…if Asiwaju would not have to be copying and pasting letters of condolence and if Senator Kashim would not inherit the title of “Baba Isinku” (Chief mourner), returning from one mourning visit to prepare for the next, then it is important for them to earnestly contemplate an agenda for peace and reconciliation as a top priority. Again, I speak advisedly because it is important to separate security in this context from peace…
Waking up from a nap on Sunday, 13 March, and seeing the news bar of Channels TV showing, “deathtoll increases to 17 in Kaduna”, it immediately reminded me of a casual conversation I had with a resident of one of the states most troubled by the resource conflict between the two occupational groups of herdsmen and farmers. We both expressed the observation that it seems the fatalities from the clashes no longer make the news. So, we asked, have the feuding parties been overtaken by the civic responsibilities of campaigning, canvassing, and voting? Are their sponsors, if there are, presently busy with their political ambitions? Or has there been a resolution of these conflicts?
Now we can see, from Southern Kaduna to Zamfara and other hotbeds of insurgency and communal conflicts, the figures of fatalities are now coming out. So, as they say on the streets, “Wahala si wa o”; that is, we still have problems to contend with in this regard. Therefore, as the next president, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and governors prepare to assume office, one must ask about their agenda for peace and reconciliation in communities that have been torn apart by mismanaged conflicts. A similar question must also be directed to incoming legislators: “What are your agenda for peace?” And I ask as a student of conflict, because conflict is unavoidable and only becomes destructive when mismanaged. Hence, as elected leaders, this should be borne in mind.
More importantly, as the former manager of the most diverse state in Nigeria, with the most densely mixed population in both the formal and informal sites of everyday commerce, it can be taken for granted that Tinubu is not a stranger to managing diversity. However, one is sure that he is watching the barometer of inter-group relations and how this was exploited for political gains in the 2023 presidential election. He must also realise that the legitimacy of his election is being contested partly because one of the candidates exploited these divisions, like a conflict entrepreneur, for electoral figures.
As such, if Asiwaju would not have to be copying and pasting letters of condolence and if Senator Kashim would not inherit the title of “Baba Isinku” (Chief mourner), returning from one mourning visit to prepare for the next, then it is important for them to earnestly contemplate an agenda for peace and reconciliation as a top priority. Again, I speak advisedly because it is important to separate security in this context from peace because our recent experience as a people has wired us to equate security with the presence of armed security agents who, by the way, have lost their mojo and exclusive capacity to protect. Nothing confirms this more than the number of security personnel who have lost their lives during communal clashes, both acknowledged and not acknowledged. This has shown that the country’s security agents cannot even impose order, while underscoring the need for a new notion of security in conflict-affected communities across the country.
The Case of Kaduna and Southern Kaduna
Kaduna State, and I would like to add, even pre-El-Rufai days, contends with a tapestry of conflicts with lessons that cannot be ignored for any student, practitioner, and observer of conflict management. This is reflective of the North-Central of Nigeria, which respected Historian, Professor Okpeh, in a work co-authored with the intellectual Generalismo, Professsor Falola, calls “Nigeria’s Middle East.”
The patterns of killing, the narratives and counter-narratives, the politicisation, lack of accountability and the impunity that characterise most interventions can provide explanations for their cyclical nature, besides the proliferation of arms. So, like a football match that has entered penalty shootout, no side wants to be outscored, thereby creating a live-scores table of conflict fatalities.
Therefore, one cannot blame the governor for intervening when he did at the inception of his regime in 2015. Indeed, he deserves commendation for trying to build the infrastructure for peace in the state by setting up the Kaduna State Peace Commission, complemented by the Ministry of Internal Security, that has remarkably entrenched accountability by regularly publishing the number of conflict fatalities. Again, as a student of conflict, I commend him for this because documenting conflict fatalities is an indicator of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Indicator 16.1.2.
That fatalities are known, shows that there is a monitoring system in place in Kaduna, which is an important building block in the overall peace infrastructure, that even the country’s Bureau of Statistics did not have as at 2016 when the late cerebral Professor Habu Galadima and I led the North-Central Team of the Strategic Conflict Assessment of Nigeria funded by the UNDP.
…as someone perceived as a partisan in the conflict, all his kind intentions were tainted with perceptions of bias, which denied him the much-needed neutrality essential for third-party facilitator of peace, which he desired to be. As such, his interventions were seen as coming from top to bottom when he wanted to facilitate a bottom-to-bottom peace, that is, vertical and organic peacebuilding.
Therefore, at least in terms of emplacing a state-based technocracy for peace, his actions, inactions, and omissions offer instructive lessons not only for whoever succeeds him but also for Asiwaju Tinubu, the president-elect. However, this is also his inadvertent “undoing”, because of the perception by the parties in conflict, and not only the Southern Kaduna community, of his trying to impose peace from top to bottom, or horizontal peacebuilding. Indeed, for not shirking his responsibility to protect as a government, his administration deserves commendation for intervening.
Although there are other lessons, the one that I have chosen to underline here is that the intervention in 2015 was before the setting up of the peace commission in 2017. Next is that as someone perceived as a partisan in the conflict, all his kind intentions were tainted with perceptions of bias, which denied him the much-needed neutrality essential for third-party facilitator of peace, which he desired to be. As such, his interventions were seen as coming from top to bottom when he wanted to facilitate a bottom-to-bottom peace, that is, vertical and organic peacebuilding.
Even if it’s just a few weeks to 29 May, I believe bodies like the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) should consider asking President-elect Tinubu and others their agenda for peace. In this context, they should avoid a top to bottom approach, and bear in mind the need for a social construction of security by the parties in conflict, instead of deploying any battalion. Rather getting discouraged from previous efforts, we should learn by doing things differently. Or else… wahala, wahala, wahala will be everywhere, in the language of maverick local musician, Portable.
Gbemi Animasawun is with the Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ilorin.
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