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Missing ingredients in Nigeria’s democratic consolidation (2)

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Image source sodahead

Image source sodahead

Continued from yesterday
AH yes, with practically every group in Nigeria, there is often bitterness and resentment over past hurts and wounds and structural injustices which have never been seriously addressed.

The recent Justice Kutigi-led Panel discussed some of these grievances, but like the Oputa Panel of the year 2001 and 2002, and other conferences before it, the Kutigi Conference may be just one other exercise in futility. And today across the country, there is intense anger, bitterness and resentment among the unemployed and impoverished youth population who have seen their dreams and aspirations for a meaningful life truncated and frustrated by a callous and profligate adult society.

Some of them are now taking to crime – resorting to armed robbery, kidnapping high profile personalities for a ransom, engaging in internet fraud, emigrating by any means or at any cost overseas, where they engage in such shameful activities as prostitution.

You want change not from fry-pan to fire. Is this the first time you heard the word change? Why did you not change when you had the opportunity? Why are you advocating for change now when the puppet body language shows he would not renew your oil block licence.

Why advocating for change now, when the strong headed puppet wiped out ghost names from the civil service pay roll? Why advocating for change now, when the puppet refused to dump his associate for another puppet? Why, when in your time, Nigeria judiciary could not deliver a fair judgement in favour of the oppositions.

There is therefore an abundance of work for practitioners in peacebuilding and conflict management. There is no dull moment for us in these climes, because the harvest of violent conflicts is indeed plentiful and the labourers are few. The indications are that we shall be requiring many more experts in the art of preventing and managing conflicts and the strategies and mechanisms of building and keeping peace, since we appear to live permanently in a fragile polity with an ever increasing number of flashpoints of violent conflict.

Between peacebuilding and nation building
Let me highlight at this point what in my view are the dynamics of nation building, what constitutes the substructure or foundation of a nation, what the fundamental ingredients of nation building are, who and who constitute the real architects and engineers of the project of nation building, and what Peace builders and conflict management experts (whom I see as technocrats and artisans of peace) have to play in the nation building project. I wish to make the case that the peace building activities of the technocrats and artisans of peace, laudable and beneficial to society as they are, do not constitute the foundation for nation building.

I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt that there are fundamental ingredients for nation building that must be present in the right proportion in order for a stable, peaceful and harmonious nation to emerge or evolve from a collection of disparate ethnic groups, with distinct historical experiences, different cultural orientations, diverse political interests and multiple religious affiliations.

The tragedy of Nigeria has been the preponderance of missing ingredients in the project of nation building and democratic consolidation. This reality throws wide open the floodgate of violent conflicts that appeared yesterday under the camouflage of ethnic hatred, and today under the guise of religious bigotry and terrorist insurgency. If this fundamental ailment is not addressed, it may yet take another form tomorrow, and all our peace building efforts may amount to simply dressing the surface wounds of a devouring cancer.

Ladies and Gentlemen, my argument here is anchored on my understanding of peacebuilding as the set of mechanisms and activities aimed at achieving reconciliation, fostering trust, facilitating understanding, and promoting harmonious existence in a given community, following an armed conflict, or otherwise to forestall the occurrence or re-occurrence of armed conflict in a crisis prone region.

Peace building may also include conflict prevention initiatives not related to any recent conflict. Such peace building can be stimulated from outside, with foreign action, such as the numerous United Nations’ Peace Keeping Missions in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Iraq or Afghanistan, or the modest effort of several international agencies to promote peace in some of the violent flashpoints of our country.

Nation building on the other hand refers to the internal, organic (and of course dynamic) process by which a society identifies, discusses, contests, considers, and reaches consensus (or agreement) on shared values, principles and norms, galvanises a sense of national cohesion, consolidates a national identity, and forges a sense of common purpose and a set of common goals to which the society is oriented. It is the process of moulding diverse groups into a unified, cohesive, harmonious and stable national entity with a shared vision and a collective mission.

Nation building and democratic consolidation, if they are to be successful, necessarily involves the active participation of all segments in the society, and the creative engagement of all citizens in the constituting processes of the emergent nation. Essential to the project of nation building and democratic consolidation is a purposeful, visionary, courageous, self-sacrificing and therefore legitimate leadership. Such leadership assumes the role of the Architects, Engineers and Project Managers of the emergent nation.

With the above ingredients in place, anchored as it were by purposeful leadership, nation building and democratic consolidation will become the solid foundation for lasting peace, stability, prosperity and harmonious co-existence.

But when many of the above ingredients that are fundamental to nation building are missing, as appears to be our predicament in Nigeria, what we have is a free-for-all: intermittent conflicts, sporadic skirmishes, incessant strife, perennial social discord, political banditry, rancorous electioneering campaigns, the kidnap-and-settle syndrome, general lawlessness, and jungle-like anarchy etc.

I must emphasise here that strong, stable, unified nations are built fundamentally on values, and experience has shown that such values must proceed from leadership, if they are to take root in society.

Yet, what quality of values for nation building can we expect to emerge from the succession of rogue leaders, treasury looters, coup plotters, election riggers and punitive overloads that this land has endured (with only few exceptions) since independence? What quality of values for nation building can we get from the prebendal, self-serving, cash-and-carry politics that have held sway in these climes since independence and have constantly propped up a gang of self-perpetuating conquerors who have had absolutely no clue about what it takes to build a viable nation, let alone lay the foundation for a peaceful, stable and harmonious society? What quality of values for nation building can proceed from the rent seekers, contract chasers, and elite prostitutes of power who rely on corrupt godfathers, unlettered witchdoctors and village thugs to clinch power, and who change political affiliation each time they lose an election?

Nation building values also make for democratic consolidation and peaceful co-existence. Modern nations are built on certain shared values, norms and interests, which come to be known simply as core national values.

They include patriotism (or the love of one’s country to such an extent that one is ready to sacrifice one’s life for it), an unwavering commitment to justice, discipline, the rule of law, the equality of all persons under the law, the equal opportunity for all segments in the federation, mutual respect for cultural and religious diversities among all constituting units and members, the priority of the common good over individual and group interests, the protection of the weak against the possible excesses of the rich and powerful in society, and the assurance of security of all persons who live and carry out legitimate trade anywhere and everywhere in the society, as well as leadership accountability.

These are among the ingredients that make for true nation building, and they are consistent with the ingredients that make for peace.

• To be continued tomorrow
• Fr. George EHUSANI, Executive Director, Lux Terra Leadership Foundation delivered this as a Keynote Address at the 2nd National Workshop of Stakeholders of Peace Research and Conflict Resolution in Nigeria Abuja, March 18, 2015



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