The major function of every government is maintaining peace and order. Whether in Europe, Asia, America or Africa societies, peace is a fundamental phenomenon that drives the progress of the society, for without it development is at stake. While peace is not only the absence of conflict or the ability to manage conflict constructively, it is an important opportunity for change, increased understanding and a commitment to accepting, celebrating and learning from differences. Nigeria has witnessed unprecedented problems associated with peace default, especially among varying interests that constitutes the federation. There are series of crisis manifested from social marginalization, political exclusion, lack of access to justice or resources, and repression or abuse by state and security services, ideological differences, quest for power, dominance and identity. Given this challenges, a lot of people have exploited this means to assert their interest and ambition. While this is not exclusive to the politicians, business tycoons, the case of radical extremists cannot be ignored.
Over the decades, violent extremism has threatened the stability and peaceful co-existence of northern Nigeria. Lives and properties have been lost and the existence of the country also threatened. While the effort to curb the menace has become more difficult, it is observed that the root causes of the menace still remained un-addressed. In this regard, the extremists employed destruction as a mean to an end hence, the society is turned into war (physical ideological and spiritual) zone. The implication was the desertification of the targeted villages and town, thereby compounded the unemployment rate, homelessness, internally displaced people and more burdens on the existing infrastructure. If people cannot live in peace with one another, their future is uncertain, especially when all efforts failed to address the challenges. Therefore, to counter the violent extremists in the northern part of Nigeria, the following must be met.
Given the fact that no society experience peace without proper education of its young ones, this must be given appropriate attention because it is a precondition for peace. Added to this are peace education and peace advocacy initiatives in primary, secondary and higher institutions. Children should be grouped into peace clubs and debate on issues around peace. This initiative will protect the generation of Nigerians against violent extremists.
Also, every community need a social media platform facebook, whatssap, telegram, etc. where member report suspicious and peace progress in their various communities. This allows feedback and allows for quick action to otherwise complex issues. For those without access to network or are not literate, frequent meeting will help to address community related issues. To ensure the success of this meeting and achieved a desire of objective, national interest must override community and personal interest. This meeting will include the elder, youth, family heads, security agents. This is to ensure early warning and early response to crisis.
Through understanding and mutual trust collaboration with the state and non-state actors, peace building networks would play vital role in countering violent extremists in northern Nigeria. Networking allows the villagers and towns affected by the violence extremism to aim at the same goal, act together, speak with one voice in working against the extremists. It will also weaken the operational capability of the extremists and be forced to withdraw or employ other strategy with in most cases due have less destructive potential compare to the previous move.
Therefore every religious group/movement (whether they Muslim of Christians) should be duly registered and provide information on their activities, source of finance, networking, ideology, international partners, and locations. Their demographic increase should also be monitored or reported to know whether or not they are danger to the national security. Given the need for mutual trust, tolerance, respect for others people’s view; there is need for reorientation about the value for human’s life.
More so, strong socio-economic structure for effective youth engagement and poverty eradication is essential for peace. This will make people think less about joining unlawful groups or think of violence. When people are well fed, luring them into unlawful society could be a difficult task. While government should be sincere about its economic and empowerment policies towards the youths, everyone should be seen as a member of a community where they live. The Federal, State and Local governments should remove anything majority or minority from laws or policies. We should re-write our destiny by removing clauses, phrases, or words that destroyed our potentials, peace and progress as a nation.
For the next ten (10) years, government should ensure that local radio, and television programmes address the importance peaceful coexistence. With relevant Quranic and Bible verses sermons in the mosques and churches be concentrated more on peace. There should also be joint air programmes that involved the two major religion groups on the need for recreating the perception about the relation between the two religions, proper religion practices and interpretation of the scriptures and correction of misconception about certain verses that ascertained killing.
Every school should be decorated with the accolade of peace. The school walls should be designed with words on peace. Every community should also cultivate the habit of erecting bill-board displaying act against gangterism, drug abuse, violence and their implications. Consequently, children will grow with it and avoid the mistake of their senior generation.
Justice and fairness should be upheld at every section of the community in the northern Nigeria. People should not be punished for offence not committed. Corruption within the security outfits should be discouraged to ensure efficiency of the security apparatus.
Lastly, dialogue and cooperation amongst individuals, religion groups and subgroups can be a prerequisite for countering violent extremists. Through cooperation, one can fully and genuinely respect another’s identity while simultaneously holding one own differing religious identity. Indeed this will help to manage conflict, build moral, loyalty and develop positive relation between interfaith groups. This cooperation is vital to live in peace with one another and prevent extremist to penetrating the heartland of the nation, because the strong relation developed by the religious groups would easily expose any suspicious movement.
*** Kareem Abdulrasaq wrote in from Ilorin, Kwara State.