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The chief, the youth and the plantation: communal politics in southern Nigeria*

  • Pauline von Hellermann (a1)

In August 2006 the chief of Udo, a small town in Edo State, Nigeria, was deposed and the town taken over by the ‘youth’. This event presents the classic fall of a ‘big man’ who had lost support, but also involved long-standing chieftaincy rivalries, electoral competition in the run up to the 2007 elections, and conflict over a nearby oil palm and rubber plantation. Through an examination of Udo's crisis, this paper engages with three key questions concerning contemporary communal politics in southern Nigeria: the manifestations of patrimonial power and resistance to it; the meaning and role of ‘youth’; and the impact of expatriate capital.

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This research was supported by an ESRC/NERC studentship and a British Academy Small Research Grant, which I gratefully acknowledge. I would like to thank Barbara Harriss-White, John Peel, Laurent Fourchant, Ruth Marshall, Kathryn Tomlinson, Rebecca Prentice, Daryl Stump, James Hampshire and in particular my two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.

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OOPC manager 2, OOPC, 10.10.2002, 8.1.2003.

OOPC manager 2's wife, UK, 12.12.2003.

OOPC manager 3, OOPC, 18.1.2003.

OOPC manager 4, 14.8.2006.

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OOPC manager 5, OOPC, 14.8.2006.

Secretary to the Uwangue, Udo, 25.11.2002, 20.1.2003.

Udo inhabitant 1, Udo, 15.8.2006, 24.8.2006.

Udo inhabitant 2, Udo, 17.8.2006, 22.8.2006.

Udo inhabitant 3, Udo, 17.8.2006.

Udo inhabitant 4, Udo, 17.8.2006.

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