From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
After taking a comprehensive account of happenings in the country, the Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation for Peace (COFP) has concluded that Nigeria’s ‘security misery’ is deepening.
COFP Executive Director Sr Agatha Chikelue gave the damning verdict during a national workshop on the role of women and women organisations in promoting integrity and security in Nigeria held in Abuja.
The event had in attendance the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, United States Ambassador to Nigeria Mary Beth Leonard, the Emeritus Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, the Director, Lux Terra Leadership Foundation, Very Revd Fr George Ehusani.
‘From all corners of the country, our security misery is deepening. Multiple reports of violent conflicts point to the ever increasing wave of insecurity and hopelessness. Banditry, kidnapping, open grazing crises, killings, attacks and counter attacks have been recorded in the northeast, northwest, northcentral, southwest, southeast and there are emerging threats in the south-south. Boko Haram insurgents and their likes are still attacking and killing innocent citizens, including women and children,’ Chikelue said.
Chikelue further said in the midst of the ugly incidences, women and girls were particularly endangered and vulnerable on account of the security problem in the country.
‘They bear the brunt of violent extremism in Nigeria as they have been kidnapped, raped, battered, subjected to sexual slavery and sometimes, used as suicide bombers. The trauma of losing spouses and children during conflict further leaves unforgettable memories for many of us,’ Chikelue added.
Chikelue said the Nigerian government has not effectively managed the escalating violent situation in the country because of its inability to tackle corruption.
‘Of course, no government will seriously and effectively tackle security challenges without first addressing some key structural elements which often serve as drivers and triggers to insecurity and violence. The fact remains that insecurity would not disappear in a society where there is endemic corruption, lack of transparency, abject poverty, where elections are not free, let alone fair, massive unemployment and lack of respect to the rule of law,’ she also said.
While saying that millions of women and girls were denied basic human rights just because they were female, Chikelue further said whenever a state failed to protect its citizens from harm and destruction, citizens consciously or unconsciously lack confidence in government’s ability to deliver and as such, gaining the collaboration and trust of people becomes difficult.
‘This is the reason why government should endeavour to build strong and flourishing system by collaborating with the people before meaningful peace, security and development can take place.
‘The ordeal of women in the face of violence is uniquely different and must be addressed with women-face solutions. It requires joint efforts and in fact, that is the very reason why we are here today. To come up with concrete solutions to the problem of insecurity in our country. To ask our men to see us as equal and not competitors. To summon our sons and daughters to drop their arms and desist from criminal acts. And with one voice, call on our government at all levels to be more responsible, proactive, transparent and accountable. To ask them to step up to their duties of protecting the public in these trying times,’ Chikelue further said.
In his remarks, Onaiyekan said it should be clear to all that integrity and security were basic conditions for peace and prosperity in any nation.
The former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) further said it was also sadly clear that the nation had been doing very poorly in the important matters.
‘Although every citizen has some level of responsibility in this regard, there is no doubt that government at all levels has a major and special responsibility to create the enabling environment for citizens to live honest and secure lives. Those who have accepted the honour, duty and burden to control the government, must lead by example if they are to be effective in promoting a secure and honest nation. The tragedy of Nigeria is that we are witnesses to massive corruption and rampant insecurity across the political spectrum. The inability or unwillingness of government to fulfil its many promises has led to a situation of deep loss of trust in government. It does not help matters that government spokespersons too often make futile claims in denial of the sad reality that is before all to see,’ Onaiyekan said.
Onaiyekan also said the nation witnessed the obvious link between insecurity and corruption, adding that it was no longer mere rumours or fake news that funds meant for dealing with insecurity have ended up in private pockets of some sacred cows.
‘When troops are poorly equipped and badly looked after, terrorists and bandits have a field day at the expense of poor innocent Nigerians.
‘There is a widespread feeling of failure of government. When government fails, the people are abandoned to their own devices. They can only hope that things will change: that government rise to its responsibility, or give way for others to try, or be pushed aside, hopefully peacefully in a free and fair election.
‘The role of women has been marginal and minimal in our political landscape. The system offers little opportunity for women to perform, in an often violent and rough contest. The few who have managed to emerge seem to have been swallowed up by the sea of menfolk. The agitation to change the rules to create more space for women has made very little progress. The struggle must continue, well beyond the “First Lady” syndrome.
‘Beyond the political class, it is the responsibility of all citizens to be honest with their neighbours and to be one another’s keeper. We are all therefore expected to be promoters of integrity and security in our communities. We should stop eulogising our village people of dubious wealth. We should be ready to defend and safeguard our communities. In all this, there is much role for women and their organisations. A lot can be achieved without making much noise. We hope to hear from this conference how they intend to make an impact on the integrity and security of our nation. Our nation is very much in need of their specific feminine contribution in our present dysfunctional society,’ Onaiyekan also said.
In her remarks, Leonard said she was glad to be with Onaiyekan to discuss the importance of promoting the role of women in addressing issues of insecurity, corruption, gender imbalance and good governance.
The United States envoy also said it was timely that the programme was taking place in March, the month that the United States celebrate Women History Month.