Causes of Banditry and Kidnapping in Nigeria
With the rise in reported cases of kidnapping, killings, banditry and other crimes in Nigeria, the country is in palpable fear and the citizens lives in oblivious of who will be their next victim of these societal anomalies. Dr. Ofonime Emmanuel Bassey, a Peace Leadership Expert and the President, Institute of Peace Leadership/NISSI Foundation, Lagos, in this interview with EFOSA TAIWO explains why the country is and might keep experiencing banditry, kidnapping and other menace without end. Excerpt:
Leadership is said to be problem of Nigeria. Is Peace Leadership, as a branch of leadership, also part of the problem?
The fact that leadership is the problem of Nigeria, it is also a fact that Peace leadership is part of the problem we are having in Nigeria. However, you will agree that in a multi-ethnic society like Nigeria, we need a suitable form of governance. Responsible leaders know this. Incidentally, leaders in Nigeria are not visionary enough to understand what is going on and what needs to be done. They lack understanding of the right form of governance for a multi-ethic nation like Nigeria. In every society, policies and regulations cannot be the same. A multi-ethnic society calls for suitable policies and regulations due to the fact that there are more than one ethnic group characterizing it and Nigeria, as a country, has more than 200 ethnic groups and that poses a major problem for governance. Now, how does this affect leadership? There will be lot of feelings of neglect among the minorities – a feeling of disrespect. We will have more aggression and misgiving becoming order of the day if the right policies are not implemented. So what you see is an insecure nation full of fear, disrespect, annihilation, physical discomfort, psychological trauma, disappointment and rejection. These are what Nigeria is currently going through. That is why there are many conflict at hand, and peace leadership is the key to move forward.
Looking at various security issue bedeviling the country, from banditry to abduction, to kidnapping and killings, including the school children. What role should Peace Leadership play to put an end to these problems?
Peace leaders are thinkers and sensitive people – sensitive to peace and security. They forecast and analyze, with respect to their areas of responsibility. Both peace and security are means to themselves as the other ends. And they are essential factors of human life, including the aspect of economy and social development of a nation. A peaceful atmosphere breathes in security and the presence of insecurity brings crisis. You will agree that a peaceful and secure Nigeria can be intentionally and systematically achieved with making and implementation of right policy. A true peace leader who is sensitive and analytical understand the right policies to bring on board aimed at prevention management and resolution of conflicts which will eventually stop the insecurity we are experiencing like banditry and kidnapping of school children.
Security is collective thing we must collectively achieve. And some of these insecurity issue have early signals with them, but in most case, we had either ignored or wrongly approached them. But with the right policies, right intervention and the ability to note the early warning signals with arrangement to facilitate timely and efficient response to the issue must be put in place for security to be achieved. It is not late as the case with Nigeria. There are policy yet to be made that will discourage banditry and abduction of school children, and, security is not a business that should be left to only the men and women in uniform, it is every man’s business. Truth is, many policy have gone bad and the policy are promoting insecurity. Unfortunately, that may not have been the intention of the policy makers. Nevertheless, the body language of the leaders and all those promoting insecurities speaks volume. In the context of Nigeria, the peace leaders should lead in determining the existence of threat to peace or an act that contrast anti-peace elements. Such leader should always call upon parties to settle disputes via peaceful means and recommend methods of adjustment or terms of settlement where necessary.
Fact is, most security challenges we have in Nigeria today are provoked or promoted by aggression. When such preliminary efforts fail, then the application of enforcement or enforcement measures comes in to restore peace and security. So there is a lot to be done, also for a peace leader to do in this regard. As earlier said, some policy promoting insecurities, conflicts and aggression starts from there. I want you to understand that within the security system, the industry and agencies, there are conflicts and insecurity among them, but by the nature of their assignment, they may not able to do things in certain way as expected. Though it is affect their morale and performance. But, the right policy is the key and implementation is paramount, same with the body language of the leaders to reflect what they say and what government policies are. It starts from the top.
A lot have been said concerning the Federal Government paying ransom to abductors in exchange for its citizens release. Many Nigerians kicked against it, using the American standard of not negotiating with terrorists as reference. Is negotiating with bandits and terrorists effective strategy to birthing peace?
The issue of ransom payment in exchange for citizens in the hands of kidnappers or terrorists abductors is worrisome. As a peace leader, peace leadership recognizes that negotiation is a good thing in order to have peace. Negotiation must be with the idea of mutual beneficial decision and beneficial results. In other words, a win-win approach should be put in place and the area of exchanging citizens with ransom is never a win-win approach. Now is the time for us as a nation to criminalize payment of ransom for the return of people or goods as obtains in countries like America, United Kingdom and others. Payment of ransom fuels terrorism and encourages them to do more. We need to look into the area of receiving, possessing or dispossessing of ransom for kidnappers and terrorists. It should be outlaw and criminalized. Negotiating with bandits and terrorists is one of the most effective ways of raising funds for banditry or terrorism worldwide and this should be discouraged, also criminalized in Nigeria either at government level, group or individual level. It is a direct way of encouraging and promoting act of terrorism.
Looking at various leadership set up in our society, how has peace leadership been functioning?
Looking at various leadership set up in our society, we found that peace leadership is very minimal and not functioning. The government is not considering issue of conflicts and feelings of people. That is what is manifesting. Look at the situation where the winner takes all for political leaders and where leaders easily give appointment to people from their religion or tribe with 90% – 95% of appointment tilted to one religion or ethnic group or region based on who leads at the government level. You realised that with these obvious experience and happenings, our leaders are not sensitive and peace policy are not promoted. As a peace leader, one of the thing that baffles and give me concerns is when I heard leaders saying, “the unity of our nation is non-negotiable.” It is anti-peace. Leaders have repeatedly made this statement year after year and season after season for the past five decades when there are issue and such will not come from peace-conscious leaders. Let me narrow it to over about two or three decades. Peace-conscious leaders won’t say something is not negotiable. It therefore, means you have a negative agenda. And peace is never by force and cannot be forced. Unity is not by force and not achieve by force. Unity and peace is achieved through negotiation and dialogue. Saying, the unity of this nation is not negotiable, is an indication that some people intentionally came out with something they know would not work and ready to push or force it down on the throat of others without the win-win idea. They only consider a win-for-themselves. As a peace leader, I have not seen a functional Peace Leadership going on in our society. Our leaders are not sensitive to peace, to agitations and other people’s feeling. But are concerned about their wants and greedy desires.
What area the government need to look at to birth peace in the land?
There are many area the government need to look into to birth peace. I advocate that, government of the day especially the political parties, from the ward level to the local government, the state and to the federal, should consider the appointment of conflict sensitivity experts. Have them as consultant, adviser or employee of the government. And they will always be there to follow by analyzing policies and situations. I have said severally, “a peace and conflict sensitivity expert” or “a peace and conflict resolution expert” is not necessarily a security expert or better put, security experts are not necessarily peace-conscious. They are not necessarily peace-sensitive expert. Most people performing their professional security jobs are about physical prevention. The physical management of security, prevention of insecurity and crimes. But for a peace and resolution expert, we take care of insecurity from the policy made, point of making policy and point of decision-making. One decision of today is capable of destroying a formidable achievement of many years. One careless decision can destroy an achievement of a many years. For a peace and conflict expert, at the point of making decision and policy, we look at the policy in the eyes of what the conflict can brew and come in to address the situation before it happened.
Why did many believe, it is the sole responsibility of government to do Peace Leadership?
Times without number, I have said, peace leadership is not all about the government. Peace Leadership is every man’s business. Everyone has a role to play. Peace leadership starts with oneself, because you need to be at peace with yourself to be able to progress, advance and develop responsibly. Peace leadership starts from you as a person and it is everyone’s business. Everyone must learn to wage peace at every given point and this can be done through how we lead, learn and teach. It requires everyone involvement. War is not an option at this time, it is no longer fashionable. Waging of peace is what everyone should hold to as a soldier of peace and to fly the banner of peace. Peace is not on its own or happen on its own, it has to do with love, justice, tolerance and all embodiment of what promote peaceful environment and atmosphere. There must be love, justice, tolerance and other aspect of life that are key. Where there is injustice, there is bound to be aggression and conflict. Where there is no love, there bound to be hatred and attack. Peace is not the business of government alone. Though, government has a lot to do in terms of regulation of policies, individuals also have more to do in promoting peace.
What is the connection between Peace Leadership and Security? And has the security agencies done fairly in Peace Leadership?
Peace leadership is connected with security. The two are inseparatable twins and are essential factors to human lives. They are keys to socio-economic development in any society. I appreciate our security agencies for the effort they put over time to our nation security at this tough time. Some of them have paid the supreme price and their families have lost loved ones. There are rooms for improvement and it has to do with Peace Leadership which some of them might not have imbibe the principle. They might not have known what Peace Leadership is all about. But, it is still possible and do-able to make them know and imbibe it.
Why is Africa as a continent still struggling to wage peace among its inhabitants?
In the case of Africa, with conflicts here and there. And Nigeria being the largest nation in Africa, whatever happens in Nigeria is largely what you are going to happen in other part of Africa. The major issue in Africa is multi-ethnicity. Africa has not realize the challenges pose by multi-ethnicity. Rather we hear, “unity of this nation is non-negotiable.” Countries outside Africa made their constitution and policies to give people the freedom to opt out of the system when it is no longer comfortable for them or address their expectations and needs. But in Africa, lots of forceful marriage, relationship, association are used and many believe in primitive ways of using whims and caprices to do things. Africa have not come to reality of 21st century way of governance, management of people and resources. They don’t have the understanding about the issue of Peace and Conflicts Prevention Management and Resolution. It is yet is to be part of our lifestyle as people, much more of the government. As multi-ethnical society, we can’t escape issues of conflict. It is not something you can wish away. It would have to be addressed by putting up the right modalities, right policies, right programmes and right avenue for people to vent their aggression and get matters resolved. We are talking of preventive measure been put in place especially in our constitution of different nation in Africa continent. Preventive strategy should be put in place with management strategy of conflicts resolution. Africa should, at this time, come together more than before to form a formidable force to address peculiar challenges of Africa. One challenge arising from ethnicity is religion. Religion is still a source of conflict in Africa and we have to do all to promote religious tolerance, love and justice. I believe, where there is no love, true justice and conflict is inevitable, hence peace is a mirage. Africa continent must move on to make policies that promote love and justice to be waging peace for real.
It must be intentional. One of the African nation, Rwanda, knowing fully well what ethnicity has done to it over time, the generation that have been wasted and was not. Going by this, the present generation realised the cause and today the issue of ethnicity have been outlawed and there is nothing like ethnicity in Rwanda. Most other part of Africa like Nigeria are still grappling with the issue of ethnicity but ethnicity in Rwanda has been outlawed. It is an offense over there to claim you belong to an ethnic group. Policies that are ethnic-bias are not there anymore. These are some of the things we have to look into. We have to address our differences and be seen to tactically be waging peace as against allowing ourselves consumed by crisis as a result of intolerance, injustice and lack of love. And lack of love is the engine room of corruption which also is one of the problem facing Africa. I appeal to Africans that, we can be leaders and not be corrupt. We can be leaders and not violate human rights. We can be responsible leaders and be conscious of our citizens welfare. We can be responsible leaders by addressing ethnic marginalization. Let there be policies in place to address and discourage aggression in our continent, to stop killings and violence by making Africa a peaceful continent where development and progress are thriving, making our world a safer place.