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digifa-werinipre

Democracy in Nigeria: Oil, the Niger-Delta, Peace-Building and the crisis of Sustainable Development

Address Delivered by Chief Werinipre Noel Digifa, Chairman, Supreme Egbesu Assembly, at the 2-day summit on Promoting Peace, Democracy and Stability in Nigeria through the Media, Socio-Cultural Institutions and Youth-Driven Community Based Groups. Organized by the Journalists for Democratic Rights, JODER and the FORD FOUNDATION West Africa Regional Office held in Lagos on April 26, 2016 held at Berkeley Hotel, GRA, Lagos

I bring greetings from the people of the Niger-Delta. I bring greetings from my people in Ijawland, a people located in the West Coast of Africa, with a history dating back to over 10,000 years. As you may all be aware, we are an indigenous people that God in His wisdom gave land in the coastal areas which is our ancestral home. My people send their greetings to you from the creeks and the forest of the Niger-Delta where the mainstay of Nigerian economy, that is oil, is derived.

I do not intend to bore you with the history of my people, the Ijaw which is one of the largest ethnic nationalities in Nigeria and by far with more people than the population of Israel, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Ijawnation is more that Scotland and Wales put together. We are in fact bigger in population than some 100 countries in the world.

God gave us a beautiful land, a rich and wonderful territory with amazing trees, mangrove and almost an endless varieties of creeping plants, birds and animals from whence our people derive their livelihood.

There are two types of Niger-Delta. The Niger-Delta they want you to know and the Niger-Delta that we know. The Niger-Delta they want you to know is the hotbed of violence, of kidnapping, of killings and of brigandage. It is the Niger-Delta of poor and uneducated people, a land where the children do not want to go to school and never cared about what happens to them, a Niger Delta without culture, a people without a name, a people that are only good as pawns in the political chess game of Nigeria.

But there is a Niger-Delta that we know, a Niger-Delta of truth that our enemies do not wish to talk about. Our territory is home to some of the world’s richest resources, yet our people remain poor, deprived, marginalized and undermined by successive Nigerian states.  The Niger-Delta was at a time, one of the largest Mangrove Forests in the world. We are proud and happy with what God gave to us. Today, human activities continue to destroy and lay prostrate the creation of God. Our water is polluted. Our air is fumed with dirt from oil exploration. Daily, poisonous substances are poured into our ocean. Our fishes, the crabs and the shrimps are poisoned all in the name of profit. Our land is no longer fertile. Our women bear the brunt of infertility due to the poison in the only water available to drink. Our men are choked. Our children and wailing and dying. Our future is at a peril. When we talk, they bring out guns, when we shout they bring out armoured tanks to maul down our people like they did in Odi, November 1999 and Odioma in the year 2001. More than 1000 people perished in these two incidences and many were declared missing, including old and young, including children and infants.

Since 1950s when oil was found in our territory, more that 500 trillion dollars have been taken away by people mostly unknown to us, by authorities that view us with contempt and by companies that hate and deride our values and our agelong heritage.

The Ijaw people did not make a choice to be where they are today. God made the choice for them and they found it good. The Ijaw people did not create the oil, but God in His wisdom gave them the oil so as to develop their homeland and make it the pride of the people that own the land.

For centuries the Ijaw nation had enjoyed her peace. We fish in the vast oceans, we farm in the Mangrove forests, we till the soil to earn a living, we spend days and nights in the belly of the sea and down the bottomless pit of the oceans to eke out a living. We cherish our tradition. We cherish the territory that God gave to us.

The Ijaw people had lived in peace with her neighbors long before the coming of the Europeans. We had trade and commerce relationship with our ethnic neigbours and our people traded up to Ghana, Gabon, Southern Sudan, Cameroon and the Central African Republic in the 17th century.

In 1914, the British lords decided to merge Nigerian nationalities together. There was nothing wrong with living with other people, but what was wrong was the conscious attempt to shave our head in our absence. Our leaders were not consulted, our people’s opinion was not sought, the conditions of the union were not discussed with us and our aspirations and fears were swept under the carpet.

For many of you who may be aware, our leaders in 1959 made several presentations at the Willink Commission of Enquiry on the fears of ethnic nationalities of the Niger-Delta of which the Ijaw nation is one. Since that presentation at the commission was made, there has not been any conscious attempt by the Nigerian government to seek our opinion and to understand our attitude to governance. Every other conference has been to masturbate the ego of the people in power and to deceive the world that things would be better.

There is no doubting the fact that since oil became the mainstay of Nigerian economy, the Niger-Delta has been continuously criminalized. We are portrayed as people that are lazy. We are portrayed as people that cannot government themselves. We are portrayed as aggressors all in the bid to demonise us before the local and international communities so as to steal our resources and degrade our birthright as a people. One of the major causes of conflict in the Niger-Delta is the derivation formulae.

Since 1960, the derivation formulae have been determined by those who do not produce oil. They are the ones that tell us what the oil producing states should get. You can imagine you producing yam in your backyard and some people from 1000 kilometers away are telling you what price to sell the yam and what profit should go to you the farmer and how you will spend the profit made. Nigeria must wake up from the odd tradition of repression and practice Federalism the way it has been defined by the originators of that system of government. A garrison state will not auger well for peace in Nigeria.

Today, the Nigerian state pays 13 percent derivation to the oil producing communities. But this can never compensate for the half a century exploitation and exploration of our resources. This can never compensate for the millions of years that await our existence and generations unborn.

 

It is very unfortunate that successive Nigerian governments have chosen to deliberately malign the Ijaw nation and her people. Institutions of the Nigerian state were created to our disadvantage. Take a look at the creation of states where the Ijaw nation has only one homogenous state of Bayelsa. The Ijaw people have been deliberately balkanized into different states of Ondo, Delta, Rivers, where they are in minority and their voices stifled. Take a look at the National Assembly. There are 109 Senators out of which the Ijaw nation cannot produce more than 5 Senators. At the House of Representatives, the Ijaw Nation cannot produce more than 10 out of 360 members. You can imagine: What bill of utmost Ijaw interest can ever be passed by the National Assembly? What resource allocation can go into the purse of the 774 local governments that will ever benefit the Ijaw Nation that has less than 20 local governments in all?

To be precise, we have been so marginalized to the extent that when it is time for the Ijaw to produce political leaders, the system is skewed to ensure that the best does not come from our homeland. When ever the anti-people system and institutions produce an Ijaw leader that will only oil the malicious and draconian system, the same people turn around to blame the Ijaw people who were neither contacted nor consulted when such leaders were being selected.

I say that the fundamental question of power in Nigeria has been the contest for oil. Most of the major crisis Nigeria has witnessed revolves around oil and the desperation of the ruling class to take control and manipulate the entire resource mechanism. The Nigerian civil war was more about the battle for control of resources. The elections we have been having in Nigeria have been about the battle for control and manipulation of oil, which is the natural gift of the Ijaw nation.

Today, I stand before you to proclaim that peace will last for a long time in Nigeria if there is justice. The Ijaw nation has a very simple demand: Give us what belongs to us. We do not demand for what is not ours. What we ask for are those things that are owned by us.

The anger and frustration you find in the Niger-Delta today are as a result of the lack of governments with a human face, the lack of institutions that care about human liberty, the lack of a political leadership with a clear vision not to rob Peter to pay Paul.

Our people are as desperate for peace as they are for justice.  They are as desperate for liberty as they are for sustainable livelihood.

The Ijaw nation is ready to work together with stakeholders, driven by the people to bring peace and justice to Nigeria. We are ready to work together to ensure that people make their demands in a peaceful way and that the government should also adopt peaceful mechanism for resolving the issues raised by the people.

We support the Journalists for Democratic Rights and the Ford Foundation for this noble cause. We are ready to give our time and energy to ensure we work with other nationalities to bring peace and justice to this country. We are ready to work with the various networks, both locally and internationally to achieve the goal of peace with liberty and justice. This is a difficult task but with truth and honesty of purpose, it can be achieved.

I thank you all for your time

 
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Chief Ayo Opadokun (Large)

“CONFLICT, VIOLENCE AND THE TASK OF SUSTAINABLE LIVELIHOOD IN NIGERIA” – CHIEF AYO OPADOKUN

Chief Ayo Opadokun (Large)

TEXT OF A LECTURE DELIVERED BY AYO OPADOKUN AS A GUEST SPEAKER TO A LAGOS SUMMIT ON PEACE BUILDING BY JOURNALISTS FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS AND FORD FOUNDATION ON TUESDAY, APRIL 26, 2016 AT BERKLEY HOTEL, GRA, IKEJA, LAGOS.

PROTOCOLS

I want to thank the organisers of this event, particularly Mr Wale Adeoye on behalf of Journalists for Democratic Rights and Ford Foundation for inviting me to be the Guest Speaker at this occasion.

Permit me to open this discussion by setting down the framework of my understanding the conceptual definitions of Conflict, Violence and the Task of Sustainable Livelihood in Nigeria. Conflict as a concept has received the attention of many scholars in social sciences, particularly sociology, psychology, anthropology etc.

Conflict has its root or draw its original word from “configure” i.e. “to strike together”. Conflict can be defined as “behaviour between parties whose interests are or appear to be incompatible or clashing (Action Aid, 1994) Conflict has been defined as well as a “fight, a struggle, a disagreement between people with different ideas or beliefs according to Greenberg and Barton 1993. Conflict is also taught to be as “a process in which one party PERCEIVES that another party has taken some actions that will exert negative efforts on its major interests or is about to take such action”.

The importance of the word “Perceive” or appear to be in this last definition becomes important because social scientists in different studies and observations are convinced that perception is the major driving force in any conflict situation. It’s a psychologically based concept that refers to the way we see something, a situation, event, action, idea, organisation etc. which may not necessarily be the way it is or is meant to be seen. Perception is recognised as a picture of reality by behavioural management and communication services because it helps us to understand that at most times, people take decisions, actions or positions based on their perceptions as opposed to the reality or the absolute truth or intention of the action or expressed view.

It’s compelling for our joint better understanding to at least peep into the various dimensions of the concept of conflict because the other two concepts, violence are the possible consequences of conflict while the task of sustainable livelihood in Nigeria will remain unachievable in conflict situations.

Conflict as a conceptual perspective formulation and understanding has been understood to have phases e.g. two dominant ones i.e. negative or bad perspectives and the positive or good perspective. There are also the traditional, behavioural and interactionist perspective of conflict which is also known as the contemporary perspectives. Furthermore, there is the concept of minimal conflict level which leaders like Robbins 1988:154 believe should be encouraged and sustained to keep group alive, self-critical, creative and change-oriented.

In fact, the minimal conflict level generation and sustenance line of thought under the interactionist school or perspective is given support because of the following observations:

  1. That minimal conflict tends to bring problems out into the open.
  2. That minimal conflict tends to increase our understanding of the views, feelings, interests, and expectations of the other side.
  3. That minimal conflict tends to facilitate change.
  4. That some level of conflict tends to enhance group loyalty.
  5. That minimal conflict tends to increase group commitment.

There are always about three broad categories of causes of conflict. They are the intrapersonal, the interpersonal and the structural-functional factors. At intrapersonal level of conflict, it takes place within an individual as he/she faces several clashing factors as they independently impact on the individual to make him face a conflicting situation.

At interpersonal conflict, they are caused by such factors as lingering grudges, faulty attributions (i.e. imagining someone’s action against another person to a wrong motive), faulty interpersonal communication (unclear instructions or messages) inappropriate criticism etc. as noted by Vecchio, 1991 and Greenberg and Baron, 1993.

The structural functional causes of conflicts have their roots in interactions between organisational or group structures. There are two identified dominant programmed conflict management techniques known as Devil’s Advocate Technique and Dialectual Technique. In the devil’s advocate technique, someone in a group or a section of the group is assigned the role of playing the devil’s advocate in order to intentionally and systematically generate conflicting or dissenting viewpoints or raise opposing viewpoints, critical thinking and reality testing. The role may rotate as situations may warrant. The dialectical technique has its base in the Platonion thesis and antithesis approach to discourses, rhetorics or debates. We also have to understand that too much conflict or too little conflict, in any group in current thinking is dysfunctional in order for us to effectively manage conflict.

The above discussions about definitions, type, character, prevention and management of conflict are the same in whatever situation we may find ourselves e.g. political, religious, ethnic nationalism, economical, cultural, and other socio-political and socio-economic settings.

For example, the current national conflicting situation of BOKO HARAM insurgencies resulted from abysmal failure of understanding the signal, the commencement, resolution, containment and management of the then on-brewing conflict.

If President Obasanjo had appropriately responded to a sectional and negatively impacting enactment of Sharia Law to govern Zamfara State in both private and criminal matters which was a fundamental attack and confrontation against the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, other 11 states could not have ventured to join Governor Ahmed Sani Yerima in his hypocritical and selfish desire to exploit religion for political gains thereby frustrating the rule of law and it’s now lasting consequences.

If the Nigerian State has understood the wide implications of the Cattle Rearers/Herdsmen audacious, insensitive and deliberate grazing their cattle by feeding on native farmers crops and means of Livelihood in other parts of the country and the consistently reported support and backing of the Nigerian security forces against the native farmers, perhaps Nigeria could not have been awashed with the reported stories of several hundreds of innocent lives already killed by the Fulani herdsmen as recently happened in Agatu community in Benue State, Iseyin and Okeho etc. in the Oyo North, Plateau State and in two Local Government areas of Anambra State etc.

As earlier noted, Conflicts also do occur as a result of peoples perception of bias, favouritism, neglect and or discrimination against some people in favour of the other group by the act of government or wrong usage of constitutional provisions. For example, the exercise of employment and appointments into key political and economic posts in Nigeria has always exposed undue favouritism and bias leading to some people’s perception that they are been unfairly treated as spectators, cheated, side-lined  discriminated against etc.

VIOLENCE

Violence is usually a situation where individuals, groups organised or not use instruments that can cause bodily harm on the other person or group. Sometimes it’s used to compel obedience or enforce due or undue supremacy.

Many conflicting situations do get resolved before they result to violence. Laws can be amended to give greater sense of belonging. Sensitivity to the feelings of others can always reduce incidences of violence. Application of the rule of law and its enforcement have greater chances of preventing conflict resorting to violence. Many boundary disputes that have resulted to too many lost lives were avoidable with better intelligence gathering, better collaborative efforts of governments and community engagements towards effective conflict management.

Deliberate understanding that Nigeria is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-linguistic, multi-artefacts etc. country is a necessity to prevent further incidences of violence. Also, restoration to true federal constitutional government arrangements e.g. devolution of powers, fiscal federalism, etc which essentially presupposes that all the components states are constitutionally equal but coordinating at the centre as opposed to the militarily imposed centralised administration of the country since the military violently captured political power in Nigeria on January 15, 1966 will reduce the incidences of many conflicts and their consequential occurrences of violence. Nothing better illustrates this viewpoints like the total devastations and wiping out the entire people in ODI in Bayelsa and Vandelkiya in Benue States respectively by the Nigerian Military. The most worrisome recent news account presented to the Kaduna State established Panel of Enquiry on the Nigerian Army/Shite Islamic adherents clash by the Secretary to the Kaduna State Government that it buried about 350 bodies of persons inclusive of women and children is a very displeasing dimension. This was after the provocative activities of the Iranian led Zaria based Shite Islamic Group noted for its religious extremism and disrespect for constitutional authority has resulted into the military offensive against the group which refused all reasonable advice to them to allow the Chief of Army Staff to legitimate pass through a public highway was rebuffed.

THE TASK OF SUSTAINABLE LIVELIHOOD

The task of sustainable Livelihood rests in the collaborative efforts of the people and government to do their parts. First, government as peoples institution set up with the will of the people to make lives better for them must act timeously with effective intelligence network to be ahead of conflict situation and managing them effectively to prevent and or reduce the chances of violence resulting from such conflicts.

Also, our government will need to be faithful to the constitutional provisions as contained in Chapter 11 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria dealing with Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy.

Section 13 provides: “It shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of governments, and of all authorities and persons, exercising legislative; executive or judicial powers, to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this Chapter of this Constitution”.

Section 14 provides:

  1. The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice.
  2. It is hereby, accordingly, declared that:
  3. Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority;
  4. the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government; and
  5. the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with provisions of this Constitution.
  6. The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.

Section 15 provides:

  1. The motto of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress.
  2. Accordingly, national integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited.
  3. For the purpose of promoting national integration, it shall be the duty of the State to:
  4. provide adequate facilities for and encourage free mobility of people, goods and services throughout the Federation;
  5. secure full residence rights for every citizen in all parts of the Federation;
  6. encourage inter-marriage among persons from different places of origin, or of different religious, ethnic or linguistic association or ties; and
  7. promote or encourage the formation of associations that cut across ethnic, linguistic, religious or other sectional barriers.
  8. The State shall foster a feeling of belonging and of involvement among the various peoples of the Federation, to the end that loyalty to the nation shall override sectional loyalties.
  9. The State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.

Section 16 provides:

  1. The State shall, within the context of the ideals and objective for which provisions are made in this Constitution:
  2. harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity and an efficient, dynamic and self-reliant economy;
  3. control the national economy in such manner as to secure maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity;
  4. without prejudice to its right to operate or participate in areas of the economy, other than the major sectors of the economy, manage and operate the major sectors of the economy;
  5. without prejudice to the right of any person to participate in areas of the economy within the major sector of the economy, protect the right of every citizen to engage in any economic activities outside the major sectors of the economy.
  6. The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring:
  7. the promotion of a planned and balanced economic development;
  8. that the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good;
  9. that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group; and
  10. that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens.

Sustenance of livelihood in Nigeria will be better guaranteed if the Nigerian State were to adhere and or significantly performed its obligations as provided for in the above quoted constitutional provisions. It is the act of gross disobedience and or wilful disregard to the above provisions that have consistently being the major factors for generating conflict situations which when poorly or manipulatively managed usually result into various incidences of violence thereby denying Nigerians commensurate standard of livelihood that should have been their due lots.

Nigeria had been the Eight largest exporter of crude oil with humongous earning of petroleum dollars since the early 70s. Yet, the Nigerian State has part of the worst decayed infrastructure in the world. In fact, we are grouped in the class of the war ravaged areas of the world like Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq etc.

Human Development Index statistics present us as part of the most under developing nations of the world. Our social services are shamefully perjorative and disgraceful. Unemployment is about 25% while in the case of graduates it is over 50%. What the Nigerian State gives as education today is nothing but deception. We import almost everything including tooth pick.

Corruption as a national calamity has overran the nation to the extent that no public institution has been spared. All essential public organs that can develop, sustain, defend democracy and the rule of law have been significantly subverted and even continuously eliminated since 1966 till date. To make matters worse, Nigerians have always allowed the Nigerian military to return to barracks on their own terms whenever they recognised that they could no more be allowed to remain directly in charge of political administration. The consequences are negatively massive on our political landscape. Most elected and or appointed politicians are surrogates and loyalists of the military. They remain stinkingly rich in the face of the highest level of national poverty and economic misery of the majority.

The Non-Governmental Organisations, Younger generations and the Mass media are the modern instruments for effective monitoring of government activities. NGOs in areas of budgeting, all other social services need both local and international support. Developing partners and donor agencies have to partner with Civil Society by supporting identifiable programmes which will have direct beneficial effect on the people.  They should further provide for capacity building for various relevant segments of the Civil Society. It’s the Civil Society Groups that should provide education, information and mobilisation to the general public so that the critical mass can dispel unfounded rumours, inaccurate information that usually lead to conflict and equally be knowledgeable enough to know, demand and defend their rights.

The Mass Media as a change agent has a constitutional responsibility to make government accountable. But for the media and the advancement in technology, internet, and social media, even the recent attempt to tackle corruption could have been dead on arrival. It’s an unbelievable degeneration of ethical standard situation when senior Lawyers are reportedly fixing money into the accounts of judges who will preside over matters of their Clients. They are worrisome enough. We cannot but also watch out for the negative effects of what media institution ownership has done and is doing to the performance of the media in our society.

Thanks for your attention.
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AW0D3669 (Large)

THE ROLE OF THE MILITARY IN ETHNIC RELATION, DEMOCRACY AND PEACE BUILDING – COL. GABRIEL AJAYI

AW0D3669 (Large)

THE ROLE OF THE MILITARY IN ETHNIC RELATION, DEMOCRACY AND PEACE BUILDING being the text of the address delivered by Col Gabriel Ajayi (rtd) at the 2-day summit on Promoting Peace, Democracy and Stability in Nigeria through the Media, Socio-Cultural Institutions and Youth-Driven Community Based Groups organized by the Journalists for Democratic Rights, (JODER) and the FORD Foundation held at Berkeley Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos

INTRODUCTION

  1. I sincerely appreciate the thoughtfulness and the concerns of the conveners of this program. I agree with the conveners that one of the greatest threats to Nigerians renaissance is the deep ethnic and religious divisions which have been leading to avoidable violent conflicts around the country. It is through this type of program that in-depth knowledge can be acquired to demystify the causes of such conflicts based on truth and exchange of information for only the truth can make the people free. Here in Nigeria we have so many pretentiously religious adherents without respect to the sensibilities of orders, near psychotic and divisive leaders pretending to be nationalist while encouraging dissentions underground. In such an environment conflicts become inevitable.
  2. I am to speak on the topic: The Roles of the Military in Ethnic Relation, Democracy and peace building. My choice to speak on this topic might have been informed by my pedigree as a retired hardcore infantry officer of 30 years’ experience in the military service of this nation. I can assure you that we will only exchange ideas for nothing is hidden from all Nigerians about what the military can do and what it cannot do. No doubt the Nigerian military has ingratiated itself with the civil society in Nigeria haven’t ruled the nation for more than half of her independent life. Even certain terminologies commonly used in the society are mainly of military origin. The need for sustainable development on promotion of peace and understanding among the vast and diverse ethno, religious and other social formations cannot be over emphasized. The military remains one of the strongest agencies/institutions of restraint in any nation. It is the power of the state to enforce its sovereignty over its people or any conquered/administered territories. The Nigerian military remains the oldest institution founded in Nigeria by Great Britain. Although as a person I have never subscribed to the notion that peace can be acquired through dialogue or consensus; Peace can be acquired by a balance of power or force. It is naive to think that a weak neighbour could peacefully coexist with a strong and sanguinary one without trespass. Peaceful co-existence could only happen when the weak neighbour submits him/herself to humiliating compromises.

 

 

AIM

  1. The aim of this paper is to highlight the role The Nigerian Military can play in ensuring peaceful co-existence among Nigerians of diverse, ethnic religion, social, cultural and political persuasions.

THE MILITARY IN NATION BUILDING

  1. All over the world the military is an organization that serves the public at large, often, although not necessarily, to the exclusion of the people who are the object of the organization’s endeavors. The military profession is a voluntary one since individuals are free to choose an occupation within it, yet it is also coercive in that its members are not free to organize into voluntary associations. They are confined to a bureaucratic – hierarchical situation. The military consist of highly trained skillful and dedicated leaders which form the officer’s corps and the disciplined men. They are special people with unusual mission to perform. They are those categories of people to be engaged in quarrels conducted between nations or internal insurgency/tumult by the use of force in a state of open hostility. This is when ordinary international laws, diplomacy and internal agreements may be ignored or suspended. The two qualitative variables of the military are Control and Skills. When you talk of the use of military in conflict resolutions it is still a weapon in the hands of one of the disputants.
  2. Historically, the most important attributes of the military are bravery and discipline. But today corporate military professionalism has widened the military’s social, political economic and religious horizon. As a bureaucracy the military today is closely linked to modern nation state whose technological advancement and orientation are revolutionary in both management and strategy. The propensity of the military therefore to intervene in politics, socio-economic and religion policy formulation is due to this bureaucratic roles and orientation. The military is trained and imbibed with discipline, loyalty, dedication, obedience, hard work, courage and overwhelming determination to fight under any climatic condition and terrain in order to secure/guarantee the territorial integrity of the country. The function of the military is to fulfill the will of the civilian authority and be apolitical, detribalized, upholding the compactness of their institution through esprit de corps. Let me add here that the military organization is a sort of fraternity, an unusual community as well as an instrument of power and bureaucracy. Today’s military plays an influential role in the making of national security and defence policies.

THE NIGERIAN MILITARY

  1. The evolution of Nigerian Army presents one of those funny twists of history. The origin of the Nigerian Army is traced to a Constabulary Force organized in Lagos in 1863 from runaway slaves who had attached themselves to one lieutenant Glover of the Royal Navy. Glover’s boat Dayspring was ship-wrecked at Jebba on the River Niger. The Naval Officer after the incident decided to make it to Lagos by road. On his way he came across some unruly inhabitants mainly from the Northern part of Nigeria who were desperately trying to escape from the slave dealers. He took eighteen of them to escort him to Lagos. Due to the valour, strength and endurance displayed by these runaway slaves, Glover on arrival in Lagos used them as the nucleus to form a local force known then as “Glover Hausas”. He started using them to carry out British conquests and to protect British trade routes around the territory of Lagos. They were predominantly from the martial tribes of Northern Nigeria, notably the Kambaris, Godogodos, Zurus, Bachamas, Junkuns, Gongonbris, Kutebs, Idomas, Zunturungs, Kartafs, Langtangs, Panchins and Tivs. They were stark illiterates, but absolutely dedicated, loyal and amenable to military discipline. The proficiency in handling firearms has nothing to do with literacy.
  2. Great Britain the founder of Nigeria military did not allow the indigenous security architecture to grow simultaneously with the evolving political development. No steps were taken early enough to correct the image of Colonial military savagery conceived by Nigerians of the security system. Ironically and of course history abounds in ironies, the Colonial Nigeria military was not used to defend Nigerian territorial integrity from external aggression but to aid the conquering and subjugation of Nigeria nations by Great Britain. To be an impartial arbiter in a dispute, there must be some measure of trust in the arbitrators by the disputants. Unfortunately the foundational history of the Nigerian Army underdeveloped civil military-relations between the military and the civil society. This possibility was dealt a fatal blow at the formation of the Nigerian Army in that Lt. Glover recruited a force for the pacification of the people by their own people, an earlier realization of the Foster Dulles’ doctrine of using the Asians to fight the Asians. Thus, the chord of civil-military relations was snapped at its cradle. This is while the doctrinal direction within the Nigerian military has always titled towards identifying the people as the enemy of the country rather than external forces. Student’s movement, Labour Unions, pro-democracy forces were branded as internal enemies of the country. Elsewhere, these ‘internal enemies’ are the forces for national renewal. There existed only mutual distrust, suspicion and antagonisms since Nigerian Soldiers were serving a foreign power and were under the control of the British Army Council in London. This situation created the military mentality syndrome because the military institution introduced to Nigeria was primarily meant to be an instrument of oppression.
  3. The tragedy is that after Nigeria became independent on 1st October 1960, that military mentality was transferred from the Colonial masters to the indigenous military officers. This is why those who were supposed to be their political bosses or to be protected by them were labeled bloody civilians. Till date the problem exists on how to ensure that the military enjoys social legitimacy from the people in order to promote cordial civil-military relations. Our new government after independence failed to transform the military to think like average Nigerians. It was not considered expedient to ensure full understanding of the new independent ethno-political, socio-economic experiment in Nigeria. A force that fought the British wars and was used in Nigeria primarily against the interest of the natives needed proper re-organizations, re-orientation, and re-positioning to reflect the circumstances of the new independent nation. The new political elites left the military as a reserved demolition without demolition guards.
  4. Today the Nigerian military is a product of the Nigerian constitution with the following assigned responsibilities;
  • To defend the territorial integrity of the Nation by Land, Sea and Air.
  • To deter attack by any Nation, and should deterrence fail, to bring any ensuing war to a conclusion favourable to Nigeria.
  • To provide aids to civil power as at when necessary and if called upon to do so by the appropriate civilian authority.
  • To aid the African Union (AU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), United Nations Organization (UNO), and any other bilateral arrangement which may be entered into fro time to time by the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

THE USE OF THE MILITARY IN CONFLICT RESOLUTIONS

  1. The Nigerian military has the profile to assist in solving problems associated with conflict management and putting down revolts both locally and internationally. We must start from the fact that the Nigerian military fought to maintain the territorial integrity, the indivisibility of the nation and the survival of the Federation. The military has continued to respond professionally to sectorial dissimulations around the country. It is on record that the Nigerian military intervened to restore peace, safe-guarding of innocent lives and properties in the former Western Region of Nigeria. The military also restored law and order in the Tiv province (now Benue, Plateau, and part of Nassarawa State) of Northern Nigeria. The military could also be credited with the crushing of Maitatsine and Makanikin religious uprisings in the North of Nigeria, while today the military is battling tooth and nail to suppress Boko Haram insurgency. This is a revolt against the Nation by a fringe religious organization domiciled principally in the North Eastern region of Nigeria. Nigerian military conflict resolution efforts have gone beyond the borders of Nigeria into other parts of the World.
  2. War is not an excuse for ignoring established humanitarian principles, which is why the military is capable of undertaking humanitarian activities in conflicts resolution. Let me state here clearly that when you talk about the military personnel, we teach them well to fight and to kill. That is their main job. Policing job is more complex than that. The police men are to be diplomat, social workers, arbitrators, and must be in physical condition to stop violence. They are the friends of the society. During the various socio political and religious upheavals in many parts of Northern Nigeria the military barracks became safe havens for many internally displaced persons. The impartiality and the neutrality of the military in handling the situation will boost the confidence of the disputants.
  3. The military can undertake psychological operations in the arena of conflicts resolution. The roles here includes some of the following;
  • Winning the hearts and minds of the people involved in the conflicts.
  • Provision of shelters for displaced persons.
  • Securing safe areas which have been clear for people to return to their homes.
  • Provision of water supply and distribution of released materials.
  • Opening up of routes, repair of damaged bridges and roads, etc. As recorded in the biblical book of Nehemiah “While we held the spear in one hand we built”.
  • Provision of medical facilities.
  • Provision of educational facilities for the displaced children in camps.
  • Provision of recreational facilities to relieve displaced persons of boredom.
  • Linking up of families who had lost contact as a result of conflicts.
  • Flag marches, that is showing of force not the use or application of force.

CONCLUSIONS

  1. Talking about military roles in conflicts management in our own peculiar environment is fraught with pitfalls due to the evolutionary history of the Nigerian military. A military that started as a Glover Hausas Force will not but suffer from what I call ‘Glover syndrome’. Right from its inception in the second half of the nineteenth century, it was used largely for the pacification of the indigenous peoples of Nigeria by the British for the British. With this past, will the use of the military in conflicts resolution not be tantamount to using Foxes to guard the Hens cage? After all the military has also been part as of the nation’s tragedy and foibles. God bless JODER and the Ford Foundation, sponsors of this programme. Thank you all for listening.

 

Colonel Gabriel A. Ajayi (Rtd) Acm, Fss Psc(t) FIIPS

Chief Operation Officer (COO)
Extreme Guards Nigeria Limited

08037258268
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Scanooj

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)

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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DSC_0304

DSC_0304

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

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 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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