Last Wednesday (September 21), the world commemorated the 2016 International Day of Peace, otherwise known as Peace Day, with various activities across the world. A creation of the United Nations General Assembly in 1982 by Resolution 36/67, Peace Day was first observed on September 21, 1982. In 2001, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 55/282 which formally declared September 21 the annual day for peace, devoted to “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among nations and peoples”.
The theme for this year’s Peace Day was “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace”. In this respect, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, urged all: “Let us all work together to help all human beings achieve dignity and equality, to build a greener planet and make sure no one is left behind.”
In furthering the philosophy behind Peace Day, itself being one of the most peaceful and stable universities in Nigeria, the University of Ilorin, through its Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies, started to mark the Day last year with a public lecture that sensitised diverse stakeholders.
This year, the Centre hosted the Chairman of Africa Peace Research and Education Association (AFREA), the African wing of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA), Dr Olufemi Oluniyi, to address the public, with a special focus on students and stakeholders in peace work like Peace December, Nigeria, Foundation for Peace Professionals (FPP) and Passion for Peace Initiative (PPI) at the venue of its Conflict Management Capacity Building Retreat in Ilorin.
In his lecture, “The Imperatives of Peace and Sustainable Development in Nigeria,” Dr Oluniyi noted that Britain was not a country to be reckoned with some 500 years ago. However, as a result of opting for peace and avoiding war, Britain had a sustained 200 years of harmony that ushered in industrial revolution and phenomenal development. Therefore, “if Nigeria makes the choice for peace in 2016, it will reap the dividends of sustainable development,” he said.
Dr Oluniyi, with insights from data on the US, Britain, Botwana as well as Sweden and other Scandinavian countries, used the forum to highlight four major areas that threaten peace and sustainable development in Nigeria. These, according to him, are the Niger Delta militancy, the rising incidence of kidnapping, cultism and Boko Haram.
To arrest restiveness in the Niger Delta, the scholar strongly supported the suggestion of former Governor Godswill Akpabio that the Federal Government should establish a major city in the region that will be a hub of commerce, industry and investment. He related the rise of kidnapping to the militancy in the region arguing that opportunities that a mega city would open up will drain kidnappers of their source of recruitment.
On Boko Haram, after saying the problem “came with a fury in 2002, with fire in 2007 and with firestorm in 2007”, he suggested that multiple approaches are required to deal with it. He encouraged proper orientation of youths by religious bodies. He also urged universities to conduct research into cultism and banish the menace from our campuses.
In essence, the imperatives of today are, according to the expert, that “Nigeria needs to embrace peace for itself and its behaviours towards its neighbours; prioritise its activities in order to excel at a critical area that can drive the other sectors; build a Federal City in the Niger Delta; find softer approaches to the problem of Boko Haram and conduct research into and burst cultism.”
On his part, Professor Osisioma B. C. Nwolise of the University of Ibadan, who was a special guest on the occasion, drew attention to how traditional approaches can address some of the problems facing Nigeria today. He advocated the use of “Strategic Security Intelligence”, an office for which should be set up in the Office of the National Security Adviser to the President. While stressing the importance of security, he identified how Strategic Security Intelligence could have helped in identifying the exact location of the abducted Chibok girls citing various examples and how social justice would have helped Nigeria out of the woods.
Though the International Day of Peace might have come and gone, the truth of the matter is that everyday is a peace day and Nigerians should be educated enough to always give peace a chance. As John F. Kennedy said, “Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.” Peace is also our collective responsibility because “if the human race wishes to have a prolonged and indefinite period of material prosperity, they have only got to behave in a peaceful and helpful way toward one another,” as Winston Churchill once stressed.