My research program investigates how social systems and environmental systems interact to create patterns of vulnerability that lead to conflict and armed insurgency and the processes of conflict resolution and peacebuilding. This main research program addressees three interconnected themes: first, developing new ways to conceptualize the dynamics of natural resource conflict and challenges of post-conflict peacebuilding; second, understanding the practical and ethical challenges arising from local and international responses, or failure to respond to, displacement and refugee crisis induced by armed conflict and insurgency; and third, contextualizing the connection between climate change, water security, human migration, and instability. Understand the root of environmental conflict and systems of peacemaking requires carefully designed qualitative and mixed methods research. While I continue to develop my ideas for publication, my research to date feeds into my teaching and has benefitted my students.
This book examines the extent to which peacebuilding processes such as disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration are possible in the attempt to demilitarize Nigeria’s oil region and establish a stable post-conflict environment for nurturing durable peace. The book argues that the failure of the peacebuilders to address the structural tensions at the heart of insurgency, along with competition for access to the material benefits of peacebuilding, have revived violence at repeated intervals that punctuates the progression of peace. The author’s analysis shows how the interventions pursued by peacebuilders have been successful in stabilizing the oil region by taking arms from insurgents, paying them monthly allowances, and building their capacity to reintegrate into society through a range of transformational processes. While these interventions are praiseworthy, they have transformed the political realities of peacebuilding into an economic enterprise that makes recourse to violence a lucrative endeavour as identity groups frequently mobilize insurgency targeting oil infrastructure to compel the state to enter into negotiations with them. There was little consideration for the impact corruption might have on the peacebuilding process. As corruption becomes entrenched, it fosters exclusion and anger, leading to further conflict. The book proposes pathways to positive peacebuilding in Nigeria’s oil region.
“The insurgency that erupted across the oilfields of the Nigeria Delta in late 2005 culminated in a government sponsored amnesty in 2009 in which over 30,000 militants and their commanders participated. Obasesam Okoi’s important book shows that unless the structural conditions that generated violence in the first place are directly confronted and addressed, peacebuilding will be fragile and incomplete—what he calls punctuated—and will be marked by periodic turbulence and regression. Punctuated Peace in Nigeria’s Oil Region is an important contribution to our understanding of the dynamics of political violence and to the pathways capable of leading to sustainable peace.”
— Michael Watts, Class of 63 Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley, USA.
“This is a thought-provoking study exploring how disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration are possible in efforts to forge a stable peacebuilding milieu while demilitarizing Nigeria’s oil region. Obasesam Okoi blends empiricism, practice, and theory to explore the tensions and nexus between government and local activists working to stimulate a fragile peace in the oil region. This well researched and fascinating book will inform policymakers, students, and scholars with the reality of engaging local stakeholders in a process of social justice and peacebuilding.”
— Sean Byrne, Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Manitoba, Canada.
“An excellent resource for understanding African armed conflicts and peacebuilding that doesn’t romanticize or belittle indigenous approaches. Drawing on recent scholarship, Obasesam Okoi provides a solid theoretical, empirical, and analytical framework for peacebuilding, specifically in an African context.”
— Eliakim M. Sibanda, Professor of African History, University of Winnipeg, Canada.
“In this insightful book, Obasesam Okoi reflects on his experience working with former insurgents to gain a nuanced understanding of the success and failure of the peacebuilding program designed to address Nigeria’s oil insurgency. Drawing from his fieldwork in the Niger Delta, he shows persuasively how the lofty ambitions of the peacebuilders have resulted in temporary success, punctuated by the revival of insurgency at repeated intervals due to structural factors. This book points to a more comprehensive study of the needs and aspirations of the ex-insurgents, which are reflected in the pathways to positive peacebuilding in the oil region.”
—Uwafiokun Idemudia, Professor of Development Studies, York University, Canada.
THE SPIRIT OF CHANGE takes us through a journey into the activist spirit that lives in each and every leader and how to awaken the redemptive potential of this spirit through compassion. The book is a brilliant reconstruction of one of the most important subjects of our time transformational leadership and presents a fascinating glimpse into the incredible passions of men, women and children at the heart of the struggle to ignite hope in a world filled with despair. The book contains foundational principles and practical tools that are always certain to help us transform our passion into a meaningful and lasting purpose. Obasesam Okoi draws on these leadership principles to present some rich, lucid, persuasive and thought-provoking insight on the nature of leaders our generation needs, and the various ways individuals can provoke meaningful change beyond resistance.
Okoi, Obasesam, and Temitope B. Oriola, ‘Insurgency and Organized Violence in Africa: A Cross-National Approach’, in R. Sooryamoorthy, and Nene Ernest Khalema (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Sociology of Africa (online edn, Oxford Academic, 18 Aug. 2022), https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780197608494.013.24
Insurgency and miscellaneous organized violence have been rising sharply on the African continent. What is driving these attacks? Drawing on case studies in Mali and Somalia, this chapter interrogates the sociological drivers of the insurgent activities, characteristics of insurgent groups, and impact of responses by state actors vis-à-vis organized violence in selected countries. The qualitative analysis shows that state fragility has increased the lethality of insurgencies and the organized violence perpetrated by armed groups such as al-Shabaab in Somalia. As the Somali state continues to show an inability to coordinate a cohesive counterinsurgency response, the development of factional rebel forces has further emboldened al-Shabaab. The state fragility in Mali was exploited by al-Qaeda–affiliated jihadi groups to perpetrate acts of violence in defense of radical Islam. Both cases offer sociologically fascinating contexts for understanding the dynamics of armed insurgencies in Africa.
Okoi, Obasesam. 2022. From Insurgents to Entrepreneurs: Between Stability and Sustainable Peace in Nigeria’s Oil Region. Peace Research: The Canadian Journal of Peace and Conflict Studies, Vol. 54, No.1, pp. 1-24.
This article examines the relationship between entrepreneurship and sustainable peace in Nigeria’s oil region and asks whether entrepreneurship can directly and tangibly contribute to sustainable peace. The study is based on an explanatory mixed methods design in which I administered a standardized questionnaire to former insurgents. This produced a statistical description of the respondents’ opinions concerning entrepreneurship and peace to generate themes for context sensitive qualitative interviews with purposefully selected participants. The qualitative and quantitative data provided a broad overview of participants’ perceptions of the impact of entrepreneurship programs undertaken by the Nigerian government to facilitate the economic reintegration of former insurgents as a strategy of post-conflict peacebuilding. The empirical evidence shows that entrepreneurial solutions have produced mixed results; they are integral to post-conflict stabilization without necessarily contributing to sustainable peace. The article explores the various meanings and approaches to entrepreneurship, and how it is a central plank of post-conflict peacebuilding in Nigeria’s oil region.
Okoi, Obasesam. 2022. Ukraine and the Failure of the Responsibility to Protect Norm. E-International Relations.
This article argues that the failure of the United Nations Security Council to declare a humanitarian no-fly zone in Ukraine to deter Russia’s aggression and protect populations at risk undermines its legitimacy to prevent atrocious crimes that underlie the foundation of the responsibility to protect norm.
Okoi, Obasesam. 2021. “The Responsibility to Defend? Boko Haram Terrorism and Responses to Terror-Induced Displacement in Northeast Nigeria.” In Boko Haram’s Campaign of Terror in the Lake Chad: Context, Dimensions and Future Trajectories, pp. 103-123,eds. Tope Oriola, Freedom Onuoha, and Samuel Oyewole (Routledge).
Since the emergence of Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria, a startling trajectory of terrorism manifested itself in catastrophic death and destruction including massive population displacement that left millions of people in need of humanitarian assistance in the worst affected states of Adamawa, Bornu, and Yobe. The preponderance of Boko Haram’s tactical violence and the culminating impact on population displacement underscores the limited capacity of the state to protect its citizens from security threats arising from within its sovereign territoriality. This chapter contends that neglecting the victims of terror-induced displacement not only constitutes a breach of human rights but also a national security threat. The author draw insights from theories of sovereignty and domestic responsibility to examine the question: Who has the responsibility to defend victims of terror in Northeast Nigeria? This chapter argues that, in the context of terrorism in Northeast Nigeria, the state has lost its monopoly over the means of violence and its capacity to protect victims of terror and may need to rethink its human rights responsibility. In this context, this chapter introduces the “responsibility to defend” (R2D) as a new concept with far-reaching theoretical and practical implications as it pertains to the human rights of IDPs.
Okoi, Obasesam. 2021. “The Failure of Governance in Nigeria: An Epistocratic Challenge.” Georgetown Journal of International Affairs. (with MaryAnne Iwara)
The failure of governance in Nigeria manifests in the declining capacity of political leaders to recognize systemic risks such as election fraud, terrorist attacks, herder-farmer conflict, armed banditry, and police brutality and put in place the necessary measures to navigate these challenges. In contrast with the current system in which leadership is attained through bribery, intimidation, and violence, Nigeria needs an epistocratic system of governance that is founded on the pedigree of its political leaders and the education of its voters.
Okoi, Obasesam. 2020. “How Heath Inequality Affect Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Sub-Saharan Africa.” World Development, 135, 105067. (with Tatenda Bwawa)
The COVID-19 outbreak has infected millions of people across the world, caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, and collapsed national economies. Recognizing the importance of handwashing in preventing the spread of COVID-19, concerns have arisen about the condition of millions of Africans who lack access to hygiene facilities and clean water services. This paper compiles evidence from the WHO-UNICEF data to show the health disparities that limit the capacity of African countries to effectively address the COVID-19 disease along with recommendations for addressing the challenge.
Okoi, Obasesam. 2019. “Peacebuilding and Transformational Change in Nigeria’s Oil Region.” Conflict Resolution Quarterly 19(1): 1-16.
This article draws on primary sources to examine postconflict transformations in Nigeria’s oil region. The overarching goal of the article is to evaluate the impact of Nigeria’s disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program and its effectiveness as a vehicle for peacebuilding in the oil region, focusing specifically on the changes it has brought to the lives of former insurgents at the cultural, intrapersonal, structural, and interpersonal (CISI) levels. This study introduces the CISI model of conflict transformation to put these changes into context and explain why they are crucial for understanding peacebuilding and transformational change.
Okoi, Obasesam. 2020. “How corruption undermines peacebuilding in Nigeria’s oil region,” The Conversation.
In the wake of an insurgency that devastated Nigeria’s petroleum industry and sent the economy into a tailspin, the Nigerian government granted unconditional amnesty to thousands of insurgents in 2009. This article examines the role that corruption played in undermining the peacebuilding process.
Okoi, Obasesam. 2016. “Limits of International Law: Settlement of the Nigeria-Cameroon Territorial Conflict,” International Journal on World Peace 33(2): 77-102.
This article examines the role of international law in the settlement of the Nigeria-Cameroon Bakassi Peninsula conflict. Human rights problems emerged in Nigeria following the implementation of the International Court of Justice judgment that ceded the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon. The implementation of international law aggravated structural violence through the displacement of Bakassi people from their homeland and their exposure to vulnerability and poverty. International law is insufficiently developed and limited in its capacity to address the settlement of territorial conflicts beyond the cessation of armed conflict between rival states. This paper recommends that international law and its implementation by states should accord primacy to the well being of people over territory by promoting a transparent, effective, and accountable system for ensuring full and proper implementation of the human rights and resettlement obligations of governments.
Okoi, Obasesam. 2019. “The Paradox of Nigeria’s Oil Dependency.” Africa Portal, January 21.
Following the collapse of crude oil prices in 2018, which triggered unpleasant memories of the 2014 and 2015 crash in world oil prices, the Nigerian government found itself in unchartered waters. It continues to struggle to revive the economy amidst dwindling oil revenues compounded by unemployment, poverty and insurgency. This article argues that the collapse of oil prices over the years not only pose a strategic danger to the country’s growing importance in the global economy but has been the new catalyst behind its domestic predicaments.
Okoi, Obasesam. 2016. “Why Nations Fight: The Causes of the Nigeria–Cameroon Bakassi Peninsula Conflict.” African Security, 9(1):42-65.
This article examines the conditions under which state leaders chose to make territorial issues a point of contention using the Nigeria–Cameroon Bakassi Peninsula conflict as an empirical case. Drawing on the theoretical insights of neoclassical realism, the article surveys evidence from the importance of domestic political and economic conditions to the relevance of cultural and historical factors as well as from territorial and geopolitical issues to contend that the Nigeria–Cameroon conflict emerged from three theoretical logics: the territorial logic of aggression, the geostrategic logic of aggression, and the diversionary logic of aggression. The qualitative evidence is synthesized to enhance greater understanding of the domestic and international linkages that connect petroleum with territory and aggressive foreign policy.