Nigeria’s premier university, the University of Ibadan, (UI) is standing up to be counted on a global scale in the highly contested realm of negotiating border management in North-South relations. It is jointly hosting the 16th edition of the Border Regions in Transition, (BRIT) Conference later this year at which Professor Anthony Asiwaju, Nigeria’s renowned pioneer scholar in Border Studies, would be speaking. So also would the University of Edinburgh’s Professor Paul Nugent, one of Europe’s most thorough going scholars on Africa, once compiling a 7112 word bibliography on the Module ‘Ethnicity, Class and Power in Twentieth-Century Africa’ that he taught in the mid 1990s. Beyond Asiwaju and Nugent is Prof James Scott, a leading scholar of EU Border Geopolitics based at the University of Eastern Finland. The last but not the least is UI’s Prof Olawale Albert, a leading intellectual force behind the university’s Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies, (IPSS). Ibadan is working together with the University of Abomey Calavi in neighbouring Benin Republic in hosting the conference.
Borders and the management of mobilities have become hotly contested realms in the post Cold War, moving from its territorial conception in traditional International Relations or Political Geography to “where is the border?” in Critical Security Studies. In other words, Critical Security Studies argue that the border is where power decides it is rather than anything territorial. This claim is exemplified by the possibility of one country to be inside another country but without crossing the territorial border as in the case of the US running ‘States of Exception’ such as Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The Revolution in Military Affairs, (RMA) and associated tactics of violent geographies in the Global War on Terror, (GWOT) have compounded the politics of borders in the contemporary world.
Africa has been absent (or is it silent?) in the conceptual contestations in Border Studies. Might UI be intervening in Border Studies in the same way it successfully interrogated Historiography in the 1960s?