The Bakassi Boys: Vigilantism, Violence, and Political Imagination in Nigeria:

Daniel Jordan Smith

In Nigeria and elsewhere, vigilantism appears to be a common response to ambivalence and discontent about the authority of the state. The rise of the Bakassi Boys and their tremendous popularity reveal complexities and contradictions that characterize the contours of political organization and imagination in contemporary Nigeria. Vigilantism is shown to be a reaction to the disappointments of Nigeria's neoliberal economic reforms and democratization, drawing on idioms of accountability rooted in the supernatural. Yet, paradoxically, popular justification for vigilantism also draws on ideals of democracy and development. Further, popular perceptions of the Bakassi Boys and a coopting of vigilantism by politicians serve to obscure the responsibility of the state for the maintenance of inequality even as vigilantism is, simultaneously, a forceful reaction to institutionalized injustice.

Access to this content is restricted.

  • If you are a AAA member please login to obtain full-text access.
  • If you are not a AAA member you can find out more information and join here https://avectra.aaanet.org/eweb/DynamicPage.aspx?webcode=verify.
  • If you are a library patron of an academic institution, and are experiencing an access issue please contact your library administrator for assistance.
  • If you would like to purchase online access to this single article please locate the article on Wiley Online Library or contact a Wiley-Blackwell customer service representative at cs-journals@wiley.com.