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Prof discusses African societal problems in new KU YouTube clip

On the surface, Kansas and Nigeria may not appear to have much in common. Ebenezer Obadare, assistant professor of sociology, could tell you otherwise.

Nigeria, like many African nations, is watching much of its youth leave for opportunities elsewhere, In a new KU YouTube video, Obadare, a Nigerian, discusses transnational migration and its effects, how the postcolonial state has persisted in Africa, despite efforts to the contrary, and how citizens have survived for decades in the face of overwhelming odds. Watch the video on YouTube.

Because of ongoing migration in and out of the nation, Obadare has found Nigerian citizens have a less-robust relationship with the state. Many young people in the country feel there are not adequate opportunities there, leading them to seek employment and new lives elsewhere.

Such migration often has immense political, social and economic ramifications.

A society that is hemorrhaging people may actually be beneficial for a government unpopular with much of its citizenry. Many of the people who may actively resist the government often are outside of the nation, Obadare argues.

Because of such mass migration, people often become less civically engaged and tend to rely on the state to provide necessities such as food, water, education and roads. Many nations also become reliant on foreign aid, which can lead to complacency and reduced civil engagement.

Nigeria is not the only nation in which the postcolonial system has persevered in the form of unpopular governments. But like many others, the state controls the nation's wealth in the form of its natural resources. More than 90 percent of Nigeria's national income comes from oil.

"This means the state can actually afford to do without its people," Obadare said. "It gives the state tremendous power."

Many social factors can help maintain less than desirable governments as well. Religion is a very influential factor in many African nations. The "theocratic class" as Obadare refers to it, wields great power. It is not uncommon for political leaders to claim God chose them to lead, which reduces the likelihood of citizens acting against the government.

Despite mounting economic and political woes which have become a staple of everyday life in post-colonial Africa, citizens have persevered. Obadare takes a close look at how people have made it. He identifies numerous "strategies of survival." The resilience of the human spirit often wins out.

"Even when the material consequences are very dire, you can't doubt that people are doing their very best," Obadare said.

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