Why we are holding summit for national integration, by NIPR boss
Amid threats to national security, President of Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Malam Mukhtar Sirajo, has stressed the need for reliable information and open public debate, facilitated by free and independent media in the country’s communication space.
He also said for Nigeria to achieve the peaceful future it deserves, no one should be afraid to say what he or she thinks. Sirajo spoke recently at the unveiling of plans to host a summit on national integration, peace and security in the country.
He said the Summit would complement the efforts of security agencies, as there was now a pressing need to seek a people-to-people approach to restore public confidence.
The North West Zone of NIPR’s Citizens Summit for National integration, peace and security, is to hold on October 14, 2021 in Kano.The summit is expected to hold across the six geo-political zones of the country and the national conference will hold in Abuja.
Sirajo noted that the efforts of the NIPR in the search for peace in the country were by no means an attempt to erode the efforts of the armed forces and security agencies, but a task that the Institute had set for itself.
In the northeast, Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) have killed tens of thousands of citizens over the past decade, displaced millions, and caused a protracted humanitarian crisis.
Likewise, in the northwest, conflict between herders and farmers have escalated amid a broader deterioration in security conditions involving cattle rustling, kidnapping, ethnic massacres, and emergent Islamist extremist activity.
In addition, farmer-herder violence also has surged in the north central, where disputes over resource access coincide with ethno-religious cleavages between Christian and Muslim communities.
Military measures aimed at ending the destructive onslaught of bandits, kidnappers, terrorist and attacks fueled by ethnic chauvinism seem to be taking long to achieve. This implies that peace and security will continue to elude the country’s development unless some other actions are pursued as alternative means of attaining sustainable tranquility in the country.
According to him, “we live in a country where we suffer perpetual nostalgia, where we lament how yesterday was. The trust gap is widening everyday, relationship is broken. It is a product of elite conspiracy and poor leadership. Progressive societies strive to make today better than yesterday.
“We seem not to realise that we have a very beautiful country. Our biggest resource is not the mineral resources but the people and our diversity is our blessing. You can hardly find more endowed country than Nigeria. I have seen smarter society harness that diversity for the benefit of all. But we don’t see our diversity as a blessing but a curse. We have lost focus of the big picture. We are all guilty. Nigerians are frustrated and angry. We want the agitations to be brought to the table and thrashed out. We want to get Nigerians busy at the table talking sincerely about themselves ”
Speaking further, he said, “we feel it is not too late to launch an aggressive intervention. NIPR believes we can provide a platform for Nigerians to renew the conversation. We are professional communicators. We believe there is no problem communication cannot solve. We call it Citizens Summit on National Integration Peace and Security. We want to organise it before the end of the year. We want everybody to be involved.”
Harping on the project, he said, “Though there is a lot of suspicion going on but we want to assure the world that we are staking our integrity and credibility in it. We are looking at how we can make Nigeria better. Nobody sent us, it is our project. It is a process not an event because fixing this country is not a day affair. Government has organised something similar in the past but it was not a product of citizen concern but as a result of political agitations or frustrations.
“We are bringing everybody on board. Socio-cultural, individuals and government. We have visited Pa Ayo Adebanjo, Pa Edwin Clark, members of Arewa Consultative Forum, Middle Belt Forum. NUJ is already inaugurated in the National Planning Committee in Abuja. We have reached out to Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs. We want to be as transparent as possible. Though there is suspicion in the air. But we believe as relationship professionals, we can kick start the process.
“We have also visited many media houses. So, we are here with our proposal for The Guardian. We expect to hear from you soon.”
On what makes the institute think the idea will succeed, Nkechi Ali-Balogun, a council member and Lead Consultant, NECCI PR, said for the conference to succeed, the planning committee has come up with strategies like research and documentation “to find out where we were, why we were there and where we want to be and why we want to be there. We also have the Content Development Committee that will come up with contents on how to address the failures of the past initiatives and make sure we don’t fall into that category. We also have Monitoring and Evaluation that will develop milestones and give us Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to know if what we are doing is right. There is also the Reputation Committee because our reputation is also at stake. We also want to ensure we are not talking to ourselves. Through communication, we would be able to know the needs of the agitators aside from wants.
“We are also developing templates for states to follow. We are going to have zonal and state conferences. We will identify the little groups that have been in advocacy for a long time, listen to them and see where we can partner that they can run with.”