An address delivered by the chairman of the Orji Uzor Kalu Foundation, DR ORJI UZOR KALU, at the peace rally in Abuja.
One question prevalent in the millions of discussions that have erupted across the country and on multiple social media platforms across the globe has been “is peace achievable in Nigeria?” Or put differently, “is peace possible in Nigeria?”
First and foremost, I’d like to ask: “What is Peace?” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines peace as “freedom from civil disturbance; a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom; a state or period of mutual concord between governments; a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity.”
Wikipedia defines peace as the “absence of hostilities” and “harmonious relations.”
The question then is: “Is this achievable in Nigeria?”
Nigeria, is a nation with over 250 ethnic tribes with different religious beliefs and values. Paradoxically, Nigeria, with all its divisive tendencies and negative forces, has, over the years, managed to maintain a fragile unity in religious diversity against all odds.
However, Nigeria is currently pictured as a chaotic, unsafe and corruption-infested society, with so much hatred, hate speeches, fake news, violence, disunity and hardship in the land.
Has it always been like this? I dare to say “No!” Our once peaceful Nigeria has been rendered uninhabitable because the ground of our society is crisis-ridden!
The news emanating from Nigeria is often mind-boggling, as the society is being bombarded with unrelenting echoes of crises. Over the years, there have been ethno-religious crises, distress, agitation, hatred, conflict, insecurity, disorder, fighting, disunity, war, violence, hardship and general failure.
Over the years, we have been grappling and trying to cope with the problem of ethnicity on the one hand and the problem of ethno-religious conflicts on the other. It seems it has become a permanent feature here, and this has resulted to the killings of hundreds of thousands of people in such clashes.
There are issues related to armed banditry and robbery, ritual killings, hired assassinations, kidnapping and bomb explosions across Nigeria. All these contribute hindrances to sustainable development and pushes peace and security further away from many Nigerians who yearn for enduring peace in the polity and nobody is responsible.
But we are to blame. I am to blame. You are to blame. We all are to blame.
Who is Nigeria? We are Nigeria; you and I, so we are the ones to bring about the PEACE we desire! That our government’s desire for peace has been made a mission impossible by injustice and corruption doesn’t mean peace is impossible in our nation. This is because, by original meaning, a “mission impossible” is a “difficult mission” and not an impossible mission. And come to think of it, nothing good comes easy!
The reality of enthroning peace in Nigeria starts from the understanding that PEACE is not just a word; it is an act! And “to act” means “to do” or “to work towards.” It is not enough to talk about peace; one must believe in it. And it is not enough to believe in it, one must act on it.
The imperative question at this point is: “Are we really working towards peace?”
To achieve peace in Nigeria, the fundamental issues that fuel insecurity must be tackled. The only way we can have lasting peace is to go to the root. If you want to uproot a tree, you must go to the root. If you cut the branches, the tree will get up and even be much bigger than it was before. So, we must address the root causes of our challenges.
One would now ask: What are the root causes of our challenges? An easy guess is religion, ethnicity, political crises and corruption. These are obvious. But what about the not-so-obvious reasons we forget to bring to the limelight, like poverty, ignorance, social reactions, political pressures, despair and fear?
A peaceful Nigeria is possible if we all as Nigerians would work for it and this takes me to the practical steps I have enumerated to achieving peace in Nigeria.
But before I venture into these practical steps, I must state that to have peace in Nigeria, we must first be at peace with the author and creator of peace. I am talking about God Almighty, the God of peace.
William Pierson Merrill once said: “The world will be safe and secure in its peace only when nations adopt the principles of Christ and play fair within them.” This can happen in a nation because Christ Jesus is the embodiment of peace. He is interested in seeing people living in peace, promote and propagate the same in all its ramifications.
I shall now proceed to the practical steps to achieving peace in Nigeria, I have highlighted:
1. If PEACE must be possible in Nigeria, we must see ourselves as ONE.
Nigeria is ONE, irrespective of tribe, religion and political affinities. Marriage within as well as outside our tribes must be encouraged. (My daughter married an Edo State man). ONENESS was the essence of the Nigerian Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme.
As opposed to the religious divide between Muslims and Christians rooted in Nigerian polity, we must preach the gospel of oneness from individual families to schools, churches, mosques and in social gatherings. Nigerians should endeavour to love one another and respect each other’s beliefs.
2. If PEACE must be possible in Nigeria, there must be massive enlightenment – THE GOSPEL OF PEACE!
Today’s gathering is a very practical example of this! We Nigerians must be constantly reminded why Nigeria needs peace. And this calls for massive enlightenment programmes, members of the public must be involved. The governments of this country, at various levels, institutions, private organisations, one-on-one evangelism, should, by all means, preach peace and reach out to every Nigerian with the message of peace.
Every youth, every woman, and every man, young and old, all Nigerians must learn how to co-exist peacefully with our fellow countrymen. This message should be relayed through mass media; every Nigerian must hear this gospel of peaceful coexistence.
We are made to know that peace is the highest good we can exhibit, live by it and promote it to all and sundry. Nigerians deserve some level of security, peace and tranquility that would give them hope for a better future. As Rodney King would ask, “can’t we all get along?” The civil society should rise to the challenge of educating the masses on peace initiatives in the society. A real national orientation for peace and solidarity is a good idea!
3. If PEACE must be possible in Nigeria, we must be involved in security.
Peace and stability is possible in Nigeria, however, the people have to work harder to achieve it. Security is not an abstract concept. it is not “their security”, it is not “their duty”. It is your security, my security, the people’s security, it is our security. If the security agencies get their intelligence and information right and on time, then we have done our part of the work. Every group should perceive any problem that affects any particular group disproportionately as a national problem and not a problem that concerns that group alone. Let it not be a struggle between joining forces versus diversity.
4. If PEACE must be possible in Nigeria, education/sensitization is key – Nigerians must stop killing one another!
It is wrong to kill and detrimental to peace and harmonious co-habitation. To have a peaceful nation, Nigerians must stop killing one another. It is wrong to take life, except in line with the Constitiution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. There is need for this awareness and sensitization of this as most suicide bombers and mercenaries who perpetuate these killings and crises have been brainwashed. We must value the life of every Nigerian.
5. If PEACE must be possible in Nigeria, There is need for synergy among the security agencies, as well as increasing their capacity to function.
It is the primary responsibility of the police to handle internal security and for the police to do that we must empower them. We must equip the police, we must train the police and give the police all the necessary tools and conditions to perform that role.
The military should also be trained on how to handle internal security without usurping the duties of the police.
The armed forces are meant by the Constitution to play a secondary role, and that’s why it uses the phrase: ‘In aid of civil authorities.’ But that has been subverted.
The armed forces, in a bid to suppress internal acts of terror, are found overstrecthing it. The military should realise that when they are handling security situations within their territory, they should not treat them as they would treat external aggressors.
6. If PEACE must be possible in Nigeria, Nigerians must desist from political sentiments and hate speeches.
The war of words, political blackmail against members of opposition government or party, tribal and political feuds must be discouraged. This negativism is affecting every aspect of life in the nation.
7. If PEACE must be possible in Nigeria, then we must promote DIALOGUE: peaceful resolution of conflicts.
We need a dialogue. It’s not fault-finding, saying you are right and I am wrong. There is need to examine what the grievances are and find generally acceptable lasting solutions to them.
Conflicts are facts of life and are inevitable. What makes it positive or negative is how we respond to them generally.
Conflicts can be resolved without violence and this happens when parties open up to discussions on the issue. We must use dialogue as an opportunity to promote peaceful resolution of conflicts as well as honour a cessation of hostilities.
We need to create tolerance in our nation as most of these conflicts come with enormous costs that touch on all members of the society in one way or the other, including loss of lives and property, emotional trauma, displacements, social and economic dysfunction, etc. Imagine being an internally displaced person (IDP) in one’s state! Groups in societies could disagree with one another on issues, as expected, but violence is an inappropriate and unacceptable medium to settle their grievances.
Above our agitations and differences we must focus on the promotion of peace, security and stability in Nigeria.
8. If PEACE must be possible in Nigeria, then we must have development!
It is generally said, a hungry man is an angry man. Most mercenaries for the perpetration of crises are jobless youths who ought to have been gainfully employed. Angry citizens, frustrated fellows, want to vent their anger and wreak havoc. Security is development and without development there can be no security. Any country that seeks to achieve adequate military security against the background of acute food shortages, population explosion, low level of productivity, fragile infrastructural base for technological development, inadequate and inefficient public utilities and chronic problem of unemployment has false sense of security.
9. If PEACE must be possible in Nigeria, there must be advocacy and justice. We preach forgiveness and we preach reconciliation, to the victims, their loved ones, the communities, the general public, children, conflict groups, politicians, but how about advocacy and justice? The people crave for justice, not sentiments. Let there be equality and equal access to and protection of our constitutional rights as individuals and ethnic groups at large.
10. If PEACE must be possible in Nigeria, there must be partnerships.
Sustainable peace can only be built through effective partnerships between individuals, communities, institutions, and states. There is need to build functional and inclusive alliances, synergies and networks for peace, without which mankind will continue to be mutually vulnerable to violent conflicts. We must practice the policy of inclusiveness, leaving no one behind.
We must encourage partnership projects, recognizing joint commitment in this regard and acquire international support aimed at peace, building civil societies in the real sense, with the emboidment of peace.
11. If PEACE must be possible in Nigeria, The federal government must constantly plan for peace, work for peace and make peace take place in the north, south, east and west.
The government should heed early warning and take action aimed at preventing disagreements, and making peacemaking and post-conflict peace-building a priority.
Nigeria should join advanced democracies in establishing and institutionalizing appropriate social institutions that would make peace and stability possible.
The government should be able to retain their dignity and sovereignty at an aggregated level of justice and fair play to all groups and both sides of religious beliefs, the absence of which could be seen in terms of great cost expressed in human and material losses.
When all of these are comprehensively addressed then we should be able to say that we are on the way to achieving peace in Nigeria.
One would ask me, to what is the purpose of this discourse? It is to cease violence, increase justice, reduce fear and apprehension, promote (forgiveness) reconciliation, human rights, humanism, strategies and policies.
Again, I say that “PEACE IS POSSIBLE IN NIGERIA!”
The word “peace” would not have existed if peace were unrealistic. I said it before and I say it again that a peaceful Nigeria is possible, if we all as Nigerians would work for it. Moreover, “peace” is mentioned 67 times and “war,” 36 times in the Qur’an. So why not?! Peace is possible if all Muslims would act for it. After all, the holiness of Christians will (according to Hebrew 12:14) be fruitless if they fail to “Follow peace with all men…” Although dreaming a conflict-free Nigeria is a day-dream because conflict is part of the human nature and, therefore, is inevitable, dreaming a violence-free Nigeria is realistic. Peace is possible in Nigeria, if we all would not only embrace tolerance but also work together in love. And, of course, justice is what love looks like in public. Let’s make peace possible in our lifetime! We will be happy to see our children celebrate us for making a mission impossible a reality.
So, let us give peace a chance. Let there be the cessation of enmity, hatred, violence, war, bloodletting, kidnapping, murder, armed robbery, corruption and all the vices in our country and let them be replaced with law and order, calmness, love, unity, comfort, security, dialogue, patience, friendship, reconciliation, rejoicing and an unending progress and development.
The Nigerian nation was founded on love, oneness, tolerance, as well as solidarity; let us return to embrace the dream of our forebears. Nigerians should uphold the principle of unity in diversity and pledge to sustain and maintain the peace that has bound us together.
Peace and security are prerequisites for the economic growth and development of any country, therefore, there can be no progress and prosperity without peace, so Nigeria needs peace to thrive, it needs peace to grow and develop; indeed, Nigeria needs peace to advance and take its place among the league of advanced states.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!