Building peace, conflict management in conflict-ridden society
It is a truism that Nigeria is ensnared in multifarious conflicts, which frequently dominate discourse, many a time defy solutions and elicit more questions about the best approaches to nip crisis in the bud and build sustainable peace in its stead. AHMED ‘LATEEF attended a stepdown workshop on conflict management in Ilorin and filed this report.
In Nigeria today, conflict seems to be a reccuring decimal without any end in sight. Even though it is an incontrovertible fact that conflict is inherent and inevitable as society evolves, the proportion at which it occurs, is leaving much to be desired.
Conflict in offices be it public or private, has existed from time immemorial. Its positive and negative impact on the larger society cannot be quantified. That is why efforts are intensified to solve it, using different approaches, so long that they are feasible and workable.
The dimension of insecurity in the country is a source of worry for stakeholders. And because of the dimension it has assumed, each geopolitical zone of the country is replete with its own peculiar security challenge.
While the secessionist agitation in South East has resulted in non-state actors taking up arms against the state with concomitant maiming, destruction of property and killings, North West, North East and North Central are under the siege of banditary, insurgency and farmers/herders clashes respectively.
South West and South South are also enmeshed in armed robbery and kidnapping and oil bunkering among others.
In spite of the government efforts to deal with the problems associated with the crisis over the years, they are getting hydra-headed every now and then, notwithstanding the carrot and stick approaches adopted in some instances.
But the question that has arisen repeatedly, with answer yet to be provided, is the system bereft of the right approach to end the crisis?
That question apparently informed the decision of National Peace Committee to, in conjunction with Kukah Centre, Abuja and Independent State-Based Peace Architecture in Kwara, convened a two-day stepdown training on peace and conflict management with participants from diverse areas in a bid to tackle the challenges headlong.
The event held at Aga Woods Hotel along Pipeline Road, Ilorin between Tuesday 17th and Wednesday 18th October, 2023 offered stakeholders an ample opportunity to dissect issues that trigger conflicts in the society and solutions proffered.
Papers on peace building and conflict management, dialogue, mediation and advocacy in conflict management, conflict mapping for stakeholder’s engagement, communication and conflict management were presented.
Some of the participants, who spoke on the sidelines of the two days workshop, described the exercise as eye-opening, knowledge-based and one that enabled cross fertilization of ideas.
They were of the views that the training should not be a one-off but organized regularly for people to know and value importance of peace.
The participants also agreed that the training should be allowed to percolate down the grassroot level so that crises among groups, communities, villages and organizations can be resolved with cost-effective solutions.
They were also unanimous on the need to reduce tension and de-escalate violence in the society, using tools such as dialogue, negotiation, mediation and advocacy among others instead of confrontation that often compound situations.
A participant, Ifeoluwa Bisi, said the event was timely in view of the level of violence bedeviling the society.
She observed that the society would be better if dialogue and negotiation are adopted in crisis management, saying that they would also help in building a peaceful society.
Another participant, Mr Dave Fabiyi, stated that no group, community and nation thrives when turmoil, hence the application of conflict management tools for the betterment of everyone.
The Convener, Independent State-Based Peace Architecture in Kwara under the auspices of the National Peace Committee, Reverend Cornelius Fawenu, said the spate of conflict across all strata of the society made it imperative to embark on peace building effort.
“Looking at the urgency of the issue of maintaining peace in the country, moreso that it is becoming a multiple prong issues, issues hitherto in the past will ordinarily be overlooked, it is becoming necessary that we should begin to address all these issues.
“Starting from post-election issue, boundary dispute and so many issues connected with our diversity in the country, which essentially should be our strength but because there have not been effective advocacy and communication on how we can exploit our diversity to our benefit, we discovered that it has become very urgent now that we should grassroot the activities of the National Peace Committee.
“So, essentially, it has come to stay in Kwara State. We hope to move on from here”, Fawenu said.
Speaking on the gains derived from the workshop, the ISPA convener urged participants to return to their organizations and groups with a view to impacting them through the event.
He said, “People have been drawn from diverse areas where we think they are people who are connected with grassroots. Cultural group, community development group, religious group, market people, political structure and media in particular. We expect from now they will go for serious advocacy of the essence of the training.
“And then issues that require urgent resolution, ISPA is now in the best position to receive such issues and work with any other group with the same goal and objective with us, to ensure that we maintain the peace of our state and by extension, the peace of our country.
“Since we know that we cannot avoid to have conflict but by having conversation about them, and addressing them will mitigate the conflict issues, and we can therefore engender peace and development in the country. So, the development we have will be sustainable and the one we desire will come in.
“Because looking at it from economic angle, no investor will want to put his resources where there are crises. So, essentially, what we are doing here has a multiplier effect on National development”.
Fawenu, who also identified what precipitate security challenge in the country, called on government to create jobs to curb idleness and discourage jobless people from being lured to crimes.
“For every issue of insecurity, there is always a trigger. And so, most of the time, we look at the big picture, that is why our approach at Kukah Centre, ISPA collaborative level. When we are talking about conflict management, we are also talking about peace building and development.
“Reason being that most of these conflicts are as a result of negligence and abdication of responsibility. Our higher institutions of learning are churning out graduates. After graduation, what next? So, the issue of unemployment is a trigger. Lack of access to education is also part of the trigger. Our population is diverse. To what extent have we been able to address the education of the community that have the means of their income in the forest and in those areas where they don’t easy access to either education or other social amenities.
“And of course, we you look at our orientation, we tend to continue to develop the urban centres. For some other people by their orientation, they move to the urban centres. There are people by their cultural orientation, they cannot move away from the urban centres, and as the issue of poverty continues to escalate, they feel deprived. And it is their own way… this is not to justify whatever anybody is doing that is wrong. But that is their own way of ventilating their anger against the system.
“So what do we do? We are at the level where by we can connect with the grassroots, educating them on the right way to get their aims and objectives achieved without taking to violence or resorting to self-help.
“Then, we also have the responsibility of advocacy to the people in authority; speaking truth to power, reminding them of the responsibility of the mandate they hold for the people and on behalf of the people”, he said.