Jana Frey | 26.10.2018 | 811 Aufrufe | Interviews

Sallek Musa | "Military Internal Security Operation in Plateau State, North Central Nigeria: Creating Security or Insecurity?"

Lisa Maskell Fellowships at Stellenbosch University, South Africa

In 2014, the Gerda Henkel Foundation initiated a scholarship programme supporting young humanities scholars from Africa and Southeast Asia in honour of the foundation's founder, Lisa Maskell. It is the largest international support programme for PhD students in the history of the Foundation. The Lisa Maskell Fellowships aim to strengthen universities in the partner countries, to counter the outflow of qualified young scholars and to ensure the doctoral students enjoy excellent academic training.

In the following months, L.I.S.A. will publish interviews with the Lisa Maskell Fellows from Stellenbosch University in South Africa, in which they will talk about their research projects as well as their experiences during their academic career and the Lisa Maskell fellowship.

This week, we welcome Sallek Musa from Nigeria. After graduating from the University of Northampton, he started his PhD in Sociology with the thesis Military Internal Security Operation in Plateau State, North Central Nigeria: Creating Security or Insecurity? at Stellenbosch University in 2016.

Sallek Musa from Nigeria

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"This undermines the commitment of the students to study"

L.I.S.A.: What is the status of the humanities in Nigeria, your home country?

Sallek Musa: In Nigeria, particularly in Northern Nigeria which I am conversant with, when one observes from a distant, the humanities and social sciences appear to be bourgeoning and perhaps, the most promising faculty. The admission rate for new intakes, graduating students, and the number of departments is usually high, often boasting the highest statistics compared to other faculties. As the student number is high, so also is the faculty. At the University of Jos, where I studied for BSc Sociology for instance, the humanities and social science faculties had many professors, senior lecturers and seasoned academics in the faculties.

However, while the statistics indicate an encouraging report, a deeper observation would reveal some discouraging facts about the status of the humanities and the social sciences. A key factor responsible for this is that many students enrolled into the faculty were admitted to take-up studies in disciplines outside of the humanities or social science faculty. One key reason for this is due to one or more deficiencies in the basic requirements for studying in the faculties they are admitted into. In many cases, universities offer admission to students who excel in matriculation (JAMB) and post-matriculation examinations (Post-UME), but might be awaiting their (high) school examination results. Where they do not meet the basic requirements for the courses of their choices, particularly in the natural and medical sciences, they are forced to change to the humanities or social sciences faculty. Others are advised to change from other faculties to the humanities for beeing unable to meet the minimum points required for promotion into higher levels. Along with this, securing admissions for undergraduate studies in Nigeria is highly competitive, many times applicants are offered courses they never applied to. As such, some simply find themselves studying and graduating in the humanities because they do not have other options.

Generally, this undermines the commitment of the students to study. I myself was a victim of this, so were many of my colleagues, and to date, I still come across many students experiencing the challenge. In my case, my grade point in my first two years of study were below average, and I was only able to overcome the problem because of the kind and passionate advice and encouragement I received from two faculty members. The problem with the admission system in Nigeria is that it trumps other disciplines as ‘prestigious’ while it fosters a status of ‘less importance’ to the humanities and social sciences. Typically, this is reflective of the general political and societal conception of the humanities and the social sciences. For example, parents discourage their children from joining the humanities and social sciences while forcing them to study ‘professional’ disciplines such as medicine, law, and accountancy even when they are not passionate towards this.

"I had to work on a full-time basis while studying"

L.I.S.A. Have you ever encountered problems in the realization of your academic career?

Sallek Musa: Growing up with a low socio-economic background has meant that I have always had to offer a helping hand to my family’s entrepreneurial activities, as this serves as our means of livelihood. The implication of this is that in all my years of study, even when I enrolled for my MSc Criminology degree at the University of Northampton, I had to engage in menial jobs for my subsistence. While it is common for students to work while studying, the peculiarity of my case is that the future of my study depended on this, and I originate from an academically disadvantaged background. Besides my immediate family, I have never had any other source of support for my studies, and as those who could have been my supporters have never understood the rigour and demands of studying, I had to work on a full-time basis while studying.

"I experienced the helplessness of civilians and civilian groups to the threats of violence"

L.I.S.A.: What is your PhD project about and what got you interested in the chosen topic to begin with?

Sallek Musa: My research focuses on the conflict in Plateau State, one of the most enduring violent conflicts in Nigeria. I have observed with sadness how social relations were strained in this once peaceful state in Nigeria due to growing distrust and ethno-religious intolerance, but even more disturbing is the worsening of the violence. As a native and resident of Plateau State, I experienced the helplessness of civilians and civilian groups to the threats of violence and the everyday threats and abuse from military personnel deployed to enforce peace in their communities. On a daily basis, soldiers conducting internal security operations subject civilians to ‘instant justice’, punishing them, subjecting them to inhuman treatment, and even extorting them of their means of livelihood while not been able to guarantee their security. Several peace dialogues, seminars, conferences, arbitration, and mediation have occurred and are still ongoing, yet the carnage continues to resurge with growing number of civilian casualties, despite the military presence and heavy militarisation. As such, I felt compelled to study the recurrence and resurgence of violence in this state in Nigeria from an under-explored angle as civilians are expressing dissatisfaction with the military. Thus, my study interrogates whether there is adequate civilian control of the Nigerian military and whether the security enhancing duty of the military as a special task force in Plateau State ameliorates or exacerbates insecurity?

"I only recognised the problems and tensions with diversity in Stellenbosch"

L.I.S.A. What has your experience at Stellenbosch been like? Have there been any differences to the University of Northampton in the UK and possibly other institutions you have previously attended?

Sallek Musa: My study experience in Stellenbosch University has been a rewarding one. While the University of Northampton was diverse, I only recognised the problems and tensions with diversity in Stellenbosch, a society with an infamous but a ‘living-past’ which continues to affect everyday life even on campus. However, this did not undermine my study as the study environment in Stellenbosch was near-perfect. Added to this, I had the opportunity to study comfortably and with peace of mind, as I was awarded a fellowship, an opportunity I never received at any of the previous institutions at which I had studied. However, while the study experience, facilities and faculty in Stellenbosch compares favourably to those at Northampton, I cannot say the same of my home institution. As such, my exposure to these institutions has not only equipped me to start up my career on a proper grounding, but they have challenged and sharpened my worldview. For me, the standards I have seen at these institutions are the types that ambitious and respected universities maintain, and for my home institution to attain similar heights, it must follow similar paths.

"Little or no any form of sufficient bursaries or study loans"

L.I.S.A.: What are the opportunities in Nigeria to pursue different degree options (BA/MA/PhD)?

Sallek Musa: Few to no opportunities exists in Nigeria for those wishing to take up studies, irrespective of the level of studies. The Nigerian government provides little or no any form of sufficient bursaries or study loans, which means students have to fund their studies by themselves.

"I believe my generation can change the narrative and state of things"

L.I.S.A.: What are your plans concerning your future career once you have obtained your PhD?

Sallek Musa: My priority is to pick up a career in academia, particularly in Nigeria. I am keen to return home, despite the challenges and the disparity in terms of university funding, standard facilities, and libraries, as I believe my generation can change the narrative and state of things.

Sallek Musa has answered the questions in written form.

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