By Yinka Ajayi
A summit of ethnic nationalities has called for the formation of a national Strategic Group on Conflicts (SGC) for the mobilisation of support of community leaders for conflict prevention and for coordination of activities of community-based peace actors in Nigeria.
The two-day programme was organised by Journalists for Democratic Rights (JODER) in partnership with Ford Foundation in Lagos, last week, under the theme,
Promoting Peace, Democracy and Stability in Nigeria through the Media, Socio-Cultural Institutions and Youth-Driven Community Based Groups.
The goal was to strengthen a people-driven process for conflict prevention, conflict management, justice and peace-building in Nigeria.
Participants came from the East (Igbo), West, the Middle Belt (Igala, Tiv, Bachama, Birom and others) the South-South (Ogoni, Ijaw, Ndoni, Qua, Efik, Ibibio, etc), the North East (Kanuri, Shua Arabs etc), North-West (Fulani, Hausa, Zuru, etc), civil society groups, security agencies, Christian and Muslim societies, traditional religion adherents and many others representing divergent social formations and non-governmental cells in Nigeria.
The first day of the capacity building programme was attended by more than a hundred stakeholders from various platforms of ethnic and faith-based groups, security operatives, non-governmental organizations, youth associations, artisan groups and the media. The opening remark at the summit, titled: Ethnic Nationalities, Conflicts and Future of Democracy in Nigeria, was delivered by Olu Otunla, a former Nigeria’s Ambassador to Ghana, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe). Otunla gave an overview of theChallenges of Peace Building in Africa drawing from his experiences having served in the Nigerian foreign missions, with many Africa countries and various international organisations including the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) on peace building initiatives. The keynote address, titled: Conflict, Democracy and Future of Ethnic Nationalities in Nigeria, was delivered byProfessor S. Adebanji Akintoye (professor of history and former Director, Institute of African Studies at the Obafemi Awolowo University).
Other presentations at the summit are: Conflict, Violence and the Task of Sustaining Livelihood in Nigeria by Chief Ayo Opadokun(Convener, Coalition for Democrats on Electoral Reform); Nationalities and Ethnic Conflict in Nigeria: A Peoples Alternative to Peace byChief Gani Adams (National Coordinator, Oodua Peoples Congress); Role of Traditional Rulers in Peace Building and Conflict Prevention by Onikun of Ikun Ekiti, Oba Olusola Olatunde; Islam, Conflict and Faith Relations: The Prospect and Challenges of Peace Building in Nigeria by Imam Abdulahi Shuaib (Executive Director, Conference of Islamic Organizations); The Role of the Military and Security Agencies in Ethnic and Religious Relations, Democracy and Peace Building in Nigeria by Colonel Gabriel Ajayi retd (President, International Foundation for the Advancement of Social and Cultural Rights); Democracy in Nigeria: Oil, the Niger Delta and the Crisis of Sustainable Development by Mr. Werinipre Digifa (Chairman, Supreme Egbesu Assembly); Beyond the Contest for Political Supremacy: Reappraising the Historical Basis for Igbo-Yoruba Relations by Dr. Tony Nwezeigwe (Department of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka); Conflict in the Middle Belt: A People’s Alternative by Barrister Abukar Onalo (President, United Middle Belt Youth Congress).
The second day of the programme engaged twenty five peace actors drawn from select community-based platforms. Participants were trained on knowledge-based information, skills and exposure required for preventing and or managing conflicts as well as strategies and approaches for peace-building at the community level. The sessions of the training as well as role-play activities explored strategies for organising community for peace; deploying individual and organisational capacities for peace building; understanding and deploying power of negotiation; and strategies for effective networking and alliance building towards peace process.
Presentations at the summit elicited robust engagement from participants on wide-range of issues, bordering on conflicts and the quest to promote peace for stability and sustainable development in Nigeria. The deliberations focused on how communities and non-governmental groups can create a people-driven process that will complement existing initiatives for conflict resolution.
Following exhaustive review and analyses of the history, nature and forms, dimensions and prevalence of conflicts in Nigerian, participants proffered suggestions on mechanism for achieving and enduring and sustainable peace building initiatives.
The following recommen-dations were agreed by particip-ants at the end of the summit and training sessions:
1.That there have been several summits and training, but participants agree to make a huge difference with a remarkable impact in their communities when they return home, with a pledge to speak out, work and walk against any form of conflict especially those that can lead to violence and killings in their various communities.
- Participants will go back into their various organisations and communities to duplicate the experiences learnt during the training so as to ensure conflict prevention and peace building in the various communities.
- Traditional rulers have a crucial role to play in peace-building. Participants will return to their communities to sensitise their traditional rulers on peace-building among faiths and nationalities in those communities through an endeavour driven by indigenous knowledge.
- That leaders of ethnic and religious groups will go back home to encourage greater interaction among leaders of relevant groups so as to eliminate or reduce sources of conflict.
TO STATE GOVERNMENTS
That state and local authorities should initiate Conflict Prevention and Management Centres to research on conflict, identify threats and opportunities and arrest potential sources of conflict and towards resolution of existing divergence.
- Sensitive Laws and policies in states and local governments should involve divergent leaders of ethnic, social and religious interests in the different stages including that of conception, with prior and informed knowledge of end users.
GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS TO STAKE-HOLDERS/ORGANISERS
A survey of prevailing and potential ethnic conflicts in Nigeria for the documentation of information and data that would assist in monitoring of communal conflicts for early warning and effective conflict prevention, conflict management as well as peace building process.
Establishment of a Civil Resource Centre for mobilising and disseminating credible information as a way of responding to conflict situations for conflict prevention, conflict management and peace building purposes.
Collation of database of community based organisations working on conflict management in Nigeria for the purpose of deepening alliances and networks on peace building processes across the country.
- Conduct of baseline Audit of the dynamics, incidents of conflict and actors of conflict in Nigeria.
- Actors in the print, electronic and social media should take up peace building as an agenda by proactively reporting living stories, among other initiatives that will encourage peace and mutual coexistence in Nigeria.
- Formation of a national Strategic Group on Conflicts (SGC) for the mobilisation of support of community leaders for conflict prevention and for coordination of activities of community-based peace actors in Nigeria.
- All recommendations made must be presented by the organisers of the Summit/Training to the head of relevant authorities including the Presidency, states and security agencies by hand or through their official emails.