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Networks of violence and becoming: youth and the politics of patronage in Nigeria's oil-rich Delta*

  • Akin Iwilade (a1)

This article argues that access to clientelistic networks is central to the ability of youth to engage in violent activities in Nigeria's oil-rich Delta. Even though the literature has demonstrated that the contradictions of oil wealth and economic neglect provide the backdrop for conflict in the region, the actual channels through which it becomes possible to activate incentives for violence have not been properly addressed. It also points out that a fixation on the narrative of resistance has undermined our ability to engage with other critical variables such as social codes of masculinity, survival and ‘becoming’ which play very central roles in animating violent networks in the region. Drawing evidence from interview data, the article uses the lived experiences of ‘ex-militants’ to highlight these points as well as to raise questions about the applications of neopatrimonial theory to governance projects in African states.

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I am grateful to Professor David Pratten of the African Studies Centre, University of Oxford and three anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments.

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Bereni (no last name given), 26-year-old former member of Buccaneers Cult group at the University of Port Harcourt. Currently in the UK studying for an undergraduate degree under the sponsorship of the Amnesty Office. Lagos, 16.7.2013–22.9.2013.
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