Tumultuous religious conflicts, a high corruption rate, and the recent kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls by the Islamist group Boko Haram have put northern Nigeria in the international spotlight recently.
Modupe Oshikoya, a PhD student in the Graduate Program of Global Governance and Human Security at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, is helping to develop essential systems for predicting and resolving violent conflicts between Muslims and Christians in this African country.
Born and raised in the United Kingdom with familial roots in Nigeria, Oshikoya brings her educational background in international politics and development studies to her work. In addition, with a six-year history working at the British House of Commons research service providing briefings on international affairs, she is well poised to support this peace project.
Oshikoya’s work is guided by her mentor Professor Darren Kew, the executive director of the university’s Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development (CPDD). Center faculty and graduate students assist the Interfaith Mediation Centre (IMC), a local peacebuilding organization working to diffuse tensions in Kaduna, Nigeria. Their latest tolerance projects include construction of an early warning system.
“CPDD has a long-standing partnership with the Interfaith Meditation Centre in Nigeria to help build understanding among political, social, and religious groups,” says Oshikoya. “IMC is a globally-recognized organization that specializes in Muslim-Christian dialogue by using a variety of intervention approaches that encourage participants to find deeper understanding of their own faiths and new perspectives across the religious divide.”
Elaborating on her work, she notes, "The early warning system is a system that can predict markers for conflict and security issues that can occur in an area. The IMC is currently working on setting this up—so they had to investigate markers for flare-ups of conflict by asking individuals in different communities about what can increase intolerance and mistrust among them.”
Since the early warning system project began, Oshikoya has been to Nigeria twice. “Both times I went to observe and help facilitate workshops and trainings, as well as to familiarize myself with the IMC staff and their operations.”
A hallmark of many of the McCormack Graduate School’s academic programs, students gain hands-on, applied policy training through their courses and research assistantships. Although the project is still in its early stages, Oshikoya’s work to organize and analyze baseline primary data and conduct trainings in conflict resolution is instrumental.
“UMass Boston is helping IMC to build their operational capacity and to implement the early warning system. I’m doing this work, as it is part of my research duties,” says Oshikoya. “It’s a groundbreaking project and I’m glad that I’m part of it.”