On the proposed peace policy
While there were pockets of violence still, that all politicians, at least symbolically, committed themselves to such initiatives as the famous Abuja accord brokered by Kofi Annan, Emeka Anyaoku and the Abdulsalami Abubakar-led Peace Committee remains commendable.
Those initiatives should now be institutionalized in the interest of Nigeria’s democracy and the nation’s future. They certainly worked to calm the tension in the polity overheated then by partisan politics, and the fact that the country got off the precipice when many thought it would tumble off the cliff is testimony to the positive impact of the ideas.
It is therefore thoughtful of the Goodluck Jonathan Administration to have reflected on the impact of such initiatives and seek to articulate them into a policy for guiding the conduct of public affairs, especially elections in the country.
To this effect, the administration’s attempts at garnering the input of the civil society with a view to presenting the draft document to the Federal Executive Council before the handover date as the president’s parting gift to the country are commendable.
The intent, according to government, is to bequeath to the country an enduring framework for managing conflict situations, an imperative in a multinational country like Nigeria and the Jonathan government deserves a pat on the back for coming up with these bold ideas.
It would be recalled that there was a 2012 draft document in this respect which never got approval. It is to be applauded now that the same government has a mind to do the right thing and harness the structures put in place in the course of the general election as a template for peace building for the country.
The draft policy is an omnibus that would contain designs for handling insurgency and terrorism, being part of the nation’s experience in the northeast zone.
It is also re-assuring that this worthwhile public policy initiative is a product of efforts involving the Institute for Conflict Resolution and National Orientation Agency and has also drawn support from the National Stabilization Programme of the British Council as well as a number of non-government organisations. The centrality of peace to a stable polity cannot be over-emphasised.
Infact, as some political philosophers have articulated, the purpose of the state is the pursuit of peace and happiness if not for all, but for the greatest majority of the people.
This is even more warranted in plural societies such as Nigeria. The Kantian system indeed envisages the transition from the state of nature to the lawful state which is ultimately the state of peace.
The current effort is therefore, geared towards rescuing Nigeria from its perennial anomy often driven by primordial sentiments and self-serving endeavours, and putting her in a peaceful state underlined by justice and equity.
It is also important to remember that Nigeria has gone through such turbulent times as the civil war, several religious riots, inter-ethnic conflicts and the militant onslaught in the Niger Delta, which halved the nation’s oil output at some point.
Currently, the polity is being pummeled by insurgent activities, which have killed over 13000 Nigerians, in the northeast axis. So, a peace effort must go beyond fine phrases with which policies are coded to tackling structural roots of conflicts and violence; the reason being that at the root of the conflicts in Nigeria are issues of distribution of power and appropriation of the wealth of the nation.
These have been the drivers of the perpetual call for national conference. It would therefore be productive if the current policy can harness, in whatever way, some of the contributions of the recent national conference to produce a robust template for national peace.
Nevertheless, it is important to reiterate that peace is important to social relations in any society and it is to be cultivated by individuals as well as private and state institutions.
Without peace, the economy cannot grow and political stability is in peril. Given her strategic importance in the West African sub-region, the continent and even the world, it is important that Nigeria has an enduring peace policy for the management of conflicts and which can be emulated by her neigbours and exported to trouble zones of the globe. The peace policy, even though still in the works, is a right step in the right direction.