like, institutions in Africa in West Africa, do not necessarily provide a community of research. There are institutions for teaching, there are institutions for research. But the community that research is, is should come from a community and that if you want to sustain research, you should build a community. And we felt like, well, there is never a good time, we can never be qualified enough, we can never have this professionally secured off the status. So let's start this network. And the network is really aimed to first of all support local researchers based research is based in institutions in West Africa, to contribute to the debate on decolonization of social science in Africa. And I'll come to that in a bit about this, this globalization debate and our lessons on shifting our thoughts on these issues. But it's really to recognize that scholars based in institutions in the global south in West Africa, and of course, epistemological positions are presented in global knowledge production communities. And therefore, we really aim to close this gap in the field of conflict research by providing opportunities for, for, for scholars, opportunities for scholars to develop new theoretical insights, engage with their own societies and generate evidence that they that they can use to support their theoretical persuasions, discuss ideas with friends and colleagues, and get challenged and often publish these ideas in platforms globally, but also elevate their own publication platforms in ways that is respected and seen as a legitimate source of knowledge on issues of, of conflict in Africa, or in West Africa. It's specific and we, we've been doing this now for a year, I mean, affected by it by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. And so far, we've had some lessons and we've done some activities. If you want to hear about that I am happy to tell you about our workshops and things like that. And our overall aim is really to build a community. We want to build a community of scholars, you know, in, in Europe and North America, you have a lot of African researchers doing good work. Great work in Harvard in Yale in Oxford. We have great researchers in Belgium in the Netherlands. However, these researchers are really stars that the West, the West, like stars, African stars, they like that. But you can't build a system based on stars, you build a system based on the community know, where the community is made up of equals, people that respect each other. And in that way, we can build a research culture where people all aspire to one equal standard and not just isolated stars that will shine and of course, at the twilight of their careers, and over time, they will also die out within the community, instead of using stars, or creating stars. That's, that's really what we don't want to do. We don't want to be stars, we want to be part of a community. And that's, that's what that's what we're doing with with this network.

Kim Yi Dionne:

I love that analogy. And I also one of the things I that resonated with me, that you were talking about is elevating the platforms of ideas and research scholars have already, right, and because when talent, you know, that I've seen in a lot of these initiatives to kind of promote the work of African scholars is how to get them to publish for journals based in Europe and North America. And, you know, I mean, if that's what they want, fine. But why are we centering the, the kind of existing Locus of Power? Why Why do we have to, you know, why can't we think about, you know, the, the short briefings that people write for local newspapers, why can't we think of that also as knowledge? And, and importantly, you know, that's an already publicly disseminated knowledge, right? That's a knowledge it's going to have a large audience and, and, and an important targeted audience, you know, an audience for which this information really matters. And I wonder, you know, if we can talk more about about, you know, the potential platforms that you see scholars in this community at Corn West Africa, speaking out, but there is one thing I did want to ask because I think about, you know, we we faced this problem, I think, in North America and Europe as well. But, um, you know, a critical obstacle that I've noticed in Nigeria, and in other West African countries is their relatively lower proportion of women thinkers, and researchers connected in these scholarly networks. How does corn West Africa navigate that challenge in particular?

Tarila Marclint Ebiede:

So that's let me go back a bit before moving for that. So yes, I, when I was 16 going on 17, I started my university education in Nigeria, and one of the first critical books I read was from Claude Ake, the Nigerian political economist, global thinker. And I was young, 17. And the book was titled, a view from the south. It was a very small pamphlet published in his state, and then the Center for Advanced social sciences, in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Claude Ake, died when I was 10 So like, seven years after he's dead, and it left an impression on me. And it gave me an understanding of the world, the new one at the end of the Cold War. It gave an understanding of how certain thinkers formed or understood the post Cold War. And he didn't publish it in the American Journal of Political Science. He published it by himself, seven years later, and to date remains the most important thinking that has shaped my understanding of the post Cold War era. I think that this is not just a problem of, of the power structures. It's also a problem from the institutions in Africa in West Africa, the problem of self confidence, the problem of knowing self esteem, knowing that you have the capacity to think and putting out your ideas in ways that overcome certain barriers or certain limitations and I think that's an issue and I think that's something that we need to talk about and reflect more as we address these issues of decolonization and and stuff about women in In recent conflict research in West Africa, as thinkers, we have to differentiate the black woman in Peace and Conflict Studies in the field. Now, they are there in NGOs, policy rooms, and these kind of places, even journalism, but they are not there as thinkers, and I, when we made our call for papers for our first workshop, we had a nice, good workshop in Nigeria, very successful. And we noticed that less than 5% of papers or abstracts came from women. And then I'm talking about on read 120 abstracts, and we weren't gender sensitive to the selection which was a mistake from our end. When we did our selection, and had our workshop, only 8% of the participants were women only 8%. So after the workshop, we did a survey among the participants and asked the question, how can we improve the festival? What explains the low rate of women? This is scandalous, like, it's it's not, it's not acceptable. And this goes to the issue. This takes us to a very important point about this decolonization debate is that institutions of knowledge, do not exist in a vacuum. They exist within a social political context. And it is these social political contexts that define power relations, gender relations between these institutions of knowledge, which is of course, a chicken and egg question. Like when it's done, we can go on and on and on about that. Institutions influences society and society influence institution. And what we found from this workshop, and the response people gave was including, of course, we actually didn't ask for women, we asked the men, why don't we have women, so we have the single professors, the junior professors that do lectures, why don't we have women and the men just about said, there are patriarchal issues in the society that limit women's growth in institutions, then we have fewer women that way, then they explained like, first of all, you need to have a bachelor's degree, which when you have you're 21, and then when you're 22, you probably don't have the resources to pursue master's degree. And then when you're 25, you get an admission to study for a master's degree. And then the society tells you, you're going to be 26, 27, when you have your master's degree, it's time to get married, you know, and then the level of support, in fact, what we found is that the level of self-support required for women to have a successful academic career in Nigeria especially in social sciences, it's it's fairly low, this is from the society, the broad society itself. So, before we then go into the institution, before going to an institution and say, the institution is in so we see that there are societal issues that create this particular imbalance that exists between men and women in the broader society is something we see so what also what comes into the university into the institutions of higher learning and of course there are very few women in positions as thinkers, you know. And what should we do, I mean, we can talk about that later. But this is a very important issue. And we cannot decolonize we cannot change the power relations in universities in institutions of learning, without reflecting on the power relations of the inequality that exists in the broader society. You know, this is for for me, what I learned from from this experience.

Kim Yi Dionne:

Yeah, it's a it's a tough problem. There's not there's not an easy solution to it, I think especially because as you've put it, right, this is embedded in a larger social problem. Right and we see it reflected for example, and the percentage of women in Parliament. Nigeria's, you know, one of the lowest in the world. So yeah, no, thanks for sharing that. And I do want to talk a bit more about kind of related organizations that are kinda these in Europe and North America right. And kind of comparing corn West Africa and and and questioning about, you know, some connections to some of these organizations. For example, here on Ufahamu Africa, we had some earlier episodes with Cyril Obi, who's the program director of African peace building network. And even more recently with Zachariah Mampilly, who is a co founder of the program on African Social Research PASR. Now, what parallels and distinctions Do you see between those organizations and organizations like them, and Corn West Africa?

Tarila Marclint Ebiede:

Thank you very much. I think that these organizations, I have to say, first of all are doing great work, very important work that supports and improves on this peace and conflict research, all social science research in general in Africa or West Africa. That's where we want to focus. But it goes to my other points. Like, when we speak of, and this is not a criticism, this is a fact that institutions, organizations, platforms, such as the APN, the African peacebuilding network, which is led by a great scholar, a really good Nigerian scholar, we're very proud of his work, and it's that these networks attract stars, but they don't build communities. You know, so and this is not just APN if you look at, if you go to UK, you also have King's College, you know, there is something there, they attract stars, and when when the stars grow in this, in this network, they go far, some of them even leave the continent, but didn't build community, the work of changing, the work of improving the quality of science research in Africa, has to take place in the continent itself. And this is where we live. This is where we come in. But there are institutional barriers, there are institutional barriers that make this impossible. Oh, well, that's that makes it much more difficult. university systems have questions, and they're really serious institutional issues, which I do not go into here. So to institutional issues, we need to build communities, a Knowledge Network. Yeah, where as we have done research after our first workshop, because of COVID, who announced just working from Nigeria, we are working with our colleagues in Ghana also for a special issue. And we have planned something with our colleagues in Cameroon, before we go to Ivory Coast for the Francophone dialogue. But what we're doing after the workshop, we have formed a community where scholars work together to propose research proposals, and submit these to a grant grant whether or not all independently developed research proposals to pursue research paths, feedback, criticize, and we discuss the community on the ground. The institutions in these areas in this in this in this region, do not provide that community. And there are scholars who want to be part of such a community. We want to work, and some of them will never, because of the magic way of selection for grants and scholarships. Some of these scholars will never be able to win grants, they will not. And this isn't this doesn't mean that they are bad that they're not good scholars. No, it's because they have not been raised in that culture. They have not been socialized in that trade in that culture of proposal writing, proposal development, and mutual teaching all these boxes, so they will not. But how then do we allow such ideas go to waste? Because they're probably already in university. So why don't we bring them into this community, when we will have to bring win a grant win a big grant and just put it in this community and make it work for for the community instead of making it work for a star. Again, with my view, and I think this is something that's similar to what PASR is doing. Zacharia Mapilli is it's mainly really trying to support work in the continent, you know. But while we find that we are looking long term, we've only received funding from the University of Edinburgh center for African Studies, to organize a workshop and with that, limited resources we've got just spending our own time out of passion to build on that workshop. We think that building a community is way much more important than building stars. Stars are great I mean, people are exceptional when they're great they're great. But you cannot do, you cannot sustain a system and knowledge system based on an individual, sustained knowledge is an outcome of community, community work collective work, you then have knowledge to build a culture, a way of life, a way of thinking that will serve that can build that foundation for future generations for future stars of the future, future scholars of excellence, excellent scholars to emerge.

Kim Yi Dionne:

So I'm hearing this and it's hard for me not to think about African philosophy. Right? So this idea of community versus individual, right, so I know that you're using an analogy of stars and and, you know, I would say like, other planetary bodies, right? And like, do we think of things out in space as, as individual units or as collections, right, and of systems and of communities. And, you know, I wonder the extent to which, like, I guess I just, I wonder where this came from, you know, like, what, because you have these other models that have been very successful at producing stars, right. Or at just identifying stars, let's say, you know, that maybe these were gonna be stars, whether you know, these, and I'm not speaking specifically about APN, or PASR, but just, you know, just kind of thinking about, you know, I'm a researcher based in North America. And so, I've seen a lot of these, these things, and, and, you know, many initiatives didn't even actually have a lot of Africans involved. Right? And so they're like, Oh, we need to make sure that, you know, there's an African scholar, and they pick the stars. And, you know, it's, um, it's interesting. It's hard for me not to think about, you know, this kind of ethos about community and community orientation. And, and to also think about African philosophy. And, and I'm also kind of taken with this idea of sustainability. Right, because, especially as we see, you know, the gutting of funding for higher education, not just, you know, I mean, this is this is a problem everywhere, you know, how do we, how do we engender, broadly, you know, not even just among scholars, but among, among people broadly, that research and ideas and the pursuit of knowledge are values we should, we should all collectively have.

Tarila Marclint Ebiede:

That's, thank you very much. I think where this came from, first of all, is that when we started in Leuven, in Leuven, in Belgium, it shaped our values a lot, when you had very difficult moments, that we would not have been able to survive those times. I mean, if you're an African student in a foreign country, in Europe or North America, there is this insider outsider divide. And you realize that the system didn't have you in mind, people who designed the system didn't have you in mind when you were designing the system. And how then would you survive such a system? It's by building community. Well, you can survive by being the star, the much more easier way to survive by building a community and we are very committed, and we were very lucky because we had about six African PhD students, my PhD supervisor at one time, six African PhD students, so we have a community we will support each other and we will encourage each other and and all of that we didn't feel like one person is a star or not, we just wanted we all just wanted to end our PhDs. And from there, we realized that if we want to create if we want to succeed, if you want to do the knowledge system, as you say, that knowledge as a value that we should pursue, something that is worthwhile, but we need a community, you know, and so we thought, okay, so if we go back, or wherever we are, let's try to build this community. You know what I mean? Thanks for inviting me to this podcast. We also think that it's beyond just academic institutions and knowledge. So we are encouraging our scholars For example, to write articles for The Guardian for the news for the nigerian newspapers write for the conversation. So when we had our workshop, we also trained the researchers and scholars on writing popular thesis for newspapers and other platforms, not just for journals. So this quality of thinking that is reflected at academic institutions should also be in the public space and easily accessible by our people who are not necessarily in university, but see the value in in knowledge. And how do we sustain Tobi and I were talking about this, and we say, in five years' time, if this doesn't take, like if it doesn't, we need to be able to give this out and say, the next generation take it continue our work from there, and we are thinking about this carefully. That's why we don't want to be bureaucratic, we don't want to be a bureaucracy, we want to have volunteers, we want to have researchers to own the network, we want to have them recruit scholars into the network, what we would do as co founders is to ensure that the values and quality that we brought in remain the same, I will develop systems and ensure that these values, and quality, this is consistent over time, you know, and we are thinking about it, but we think that what will sustain the network much longer than our time is the values and quality that we're bringing.

Kim Yi Dionne:

And we find Africa are really excited that in season six next season we'll be featuring some of those voices from corn West Africa on our show. So our listeners can learn more about the work that they're doing and and and what you're building at corn, West Africa. But before we go, of course, I have to ask you, our famous last question, and that is, is there anything you're reading now or have read recently that you would recommend to our listeners?

Tarila Marclint Ebiede:

Listen, so I read teach I read to write, and I read to think and I will say that if I will say I mean, some of the things I read to teach are quite boring. Some things that I read to write the journal articles and all that also quite boring. To think the things that stimulate thoughts. Yeah, for example, I reading long form like the New Yorker and things like that. I recently read read something by Hussein Omar. I really don't know much about him. But I just stumbled on this piece on reviewing a book written by someone else

it's called the unexamined life:

the too many faces of Edwards Said this, American Palestinian thinker, I think what I found fascinating was his, his, his long form writing was that because of the colonial implications of that, of that of that piece, and he basically talked about how the epistemological foundations of knowledge in Palestine in the Arab world, on which Edward said those things, forming his own theories or explanations of criticism of, of the Oriental system. Oddly, was not well acknowledged, you know, and for me, that was significant because we often talk about decolonization these days. And sometimes when we think about decolonization, we again refer back to knowledge systems that developed in Europe, North America, and ignore the foundations of these knowledge systems in Africa, in Latin America, in Asia, and all these places are in the Middle East. I think that what was going on in the unexamined life were the two main phases of Edward Sayid, as he called that, that long form. I think it opened my mind to thinking carefully about the sources. The foundations are the forerunners of knowledge that we cling to, to carry the knowledge so to move deeply into our own Nigerian West African African thinking systems to do our historical journal down into the vein of thinking thoughts and to find the original scholars that shaped the models that we carry around systems that carry on today. Yeah, I think that that's one piece I recommend to people to read. It's unexamined life by Hussein Omar, it's published in The Baffler, the current edition of the Baffler. Thank you.

Kim Yi Dionne:

That's all for this week. Thanks for listening to this episode of Ufahamu Africa. To find any of the articles books or links we talked about head to Ufahamafrica.com. Don't forget to follow and share your thoughts with us on Twitter @ufahamuafrica. Our podcast is available on Spotify, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, SoundCloud and Stitcher. If you like what you're hearing on Ufahamu Africa, please share this episode and review our show on Apple podcasts. This podcast is produced by Meghan DeMint with help from research and production assistant Julia Felicity Turkmen. We are generously supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and receive research assistance from Cornell University and the University of California Riverside. Our music is courtesy of Kevin Macleod