The Oasis Reporters
December 9, 2017
Paper presented at the FACULTY OF PEACE – WORLD PEACE DAY CONFERENCE LECTURE
I guess we are all here to seek to further the aims of the Faculty of Peace Organization and their desire to entrench a Culture of Excellence in Nigeria. But above all, our major reason for gathering today is to talk PEACE – since we are at a Peace Conference.
My presentation will take the approach of deconstructing the environment of Nigeria, before reconstructing that environment, in order to see if we can entrench a culture of peace and good neighborliness and promote a cordial relationship with the Security Agencies and thereby ultimately making the job of the security agencies a lot lighter, more pleasant and help them achieve their raison d’etre-which is Law and Order. Unless I make that deconstruction and contextualising our environment in a proper content, we will be talking trash and discussing in a vacuum.
What is the prevalent political and social culture in Nigeria? I am not going to say things that are theoretic. I will examine our over 100 years as a country in formation and the 57 years thus far as an independent nation.
We have a culture of violence and NOT of PEACE.
There is violence starting from the home and in the upbringing of children. Witness a mother feeding a baby and screaming curses on the child who will not eat but create stress for the mother.
The father is flogging the child mercilessly for taking meat from the pot, instead of reasoning with the child. Our fathers are usually authoritarian. Then the child arrives to school. If you go to any average school, many of the children would either be found kneeling down in punishment, one leg raised picking pin or with their hands raised above their heads or cutting grass as punishment in the open field.
On the streets, after watching the military staying too long in Nigerian governance, the rump of the military in retreat from governance after over 36 years of military regimes and caustic behavior, according to Lt. General Abdulrahman Dambazzau, (rtd) the current Minister of Interior, the young men and women are to be found along the streets overpowering each other in cultism, in use of dangerous substances, agberos are busy overthrowing each other to take over leadership of motor parks, in a military take over style, unauthorized agbero motor drivers welfare collectors are busy dropping wood strung with nails on them in order to forcibly stop vehicles to collect their rate monies.
What about in the wider society, issues are not settled amicably between the people and the government excepting there is a strike or violent demonstration.
In the school, school authorities are often authoritarian and adamant and hence students settle issues by going on rampage and burning tires and blocking highways as Nigerians in authority find dialogue very condescending and demeaning to their status.
And what about in our politics? Legitimacy is hardly ever there since 1957.
This is what an Oxford Professor, Professor Paul Collier wrote about us, in his book – Wars, Guns and Votes, Democracy in Dangerous Places. On page 1, I quote
“Wars, guns and votes is about power. Why focus on power? Because in the impoverished little countries at the bottom of the world economy, that are home to a billion people, the predominant route to power has been violence. Political violence is both a curse in itself and an obstacle to accountable and legitimate government. It is a curse, because the process of violent struggle is hugely destructive. It is an obstacle, because where power rests on violence, it invites an arrogant assumption that government is there to rule rather than serve”.
You and I know that, that has been our experience. Without thuggery and ballot snatching, you cannot win an elective position in Nigeria, at any level. And even to contest, you must steal from your organization or from the treasury to have a war chest in order to contest.
Our army and the police are yet after 57 years of independence begin to change effectively their approach to make us understand that power belongs to God and it is in the service of the people; and that “sovereignty” as a concept is not the “government in power”, but that sovereignty means the “people”.
Over 36 years of military rule has over militarized our politics and political behavior, hence civilians now in government cannot even understand what democracy means. They act arrogantly and their behavior shows, “we are in charge”.
And because there has been these long years between government as a purpose for the people, whenever there are public issues to resolve, the people often resort to self help, very much outside of the law.
The recent cases in point are some examples. Like the origins of Boko Haram, Operation Python Dance I and II and Crocodile Smile I and soon to be Smile II. It is worth quoting a Tuesday 19th September, 2017 Business Day Editorial titled – “Laying the Foundation for Violent Agitation” –
“We are quite terrible with history in this country and as George Santayana aptly puts it – those who cannot learn from history are condemned to repeat it. Since the Nigerian army violently crushed Isaac Adaka Boro’s twelve day revolt in 1966, the Nigerian State has found it expedient to employ brute force to suppress any legitimate expression of frustration and dissent and this has led to more violence for which the Nigerian State has shown absolute lack of capacity to manage.
Even with the return to democratic governance in 1999, with the attendant freedom of expression it guarantees, Nigerians are now realizing that the Nigerian State Is unwilling to listen to any legitimate agitation and Is determined to employ maximum force to crush any form of dissent. Gradually with time, non state actors have come to understand that the only language the Nigerian Government understands is that of force”.
An Edo state indigene based in the Netherlands, Mr. Ihasee Monzee Ihasee in a post on Face book on 29TH 2017 titled – Buhari, The Nation State and the Failure of Redistribution Policies, The Corruption Industrial Complex” – wrote and I quote.
“The Military introduced violence and the legitimate use of force into the Nigerian polity in 1966. Their over 3 decades of despotism brought in the executive of violence to Nigeria on a mega magnitude.
The Police Force, the Army, the Para-military forces became an instrument of violence and torture on Nigerian Citizens. Military Rule, eroded the strength of Nigerian Institutions as all government policies were executed by the top military hierarchy rendering the Nigerian public institutions useless”.
And hence even today many of our governments with some one or two exceptions do not even know how to mobilize the citizens around nation building and development. Sadly, today, we do not know how many we are, how many school age children, how many schools or hospitals we need, how much electricity we need, how many people are at work, are unemployed or underemployed or how much money we need to make a state functional at an optimum level. And hence when citizens make demands, governments have neither answers nor adequate forecasts or precise directions.
Too many people looking for very few limited opportunities is why there were deaths at Stadia in Nigeria while looking for immigration jobs under Jonathan, and why today, secret employments are going on at the Federal levels. You can then see that Nigeria is organized around corruption, greed and violence – the antithesis of peace. We have a culture of violence, Ladies and Gentlemen.
But then must we give up?
If we must make a change, the change must come from a newer behavior from the political elite who must enthrone a new Value System of respect for human dignity and for the differences in our ethnic nature and cultures. Such superior values that enthrone less materialism; materialism that is driving the greed propensity in Nigerians. Values that enthrone integrity, creativity, decency, decorum, respect for others and critical thinking.
If I may quote myself in a forthcoming book I am writing on Media and National Development, and in the section dealing with Leadership –
“A Nigeria of our dreams can only emerge on a Values Centred Leadership; values which define as moral principles and standards which will shape character and new behavior. The Nation is bogged down. And the Nigerian political elite must lead the nation out of its present morass and inertia. Therefore a strong values based leadership is essential. “
Two critical things I must emphasize in this lecture . Nigerians have not been trained to think and to think critically and generatively and also how to improve on Inter-cultural communication. Whenever we have issues in this country, instead of thinking through and rigorously, we resort to our ethnic group think and religious belief systems.
Look at the Restructuring argument. This is why the Noise is so loud and there is no communication. How can we be talking of building a nation and yet there are multiplicity of voices and no clarity and no direction. From the Presidency right down, there is a failure to lead and to critically think. The laziest thing to do is to use your ethnic and religious template to think – and presume you have a perception. We debate and argue, but we never provide clarity and new vistas. We end up making befuddled arguments. In the end we get angrier and more violent. We must understand then that arguments that are sterile, produce conflicts and conflicts conflate peace in a people.
We have to know that because we come from varied ethnic backgrounds and with other added experiences, we have what cannot be described as a Nigerian Mind or a Nigerian way of thinking. Instead, there is a Benin Mind, Afenmai Mind, Owan Mind, Urhobo Mind, Igbo Mind, Fulani Mind. There is nothing wrong with all of that. The onus then is to promote intercultural understanding which is to accept diversity and ethnic identities. It is handling that diversity that produces a new unity and harmony. That is how to handle our varied conflicts and produce mutual respect and understanding.
But then we need to also learn how both at Leadership levels and at the ordinary person’s level how to understand different strands of thoughts and how not to shout down at others, but to recognize the differences. The bottom line is that no argument is superior. They are merely different.
This would moderate undue conflicts in Nigeria, and lead to enlightened conversations and superior thinking.
Given the unacceptable level of unemployment in Nigeria, which is around 70 million or perhaps more as Nigeria’s population has risen to according to the NBS, to 180.3 million, we need to understand better, the profile of an economy and how to ensure everyone who wants to work can find one. The economy we have always called a National Economy has its start at the individual level. Your pocket is your individual economy. There is the family economy, then community economy, then Ward economy, then Local Government Economy, then State Economy, then Regional Economies, before we can talk about a National economy. All these levels of economy are not working and not structured appropriately, due to greed, too much money poured into the political class, a very large bureaucracy, less savings, less investments, poor governance and the people not being mobilized around Nation building and development. Unless we have an active society, with many persons working and constructively engaged in the onerous task of nation building, we will have too many restless youth, too many criminal activities, too many ritualists and Badoo practitioners and so much stress for the security agencies.
An engaged and productive citizenry, a less greedy elite, a government that has compassion and concern, a happy citizenry those are the guarantees for peace.
And when you have a happy citizenry, as the citizens of Bhutan, a tiny Kingdom in the Himalayas, a people who measure their development on the Well Being and Happiness Index have found out, that is when we can have genuine development.
That is the peace we crave for, that guarantees the development that can make Nigeria truly exceptional, enable us to grow and achieve our potential and have us be a model of peace on the Continent, in the Blank World and thus contribute to Global Peace.
Written by Tony Abolo