Before we delve into the issue of the pursuit of peace, whether in the family or in the larger society, it is imperative for us to engage ourselves in a melodramatic class activity. I would ask just two questions and I expect a candid ‘yes’ or a firm ‘no’ as answers. Are we ready?
Is there anyone in this hall who has never been involved, in a disagreement where the pursuit of peace and reconciliation became an ultimate goal? We will take a pause while we consider that question.
Now, let us continue. The second question. Is there anyone here who has never found themselves directly or indirectly in a conflict situation between or among familiar, close or even strange persons, to such an extent that you were roped in with or without your consent?
Now, listen attentively, if your answer is a candid ‘yes’, then you are part and parcel of our common human space. However, if your answer is a firm ‘no’ then we should probably consider you an alien, someone from outer space who finds pleasure in dwelling among mortals. You are welcome to our world.
I make this prevarication based on the fact that first and foremost, crisis or turmoil is not the exclusive reserve of anyone, both Saint and Sinner. No one is immune from it and we cannot attain any level of peace without first experiencing and learning from an element of conflict. The distinguished comedian, Chief ZEBRUDAYA Okorigwe Nwogwo in one of the New Masquerade series said, ‘the quarrel of husband and wife is the lubricant of love’. I expressly agree with him, for that is the lot of humans, their nature.
As controversial as that may sound, yet common sense will indicate to us that right from the onset, even before the age of consciousness humans were in conflict within themselves. From the time of a child’s conception, when it begins its first kicks in the mother’s uterus, a conflict situation sets in, the pursuit of peace begins. The mother’s internal or external disturbances could get at the child. The enclaves of the womb itself may be a form of disturbance, yet that unborn child must get to the terminal age of freedom before it attains freedom. When it finally attains that liberty and it is born, he lets out an expected shrill cry. He has come to reality, a new, strange environment, cold, cruel climate, a far departure from the warmth of the uterus and he begins to cry. That is conflict, a contradiction that is the human life.
BACKGROUND ANALYSIS OF THE PURSUIT FOR PEACE
We live in an ever complex world where more than half of the people live in squalor, where people are confronted with massive, desperately difficult challenges; hunger, THY/AIDS, Population growth, war and the daily struggle of poverty.
From creation up till this modern era, the human race has been embroiled in one conflict or another and the search for peace breaks all political, religious, ethnographic and regional barriers and goes beyond the frontiers of set belief
GLOBAL PEACE ISSUES
Conflict situations have woven the global space into a close-knit family group. The countries of the world seek peace and crave the indulgencies of others in the endless pursuit of peace, the need for aids and in building strong ties of unity in the comity of nations. The UN’s several efforts in peace-keeping readily comes to mind.
THE FAMILY UNIT AS A STARTING POINT
The family, whatever form it encapsulates, is the first institution that snowballs into larger societal groups. Peace initiatives begin with the brewing of conflicts in the family units. Instances abound and we will highlight a few shortly.
NIGERIA; A DIVERSE, MULTI-LINGUAL, MULTI-ETHNIC NATION ON THE AFRICAN CONTINENT
Modem Nigeria was threaded together from diverse ethnic groups numbering over 370. Nigeria has a pluralistic setting, the core ones being ethnic, religious and political. However, the issue Nigeria contends with presently is not that of its pluralistic status but how to manage it. Therefore, from the time of the Amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 till date, and the subsequent division of Nigeria into NORTHERN, Western and Eastern Regions among which the North was far the largest both in land mass and population, the issue of peace and conflict have become dear issues among the people.
RECALLING THE INFLUENCE OF COLONIAL POWERS
The colonial powers granted independence to an ethnic tripod which divided the three regions into three major ethnic groups —the Ibo, the Hausa and the Yoruba, with no regions for the over 371 ethnic groups who make up the minorities. This is central to persistent questions of ethnicity, sense of belonging and crisis of citizenship, according to H.P. Goiwa and Ochinya Ojiji in the duo’s edited Dialogue of Citizenship in Nigeria
However, the unrest of the human mind begins with a single thought, for as Emerson stated, ‘The ancestor of every action is a thought’. We therefore canvass for the need for us to begin to learn how to condition our thought as human beings and use them positively for driving the needed wheel of change in the society.
NIGERIA, A CRISIS TORN NATION
Nigeria may have become one big smothering ball of crisis from the civil war in 1967 till date. And most of the contestations have ethnic, political and religious undertones. Need we reel out the chronicle?
· The TIV-JUKUN crisis which saw the massacre of thousands and the fleeing, by force, of thousands more.
· The Alago and other versus the Tiv in Nasarawa state which also resulted in wide scale killings, burning of property and scattering of refugees everywhere,
· The Gbasa-lgbira Gbagyi conflict in Nasarawa with the three ethnic groups at daggers drawn over land tussle
· The Zagon Kataf crisis involving the Kataf indigenes with Hausa- Fulani settlers
· The crisis in Zaria in the year 2000 over the imposition of the Sharia which saw the Christians turning against the Moslems and vice versa.
· The current Boko Haram menace and several others.
Up to 80 cases of civil disturbances have been recorded between 1999 and
2006. We have probably lost count of the umber of deaths from the Boko Haram menace.
ELEMENTS OF VIOLENCE
I. Using religion, ethnic sentiments to peg antagonisms and unleash violence
II. Burning of homes, looting, killing, coveting of other people’s property, etc.
In his book, WHY YOU ACT THE WAY YOU DO, TimLaHaye did an important study of human temperament and how it influences the way each and every human acts, even in the way we relate to one another. Between Sanguines, Cholerics, Melancholy and Phiegmatics there is a clear difference. The difference is in their varied temperaments, even among identical twins. According to Tim, our characteristics come to play in whatever we do, whether in domestic activities or in social circles, in discharging chores or in carrying out formal assignments, n our personal relations or in mingling with strangers.
Simply put, while the Sanguine enjoys being in social circles, the Melancholic is usually withdrawn, takes his time and would not want interference with his set mien or comfort zone until he probably makes up his mind on the prevailing social circumstances.
Aside such human characteristics, there is also attributes such as the human ego. Sigmund Freud’s hierarchies of ego also has three classifications:
1. Self first, seeing oneself as more important than others and regarding self as such
2. Inflated opinion of oneself that tends to disregard, or even totally look down on others and
3. Psychoanalysis, or the art of assuming that all other persons are ordinary while you are ‘supreme and refusing to see self as an entity measured in terms of other people’s peculiarities,.
Having laid down that background
Let us consider the dimensions of conflicts for which we may seek the enthronement of peace. There is no gain saying that conflicts could degenerate into violence and have often times led to terrible devastating break down of law and order which has consumed communities. And such negative events could start from the home which make up the larger society.
1. Internal family wrangling: a conjugal disagreement could extend to the community and even go beyond the geographical space where the disagreement originally started. A common example is where the case of wife battery by a husband is established and the family of the wife spoils for war. Where both families are from the same community, an internal communal fight ensues, however, if the couple hails from two different communities, strife becomes extensive and oftentimes friends and extended relations of both couple from far and near come together in solidarity to unleash maybe on the community.
2. In as much as monogamy is supported as a more healthy form of conjugal relationship, polygamy, in itself has been touted as a form of marriage which, in traditional circles, is common place. However, the bridges of peace have also been known to be broken, more commonly in such relationships due to intolerance among wives and concubines
3. Ownership of land and tussle over property have also been indicated as common areas of conflict. This is witnessed in inheritance issues too.
4. Communal disputes as a result of wrangling over boundary areas or communal lands have also been major conflict areas.
5. Government’s perceived interference in communal matters, or contestations over government or communal land areas could also be fingered as issues of unrest in the community.
6. Traditional beliefs in variance to orthodox ideologies could result in conflict situations. An example is a case of an educated sophisticated mother returning home from work to discover that her mother-in-law had taken her child to a traditional home to have his spleen treated by designing the innocent child’s belly and applying concoctions. That singular is sue brewed in a community in Edo state for a long time. We have also heard cases of
a. Child circumcision
b. Female genital mutilation
c. Child rape
d. Wife battery
e. Wife/children abandonment, separation or legal divorce, spousal abandonment, refusal to pay severance titles
f. Burial and widowhood rites
g. Arson (unidentified or identified persons setting people’s property ablaze)
h. Coveting of goods, property and livestock by neighbours
i. Manslaughter proper, or legally established murder
j. Religious and sectarian disagreement
k. Issues of ethnicity
l. Chieftaincy issues (secession disputes)
m. Native versus settlers issues
n. Pure political issues, among several others. –
Agents of change who will facilitate the building of bridges of peace include
1. Government at all tiers (a) Federal (b) State (c) Local
2. Traditional institutions and (a) traditional rulers (paramount chiefs) (b) the enigie (chiefs) (c) odionwere and other custodians of the tradition of the people
3. The church, the mosque and other religious organizations
4. Civil society through relevant social work organizations. We must acknowledge the multi-faceted roll of the civil society in preaching the gospel of peace.
5. Community youth leaders
6. Married couples, their children and wards
7. The media
8. Law enforcement agencies
9. The legislature, the judiciary, etc.
What do we expect these good Samaritans to do?
Haven understood that each individual is a personality with peculiar God-given attributes which is different from all other personalities,
1. We expect agents of change not to relent in the dissemination of the information needed in building bridges of peace and hope among the people
2. We expect more sensitization in what ever form these agents could think appropriate for appropriate community cohesion.
3. Personal differences among individuals and collective groups should be respected
4. Community involvement through community policing and neighbourhood watch
5. The position of the civil society and local community groups should be properly harmonized, articulated and established because they are the so called grassroots people we always talk about, and the rights and privileges of members of such community properly actualized. This can be done through the recognition of their fundamental rights as citizens more than mere indigenes of a particular area.
6. There must be a clear-cut understanding of the political community, which ascribes citizenship status to its self.
7. The obligation of the citizens or settlers to their community and vice versa should be properly articulated.
8. Individual characteristics, their personal attitudes, character traits, their beliefs, theft religions, culture and traditions, their hopes and aspirations should be respected and tolerated and everyone should consider the interests of one another with utmost regard, in so far as such interests do not invade or abuse the rights, privileges and freedom of others or violate the constituted laws of the land. We should see such as sacrosanct and hold them as such.
9. There should be tolerance within and without, in the family and outside it, in the community and outside it. Tolerance should not be confined to religion alone, there are other fundamental issues of the security and safety of fellow human beings, no matter who they are or profess to be, whatever inclinations they hold unto, whatever views they may wish to canvass. We should have it at the back of our mind at all times that our rights, our freedom, our fundamental beliefs should, and ought to terminate at the point where those of other persons begin.
10. Finally, as people of one nation that is diverse in ethnic, religious and other inclinations we should begin to see ourselves as the five fingers that make up the human limb, that we stand separated and distinguished yet we stand together, each with its own peculiar function and yet cannot act alone in the place where unity is imperative. We can also regard ourselves as a bunch of brooms which do better when together and sting only when separate.
FOR THE GOVERNMENT
Grassroots development is canvassed. Many developing states are too fragile, too deficient in literacy and established institutions and the people are more loyal to racial, religious or tribal communities than to the new concept of statehood to risk the controversy of confrontation produced by the full exercise of personal freedom, according to Prof B.B. Fakae, Vice Chancellor, University of Science and Technology. He has advocated, as we all do, for speedy transformation of the country from poverty to a dynamic state of economic growth that makes possible greater economic and social equality and the larger fulfillment of the human potential. By that we mean the economic empowerment of all living persons, as funny as that may sound.
Individually, we should all begin to have and assess a mirror image of ourselves in regard to our relationship with others in a common society.
For as George Bernard Shaw said, ‘The only service a friend can really render is to keep up your courage by holding to you a mirror in which you can see a noble image of yourself’
I am certain that when the image of ourselves that we see in that mirror is good, in relation to how we treat both our blood relatives and others in the society, then all we will have will be a good, peacefully society; a society worthy to live in.
On that note, I rest my case.