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.
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:
- That minimal conflict tends to bring problems out into the open.
- That minimal conflict tends to increase our understanding of the views, feelings, interests, and expectations of the other side.
- That minimal conflict tends to facilitate change.
- That some level of conflict tends to enhance group loyalty.
- 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 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:
- The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice.
- It is hereby, accordingly, declared that:
- Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority;
- the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government; and
- the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with provisions of this Constitution.
- 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:
- The motto of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress.
- 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.
- For the purpose of promoting national integration, it shall be the duty of the State to:
- provide adequate facilities for and encourage free mobility of people, goods and services throughout the Federation;
- secure full residence rights for every citizen in all parts of the Federation;
- encourage inter-marriage among persons from different places of origin, or of different religious, ethnic or linguistic association or ties; and
- promote or encourage the formation of associations that cut across ethnic, linguistic, religious or other sectional barriers.
- 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.
- The State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.
Section 16 provides:
- The State shall, within the context of the ideals and objective for which provisions are made in this Constitution:
- harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity and an efficient, dynamic and self-reliant economy;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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.
- The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring:
- the promotion of a planned and balanced economic development;
- that the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good;
- 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
- 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.