As leaders of Nigerian militias promise to restart their war against the government in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, one young commander weighs life as a rebel vs. life as a computer engineer.
Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Blessing Dumo, a 30-year-old commander in the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force, belies the stereotype of a Niger Delta militant.
Mr. Dumo looks, talks, and acts like any university student trying to find his way in the world. He speaks with enthusiasm about his computer science studies. He also expresses frustration at being unable to find a job, especially as he prepares to marry a woman named Virginia.
Dumo, who joined the militancy when he was 21, also talks about the joy of firing Kalashnikovs at Italian oil workers, the utility of kidnapping as a moneymaking venture, and his desire to wipe Muslim militant group Boko Haram off the map. He says he would like to leave the militant life behind after college but won't be able to if he has no job prospects.
Dumo's dilemma captures many of the problems present in modern-day Nigeria. Civil society here is broken. Government officials are corrupt and unresponsive. Because of safety concerns, aid groups cannot operate in the areas in which they are needed most. Nonviolent movements are ignored. Economic growth, for many, is nonexistent.