Published on International Journal of Social, Politics & Humanities
Publication Date: June 21, 2019
Chukwuemeka Okpo Oteh & Odukwe Emmanuel
Department of Sociology, Madonna University, Okija Campus
Department of Public Administration, Madonna University
Journal Full Text PDF: Peace and Reconciliation the Anti-Dote To Global Technological Advancement.
This paper, seeks to appraise the new emphasis and insistence on peace and reconciliation as hallmarks for social justice and development in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general. The paper will achieve this purpose by focusing on the functional role of peace and reconciliation as sociological index for measuring and promoting co-existence, tolerance, integration and respect for the differences of ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. Secondary sources of materials was mainly used for this paper and based on the findings therefore, The made some recommendations bordering on the Constitutional issues should be referred without any further delay to the National Assembly for legislative action. Failure to do this will amount to washing down the drain the colossal financial and human resources invested in the National Conference.
Keyword: Peace, Reconciliation, Constitutional Issues, National Conference.
Globalization and technological advancements have their tools on the way and manner people respond to others from different background and situation. The strong feeling of supremacy associated with the giant socio-economic developments explains not only class struggle, but the desire by the bourgeois to exploit, dehumanize, degrade and suppress the poor, the less privileged and the weak. The conditions that made Marx and Engel (1971) to state that “the history of hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggle”. (p.29) is still here with us in Nigeria. Kolawole (2007) states that “though, I recognized the inevitability of conflicts in human integration, but such conflict wherever it arises should be managed effectively”. (p. ix). Historical past events seem to have militated against social justice and development in Nigeria. Authentic Nigerian identity has been dulled by slavery, poverty, slave trade, trafficking in human persons, prostitution, obnoxious cultural practices, and conflict of cultures in Nigeria. Western civilization has a corroding influence on Nigerian cultural values and norms. This is based on the fact that western value systems manifest what Nnonyelu (2007) describes as “Eurocentric cultural arrogance and fall into the trap of western-centered ethnocentrism”. (p.159).
Nigeria has witnessed a lot of conflicts over the years because of apparent disunity on one hand, on the other, the various processes of sustaining and maintaining peace through dialogue, counselling and prayers are not put in place. Consequently, constructive engagements of reconciliatory tools are far from reality. Resorting to violence as a means for resolving political and social problems is dangerous. War destroys, cripples and retards development. War does not build up; rather, it weakens the moral, economic and social foundations of Nigeria and creates further divisions and long lasting tensions. These have brought untold hardships including death and loss of properties.
This paper, therefore, seeks to appraise the new emphasis and insistence on peace and reconciliation as hallmarks for social justice and development in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general. The paper will achieve this purpose by focusing on the functional role of peace and reconciliation as sociological index for measuring and promoting co-existence, tolerance, integration and respect for the differences of ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. Development, therefore, goes beyond material structures. It includes attitudinal change in habits, norms and values. A critical look at the need for social injustice in the face of harmful cultural practices in Nigeria, and the way forward will promote the right to peace which will ensure respect for all other rights, encourage the building of true humanism in Nigeria. It is observed that if the above are religiously adhered to Nigeria will be a model for the promotion of peaceful co-existence the world over.
The National Orientation Agency (NOA), a Parastatal under the Ministry of Information and Culture, has a lot to do if we are to have a united country; in the wake of the renewed pro-Biafra agitations, I was expecting to see messages on television, listen to jingles on radios and read adverts in newspapers stating why Nigeria is better-off as a united country. We had a terrible civil war between 1967 and 1970, and those who experienced it will never pray it happens again, but with what is happening in the country today, we are at the risk of having another war. The Igbo people have resurrected the Biafra agitation, Niger Delta militants have returned to the creeks, with some of them even threatening to declare a Niger Delta Republic; there is also the killings by herdsmen who are rampaging through the Southern part of the country. Let us take a look at Yemen, Libya and Syria; the wars in these countries started as mere protests, and before the citizens knew what was happening, they had turned into full scale wars. Today, I know Syrians will be regretting ever starting the protests that have ruined their once beautiful country.
Almost a third of Syria is empty now, with normal life existing only in the protected capital, Damascus. Even, with all the military protection, Damascus residents are still in a state of fear. So, we may also think that all the protests and agitations across the country are insignificant, but there are fifth columnists who are ever ready to hijack such peaceful protests. Therefore, the NOA, and other agencies of government, particularly those in the South East and South South, should start projecting the need for peace in the country.
The truth of the matter is that we have a bright future ahead of us with our huge population; this is why China and India are destinations of choice for international investors. Nigeria should, therefore, use its huge population to serve as catalyst for its economic growth. We have a population that can consume any product; this is a plus for those setting up businesses in the country. In fact, it is better to have a 20 per cent market share in Nigeria than have a 100 per cent share in some other countries of the world.
2. Statement Of Problem
One may think that the biggest obstacle to African development is poverty, but like Onwudiwe (2005) argued, “the strategic danger to Africa’s expected rebirth is the disintegration of Nigeria, the largest political concentration of African people in our continent,” with a population of 150 million people, any major conflict is a disaster to the continent. Nigeria is also another point of concern, as “one of the potential areas of instability” according to Porter J. Goss, the former U.S. Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, in his address to the Congress (Jolayemi, 2005). His fear was that in southern Nigeria, the military were struggling to contain militia groups in the oil-producing area, the continued ethnic violence that frequently erupt throughout the country and the threat of Muslim population. But as the Nigerian government struggle with the various challenges that faces her, it has been emphasized that as a political and economic giant in Africa, its future can either be a shining example for the continent or a cautionary tale of what happens when great potential is sabotaged by poor governance, lack of leadership and pervasive corruption (International Crisis Group, 2006). Since Nigeria got independence in 1960 from the British, the military had ruled for approximately 30 years out of her 50 years of existence (see annex). Nigeria experienced her first military coup d’etat in 1966, six years after independence, since then the country had successive military intervention before it returned to the second republic in 1979, it collapsed in 1983 by another military intrusion in her political history, judged for incompetence and corruption on politicians, this saw Nigeria into another 16 years of dark military dictatorship. Again, Nigeria in May 29, 1999 returned to a democratic rule that is still on going. As the nation enthusiastically embraced this long awaited change in governance by electing President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, a former military leader who willingly returned power to the civilian in 1979, regarded by many as a bridge across several of Nigeria’s major fault lines, it was believed that the Obasanjo’s administration would usher in many democratic dividends that will guarantee peace, human security, rights and development centered on the people.
However, “the country remains handicapped by political malpractice, deep economic contradictions, social inequality and a considerable potential for violence due to the politicisation of identity” (International Crisis Group, 2006a) characterized by religious, ethnic and communal conflicts, insecurity, organized crime, human rights violations among others. Between 1999 till date, Nigeria experienced critical events that undermined her coexistence. In November 1999, the introduction of Shari’a Law (Islamic civil and criminal code) met aggressive resistance that caused the religious crisis of February 2000. Two years later in November 2002, Nigeria witnessed another religious crisis motivated by the Miss World Pageant, which was incited by an article in a local Newspaper-THISDAY. Because Nigeria won the 2001 edition by Agbani Darego, it was a leverage to host the 2002 Miss World in Nigeria, but the timing coincided with the Muslim Ramadan festival and it met stiff opposition from the Islamic clerics. Questioning the Muslim groups that condemned the hosting of the Miss World pageant and arguing in favour of it, journalist
Isioma Daniel wrote, “What would (the prophet) Mohammed think? In all honesty, he would probably have chosen a wife from among them (the contestants)” (CNN.Com/World, 2002). The massive public protest and riots that followed these two events caused lost of lives, many injuries and damaged properties worth millions in local currency. As if it was not enough, the Kurt Westergaard “Danish cartoon” (BBC News, 2006) protest of February 2006 will not be forgotten, 16 deaths left Nigeria as the highest casualty all over the world.
It is important to emphasize that the change in each party’s identity—the revision in its narrative—that I am defining as reconciliation implies a strengthening, rather than a weakening, of each party’s core identity. I would argue that a revision in the group’s identity and the associated narrative is possible only if the core of the identity remains intact. In fact, changes in more peripheral elements of identity are often seen as necessary in order to preserve the core of the identity. This was the basis, for example, on which a majority of Israelis and Palestinians were (and I believe continue to be) prepared to revise the territorial dimension of their national identity in order to maintain the essence of that identity (Kelman 2001).
This analysis points to a major dilemma of reconciliation. Reconciliation requires parties to change an element of their identity—the negation of the other—which is far from trivial for parties engaged in an existential identity conflict, while at the same time preserving, even strengthening, the core of their identity. This is more easily achieved in situations in which one of the parties has already rejected part of its identity—as was the case for many Germans in post-Nazi Germany and many whites in post-apartheid South Africa—although even in these situations resistances are bound to arise. It is particularly difficult, however, in conflicts in which each side insists on the justice of its cause and sees itself as having been wronged by the other. The dilemma is that the amount and kind of identity change that A requires from B in order to be ready for reconciliation may be perceived by B as undermining the core of its identity. A good example here would be the demand to acknowledge collective guilt to which even post-Nazi Germany was reluctant to accede (Auerbach 2004; Feldman 1999).
In conflicts such as that between Palestinians and Israelis, negation of the other is a central element of each party’s own identity, which it cannot give up easily. Given the nature of the conflict, each party finds it necessary to deny the other’s authenticity as a people, the other’s links to the land, and the other’s national rights, especially its right to national self-determination through the establishment of an independent state in the land both claim, because the other’s claims to peoplehood and to rights in the land are seen as competitive to each party’s own claims and rights. Moreover, negation of the other is also important to each party in a violent conflict as a protection against negative elements in its own identity (cf. Kelman 1999b). Insofar as the other can be demonized and dehumanized, it becomes easier for each party to minimize guilt feelings for acts of violence and oppression against the other and to avoid seeing itself in the role of victimizer, rather than only the role of victim.
Thus, in protracted identity conflicts, negation of the other is not a peripheral, marginal element of each party’s identity that can be easily discarded. My argument is merely that, from an “objective” point of view, negating the identity of the other is not a necessary condition for preserving, and indeed enhancing the core of one’s own identity. However, for conflicting parties to arrive at a point where they can be free to relegate negation of the other to the periphery of their own identities and eventually discard it requires the hard work of reconciliation. What is central to that work is the growing assurance that the other is not a threat to one’s own identity. In that process of assurance, the conditions for reconciliation play a vital role.
Parties in a conflict in which both sides perceive themselves as victims are helped to deal with the dilemma of abandoning some elements of identity without threatening the core of their identity by the reciprocal nature of reconciliation. Changes on the part of one group make changes on the other’s part more attainable. But this view suggests that the process of reconciliation requires a certain amount of “negotiation” of identity, including negotiation of the conditions for reconciliation, which turn on such issues as truth, justice, and responsibility. It is my contention that reconciliation—especially in cases in which neither party is prepared to adopt the role of perpetrator—cannot be achieved on the basis of purely objective criteria of truth, justice, or responsibility, anchored in historical scholarship or international law, but requires some degree of mutual accommodation in the course of negotiating the conditions for reconciliation.
I can identify five conditions that may help groups in conflict arrive at the difficult point of revising their identity so as to accommodate the identity of the other. One might also think of these as indicators of reconciliation, or steps in a process of reconciliation. They are both indicators of movement toward reconciliation and conditions for further movement in that direction. I shall merely enumerate these conditions here; further elaboration can be found elsewhere (Kelman 2004; 2008).
a. Mutual acknowledgment of the other’s nationhood and humanity, which involves acceptance of the other as an authentic nation and inclusion of the other in one’s own moral community.
b. Development of a common moral basis for peace, allowing for a peace that both sides perceive as consistent with the principles of fairness and attainable justice.
c. Confrontation with history, which does not require a joint consensual history, but does require admitting the other’s truth into one’s own narrative.
d. Acknowledgment of responsibility, expressed in both symbolic and material terms.
e. Establishment of patterns and institutional mechanisms of cooperation, including various people-to-people activities that are genuinely useful to both parties and based on the principles of equality and reciprocity.
All five of these conditions for reconciliation are designed to facilitate changes in the collective identities of the conflicting parties, with particular emphasis on removing the negation of the other as a key element of each group’s own identity.
3. Insecurity of lives
While this paper acknowledges the struggle for political power within the ruling class, the security systems are largely undermined. The security crisis today is damaging the country’s international image. Nigeria wants foreign investors but lacks strong and strategic security in place for human protection. Nigeria is currently degenerating into a state of terror and fear, where everyone is afraid of its own shadow, the lapses in security calls for concern. Nigeria is loosing more lives and prominent citizens even when the nation is not confronted with external aggression. Over the years, Nigeria has witnessed series of assassinations. On the 23rd of December, 2001, the former Attorney General of the Federation Chief Bola Ige was assassinated in his residence; the killers are still at large, yet to face the justice. On March 5, 2003, Marshall Harry – the national Vice Chairman for the South-South Zone one of the opposition party; All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) was murdered at home (Human Rights Watch, 2003), his house was a walking distance from the police headquarters, when the police were alerted at a nearby checkpoint that night, they said they had no fuel in their vehicle, so they could do nothing. Barnabas Igwe, the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association Onitsha Branch and his wife were assassinated on September 1, 2002, Prophet Eddie Okeke was murdered in November 2000, Chief Ezeodumegwu G. Okonkwo a chairman of a local government was killed in February 2001, in 2006 Engr. Funsho Williams and Dr. Ayodeji Daramola suffered similar fate (Patrick, 2006). The two men were on the platform of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and governorship aspirants of Lagos and Ekiti State, respectively.
Others who had met their untimely death in the past were Kudirat Abiola, the wife of late Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 Presidential Election, Chief Alfred Rewane, Mr. Godwin Agbroko the Chairman, Editorial Board of the THISDAY Newspapers among others. It is disheartening and painful, if security of lives and properties cannot be guaranteed in a democratic state. If gunmen could kill a well meaningful Nigerian like the Chief Law Officer and one time state Executive Governor (1979 to 1983) under the police protection and escorts, Nigerians may not be safe.So far, the puzzles behind these murders are yet to be solved, whether they are politically motivated or otherwise are left to the state to answer, but it is certain that Nigeria like many other African states see political office as the biggest business; therefore violence becomes an ideological apparatus and struggle to achieve political power. History they say repeats itself, resolving high profile assassinations by the Nigerian Police is quite unimpressive because the Police lacks the will and competence to investigate crime, apprehend culprits, and ensure justice which eventually erodes the public confidence for safety.