International Peace Day 2011: Reflections from Nigeria

Each year the United Nations makes a global call for the cessation of hostilities in honour of International Peace Day. Hostilities, protracted conflict and crisis are not foreign to Africa. In fact, in the international discourse the terms seem to be synonymous with Africa. Since independence African nations have been struggling to attain security and preserve peace. Nigeria has played an integral role in this quest through peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts in numerous African crises. Nigeria’s role in international peace efforts is undeniable; the nation played leadership roles in the Economic Community of West African States Ceasefire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) peacekeeping missions in Chad, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Over 100,000 Nigerian troops have participated in UN peacekeeping missions; and despite the dismal participation of female troops and police in international peace support operations, Nigeria remains a champion in recruiting and deploying women in peace missions. It holds a seat at the AU Peace and Security Council and currently holds a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council, both decisive bodies in the preservation of global peace and security.

Despite these significant achievements at the international level, the domestic security situation remains abysmal. In the Niger Delta, intra and inter ethnic conflict, hostage taking, vandalisation of oil infrastructure, crime and general insecurity have characterized the region. While the Federal Amnesty Programme of 2009 has created relative peace in the region, the underlying causes of conflict continue to exist and the potential for the reemergence of violence is high. In the North, the terrorist sect, Boko Haram is on a mission to make the nation ungovernable through indiscriminate acts of terror in the form of bombings aimed at national and international institutions. The polar sources of violence, if not quelled can destabilize the nation, the Gulf of Guinea and the West African sub region as a whole.

What is more disturbing is Nigeria’s current position as #14 of 177 on the 2011 Failed States Index, prepared by the Fund for Peace, a US based non-profit research organization and published by Foreign Policy Magazine. Based on this assessment Nigeria, as a state, fares worst than Iran, Uganda and North Korea. This ranking is Nigeria’s worst in the past 6 years, In 2005 it was ranked #54, this sharp decline is troubling and indicative of increasing uneven development along group lines with specific reference to education, health and economic status. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, 72% of people who live in the North, are in poverty, and 35% are in the Niger Delta. It also demonstrates poor public services with reference to health, education, sanitation and infrastructure. NIDPRODEV’s Niger Delta Citizens Report Card on Public Services, Good Governance, and Infrastructure/Development exposed 287 abandoned or sub-standard projects in 120 surveyed communities across the Niger Delta States. Finally, there exists a delegitimization of the state, evidenced by widespread corruption, lack of transparency and accountability in governance and a loss of confidence in state institutions.

The Nigerian context presents some level of irony; a nation with such immense wealth, regional and international influence continues to face paralyzing internal strife. The lack of security at the national level is indicative of inequitable distribution of resources, poor public service delivery, poor physical infrastructure, lack of social services, growing rates of youth unemployment and an unresponsive government at all levels, local, state and federal. These conditions are the root causes of instability in Nigeria and are they seem not to be conducive to peace or democratic consolidation.

Resolving these issues requires a holistic and coordinated approach that takes into account the specific needs of all stakeholders’ involved. This approach calls for government to prioritize development interventions that deliver sustainable livelihoods, health, education and infrastructure to neglected communities. It requires a strengthening of government institutions and greater accountability and transparency in government expenditure. It calls for CSOs to implement projects that address gaps in government responses and that compliment successful government interventions. There is need for continuous, structured and frank dialogue on the issues with the active involvement of members of affected communities. Failure to take this holistic approach will prove disastrous to West Africa, the nations fragile democracy, limited peace and economic growth.

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