This is certainly not the best of time for the nation given the kind of restiveness we are experiencing today. In observing the World Peace Day, the Universal Peace Federation and other stakeholders went all out towards finding a lasting solution to our forest of problems. Evelyn Okakwu was there for Peoples Daily.
It is common Knowledge that peace is the key to societal development. In the words of the United Nations’ secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, “Peace and security are essential for social progress and sustainable development”. When countries go to war, too many people suffer grief and protracted pain. Yet, all over the world, especially in democratic settings, the right of the people to peace and national development can never be over emphasised.
The United Nations in the year 1981 recognised the right of people to peace. Consequently, in that year, it was agreed that on the 21 September every year, countries all over the world should commemorate the international day of peace, when those fighting wars would temporarily seize fire for humanitarian aid assistance.
The event is also aimed at bringing the right of people to peace, before governments and stakeholders in the hope that continues education on peace would help end the many cases of wars across the world.
In Nigeria, many organisations and stakeholders have organized various events to indicate their concerns for peace in the country, as part of this years’ international peace day. One of such events was the one organised by the Universal peace Federation (UPF), with the theme; “Rights of people to peace and responsibilities of leaders for peace”.
Speaking at the event, the chairman of the occasion, Dr Paddy Njokwu noted that the reason for the adoption of that team was to highlight the fact that peace in Nigeria is something that can come about only when individuals and groups cooperate with government for the same purpose.
“Peace is not the exclusive preserve of government, but also of the people. While the governments of the world sign treaties and buy arms in pursuit for peace, let us also sign our treaties and resolve to bring about peace in our various little ways, within our neighbourhood”.
Dr Njokwu noted that the cases of crises, as experienced in Nigeria today, are natural tendencies which can however be dealt with, through a collective effort of government and the people.
“The reason for these conflicts is that there is a dualism in nature, the night comes, followed by the day, the raining and dry season; people who stand for war; but who will never succeed if the rest of us stand united for peace.”
Speaking earlier at the event, a leader of the group, Dr George Ikpot, while delivering the opening remarks said “We believe that if religious leaders focus more sincerely on the need for peace that will go a long way to disabuse the minds of people so that they focus more on the need for peace”.
In his remarks, the Executive Secretary, National Human rights Commission, Prof. Ben Angwe stated that; “A country plagued by internal conflict and violence can hardly provide, the enabling environment for development. The resources needed for development and improvement of the welfare of the people are diverted for maintaining the security services and fighting insurgency. Consolidation and deepening of democracy is also a victim when the environment is turn in crisis and conflict”.
Every day, the news media is awash with reports of killing, rape, torture and other human rights violation in the conflict affected communities in Nigeria. Conflicts therefore provide the enabling environment for gross violation of human rights. For there to be full promotion and protection of human rights, there is absolutely the need for peace and security.”
Prof. Angwe noted that the role of government in the attainment of peace is certainly inevitable. “The welfare and security of the citizens is the primary responsibility of the government” this is said as indicated in section 14, subsection (2) (b) of the second chapter of the 1999 constitution. “This is important because the citizens cannot enjoy and realize their fundamental human rights where there is no security or peace”.
More so, as indicated in the African Charter on human and people’s rights, and other regional and international human rights instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory, there is an ample provision for ensuring the observance and protection of fundamental rights of all citizens, irrespective of their tribe sex or religion.
However, the Human rights national leader added that; “Even though the constitution ascribes this as the primary role and responsibilities of government, the nature of the conflict in Nigeria today makes it inevitable for the citizens to play a vital role in the restoration of peace and security. Nigeria is turning in an asymmetric warfare with insurgents and Fulani cattle rustlers. The nature of the conflict requires intelligent gathering and information sharing, tolerance, understanding, support for military and active participation of the citizens.”
In a like manner, the Sudanese Ambassador to Nigeria, Tajesir Ali said; “People focus more on religious and tribal differences as if they are the only factors that count in the struggle for peace.
Stating the popular saying that; “Peace is not the absence of war”, the ambassador added that peace is a virtue, a state of mind and a disposition for benevolence confidence and virtue”.
According to Ambassador Ali there are various qualities and attendant images associated with peace; these he stated to include, peaceful coexistence, and psychological harmony.
“There may be no war, but when there is also an absence of harmony and other strategic factors of peace, then there is a problem.”
He called on Nigeria to understand what it wants. (Identify its vision). Conduct a ‘SWOT’ analysis; thus identify its ‘Strength’ ‘Weaknesses’ ‘Opportunities’ and ‘Threats’.
“Our strengths constitute those things that unite us; while our weaknesses are those things that cause discord among us. Our various sentiments and how they have helped in pulling us apart. Our opportunities are those factors that aid us in achieving our collective goals; (The desire to lead the continent). And our Treat could be the fact that we do not ever want to be left alone.”
To reiterate his point, here, the ambassador added; “We will never be left alone.”
But to achieve our aim, after the critical analyses ambassador Ali noted that Nigeria needs to cement the human Fabric.”
The Ambassador said that there are three steps towards the actualization of this all important objective; these include, “Believe in negotiation and always seeking common ground and synergy of ideas; never lose sight of the super ordinate goal; and economic revival and integration, which he described as the ultimate prerequisite for peace and stability”. All the points noted, he said could be achieved by the contributions of leaders and certainly that of citizens.
Reiterating his point, the Human Rights leaders Prof. Angwe stated that the role and responsibilities of citizens can also be identified fuelling extremists inclination among youth and citizenry.
“The rise of the Boko haram sect has been attributed to the lack of deliberate efforts by the citizenry to check extremism in the polity. Religious scholars and clerics owe a duty to moderate their teachings and watch out for extremist tendencies and establish machinery to cub such tendencies.”
As clearly explained by the Ambassador, the large nature of Nigeria’s population and diversification is an inevitable pointer for such tendencies, but the citizens, through religious and ethnic leaders owe a duty to checkmate such tendencies, because if left unchecked, the conflict generated will engulf every one, irrespective of tribe or religion.
In a nutshell, as indicated by the UPF; “Along with human rights, comes human responsibilities. In order for human rights to be honoured respected and practiced, each individual should acknowledge, appreciate and practice his or her own portion of responsibilities”.