The 16th edition of the Border Regions in Transition, (BRIT) Conference opens tomorrow at the University of Ibadan, (UI) which is co-hosting with the University of Abomey Calavi in neighbouring Benin Republic. It is a 4-day affair during which political geographers, International Relations experts, Peace Studies as well as practitioners of power, space and mobility would be cracking their brain on negotiating border management in North-South relations.
If the initial arrangement is still intact, Professor Anthony Asiwaju, one of Nigeria’s earliest scholars in Border Studies; Professor Paul Nugent of the University of Edinburgh and one of Europe’s most thorough going scholars on Africa; Prof James Scott, a leading scholar of EU Border Geopolitics based at the University of Eastern Finland as well as UI’s Prof Olawale Albert would be some of the key speakers at the conference.
It is nothing more than an imaginary line separating two countries from another but the border is what defines a country in international politics and can be the subject of a dispute leading to war, with all the horrifying consequences of such outcomes. In traditional International Relations, it has a physical reality in what cartographers do. In critical International Relations reflecting supposedly informationalized and deterritorialized world, it can be anywhere. The puzzle about borders today is why it has come back in hard forms in terms of walls, fences and similar barriers in a world in which borders are supposed to have disappeared. Along with that is how they might be negotiated to bring about more just regimes of mobility. Existing regimes disfavor Africa, from the mega machinism of airport controls to the visa requirements to border control practices by powerful countries and even the capacity to build walls, fences by poverty stricken African countries.
It is interesting that the Nigerian Immigration Service, (NIS) is supporting the conference, hoping the Nigerian government will make its voice heard at the conference and synthesise its proceedings for her staff to internalize. Perhaps, this is the road to the opening of more formal centres for Border Studies or Geopolitics of Borders in Nigerian universities outside the foundationalism of traditional International Relations or Political Science.