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MILE 12 MAYHEM: ETHNIC LEADERS CALL FOR CALM, APPEAL TO WARRING FACTIONS

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PRESS STATEMENT MARCH 7, 2016.

Leaders of ethnic groups resident in the troubled Mile 12 area of Lagos state have been urged to sheath their swords and embrace peaceful coexistence.

The call came on the heels of a two day mayhem that left scores either dead or wounded. Most of the victims were women and hapless school pupils singled out for violent attacks.

The incidence led to the wanton destruction of properties and the killing of innocent Nigerians, mostly women and children in the clash said to be between alleged Hausa motorcyclists and Yoruba in the area.

In a joint statement under the auspices of Peoples Network for Ethnic Harmony, PENEH, the groups bemoan the unfortunate loss of human lives and properties, urging the disputants to respect the sanctity of human lives and stick to the principle of good neighborliness.

The statement was signed by leaders of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, AYCF, Odua Nationalist Coalition, ONAC, The United Middle Belt Youth Congress, UMBYC, The Igbo Youth Alliance, (IYA) and Journalists for Democratic Rights, JODER.

The groups are also charge the security operatives to bring to book perpetrators of the heinous crimes.

“We are meeting the leaders of the various ethnic groups in the Mile 12 area. For the past 15 years, the area has enjoyed relative peace, until the latest incidence. We urge stakeholders to live in peace and harmony, and embrace dialogue in resolving their differences”. The groups said innocent and poor people are often the victims of violence and the killing and spread of hate are ill winds that will bring no on any good.

The group however urged warring factions to embrace peace and should not give the crisis any ethnic colouration to avoid further mayhem.

 

Signed:

The statement was signed by leaders of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, AYCF

Odua Nationalist Coalition, ONAC

The United Middle Belt Youth Congress, UMBYC

Igbo Youth Alliance

Journalists for Democratic Rights, JODER
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Media group launches campaign for peace, conflict prevention

Scanooj

Press Statement

March 25, 2016

A notable rights group has embarked on a nation-wide campaign to stem age-long differences often fueled by ethnic, cultural and religious disputes in Nigeria. The project is aimed at preventing further violence and blood-letting apart from deepening democratic culture in a country of over 250 ethnic groups whose over 100 years of nation-building is dotted by unending conflict and a bloody civil war.

In a statement on Monday, the Journalists for Democratic Rights, (JODER) established in 1996 said the programme involves a nation-wide constructive engagement with ethnic associations, community-based groups, the media and other stakeholders who will undergo training and skill acquisition on peace-building and conflict management.  It also involves a series of actions like advocacy visits, campaigns and interactive and expert-on-conflict meetings. The project which is being supported by the Ford Foundation West African Regional Office will hold in the six geo-political zones of the country with local groups as the drivers. The project also involves training of journalists on conflict reporting.

The group observed that in Nigeria, the seed of conflict is planted mostly during electioneering campaigns, but that the consequences of violence and ethnic conflict often come long after the elections have been held.

“The threat of violence in Nigeria is real and mainly derived from the country’s historic precedence. Though democratic elections are held every four years, we have seen that the impulsion for conflict remains. Nigerians on their own can take measures to create a platform of understanding and mutual trust. It is a task that can be achieved through a comprehensive programme of non-violence training of the critical stakeholders across the country,” JODER stated.

JODER said the strategic focus of the programme is to promote peace, democracy and stability in Nigeria through the media, socio-cultural groups and youth-driven organizations. “We’ll be working with local people and indigenous organizations for the success of the programme”, the statement signed by JODER’s Executive Director Mr Adewale Adeoye and the Asst. Programme Officer, Mr Obafemi Kasali stated.

The group stated that the recent conflict at Mile 12 which led to loss of lives could have been prevented by the people themselves if conflict resolution standards already existed.

The group said ethnic faith-induced violence are sour points that continue to pull Nigeria back from the tower of greatness, adding that every year, thousands of human lives, including women and children are lost in avoidable conflict traced to ethnicity and differences in values. ‘This situation can be brought under control by an action-driven by the people. Most of the times these conflict arise from lack of communication, stereotyping and complete ignorance of mechanism for conflict resolution. These are the challenges we intend to address.’

According to JODER ‘The project will deepen Nigeria’s fledgling democracy and strengthen peaceful co-existence among Nigeria’s sometimes fractious social formations. The workshop/training will also afford participants strategies for conflict resolution and series of other training and skill acquisition that will help the nation realize her dream of making peace and mutual trust and enduring monument. The group stated that the beneficiaries of the project are people who can make impact in their communities, youth groups and leaders whose voices are dominant in their territories.

According to JODER, the programme will expose locals to international instruments like Article 33 of the United Nations, (UN) Charter which states that ‘parties of any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of peace and security, shall first of all seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or to other peaceful means of their own choice.” The project will lead to a process where stakeholders across the country will always use preventive diplomacy which when applied often lead to conflict prevention.

 Adewale Adeoye

Executive Director

Obafemi Kasali

Asst. Programme Officer
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AW0D3673 (Large)

L-R: COL. GABRIEL AJAYI, MR FRANCIS ABAYOMI AND JODER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR MR. ADEWALE ADEOYE AT THE INTERNATIONAL SUMMIT HELD AT BERKELEY HOTEL GRA, IKEJA LAGOS ON 26TH APRIL 2016, ORGANIZED BY JODER WITH SUPPORT FROM FORD FOUNDATION.
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L-R; CHIEF AYO OPADOKUN, NADECO LEADER, AMB. OLU OTUNLA, PROF. BANJI AKINTOYE, OBA OLUSOLA OLATUNDE, THE ONIKUN OF IKUN EKITI AND IMAM ABDULLAHI SHUAIB AT THE INTERNATIONAL PEACE BUILDING SUMMIT.
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HRM Olusola Olatunde Onikun of Ikun -Ekiti (Large)

HRM OBA OLUSOLA OLATUNDE “ODUNDUN AKOREWOLU 1, ONIKUN OF IKUN-EKITI” AT THE SUMMIT ON PROMOTING PEACE, DEMOCRACY AND STABILITY IN NIGERIA HELD AT BERKELEY HOTEL GRA, IKEJA LAGOS ORGANIZED BY JODER WITH SUPPORT FROM FORD FOUNDATION.
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FACTS, REALITIES AND CHALLENGES OF BLACK AFRICA’S NATIONALITIES – PROF. BANJI AKINTOYE

Prof.  Banji Akintoye (Leader Odua Foundation) (Large)

By Prof. (Senator) Banji Akintoye

AT THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON PROMOTING PEACE, DEMOCRACY & STABILITY ORGANISED BY THE JOURNALISTS FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS, (JODER) AND THE FORD FOUNDATION IN LAGOS.

Tuesday 26 April, 2016

My Esteemed Countrymen,

Permit me to start by humbly thanking you for asking me to deliver this Keynote Address today.

Black Africa is peculiarly a land of mostly very small ethnic groups or nationalities. Even at today’s population levels (after a century of rapid population growths), almost all of the sub-continent is still home to very small nationalities.  Its largest nationalities are the three that live in the West Africa sub-region, namely the three giants of Nigeria (Yoruba, Hausa-Fulani and Igbo, each of which is estimated at roughly between 40 and 47 million).  After these three, about ten other nations across the sub-continent have populations averaging some 15 million each, and about five others have populations averaging about seven million each. The rest of the sub-continent is shared among thousands of very small nationalities. Some have populations in the range of a couple of millions. The overwhelming majority each has much less than that – many having populations of only a few tens of thousands.

 

With this minute ethno-linguistic fragmentation of the Black African sub-continent, every Black African country of our timeshas had to comprise tens of nationalities. Nigeria, the largest in population, with some 170 million people, has over 300 nationalities.  Clearly over one-hundred of Nigerian nationalities have populations of only a few hundred thousand or less each.

 

Nigeria’s immediate western neighbor, the small Republic of Benin with a population of about eight million, is home to about 40 nationalities.  Tanzania, with a population of about 38 million, has about 120 ethnic nationalities. That is the dominant pattern all over Black Africa.

 

Therefore, no matter whatever form Black Africa’s entry into the world of the 20th century   would have taken, this fundamental fact would have been indeed a difficult reality to handle. If we, the peoples of Black Africa, had been free to formulate and delineate our own countries at the beginning of the 20th century, we would still have needed to find ways to group our small nationalities into a manageable number of countries – and that would not have been an easy task at all. It is instructive that even each of the two Black African countries that were not founded by European imperialists – that is Ethiopia and Liberia –still comprise many different nationalities.

 

But, unfortunately, it was other peoples, the Europeans, that came and carved out our modern countries. These Europeans were not only vastly different from us in culture, history and background by the time they came to create our countries, they also had solid historical reasons to be disrespectful, and even spiteful, of us. For three centuries before, the relationship between them and us had been largely the relationship between masters and slaves. They had prospered enormously from the trans-Atlantic slave-trade, through which they had transported millions of Black Africans to other continents to create foundations of wealth for themselves. Thus, Black Africa’s entry into the world of the 20th century actually took perhaps the worst form imaginable in the circumstance – namely, through conquest, control and direction by a people who were operating from deep reserves of disrespect and even spite for Black African peoples.

 

In the process, European imperialistscompounded and confounded Black Africa’s fundamental problem – the problem of minute ethnic fragmentation. Approaching Black Africa with the typical arrogance of Europeans of the time, various European imperialist agents trampled down their parts of theBlack African sub-continent, conceding no respect or consideration to any people, cutting boundaries through even obviously solid peoples, and creating territorial agglomerations in such ways as make no sense in many cases, and in such ways as to make no room for any possibility of cohesion and unity immediately or in any future.

 

European imperialist rule over Africa was brief in duration – lasting roughly from about 1900 to about 1960, and much less in many countries. But in that brief period, it molded Africa very profoundly. Its first major act was the determination and demarcation of boundaries for the countries of Africa. A Briton, Lord Salisbury, said of the Berlin Conference of 1884-5 at which European countries agreed on how to share Africa among them:

“We have been engaged in drawing lines on maps where no white man’s foot ever trod; we have been giving away mountains and rivers and lakes to each other, only hindered by the small impediment that we have never known where the rivers and lakes and mountains were.”5

Another Briton, a British colonial agent who took part in establishing the boundary between British-owned Nigeria and then German-owned Cameroons, wrote years later:

“In those days, we just took a blue pencil and ruler, and we put it down at Old Calabar, and drew that blue line to Yola. I recollect thinking when I was sitting having an audience with the Emir (of Yola) surrounded by his tribe, that it was a very good thing that he did not know that I, with a blue pencil, had drawn a line through his territory.”5.

 

Those “blue lines”, products of minds that were almost totally ignorant of the territories with which they were dealing, established the international boundaries ofAfrican countries. They also established, within each country, the boundaries of administrative districts and provinces.  Virtually all Black African countries were thus handed international and internal boundaries that, from the first day to now, have been beset by problems of inter-ethnic relations.

 

Moreover, in every country, the goal of imperial administration was not to “build” a country, but to wring from it the maximum economic advantage for the imperial power.Imperial investments, such as there were, targeted the exploitation of resources capable of the highest and quickest yields – such as mineral deposits, forest resources, export produce. In some countries, European companies were given concessions to exploit certain resources or even whole regions. The development of roads, railways and ports was designed to serve the goals of economic exploitation, to facilitate the evacuation of resources from the interior to the coast, and had no interest in facilitating the unification or growth of a country. In those countries where the climate permitted the introduction of farmers from Europe, infrastructural developments were focused on helping the European farmers by opening up the areas where their farms concentrated. In order to give European companies free rein, imperial policy discouraged indigenous entrepreneurship – or even destroyed it where it already existed.

 

Even the administrative unity of each country was nominal for most of the colonial period. For instance, even after two protectorates were amalgamated to form Nigeria in 1914, the administrations of the two regions continued to be essentially different.It was not until the late 1940s, after the Second World War, that constitutional arrangements for one Nigeria were at last embarked upon – and that was just over ten years before Nigeria’s independence.  Belgian Congo (Congo Kinshasa), territorially the largest country in Africa, was a country only in name even until independence – its widely dispersed provinces and peoples were virtually out of touch with one another. In 1919, the French formed the territories of Upper Volta into one colony. In 1932, they split it up and shared it between neighboring French colonies. Then in 1947 they brought its parts together again as one country called Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) – only a few years before independence.

 

Furthermore, policies of the imperialists commonly promoted disunity and distrust among the nationalities in their colonies. In most countries, the few scattered nodal centers of colonial administration, and the areas where resources were being exploited, tended to receive all of the colonial government’s inputs into infrastructural and social development. Thus, in every country, the roots were planted of socio-economic development focused on a few urban centers, to the neglect of rural concentrations of population that were regarded as less important.  In a country with many different ethnic national territories, this holds the potential of establishing the seeds of unhealthy inter-ethnic rivalries and hostilities.

 

Moreover, most colonial powers employed, in their tropical African possessions, policies and practices based on the race theories that developed in the slave-trade era and that were powerfully promoted in European scholarship during the 19th century. In general, the French used the race theories much more widely than the British, while the Belgians employed them very intensively in their colonies of the Congo, Burundi and Rwanda.  The heritage of these theories and policies has been the growth of inter-ethnic animosities and hostilities even where none had existed before European colonialism, and their intensification where some had existed.

Still more, as independence seemed more and more inevitable in Africa generally in the years after the Second World War, each imperial power sought out a preferred nationality, a “friendly people”, to hand power to in each country at independence, as a means of further protecting their own interests after independence. Usually, working towards that kind of objective called for various kinds of crooked maneuvers and manipulations. These included manipulations of the independence constitutions, falsification of politically important national statistics (such as censuses), unfair manipulations of the pre-independence elections, etc. And usually too, once the colonial rulers of a country had thus concocted their chosen leadership for the country, they gave it support for long after independence – by meddling with the country’s affairs from the shadows.

 

These then are the facts and realities about our indigenous nations. They are the background tothe horrid experiences of our countries since independence. Our indigenous nations were mostly too small to constitute the sizeable countries appropriate to the modern world. To create such countries, it was necessary to group some nations togetherinto each country. Unfortunately, we did not get the chance to carry out this crucial exercise for ourselves. Another people who were mostly ignorant about our continent, about our ways of life, and about our political culture and history, pushed their way in and did it. And they did it out of minds that disrespected and even despised us, that were not much disposed to give consideration to our well-being, and that sought virtually all the benefits and profits for their own countries back home in Europe. These foundations launched our nations ineach of our modern countries into a very rocky journey together.

 

These foundational weaknesses,authored by the colonial rulers, are very important, no doubt. However, after more than fifty years of independence, we Black Africans have now developed a broad consensus that we cannot continue to blame only the European imperialists for our troubles, and that we must blame ourselves more significantly. Most of our countries have been independent now for more years than they were ruled by European imperialists. Independence offered us the duty and the opportunity in each country to consider what the imperialists had bequeathed to us, and to adjust it appropriately in order to provide a setting for harmony among our various nations and for stability for our countries. For the most part, we have failed to rise to that duty and respond to the opportunity. From their positions of power and influence, our foremost citizens have tended mostly to seek power without restraint, without limit, and without responsibility, and personal wealth without account, to the detriment of their countries and their people. And these have been prone to promote, among many other ills, weakness, poverty, confusion, fear, desperation, hostility and conflict among the masses ofcommon people.

 

And most of such urban-based conflicts have tended to play out as inter-ethnic. In the poor urban destinations to which the poor masses tend to swarm in a hopeless quest for economic survival, fights by the poor against the poor, meaninglessly developing as fights of ethnic national groups against one another, have become common all over Black Africa.

 

But, in Nigeria, these urban fire-storms are by no means the only kind of inter-ethnic conflicts. Much more serious ones, with more devastating consequences, occur frequently. One of the earliest of these, and the most memorable, was the massive killing of Igbo nationals from the Nigerian Southeast in some parts of Northern Nigeria in late 1966. One major series, consisting of widespread conflicts between armed Fulani herdsmen and local farming folks in virtually all parts of the Nigerian Middle Belt and South, is now shaking the very foundations of Nigeria. Others are based in religion – consisting of Muslim indigenes in parts of the North attacking Christian congregations (mostly from the South), burning their churches and killing some of the worshippers therein.

 

In every case of these inter-ethnic conflicts in Nigeria, poor governance and poor leadership of the Nigerian state is the cause. Gradually since independence, governance at all levels in Nigeria (local, state and federal) has taken on the character of indifference to the needs of the people, concentration of most of leadership energy on the acquisition of personal unearned wealth, and cynically deceptive propaganda for the purpose of hiding the truth from the people. Therefore, as poverty has grown all over Nigeria, the myth grows among citizens everywhere that citizens in other parts of the country, or in some favoured nations, are faring better. Usually, the politicians, while mostly giving their energies to enriching themselves from public funds, tend to succeed at deceiving their ethnic nationals that they are serving the interests of their ethnic nations. The politician thus manipulates ethnicity to whip up electoral support for himself, but he also thus reinforces inter-ethnic animosities. Much of the explosions between different ethnic groups springs from this sad fact.

 

Side by side with these trends, the people in control of federal power in Nigeria, irrespective of where they come from in the country, tend to view people of some parts of the country as potential enemies and threats. Policies, actions and body-language aimed at marginalizing or subduing such enemies and threats are a constant feature of the behavior of federal governmental leadership in Nigeria. Policies subtly designed to gradually weaken and destroy some nationalities – policies such as discouraging the teaching of their language and history to their children, or weakening the participation of their men and women in the commanding heights of the Nigerian economy –are also constant features of Nigerian federal governance.

Maneuvering to pull all power and resource-control together at the federal centre, and to reduce the federating units of the country to impotent entities easily manipulated by federal authority, are also constant features of federal leadership. Quite often, some of these noxious policies are justified as necessary for unifying and integrating Nigeria, but most of what they achieve is reinforcement of ethnic fears and inter-ethnic animosities – animosities that ultimately fuel inter-ethnic conflicts.

 

What then, and how much, can Nigerian youths contribute to the changing of these trends and thereby to harmony, stability, and progress in Nigeria? I hold the view that our youths intrinsically command a lot of capability over the direction of our country. Even your coming together to hold these summits is a potentially big push forward for our country. You are getting together and getting to know one another, creating avenues for discussion of the direction of our country and for exchange of opinions. None of you is likely to leave these summits still holding to all of the ideas you held before you came. You have inaugurated a process of change, and I urge you to do everything to keep it going.

 

As you talk among you, I am sure you will constantly come to the mostcrucial fact about the composition of this country of ours. Ours is not a country consisting of one ethnic nation(like Russia or France or Germany), it is a country consisting (like India or Switzerland or Britain)of many different ethnic nations, each with its own language, culture and way of doing things, its own ambitions, desires and hopes, its own image of itself and its own national pride.Of course, we Nigerians can build this country into a country in which all our nationalities are happy to belong, a country that works smoothly, a country that progresses and prospers. India, Britain and Switzerland are doing that – by respecting each nationality and its culture, and by adopting constitutional arrangements that allow each nationality to manage much of its own affairs and to make its own kind of contribution to the overall prosperity of their country. They know that too much centralization of power in their country can kill their country, and they keep taking step after step to make the separate units stronger. Make yourselves familiar with these facts, and make your voices heard in the affairs of your country.

 

Much of what the politicians present to their people as necessary for the interest of their people are really not so. The masses of people in all parts of our country are suffering from desperate poverty. It is not true that upholding an excessively powerful federal government that controls all resources benefits the people of any part of our country. What it does is to make our people poorer and poorer in all parts of our country and to uphold corruption, and it threatens to destroy our country. Our youths must give their strength to truths that benefit their people and all the peoples of Nigeria.

 

Respecting our differences is the key. In a meeting of our country’s topmost leaders (Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe) sometime in the 1950s, Dr. Azikiwe urged, “Let us forget our differences”. Sir Ahmadu answered, “No, we cannot forget our differences; we should respect our differences”. Both really meant the same thing – namely that we should recognize that we are different nationalities and therefore manage our differences respectfully and constructively. Chief Awolowo, always the philosopher, wrote whole books to plead that we should respect our different nationalities and their cultures and make our constitution to reflect that respect.

 

I must close by letting you into some little bit of our past.  When I was about your age, I was passionately convinced that my country would become the greatest country in modern Africa, the Blackman’s world power of modern times. As a university student in Ibadan, I was very active in students’ leadership. at home and abroad, I represented Nigeria in many student conferences in the world and in Africa, and I was enormously proud for my country and of my country. Let me tell a story from one of my conferences abroad. It was a conference in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia in 1960, some months before the independence of our country. I was leader of the Nigerian delegation. The Ethiopian Minister of Education, Mr. Endalkatchew Makonen, invited us Nigeria students and other West African students to dinner at his home. When the dinner was over and we were being taken back in cars to the dormitories of the Haile Selassie University where we were staying, the honourable Minister came over to my car, laid his hand on my shoulder, bent over, and said very seriously, “My young Nigerian brother, congratulations in advance for your country’s independence. I hope that as you Nigerians prepare for your independence, you will not forget that a lot in our Africa from now on will come to depend on your country”. I was so proud for my country that I shed tears all the way back to my dormitory. And I could not sleep even a minute all that night. Nigeria can be a great possession, in spite of the brutalities it has suffered since independence. Let us struggle to make it a great possession.Its future depends on you our youths.
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L-R; HON. FATIMA BAKO, DIGIFA WERINIPRE, LEADER OF SUPREME EGBESU ASSEMBLY, CHIEF AYO OPADOKUN, NADECO LEADER, AMB. OLU OTUNLA, OBA OLUSOLA OLATUNDE, ONIKUN OF IKUN EKITI, AT A PEACE SUMMIT

L-R; HON. FATIMA BAKO, DIGIFA WERINIPRE, LEADER OF SUPREME EGBESU ASSEMBLY, CHIEF AYO OPADOKUN, NADECO LEADER, AMB. OLU OTUNLA, OBA OLUSOLA OLATUNDE, ONIKUN OF IKUN EKITI, AT THE PEACE SUMMIT HELD AT BERKELEY HOTEL IKEJA, ORGANISED BY JODER WITH SUPPORT FROM FORD FOUNDATION.
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Cross Section of Participants (Large)

Cross-section of participants (Large)

CROSS SECTION OF PARTICIPANTS AT THE SUMMIT ON PROMOTING PEACE, DEMOCRACY AND STABILITY IN NIGERIA HELD AT BERKELEY HOTEL GRA, IKEJA LAGOS ON 26TH APRIL 2016 ORGANIZED BY JODER WITH SUPPORT FROM FOUNDATION.
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