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Okowa, CEPEJ and Traditional Institutions’ Role in Building Sustainable Peace

If there is any  event in recent time in Nigeria that further underscores the well established believe  that traditional Institutions holds the key to success or failure of peace and security in Nigeria as they operate at the root of the society and interact with people in their daily activities, it is the visit by the Center for Peace and Environmental Justice, CEPEJ, a Civil Society and non-governmental organization, on Tuesday, September 21, 2021,  to the Palace of the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse III to celebrate him for his contribution towards concretizing peace by sensitizing the masses on the need for peaceful coexistence.

During the visit, it was reported that CEPEJ Director, Comrade Chief Mulade Sheriff, stressed the need to continuously build and support peaceful coexistence in Nigeria, most especially with neighbors in Warri Area of Delta State, in line with the 2021 theme of the World Peace Day: Recovering Better for an Equitable and Sustainable World. CEPEJ took the initiative to key into the International Day of Peace as observed around the world on 21st September, pursuant to the United Nations General Assembly’s Declaration in 1981 to strengthen the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours, non-violence and cease-fire.

Certainly, CEPEJ Boss aside expressing a world view, the Warri Monarch on his part said what has been on the minds of Nigerians. As he, going by media reports, underlined the imperatives for sustainable peace and development based on the truth and resolution of wrongs and injustices in the land, and therefore, called on NGO to intensify their peace crusade in Nigeria and Africa.

Why this visit, and comment from Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse III, deserves our praise is that many have in the past viewed as fiction the call by well meaning Nigerians on traditional institutions to rise up to the occasion of peace and security promotion in their domain.  Previously, some have asked questions such as; who are the traditional rulers? What are their roles and functions? What are their roles in maintaining peace and harmony?

But in projecting these slanted views, there are silent points that they failed to remember. These points are in fact the actual reasons that qualifies CEPEJ visit to the Monarch as strategic and in consonance with the position canvassed in the first paragraph that traditional rulers hold the key to success or failure of peace and security in Nigeria as they operate at the root of the society and interact with people in their daily activities.

Let’s cast a glance on the reasons.

Without a doubt, the most important achievement of the visit by CEPEJ team is the Group’s use of the opportunity provided by the visit to advocate for a society characterized by equity, justice, fair play and inclusiveness. More specifically in my views, why this effort should be appreciated is that it is now a barefaced truth that the whole gamut of restiveness of youths, whether in the south-east, south-south, north or south-west, and resurgent demand for the dissolution of Nigeria stems from mindless exclusion, injustice and economic deprivation.

I believed and still believe that the likes of Kanu would instantly fizzle away and their cause dies naturally, if Nigeria is restructured to ensure more inclusiveness. But agitations for the death of Nigeria cannot go away when nepotism and sectionalism continue to be evident in the manner of political patronage and distribution of our common patrimony as currently obtained.

Still on the importance of traditional institutions to building sustainable peace in the country, a research report among other observations noted that; despite the predictions in the 1960s that traditional rulers’ position would disappear, they have persisted and flourished in Nigeria.

In trying to resolve this puzzle, Suleiman Danladi Hamza, Sivamurugan Pandian, Razlini Mohd Ramli, also observed in their survey report that the traditional leaders possess basic knowledge and skills of the customs, traditions, and values of their people and the indigenous patterns of conflict resolution that place them in the better position to play a role in mitigating violence and ensuring peaceful co-existence of the people in Africa.

Another case study of indigenous conflict resolution in Ghana and Botswana observes that ‘the values embedded in the traditional institutions and cultural processes have a positive impact on the arbitration of conflicts to the extent that people favour the traditional pattern of conflict resolution than by the courts. This is because the traditional conflict resolution is based on the customs, traditions, and values which are more comprehended, accustomed, and accepted by the people. it concluded that the indigenous patterns of conflict resolution pave a way for peace and harmony to prevail in society’.

In many respects, Delta State Governor, Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, shares the same views with CEPEJ team at this year’s International Peace Day, as he also called for devoted effort to strengthening the ideals of peace through observing 24 hours of non-violence and ceasefire.

Represented by his Chief of Staff, Barr Festus Agas, the governor underscored the essence of meaningful peace-building platforms, aimed at political and social stability, as captured in his SMART Agenda. ‘’We must seek to understand that around the world, we are all more alike than different. We must seek common grounds, understand and value the differences we find in the cultures that we experience. ‘’We must promote economic and social stability. At the core of peaceful rela­tions, we must respect all human rights to the belief that all humans are valuable. No one ethnic group is better than the other’’ Okowa said.

As the nation continues to search for peace, two things stand out.

Foremost, the thoughtless killings in the North east, north west and south East particularly the recent gruesome assassination of Dr Chike Akunyili, the widower of Professor Dora Akunyili,by yet to be identified person(s) has made enthronement of security and peace in the country our collective responsibility. Secondly, we must understand very well the nature of community, the freedom of the individual for the community. We must teach the world the value of forgiveness. As a nation, we must openly admit that no nation enjoys durable peace without justice and stability without fairness and equity!

Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached Via; jeromeutomi@yahoo.com or 08032725374.

 

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