Dr. Onyinyechukwu Onyido Durueke was interviewed during the APN-WANEP Policy Dialogue on “Mediating Natural Resource Conflict in Africa: Connecting Practice to Research” in Abuja, Nigeria. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
APN: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your APN-supported research project?
Onyinyechukwu Onyido Durueke: My name is Onyinyechukwu Onyido. I am a senior lecturer at the Centre for Conflict and Gender Studies, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. My APN-supported project examines the experiences and coping mechanisms of women in post-conflict Niger Delta oil producing communities using an intersectional approach. It builds upon my Doctoral research on women affected by the 2001 Tiv-Jukun conflict in Benue and Taraba States of Nigeria. Unlike in the previous study, this project is based on an intersectional approach. It is focused on what happens to women when armed conflict officially ends. The project recognizes that most interventions in the region adopt the ‘one size fits all’ approach, without paying attention to several other factors apart from gender that intersect and impact women in post-conflict oil-rich communities. Age is one of them; the way an old woman will experience the post-conflict period and the coping mechanisms she adopts will definitely be different from a young lady’s experience. Also, women with children cope differently from those without children. I will continue to examine these and other related issues as I progress with the research.
In your view what are the major takeaways from the meeting in relation to building synergies between practitioners and researchers? Explain.
There are major takeaways. One of which is the importance of levels of conflict, responses, and interventions. In my contributions during the meeting, I referred to the role of the individual or family who owns resource-rich land, including those where oil exploration takes place. My research has shown that in such contexts, individuals that can successfully assert their ownership claims are very powerful. They can contribute to conflicts being protracted; or become gatekeepers, or tools in the hands of the multinational oil corporations seeking to divide opposition to their operations in oil producing communities. Under certain conditions, influential individuals lead protests when denied compensation from oil companies due to land expropriation or oil pollution that had wreaked havoc on their land and waters. From the discussions during the meeting, I am more convinced that family-heads and community leaders, representatives of multinational corporations, government, youth leaders, and women leaders should be present during mediation processes in communities affected by conflict. It is important for those mediating natural resource-related conflicts not to leave out certain individuals/family heads from negotiations and agreements made during the mediation process. Another major takeaway from the meeting is the need for African researchers to learn and engage more with mediation processes and work closely with mediation practitioners in understanding the complexities of specific conflicts, including how to partner with them to build sustainable peace. I learned a lot about the practice of mediation from this meeting and will share some of the new insights with my students.
What advice would you give people who are interested in applying for the APN grant?
Those planning to apply for the APN grant should start working on their applications early. Starting early will give the applicant the opportunity to go over the application/proposal several times and with each time, the candidate will realize that there is something to add or subtract. They should also get in touch with previous grantees – talk to them about the process and ask for ‘trade secrets.’ It is also useful to ask someone knowledgeable in the field of your research to read your proposal and provide you with constructive feedback. I applied for the grant several times. One of the mistakes I made was not giving anyone my proposal to read and suggest ways of strengthening it. Those like me who applied and were initially unsuccessful, should also take the reviewers comments sent to all applicants by the APN, seriously when revising their proposals and applying for the grant in the future. It is very important to do so. Finally, applicants need to be very innovative when selecting a topic to research on. A rigorous literature review will help in identifying gaps, or areas needing further studies. There is no point duplicating existing studies or projects. Successful APN applicants or grantees, should take the APN training workshops (methodology, writing, and dissemination workshops) very seriously and apply what they learn in their research projects. My experience of the APN methodology workshop was mind-blowing. Before attending the workshop, I had thought I was good in field research methodology but when I listened to experienced mentors like Professor Omeje, I realized that I hadn’t even scratched the surface. I learned a whole lot and my mentor helped frame my research questions properly.
What would you have done differently if you were given the chance to reapply?
I would have applied most of the things I learned during the methodology workshop so my proposal could be the best!
What do you do in your spare time?
When I am not teaching, researching, writing, or making presentations, I love watching basketball on TV, particularly the NBA. I also take karate lessons. As a mother of 2 hyper-active children, I share quality time with them, and we engage in lots of fun activities together.
Onyinyechukwu Onyido Durueke is a lecturer and researcher at the Centre for Conflict and Gender Studies at the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. Onyinye holds Masters and Doctoral Degrees in peace and conflict studies from the University of Ibadan. Her primary research interests include gender and peacebuilding, post-conflict states, and sexual violence during and after armed conflict. Her PhD research focused on the coping mechanisms women develop in post-conflict states. In 2011 she spent time in residency at the Centre of West African Studies, University of Birmingham as a Visiting Scholar under the Cadbury Fellowship. Currently, Onyinye teaches Conflict Analysis, Communication and Conflict Management; and Gender and Peacebuilding at the Centre for Conflict and Gender Studies (CCGS) University of Port Harcourt.