By Steven Harris-Scott
On October 17, 2012, George Mason University’s School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution (SCAR) sponsored a book launch for Clarence J. Robinson Professor of International Studies John N. Paden. Paden’s manuscript, entitled Postelection Conflict Management in Nigeria: The Challenges of National Unity, presents Volume One in SCAR’s new Monograph Series. The series, according to SCAR Dean Andrea Bartoli, “will provide a wide variety of case studies of conflicts that are amendable to mitigation and resolution,” including Nigeria. Dean Bartoli hopes that these case studies “will be of use not only to policymakers but also to students as they prepare for their future roles as peacemakers in a troubled world.”
The book launch was held at the Arlington Campus and included remarks from Dean Bartoli, Provost Peter Stearns, and Professor Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, the Director-General of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru, Nigeria. Professor Paden’s research covers a 12-month period from January to December 2011, focusing on how political and social situations have escalated since the contested April 2011 election. Professor Muhammad-Bande praises Postelection Conflict Management in the book’s Forward for its mission “to advance our appreciation of both the obstacles to and the promise of national unity in Nigeria.”
Dean Bartoli commended Paden’s book for his “extraordinary” work of “quality and consistency.” Bartoli continued that “political formations of importance always evolve through new frames of reference and Professor Paden is providing a very helpful exploration space for the national conversation in and about Nigeria.”
Paden has been working on Nigeria for a considerable time. He earned his doctorate in politics from Harvard with a focus on Nigeria and has always had what he describes as a “significant curiosity” in the overlay of Islamic, Western and African cultures. He has authored several books on Africa and on Nigeria specifically, namely his 2008 Faith and Politics in Nigeria: Nigeria as a Pivotal State in the Muslim World and Religion and Political Culture in Kano where he lived for several years and helped to set up a new university (i.e. Bayero University Kano).
Paden has served as an international monitor of Nigerian elections since 1999. When it was clear that there would be significant concerns surrounding the 2011 elections, Paden quickly realized that he could make a contribution to the emerging conflict.
Paden’s book was not intended as a purely “academic” work, but as a policy book directed toward Nigeria. He was quick to point out that historical memory is important to contextualize where the country is now and his book sets out to do just that. Paden also intended his monograph as a “bridge” for American policymakers in their dealings with Nigeria.
Paden also recently helped organize a conference on “Conflict Resolution and Reforms in Northern Nigeria” sponsored by Mason’s SCAR and Nigeria’s National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS). The conference was intended to bring together academics and policymakers from the United States and Nigeria to discuss various aspects of conflict analysis related to Nigeria’s recent political upheaval. Some of the topics discussed at the conference were economic and structural reforms, regional and grassroots educational reforms, and conflict and security reforms.
In addition to Mason participants, the conference drew approximately 30 dignitaries from Nigeria and 50 academics, scholars and administrators from other institutions and organizations in the United States. Nigerian dignitaries included guests from the Nigerian Embassy, Usmanu Danfodiyo University in Sokoto (UDUS), the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), the Center for Regional Integration and Development in Abuja, the National Defense College in Abuja, Kaduna Polytech, and Bayero University.
Dr. Paden has lectured to the U.S. Department of State’s Conflict and Stabilization Office on his book topic and testified to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on “Religious Extremism in Nigeria.” Paden was also the feature for a Roundtable event at the Council on Foreign Relations after the publication of his recent work.
Dr. Paden is a co-founder of Mason’s graduate program in International Commerce and Policy (ICP) and is co-founder and co-director of the Center for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (CAPEC). He has also helped develop undergraduate minors at Mason in Asia Pacific Studies, Islamic Studies, and Afro-American and African Studies.