Missing ingredients in Nigeria’s democratic consolidation (3)
NOW what is the role of peace practitioners, including peace researcher and conflict management and development experts in addressing the challenge of peace and the consolidation of democracy in our country? Peace practitioners and conflict management experts surely have a key role to play in peace building and the consolidation of democracy, and the various peacebuilding agencies and institutions have done appreciably well in the last 16 years, since our return to democracy in 1999. Yet I want to make the point right away that I do not see our inability to achieve peace and consolidate our democracy in Nigeria as primarily a technical problem simply requiring better peace building technics, or more up-to-date strategies and mechanisms for resolving conflicts. Not at all.
Peace building extends beyond creating inter-faith, inter-ethnic or inter-communal harmony or the signing of peace-accord between presidential candidates and leaders of political parties in the run up to elections. Peace building includes among other elements addressing very seriously the historical injustices against individuals and groups, whether real or perceived, and the current inequalities and inequities in our socio-political and economic structures arrangements, for lasting peace and the consolidation of democracy cannot be discussed, let alone achieved, in a vacuum. Sustainable peace in the polity, within which context democracy can be truly consolidated, cannot be achieved where a few smart alecks and their friends and family members have seized the key of the national treasury, captured the resources of the land, and live in criminal and provocative opulence, while the vast majority of the population subsist in dehumanising poverty. It was St. Augustine who in the 5th Century A.D. made that famous declaration that “A state where there is no justice is nothing but a gang of bandits or a bunch of robbers.” Thus the challenge is for peace practitioners to adopt a more and more holistic and integrated approach to peace building. Peace practitioners must see it as part of their task to invest time and resources in promoting good governance, justice and equality in all sectors and facets of our national life, if their enterprise is to make any lasting impact. This of course is a challenge for all peace lovers and indeed all patriotic citizens in general, as well as friends of Nigeria, and particularly the international development community.
I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt that our Nigeria country remains today in such crisis, and continues to be so prone to conflict, largely on account of the fragility of our nation state, which has a direct link to the injustices and inequities in our structural arrangements or what some have referred to as fundamental flaws in the structural configuration of our country. In the foregoing presentation I have identified the problem as “missing ingredients in our nation building project.” These missing ingredients are values, principles and norms that are critical to nation building. They include patriotism, commitment to justice, human dignity and equality, discipline, the rule of law, the common good imperative, mutual respect for cultural and religious diversities, equal opportunities and access to the resources of the land, etc. To anchor these values and entrench them in the very structures of the society, we require a crop of purposeful, visionary, self-sacrificing and accountable leaders, whose very lives are an embodiment of such core national values, and whose disciplined conduct in public and in private affairs, are an exercise in mentoring and an inspiration to future generations of their countrymen and women.
These value-based ingredients have unfortunately been in very short supply, if not entirely missing from our national landscape, and we as a people have continued to pay lip-service to the project of nation building. But there are no short-cuts to nation building and the consolidation of democracy. Nigerians desirous of peace and stability in this polity must invest today in what has been established as the critical building blocks of a modern nation state, if we are ever going to have a viable nation with sustainable peace. We must invest heavily in leadership training and in the dissemination of the nation building values outlined above, for they also happen to be the values that make for peaceful co-existence. We must each take interest in politics, in the quality of political discourse, in the quality of electioneering campaigns, and in the quality of persons that assume public office. We must take responsibility for the future and do all we can to stop the thugs and the rogues, the charlatans and mediocre performers who now populate the corridors of power and who are bent on ruining this nation.
Until now, it has been garbage in, garbage out. But the ugly trend can and must be reversed. So I urge those of you who are peace practitioners and conflict management experts, to now and again look beyond the merely technocratic dimension of peace making, which is very useful, but often does not strike at the root of the problem and does not guarantee lasting peace in the nation. I ask each one of you to invest some time and resources in promoting what we have identified as the value-based ingredients of nation building and peace building, including a selfless and visionary leadership elite, towards the emergence of a viable nation of sustainable peace, vibrant democracy and economic prosperity.
I would like to be an expert in peace-making: pulling down the mountains of selfishness, and filling up the valleys of greed; cutting down the thorn bushes of hostility and raising up the lilies of hospitality, building bridges across the rivers of hate, and bringing together the fragments of our disparate society.
I would like to be an expert in peace-building: stitching torn nerves and mending broken bones, igniting the fire of charity and fanning the flame of humanity; rocking the boat that vengeance has set on sail and sending to sea the ship of reconciliation; destroying the myth of power and security, and laying down the foundation for a civilization of love.
I would like to be an expert in peace-keeping: discovering the good in every person, affirming the positive side of each individual, and recognising the brighter side of each and every ethnic group, for I know that just as none of us is an angel, no human being is entirely devoid of goodness.
I want to sow the seed of peace in my society. I know that if I can take one peaceful step, then I can take two. And with a little more effort I can take a thousand and one peaceful steps. And thus I shall make a difference. Yes I know that we can all make a difference.
• Rev. 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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