The Making of an Ethnic Militia: The Oodua People's Congress in Nigeria.


Mainstream economic literature on the causes of civil wars links the probability of emergence of civil conflicts to economic opportunities that make the initiation of a rebellion profitable. This perspective gives a passive role to the state and by resorting to primitive conceptions of mobilisation, ignores the issue of interaction between leaders and followers, which is crucial to the success of a rebellion. Exploring the genealogy and evolution of a Nigerian Yoruba ethnic militia, the Oodua People's Congress (OPC), this paper provides a dynamic analysis of the rebellion-making decision in which the state plays an active role, direct or indirect. The history and evolution of the OPC display many features not found in the archetypical presentation of the rebellion-making process. First, despite Nigeria's oil wealth, greed for lootable natural resources in no way constitutes the impetus for formation of the militia: the OPC emerged largely as a response to the fiercest military dictatorship of Nigeria's post-colonial history. Second, we suggest that collective action problems typically associated with the mobilisation of followers are solved via the everyday benefits the organisation grants to militia members in the course of their activities. The OPC is successful because it accommodates many sections of Yoruba society, including high-profile political figures. It has gained its success largely by functionally replacing the state in domains where the latter has failed, such as security and the judiciary.


CRISE Working Paper 26, 24 pp.

The Making of an Ethnic Militia: The Oodua People’s Congress in Nigeria.

Published 1 January 2006