Professor Raufu Mustapha



Professor Raufu Mustapha 

ASA UK Lasting Legacy Award 2022



Professor Raufu Mustapha was posthumously recognized for his remarkable contribution to the research and understanding of the African continent when the inaugural ASA UK Lasting Legacy Award was conferred on him on Sunday 4 September 2022 as part of the annual meeting held in Liverpool that year. This page is designed to highlight Professor Mustapha’s vast contribution, and to share his insights with new generations of researchers.




Professor Raufu Mustapha Award Citation


The late Raufu Mustapha was a brilliant thinker, inspiring mentor, a good friend and a committed scholar who made profound contributions to our understanding of many important issues, from democracy and electoral politics to international development, and from the impact of faith and religion on contemporary societies to political theory. A scholar whose work and teaching both deepened knowledge and crossed boundaries, he is a fitting recipient of the inaugural ASA UK Lasting Legacy Award.


Raufu studied Political Science at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, when that campus was a centre of left-wing thought and activism, after which he proceeded to St Peter’s College, Oxford, where he earned his doctorate under Gavin Williams in 1990. Before becoming the Anthony Kirk-Greene Fellow at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University, he held teaching positions at Bayero University, Kano, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and St Cross College, Oxford University. Across all of these positions he played an important role in strengthening the quality of discussion, opening space for debate, and encouraging his colleagues and students to blend a strong theoretical approach with a careful understanding of empirical cases, leading to work that was always respectful of the reality on the ground without ever being parochial. In this way, he lifted the horizons of those around him, constantly demonstrating the value of thinking beyond individual countries and continents.


At the Oxford University Department of International Development (ODID), Raufu was a core part of the MPhil and DPhil programmes from their beginnings, and taught on the MPhil’s core courses, as well as on his specialisms of rural and agrarian politics and the West African region. He also lectured to politics undergraduates and postgraduates and supervised a huge number of research theses for the department on a remarkably broad range of topics, encouraging his colleagues and students to read and think broadly, and never to limit their interests to “international development” or “African studies”. As this suggests, during his time at ODID Raufu was very much an institution builder, and founded the Nigeria Research Network, which was composed of a group of Nigerian in-country scholars and former PhD students, who carried out research and produced a range of publications and policy briefs on religious conflict, the social and political effects of Sharia Law, and the varied impacts of indigeneity on citizenship rights across six regions.


Raufu was also the Senior Researcher (West Africa) at the Oxford University Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE), which produced important work that shaped our understanding of how inequality contributes to conflict to this day, and afterwards set up the collaborative Nigeria Research Network with support from the Foreign Ministry of the Netherlands. He was also a stalwart co-convenor of the African History and Politics seminar, and the patron of the student-run Oxford University Africa Society from its birth through a series of increasingly successful conferences and programmes. In these ways, Raufu made an immense contribution to a number of research communities in the UK; and the vibrancy of research on Africa at Oxford, and within the UK more broadly, owes much to his unassuming and yet highly effective leadership.


An academic of great talent, curiosity and flexibility, his work led to seven books, more than 35 academic articles and book chapters, and numerous reports, working papers and newspaper editorials. As the Council for the Development of Social Research in Africa (CODESRIA) has put it, ‘his rich intellectual legacy will remain relevant, widely discussed, cherished and avidly utilized. This is because Dr. Mustapha’s work captured the lived experiences of Africans in diverse ways.’ Raufu’s research focused on the politics of identity, rural development, state-building and democratization in Africa, and he devoted as much energy to building research networks with like-minded African scholars, colleagues and graduate students as to his own research and writing. In particular, Raufu’s trilogy on the politics of religious conflict in northern Nigeria, including Sects & Social Disorder: Muslim Identities & Conflict in Northern Nigeria (editor, 2014), Creed and Grievance: Muslim-Christian Relations and Conflict Resolution in Northern Nigeria (co-edited with David Ehrhardt, 2018), and Overcoming Boko Haram: Faith, Society & Islamic Radicalization in Northern Nigeria (co-edited with Kate Meagher, 2020), were all significant contributions to knowledge, challenging received wisdom on religious and identity conflict in Africa and charting more effective policy solutions. His deep scholarship on African rural politics and the politics of agricultural development, which was the focus of much of his early research and writing, is also demonstrated in a posthumous edited collection of research he directed and largely edited, Political Settlements and Agricultural Transformation in Africa: Evidence for Inclusive Growth (co-edited with Martin Atela, 2022).


If he was highly respected as a scholar, Raufu was loved and sought after as a teacher. Rarely has anyone been able to convey such complex ideas so clearly without reading from a set script and while making the audience nod, reflect, and laugh. Outside Nigeria, Raufu’s academic citizenship was pan-African and internationalist, as a member of editorial advisory groups for the journals Review of African Political Economy and Africa, and especially in CODESRIA, where he variously served as Director of the 2002 Governance Institute, as a member of the Scientific Committee and of the internal review committee on CODESRIA’s Intellectual Agenda. He also wrote reports for the Working Group on Ethnic Minorities, UN Commission on Human Rights, and the project on ‘Ethnic Structure and Public Sector Governance’ for UNRISD in Geneva.


As should already be clear, Raufu also took ethics seriously in the academic process. He was committed in his personal politics, as evidenced by his career-long union membership and role as departmental representative of the University and College Union (UCU), as well as his earlier role as both a student and academic activist in Nigeria. As a scholar of great integrity, Raufu chose to preserve his values not by keeping his work sealed off in an ivory tower, disengaged from the world, but by taking it out to engage with real-world issues and processes. In doing so, he managed to engage in policy processes in which, despite their limitations, he was always able to preserve his voice, freedom and values, setting a blueprint for scholars seeking to engage in contemporary political processes on the basis of nuanced research.


ASAUK is honoured to be able to recognise the tremendous contribution of Raufu Mustapha by bestowing upon him the inaugural ASA UK Lasting Legacy Award.



Key readings from Professor Raufu Mustapha


These readings are presented in chronological order. Links will take you to a publicly available PDF, or if these are not available, to more information about the publication. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list, as Professor Mustapha’s contribution was vast, but it contains his best-known publications.


Please note that Raufu’s published and unpublished work and research materials are available at the Bodleian Library. For more information, click here. His published work is available here. His unpublished papers are available here.



If you are interested in the work of Professor Mustapha, you should also look at this Special Issue on Governance, Power, and Diversity in African States: Celebrating the Legacy of Abdul Raufu Mustapha (2020), Oxford Development Studies 48(4).