Army Chieftain, Major General James Ataguba wants FG to formulate policy on Nation building.
The Chief of Standards and Evaluation of the Nigerian Army, Major General James Ataguba on Thursday in Ado Ekiti urged the Federal Government to formulate a policy on peace building across the country.
General Ataguba who spoke at the 2nd edition of AareAfe Babalola Distinguished Lecture Series said Nigeria should make peace building a bottom-top initiative and rename the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to Ministry of Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Affairs.
He said The Christian Association of Nigeria and Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs should orient their respective religious leaders on the need to embrace the teaching of forgiveness, reconciliation and acceptance.
General Ataguba also urged Traditional rulers to endeavour to embrace community dialogue as a strategy to compliment government efforts at building peace towards facilitating peaceful co-existence.
Patmos Media Line presents his lecture for your keeps.
Major-General James Ataguba @ the 2nd edition of Aare Afe Babalola Distinguished Lecture Series
BUILDING PEACE TOGETHER IN NIGERIA: DYNAMICS, PERSPECTIVES, CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS
1. It is a great honour to be in your presence to discuss with you on how to collectively build peace in our great country. I considered the topic “Building Peace Together in Nigeria: Dynamics, Perspectives, Challenges and Solutions” apt in view of the various conflicts facing the country that requires not only government functionaries to tackle but all available stakeholders. It is not news in this country of ours that some of the strategies the government has put in place to address conflict and build peace have yielded results though the menace continues within our society. Nevertheless, the government continues to develop various strategies to build peace that will promote sustainable development. However, if we put our strategies and resources together we could achieve peaceful coexistence.
2. The main purpose of every government is to ensure the security and welfare of its citizens. Countries therefore established different security agencies for the protection of the citizenry and national assets. They also develop their capabilities and emplace measures to keep peace within their borders generally by upholding the national laws and defending against internal security threats. The established agencies usually have their different roles in the management of insecurity and in carrying out their statutory mandates. These government agencies have continued to synergize with stakeholders within the security architecture to ensure peace building and promote national cohesion. Nevertheless, while the dynamics of insecurity is becoming unpredictable in the 21st century, there are challenges that need to be addressed in order to achieve the common goal of building peace. History is replete with situations where governments use various elements of national power, including the military, to ensure the safety and security of their territories and citizens. Recently, intra-state conflict in some African countries necessitated the employment of military operations to manage security challenges and ensure peaceful coexistence.
3. The 21st century has been characterised by diplomacy that addressed tensions between states and occasional civil wars, which as understood, nearly all followed similar template. The conflicts were usually between sovereign states or clearly defined rebellious forces. In case the conflicts escalated and turned to full scale warfare, an eventual end was reached through either victory, defeat or negotiated settlement. This was then followed by a brief post conflict phase leading back to peace. This cycle of conflict indicates clearly defined roles for stakeholders to come together in development, peace building, and humanitarian relief activities (The World Bank, 2011).
4. Nigeria is bedeviled with several security challenges especially banditry, kidnappings for ransom, insurgency, secessionist movement and ethno-religious agitations amongst others. The management of these conflicts continues to pose challenges to both the security agencies and stakeholders. More than six decades of its independence, Nigeria is yet to get it right in terms of national cohesion and integration; socio-economic as well as political development. One can at this juncture ask what has been wrong or what was wrong with the patterns of Nigeria’s emergence into a nation? The answer to this is not far-fetched.
5. The need for peace building in Nigeria could be understood by the astounding disclosure made by Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, the Sultan of Sokoto, northern Nigeria while delivering a lecture at Harvard University in the United State of America. According to him,
“Many people consider Nigeria as a theatre of absurd conflicts and interminable crises…with the Jos crises festering for years, with post-election violence and suicide – bombings; it is difficult to think otherwise. When we consider Nigeria’s population of 150 million, half the population of West Africa, its over 250 ethnic and language groups, its regional and geo-political configurations, its landmass and its diversity in religion and culture, we may be constrained to reach a different conclusion (Abubakar, 2011:64).”
6. With this assertion from one of the most respectable traditional ruler in Nigeria, the country has no choice but to constantly seek for peace building to protect her fragility, and preventing the escalation of constant conflicts that pervades the nation. Despite numerous efforts made by the government, which include the creation of various peace building bodies at both the Federal and States levels, Nigeria as a nation continues to have its fair share of challenges to peace, as the nation continues to encounter various conflict situations, spawned by incongruous fusion of multi-ethnic groups. The country comprises of over 250 multicultural ethnic entities, the consequence of the incongruous merger is the plaguing socio-political, economic, religious, ethnicity, and communal conflicts that continue to torment the nation and its inhabitants. Ethnicity, for instance, has continued to undermine the nation’s political development and has also cost the nation its economic development.
7. Resource control on the other hand has bred various militia groups in Southern Nigeria, while the dreaded Boko Haram Terrorists in the North-Eastern part of the country continues to threaten the nation’s development and its corporate existence as a nation. All these must be tackled in an all-inclusive manner towards building peace that will guarantee development. Therefore, I see the topic “Building Peace Together in Nigeria” as one that we must all talk about in view of the various conflicts ravaging our great country.
8. The aim of this paper is to discuss the dynamics, challenges and solutions to collective peace building in Nigeria with a view to making recommendations.
9. To achieve the aforementioned aim, the paper will address the following:
a. Discuss the dynamics of violent conflicts in Nigeria.
b. Highlight the perspectives of peace building in Nigeria.
c. Examine the challenges of peace building in Nigeria.
d. Proposed solutions for collective peace building in Nigeria.
e. Make recommendations towards building lasting peace in the country.
10. Before, delving into the discourse proper, there is need to make clarifications of some concepts to further understand how they are situated within the paper. Therefore, the major concepts clarified are peace and peace building:
11. Peace, as conceived by the Merriam Webster dictionary, is a state of tranquility or quiet; such as freedom from civil disturbance and a state of security or order within a community provided for by law. Peace, however, is also seen as concord, or harmony and tranquility. It is viewed as peace of mind or serenity. It is defined as a state of law or civil government, a state of justice or goodness, a balance or equilibrium of powers. Peace as a social contract is active and not passive. It is created through negotiation, adjustment, resolution and decisions. It comprises of predictions and expectations about the future. It is manifested through cooperative interaction and its existence depends on congruence with the balance of powers.
12. Ibeanu (2006), sees peace as activities geared towards reducing conflict and increasing development within specific societies and the wider international community. Thus, to guarantee social, political, and economic development there must be peace. To Ahamefule (2013), peace is a condition where there is no war; where people are not annoyed by other people; and where there is calmness; without worries or anxieties. With the various concepts of peace, one thing is common, that is, for peace to reign, there must be coexistence among the people within society while the government must ensure equal rights. Without these, peace cannot be guaranteed in any community.
13. The term peace building was first introduced in the 1970s by the work of Johan Galtung who called for the promotion of sustainable peace through tackling the underlying causes of violent conflict using structures created to support local capacities for peace management and conflict resolution (Galtung, 2009). Therefore, peacebuilding is concerned with the prevention of the occurrence or recurrence of conflict and refers to the deliberate engineering of processes that will create a sustainable peace (Lambourne, 2004). The objective of peacebuilding is to promote synergy and cooperation among the various actors
Figure 1: Objectives of Peacebuilding
14. According to Brinkmann (2006), peacebuilding encompasses the transformation of a condition or situation of violence to a more political, socio-economic equality, justice, fairness as well as security for all within cultural plurality. Brinkmann identified two aspects of peacebuilding. To him, the first aspect of peacebuilding is concerned with reducing or transforming violence, while the second aspect is about improving on ‘existing peaceful activities or to encourage new ones’. However, while peacebuilding is not intended or an attempt at eliminating conflict from society, it is about building an environment for negotiation, reconciliation, mutual understanding, and compromise that allows for resolving conflict issues before it degenerates into violence and conflict.
THE DYNAMICS OF CONFLICTS IN NIGERIA
15. It is a known fact that conflicts in Nigeria begins with grievances. Historically, the interaction between farmers and herders in Nigeria suggests that the relationship between the two groups was symbiotic and cordial. Though there were fights arising from violation on cultivated farmlands and cattle rustling - a function of their divergent livelihoods, these were amicably resolved through dispute resolution mechanisms overseen by traditional rulers. However, recent episodes of farmer-herder conflicts in Nigeria are characterised by arson, brutal murders, rape, destruction of settlements and massive displacement of people. Efforts by both the Federal and State governments to manage these conflicts have at best, resulted in temporary relief. The intractable nature of the conflicts and the ineffectiveness of the peacebuilding interventions employed have raised questions as to whether the local nature of the grievances that drive the current farmer-herder conflicts has changed.
16. As at 2018, an estimated 3000 people were killed in clashes between farmers and herders. These clashes have additionally led to the displacement of at least 62,000 people, most of whom are women and children, with the hardest hit states being Kaduna, Benue and Plateau. These humanitarian costs have made the country lose an estimated $13.7 billion annually while the hit states have lost 47 per cent of their Internally Generated Revenue due to these conflicts. This is a situation which requires urgent attention given its present scale and likely future impacts on peacebuilding.
17. The conflict in the Niger Delta also has a long history firmly grounded in grievances against the federal government and the oil multinationals with which it colludes. On 25 June 2009 the Nigerian government launched an amnesty program, or Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) program, apparently to end the conflict. In effect, however, it merely institutionalized the political economy of conflict in the Delta by imbedding rebels in a web of patron – client relations. Amnesty did not address the underlying grievances of the conflict, such as the environmental devastation of the Delta and the subsequent destruction of traditional livelihoods, such as fishing and farming.
18. In furtherance to the above conflict scenario, the conflict in the north-eastern Nigeria is also grounded in grievances against the Federal Government. Like the conflict in the Niger Delta, it has changed over time and largely shaped by the neopatrimonial politics of a federated Nigeria. As a result of this, greed often mixes with grievance. The Boko Haram conflict has been an exceptionally brutal episode in Nigeria’s recent history, resulting in around 33,000 casualties, the abduction of hundreds of school children including the globally renowned 270 schoolgirls from the community of Chibok and the Kankara School boys. The activities of the sect have led to the displacement of close to two million people mainly in north-eastern Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. The Boko Haram crisis has been fuelled by the confluence of the national issue of corruption, poverty and inequality that persists in northern Nigeria. The frequently coercive responses of the Nigerian government to the Boko Haram insurgency was one of the driving factors of the conflicts. The deadliest phases of the insurgency only began after the police, following a skirmish with the group in July 2009, carried out a ‘bloody attack on the group’s members and anyone they suspected of being a Boko Haram supporter and sympathizer.
19. In southwestern Nigeria, disputed access to land by natives and settlers has served as a basis for violent conflicts among members of the two major ethnic groups; Hausa-Fulani and the Yorubas in the region. To the Yoruba indigenes, the Hausa-Fulani are migrant settlers who should neither own nor lay any claim to land rights in any part of their communities, which the Hausa-Fulani see differently. The resulting tension created by the opposing frameworks and perceptions of land ownership among members of these groups is at the root of the violent conflicts experienced in the region, especially between 1999 and 2015 and has of course regenerated in recent times. Although the Federal and State Governments have repeatedly intervened to end these conflicts, not much has been achieved for peace and development, thereby requiring holistic approach involving stakeholders. Additionally, the attention of police public relations committees in the six states of the south west have been drawn to the need to be more communitarian in their interactions with citizens at the local level. Other peace-mediating initiatives have similarly been created as a basis for spurring development, harmony, and peace across these states. However, peaceful settlements of disputes have remained elusive and far-fetched.
20. Nigeria’s diversity is frequently exploited by politicians who use chauvinistic appeals based on ethnicity, religion, and regionalism to shore up electoral support. Previous elections in 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 were characterised by sectional tensions and violence. While Nigerian political parties are legally required to have nationally representative memberships and are banned from making direct sectional appeals, in practice it is often assumed that electoral candidates will govern in favour of its co-ethnics and co-religionists. Indigeneity, one of the legal instruments designed to manage Nigeria’s ethnic diversity, has instead become a source of tension and conflict. Yet other innovative governance measures such as “zoning” (when the presidential candidacy alternates between a northerner and a southerner) have been successful in alleviating some of the southern secessionist pressures that had festered under decades of military rule. Political corruption has also been a recurrent motivation for conflict as well as a key reason for the Nigerian government’s frequent inadequate responses to violent conflict. However, recent anticorruption efforts by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission have been moderately successful and serve as an example of institutional resilience.
PERSPECTIVES OF PEACEBUILDING IN NIGERIA
21. All conflict has a resolution. However, not all conflict resolution leads to peacebuilding. Successful peacebuilding depends at times on the procedure(s) and/or perception of strategies employed. For conflict resolution to really lead to peacebuilding and be successful, both parties need to have the sense that the procedural style is fair, satisfactory and in their best interest.
22. A major feature of many peacebuilding programmes is that groups in conflict work together to achieve a common goal, which psychologist often refers to as a superordinate goal. The belief is that this form of cooperation will build social cohesion, making people less likely to engage in future conflict because they see the benefits of working together. This theory is also implicitly behind many Community Driven Development (CDD) programmes, in which community leaders come together to work on a project that will benefit the whole community. However, there is yet to be evidence that such programmes contribute to social cohesion (White, Menon, and Waddington 2018).
23. Another common component of peacebuilding programmes is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), particularly in areas where formal institutions such as courts are weak. The notion behind this is that where ADR is present, attitudes between groups will at least not get worse if conflicts do not escalate into violence. Additionally, community members may change their perceptions of social norms, attitudes, or both if they see groups with a history of conflict peacefully resolving disputes.
CHALLENGES OF PEACEBUILDING IN NIGERIA
24. In the process of building peace in Nigeria, there are challenges that are hindering efforts of various government institutions and development partners. Some of these challenges are often identified by citizens. For instance, within the northeastern part of the country, communities have made their grievances known on their exclusion from decision-making by the government in resolving the Boko Haram crisis. The local population feels excluded from national and international responses to the insurgency. They feel their fears, needs and concerns are not properly considered. Communities resent this lack of engagement and feel it leads to ineffective and inappropriate peacebuilding programme initiated by the Nigerian government.
25. Furthermore, youth’s involvement in conflict prevention and peacebuilding process has not been taken seriously in Nigeria as it is ought to be. In peacebuilding process, all the levels of government are expected to be aware that youths are to be engaged in any matter that concerns them. This is necessary considering the consistent and persistent increase in the rate of youth unemployment, which has ensued into grievances among the youth clans. The failure of the government to engage and cater for the needs of her youths populations repeatedly threaten the nation’s security as youth are readily available for recruitment into armed and insurgent groups (Adegbami, 2020). This could spell doom for peacebuilding and sustainable peace in Nigeria if due attention is not given to it.
26. Nigeria has found it difficult to cope with peacebuilding because of the personification of the state demonstrated by the use of the apparatus of the state for personal gain. There is a total absence of feeling of community and common conception of the Nigerian state. This explanation points to the dynamic interrelationship between political, social and economic factors in determining peace and security (Bariledum, 2019). It is important to note that there cannot be peace in a country where the poor or ordinary people are daily brutalized by the powerful and political elites. This informed Ibeanu’s (2005) position that it is possible not to have peace or security even though there is no war.
STAKEHOLDERS IN PEACEBUILDING
27. To proffer workable solutions to the challenges of peacebuilding in Nigeria, there is need to ensure that all stakeholders are carried along in the process. These stakeholders include;
28. Political Actors: These are – leaders of recognized political parties, state actors (e.g. government at different levels, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government), the legislative bodies, and the judiciary.
29. Military/Security Actors: In Nigeria, the security sector comprised the Military (Army, Navy and Air force), the Police, and other Para-military agencies. These agencies are statutorily mandated with the responsibility of providing adequate security for the people and their properties as well as to protect the nation against external invasion or aggression.
30. Business Actors: These are persons who manage their companies, multinationals, business mogul, and traders. They are in the areas of economic and business activities in the country and need their business to be protected and where there is no peace there cannot be any business transaction. Thus, their engagement in peacebuilding is of paramount importance.
31. Civil Society/Non-Governmental Organisation: Civil society denotes a collection of organizations such as community groups, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), labour unions, indigenous groups, charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, and foundations. These groups are domiciled in our society and for this reason, they are very useful and indispensable in peacebuilding activities.
32. International/Regional Organisations: These include the United Nations, African Union and ECOWAS, amongst others, who from time to time seek peace and strive that peace is maintained regionally and internationally.
33. The Media: These are collective communication channels involved in disseminating information to the citizenry. They include specialized communication businesses such as print media or the press, photography, advertising, cinema and broadcasting (radio and television). The media report any breakdown of peace, as well as sensitize people on the need to maintain peace as well as the essentiality of peacebuilding.
34. Professional Groups: This includes the academia, the businessmen, journalists, bankers, engineers, medical personnel, amongst others. They can mobilize their members to support peacebuilding initiative and equally involve in peacebuilding across the nation.
35. Religious Groups: The major religious affiliation of the Nigerian citizens are the Christianity, Islam, and traditional religion. Although under each of the religions there are different sects. Their leaders too are usually involved in peacebuilding in Nigeria. Their involvement could be physical when they preach peace to their followers; or when they are involved in the settlement of conflicts. Their involvement could also be spiritual when they pray for peace to reign.
36. Traditional Institutions: These institutions are expected to be the main stakeholders in peacebuilding process, especially in conflicts that are ethnic in nature. The leaders of traditional institutions include – Obas, Emirs, Sultans, Obis, and other title holders across the country. These institutions involve in keeping peace in their domains. Ensuring that cases of disputes brought to their palaces are amicably settled.
37. The traditional institutions equally go all-out to maintain an atmosphere of peace. Given the fact that peacebuilding is a complex task, all the stakeholders involved in peacebuilding must be up to the task. For effective peacebuilding, people should come together to find a way of forging ahead in peace and its sustenance. In essence, peacebuilding always involves a lot of actors to be successful.
38. Having identified the various stakeholders for building peace in Nigeria, it is necessary to device ways in which all these stakeholders can be brought together in collective peacebuilding process in Nigeria.
BUILDING PEACE TOGETHER IN NIGERIA: THE SOLUTIONS
39. With society currently organised through a federal system of government, emerging trends in Nigeria reveals the lack of indigenous involvement in its political structures. Nigeria’s current transformations must take into account its ethnic as well as structural diversity in efforts at building peace. In order to build a lasting and stable society, different governance and cultural perspectives must be integrated through comprehensive, cross-cutting peacebuilding initiatives, including humanitarian assistance and development, as well as protecting lives and providing psychosocial support and trauma healing to citizens affected by violence conflicts. Education should play a key role in this, while also creating the understanding among the varying forms of identity; it ensures equity justice through effective leadership.
40. In trying to combat the enormous corruption in Nigeria’s governance, peacebuilding initiatives and diplomatic support to Nigeria should have the capacity for the full integration of and engagement with primary and secondary stakeholders at all levels of the society. These include civil society organisations, indigenous and community-based organisation as well as grassroots actors. There must be serious attempts to form a committee to rule on how a comprehensive strategy will be implemented and monitored. But it should also be open to involving development and peacebuilding partnerships wherever possible, in order to build capacity, empower local people and give a voice to the grassroots.
41. Towards building peace together, community dialogue should be given adequate consideration as a strategy to facilitate peaceful co-existence. The communities are to be guided to share experiences of the existing tensions that may further lead to conflicts and how they may affect or have affected them. This would help in the development of a shared social narrative about the causes and the nature of both potential sources of conflicts and conflicts that may be erupted. This process could encourage community members to welcome views from one another and together define best strategies for preventing potential conflict or addressing identified agreed upon key issues.
42. The UN established a Peacebuilding Commission in 2005 with the aim of bringing together and improving coordination among all relevant actors who are involved in peacebuilding efforts. The United Kingdom also set up a Conflict and Humanitarian Affairs Department within its Department for International Development. The international community also adopted a more complex approach to peacebuilding and merged efforts towards relief, rehabilitation and development from the beginning of its involvement in post-conflict situations (Tzifakis, 2012). These efforts are worth emulating by the Nigerian government. Therefore, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs could be renamed “Ministry of Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Affairs’.
43. The security forces, overall, remain excluded in peacebuilding initiatives of some conflict-ridden government. The persistence of widespread impunity was cited as a major driver of conflict across Nigeria, and inadequacy in the security forces and the judiciary was identified as a key factor behind this impunity. Nonetheless, peace institutions need to coordinate with the security forces, especially in crisis situations. The security forces could benefit from training modules that these institutions offer in the future. Yet the animosity with which the security forces are viewed in many communities means that peace institutions in some circumstances cannot afford to be confused, or seen to be allied, with them.
44. Though, the government has extensively utilized the media in its peacebuilding initiatives, public awareness programmes through radio and other media channels need to be backed up with relevant policies. Promoting faith-based actors, on the other hand, to embrace the teaching of forgiveness, reconciliation and acceptance rather than fuelling grievances with their choice of words must be advocated by the government as well. Occasions exist in the country where utterances from religious leaders have led to conflicts. These must end if building peace is to be our major priority for coexistence.
45. In conclusion, it is non-negotiable that peace is the greatest asset of man, and Nigeria as a nation continued to have its fair share of challenges to peacebuilding, as the nation continues to encounter various conflict situations, spawned by multi-ethnic groups. While the country needs peace for national cohesion and integration; socio-economic as well as political development, ethnicity, struggle to control the nation’s resources, creation of land ownership issue, religious intolerance, and youth unemployment/restiveness continue to militate against peacebuilding. Therefore, we have tried to come together as stakeholders towards establishing the nation we desire. No doubt, Nigeria is a complex nation in view of its numerous ethnic groups with varies characteristics and interests.
46. The challenges of reoccurring violent conflicts in the country is attributed to its plural nature which tended on the surface to deliver more of the violent conflict. In as much as peace must be maintained, all the identified stakeholders of peacebuilding must stand-up to the task of curtailing all issues that can lead to a reoccurrence of conflict, while youth must be effectively engaged, allowed to participate in policy making and actively involved in peacebuilding process. With these, our great nation stands to unite even with the ethnicity and cultural difference, which we must all put aside and embrace one another irrespective of where we come from.
47. It is recommended that:
a. The Federal Government of Nigeria should formulate peacebuilding policy.
b. The Federal Government of Nigeria should rename the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to Ministry of Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Affairs.
c. The Federal and States Governments should make peacebuilding initiative a bottom-top approach.
d. The Christian Association of Nigeria and Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs should orient their respective religious leaders on the need to embrace the teaching of forgiveness, reconciliation and acceptance.
e. Traditional rulers should endeavour to embrace community dialogue as a strategy to compliment government efforts at building peace towards facilitating peaceful co-existence.
f. All peacebuilding stakeholders should develop capacity for full integration into government’s peacebuilding initiatives.
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