I am fortunate to have received two consecutive APN awards: the 2016 APN Individual Research Grant and the 2018-2020 APN Collaborative Working Group Research Grant. Both grants catalyzed my professional development. They provided tremendous support for my research and writing, including allowing me to conduct extensive fieldwork in Nigeria’s restive oil-producing region, the Niger Delta. The fieldwork enabled me to generate data and keen insights into my core research areas on natural resource governance, conflict, and peacebuilding.

Although I had heard from friends and colleagues that the APN offered a great empowerment opportunity for its grantees, nothing prepared me for what lay ahead after getting the award—the unique experiences and enormity of the long-term benefits available to grantees, before, during, and after the grant period. Even applying for the grant taught me an important lesson about tenacity. I acknowledge and appreciate the program for initiating the APN Proposal Development and Writing Workshop for promising applicants to build their capacity to develop strong proposals. My participation in the proposal writing workshop in 2015 increased my ability to craft the strong and competitive research grant application that got me the APN award in 2016.

For emerging African scholars working in poorly funded universities on the continent, access to funding is a great impediment to their capacity to conduct rigorous evidence-based research. The APN represents an important opportunity to fill this funding gap by supporting African scholars with relevant skills and resources for research and writing.

In this regard, APN research funding and training enabled me to conduct extensive and comprehensive fieldwork in the core Niger Delta states of Bayelsa, Rivers, and Delta. Before this, I did not realize that I was just scratching the surface of the issues of natural resource governance in the oil-rich Niger Delta. With the experiences gained from participating in APN training workshops, mentoring, and exchanges with my peers, I developed an in-depth understanding of the global and local dynamics of conflict and peace in the Niger Delta. I was able to expand my research beyond my initial interest in food security to include the political economy of oil and conflict dynamics in the Niger Delta. This deeper understanding of the various aspects of the complex conflict and human security challenges in the Niger Delta also guided my data collection, analysis, and writing.  The large data collected over the course of my numerous field trips to the oil-producing region also enabled me to develop new insights that led to publications in reputable academic outlets.

After each of my APN awards, I was able to draw on some of the research data to develop new research interests and apply for other scholarly awards. I applied for a highly competitive fellowship at the Rachel Carson Centre for Environment and Society, Ludwig Maximillian University, Munich, Germany and was the only African scholar awarded the international fellowship in 2017-18. I was also awarded the American Political Science Association (APSA) Centennial Centre Research Grant in 2018 to explore new research areas relating to the gender dimension of the Niger Delta security challenges that I discovered during my APN-supported fieldwork. Another award that was a spin-off from my research in the Niger Delta was the 2019 African Guest Researcher Scholarship of the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI) in Uppsala, Sweden to conduct research on the topic of “Oil Conflict and Ethnic Politics in Nigeria’s Niger Delta Region.” I am still analyzing the data collected and working on several projects, including writing several articles for publication in international peer-reviewed journals and a book project. Part of the data also informed a research idea that led to my participation in the virtual workshop at the Rachel Carson Centre organized on the theme “An Existential Toolkit for Climate Educators Workshop” in July 2020. This workshop was part of the initiative for a book volume to be edited by Jennifer Atkinson, Elin Kelsey, and Sarah Ray titled “An Existential Toolkit for Climate Justice Educators, an edited collection” currently under consideration for publication by the University of California Press. I contributed a chapter titled “Building Capacity for Resilience in the Face of Environmental Shocks” to the volume. I also drew on my research data to participate in an exhibition at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) that took place in Glasgow from October 31-November 13, 2021. I presented a short thinkpiece and poster on “Environmental Politics and Climate Change in Nigeria’s Oil-rich Niger Delta Region” at the exhibition held on the sidelines of COP 26. Most recently, I participated in the “Bridging the Gap” International Policy Summer Institute (IPSI) held at the School of International Service at American University, Washington DC from June 12-16, 2022. The workshop brought together scholars drawn from academic institutions across the world and policymakers to build their capacities in relation to policy engagement in relation to peacebuilding and development.

I commend APN for consistently providing its current and former fellows with information about the importance of publishing their research findings in highly ranked peer-reviewed journals. Apart from providing support, mentorship, collaboration, and information on publication opportunities, the APN has invited me to present my research findings in special panels at international conferences and policy dialogues such as the African Studies Association (ASA) International Peace Research Association (IPRA) Consultative Meeting on Peacebuilding Education in African Universities on July 3, 2017, and the Webinar on Banditry, Insurgency, and Insecurity in West Africa: Women Perspectives, organized by the APN, Lagos Studies Association (LSA), and Professor Olufunke Okome on December 3 and 4, 2021.

These APN activities were highly useful in building long-term relationships with my peers, mentors, partners, and friends that I came into contact with during these events. Several good examples of the outcome of such productive relationships include collaboration with some APN grantees and alumni, including Fatma Ibnouf, Richard Alemdjrodo, Akachi Odoemene, and Aloysius Ngalim in successfully applying for and getting the 2018-2020 APN CWG award with which I was able to explore another dimension of research on resource governance focusing on the farmers and herders conflict in Nigeria and other conflict-affected countries on the continent. I also had the opportunity to co-edit a special issue of the African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review,1Cyril Obi and Abosede Omowumi (Guest Editors), “The Challenge of Building Resilience in Post-Conflict African States: What Role for Local Institutions?” Special Issue, African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review, Vol. 9, No. 2, 2019. to which APN grantees Jacinta Mwende Maweu, Godfrey Maringira, Diana Gibson, Asebe Regassa, Admire Mare, and Jimam T. Lar contributed articles. Most recently, I participated in coediting a book with other APN grantees—Jacinta Mwende Maweu and John Mwangi Githigaro2Abosede Omowumi Babatunde, Mahfouz Adedimeji, Shittu Raji, Jacinta Mwende Maweu and John Mwangi Githigaro (eds.), Managing Violent Religious Extremism in Fragile States: Building Institutional Capacity in Nigeria and Kenya, Routledge, 2022.—and published by Routledge in 2022. As a fellow, I have the opportunity to draw from APN’s expansive network of fellows to work with or contribute to my current research projects.

APN fellows and grantees also have the opportunity to give back to the program and support coming generations of African scholars by serving as reviewers of APN fellowship competitions, serving on the program’s advisory board, integrating their experience and knowledge into developing university curricula and course syllabi, and co-organizing panels in international conferences and training workshops.

As APN celebrates a great milestone of its first decade of existence, marked by immense contributions to and impacts on the careers, professional advancement, and scholarship of African scholars across the continent, I attest to the highly positive impact of the program. It has transformed the lives of my peers and me in terms of opportunities and skills for advancing our scholarship and careers. I commend the APN program Director, Prof. Cyril Obi, for spearheading the diverse and laudable initiatives that set APN apart as a distinct and unique grant for empowering emerging African scholars in the field of peacebuilding.

In the next decade, the APN is poised to further consolidate the program’s distinctive initiatives while also exploring new frontiers. I hope the APN can institutionalize mechanisms whereby former fellows will mentor and collaborate with new and former grantees working in the same or related fields. Also, I hope that the APN can provide additional support in the form of a platform through which fellows and alumni would be able to access and download books, journal articles, and other materials in the field of African peacebuilding.

Regarding my career trajectory in the next 10 years, I plan to continue to expand my scholarship and expertise in the areas of resource governance, conflict, and peacebuilding by building on my research capacities through my teaching, research, and publications. I hope to publish some books, articles, and op-ed pieces based on data from my APN research and future research that can contribute meaningfully to knowledge, policy, and action. I also hope to contribute to the scholarships of junior colleagues through active mentoring. Through my teaching, I plan to produce and train a new cohort of peacebuilding scholars. I will continue to explore research collaborations with APN fellows working in similar fields while also serving as a mentor to future APN fellows.

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