‘Studies have shown that inhabitants along border communities have been at the receiving end of insurgent activities as they are the first victims of this inimical phenomenon and disturbingly do not receive adequate intervention and attention from either governments or international humanitarian organisations,’ said Okunade.
‘In spite of this, these communities continually strive to survive in the face of daily threats.’
Okunade said he had little funding for his research but still managed to visit communities in north-eastern Nigeria to get first-hand information on what these communities faced on a daily basis. ‘I want to be a voice for the inhabitants of border communities with histories of marginalisation and neglect by the state, especially in Africa.’
His study called for more international response in the region and a consolidation of strategies which he believes will help protect and sustain the communities against future internal crisis and violence. ‘The peace that has been negotiated successfully should be strongly guarded so that issues that degenerate into ethno-religious issues do not reoccur in the future,’ said Okunade.
Last month Okunade was invited as the only African-based scholar to work with colleagues in the United Kingdom on an ongoing project known as InfoMigrants, sponsored by the European Union and other supporting partners. The project aims to dissuade irregular migration from Africa and some parts of the Middle East into Europe.
Okunade, who is a post-doctoral fellow at the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship at the University of Pretoria, is part of a team of researchers investigating how the long existing disconnect between research outcomes and policy formulation can be closed.
‘In Africa, funding has been a great challenge for researchers mainly because governments and policy makers do not see the need to fund research,’ he said. ‘This is what this research is focused on and involves evidence-based research which will be presented at various forums for policy makers and state representatives to help inform them that no society can develop without engaging in innovative research outcomes.’
Okunade, who thanked his family and friends for being his support system, had this advice for students: ‘Challenges will surface and resurface. Your success is dependent on your ability to vigorously confront and overcome whatever challenges arise. There are opportunities – pursue and use them to your benefit.’