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Report: New forms of Popular Transports of Goods and Persons in Nigeria

A Masterclass held at the Aminu Kano Centre for Democratic Research and Training (Mambayya House), Bayero University, Kano from July 2nd to July 7th, 2018

From Monday 2nd to Saturday 7th of July, 2018, IFRA Nigeria, Sciences Po Paris and Columbia University organised their second Masterclass in Nigeria. Last year, 18 Nigerian PhD students gathered in the University of Ibadan to participate in intensive workshops, fieldwork and writing sessions around the topic of religion and urbanism in Nigeria under the supervision of Nigerian, French and British scholars. This year, 16 students from various parts of Nigeria were invited to the Aminu Kano Centre for Democratic Research and Training of the Bayero University in Kano, also known as Mambayya House. Under the supervision of international academics, they engaged critically with the topic of transports and flows of people in urban settings in Nigeria. The week aimed at combining reading seminars with field research in the Kano metropolis and paper writing in order to build the research skills of the selected students.

2018 07 masterclass kano 1The first two days were notably devoted to dynamic, interactive workshop sessions. After welcome words by the faculty and Prof. Haruna Wakili, director of our host institution Mambayya House, the weekly programme was presented and students introduced themselves. Prof. Brian Larkin led an opening seminar drawing on a paper by Daniel Agbiboa (George Mason University) addressing the “World Class city” conception of Lagos developed by Lagos State governors and its repercussions for okadas (bike taxi riders) operating in the metropolis. The seminar focused on the dialectical process that enabled the author to build intellectual questions along with methodological and analytical frameworks.

In the afternoon, Prof. Laurent Fourchard (Sciences Po Paris) delved into another paper by Daniel Agbiboa engaging with the hustling life of Informal Transport Workers (ITW) in Lagos, their relationships with vehicle owners, regulatory bodies and union workers. Students were extremely receptive and used their daily life experience along with their readings to reflect upon the topics, leading to lively and well-informed interactions.

Another seminar jointly led by Prof. Larkin and Dr. Yusuf Umar Madugu (Bayero University Kano) ensued. It provided a historical contextualisation of transport regulation and operations in Northern Nigeria. The repercussions of Islamic reform movements and new security threats were debated, building on Dr. Madugu’s own work on the growth of taxi industry in Kano. The gender dynamics in transport practices were extensively analysed in the seminar.

Day 2 of the Masterclass started with a presentation delivered by Mr. Nura Ibrahim Hassan, currently PhD student in Geography and Masterclass participant who has been working as a consultant on the metropolitan Kano transport system with various organisations, including the Kano State government, the World Bank and the British Department for International Development (DFID). It was followed by a final seminar supervised by Dr. Emilie Guitard (IFRA Nigeria) and Dr. Yomi Ogunsanya (University of Ibadan). It was concerned by the material culture and discourses pervasive around tricycle transports. Dr. Guitard examined slogans, images and patterns on vehicles as objects of academic inquiry as well as the methodological and theoretical implications of researching them. Dr. Ogunsanya then analysed the circulation and consumption of slogans between Kano and its diasporas.

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2018 07 masterclass kano 3The afternoon began with the identification of research topics that would be the focus of the fieldwork. Five objects of study were pinpointed:

  1. Gender and transport
  2. Motor park governance
  3. Regulation, traffic violation and control
  4. (Im)material culture and tricycles
  5. Sociology of the tricycle drivers

Students subsequently split into 5 thematic groups and initiated designing on research questions, methodologies and networking in preparation for their field trip the next day. Research designs favoured qualitative research combining semi-structured interviews, observations, transect walks, interview grids in some cases. They received substantial feedback from the faculty after presenting their work.

Students spent Day 4 in the field in Kano metropolis researching the various themes they had landmarked. They showed impressive social research skills, commitment and perseverance, including among those who were neither familiar with the city nor Hausa language. A lot of information was gathered during the day, as illustrated in the post-field presentations that took place the next day.

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During the presentations, students detailed their interviews and observations. They displayed photographs of their fieldwork experiences and explained how they would make use of collected data to engage with their research questions. Several presentations also included outlines and titles. The groups then went on writing the first paragraphs of their papers and ultimately read excerpts of them, receiving further feedback. Students were also encouraged to provide feedback to other groups and divide the writing process into sections.

Day 5 and 6 were entirely dedicated to writing and rewriting following advice and guidance made by the faculty on the drafts. The various groups managed to write around 2,000 word essays. The paper drafting was challenging given the little amount of time available and the difficulties inherent to collective writing. However, many students made efforts to follow the methodological and analytical advice provided to them.

The Masterclass concluded on a positive note. Faculty members who had participated the previous year all agreed on that the commitment of the participants, the quality of the fieldwork and the writings were significantly higher. Running the programme in Kano enabled students from the South-West and the East to become more familiar with the Northern Nigerian context. Importantly, elements of the data gathered might contribute to challenge the conventional wisdom and popular misconceptions about aspects of the transport system in Kano, foremost among them the social background of tricycle drivers or gender segregation practices. Although the format combining workshops field research and writing several drafts have proved to be very demanding due to time constraints, the sessions were very productive intellectually and the feedback from participants has been very good. Most of the student writings will hopefully be published on the IFRA website as e-papers in the next few months.

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Faculty:

  • Dr. Elodie Apard (IFRA Nigeria)
  • Prof. Laurent Fourchard (Sciences Po Paris)
  • Dr. Emilie Guitard (IFRA Nigeria)
  • Dr. Yusuf Umar Madugu (Bayero University Kano)
  • Prof. Brian Larkin (Columbia University New York)
  • Dr. Yomi Ogunsanya (University of Ibadan)
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