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The Dog that Doesn’t Bark?: Religious Conflict and Peace Entrepreneurs in Nigeria


From the Horn of Africa, to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the outer reaches of the African continent, conflict, civil war, and coup d’états have dominated Africa for nearly a century. These violent episodes stifle development, hinder the accumulation of capital (physical and human), and arrest growth. Abundant natural resources such as oil, diamonds, and timber, serve as one source of conflict. For nations endowed with such resources, these blessings, when mismanaged, often become curses. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and leading petroleum producer, is no exception. In the Southwest, however, the Yorùbá, though internally divided among Christians and Muslims, appear immune to the ethno-religious conflict seen in the Northern and Middle Belt regions. Are the Yorùbá “exceptional” and atypical given their demography—a Pax Yorùbá over the region? The literature is far from conclusive on the issue—very few recent studies examine the intersection between the Yorùbá, conflict, and religion. Some explanations point solely to the region’s colonial legacy and common ancestry. Relying on in-depth interviews and ethnographic field research, I find that the Yorùbá are the beneficiaries of what I call “Peace Entrepreneurs”. These key local leaders identify potential conflict situations before they escalate and become deadly. The Yorùbá example may help to derive important solutions to alleviate entrenched violent episodes seen elsewhere in Nigeria and other conflict-prone contexts.

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