Peace and Conflict resolution expert and Principal Partner, Fridur Advisory, Osagioduwa Eweka, has pointed out that no country or government can achieve peace and stability without justice, as according to him, people denied justice are never interested in peace.
Eweka who shared his views on how best to achieve peace and development in Nigeria in this interview with Business Hallmark’s OBINNA EZUGWU, gave a breakdown of what his organisation, Fridur Advisory, is doing to bring about peace and stability in the country
Ethnic tension is rising; we have insecurity escalating almost beyond control. Some say we haven’t had it this bad since the Civil War. What’s your worst fear for the country?
It is truly worrisome the dimension insecurity is assuming in the country despite government’s efforts to tackle it. My worst fear for Nigeria is systemic collapse. Many people fear secession, but that’s not the worst thing that can happen to Nigeria. There’s a world of difference between systemic collapse and secession and the latter is more subtle than the former which is euphemism for state failure. We need concerted effort to ensure that this country doesn’t fail. It has become obvious that the government cannot do it alone, which is why people like us are intervening with our own peace initiatives in the form of Fridur Advisory.
While many appear to be more worried about secession, my opinion is that it shouldn’t be our worst fear. Our worst fear should be state failure because the consequences could prove devastating.
Now, I wouldn’t say that ethnic tension is rising or that insecurity is escalating in Nigeria. I wouldn’t say, either, that we haven’t had it this bad since the Civil War. We actually have had it, and that was the trigger of the war in the first place. What I would say is that we no longer have purposeful leadership. We haven’t had such in a while and that’s why we are here.
If you look at the parameters, it is evident that the Nigerian state is failing and that would be tragic for a country with so much promise. When it comes to insecurity in Nigeria, the problem is not tension or crisis but management. The tension has always been there even before the country was amalgamated, but it was managed better in the past. The key thing is justice, which is a precondition for peace. What the country’s leadership must realise is that you can’t really have peace when there is no justice. Historically, people denied justice have never been interested in peace. A critical step towards solving the challenges we have as country is by building a sense of patriotism. We have to get every Nigerian to have love for country. That can only be done by ensuring that there is justice and that everyone has a sense of belonging. There should be equal treatment for everyone. Once that is done, you will discover that most of the tensions we have now will dissipate and even the security challenges will be less.
What, in your opinion, is the greatest obstacle to peace in Nigeria and what can we do differently?
The greatest obstacle to peace in Nigeria is undoubtedly lack of Political Will to do what is right and just. First, let’s x-ray the architecture of conflicts in Nigeria. Most of the conflicts are linked to ethnicity and religion with only a few genuinely having some economic bearings. Now, analyzing from a professional prism, I can boldly tell you that ethnicity and religion are only a smokescreen employed politicians and people with vested interests to achieve selfish gains.
I will shed more light on this by briefly presenting an expert analysis that my team has done concerning the conflict situation in Nigeria. Leaning on the conflict analysis tool called Conflict Tree.
The Conflict Tree dichotomizes conflict into causes, core problem and effect. While the branches represent the effects, the trunk represents the core problem and the root represents the causes. Thus, you can see that the causes of conflict are characteristically hidden, thereby misleading society, but definitely not government, into mistaking the effects and core problem for the causes. We all know that until the causes of a conflict are known and clearly presented, management is impossible and resolution can never be in sight.
I will also briefly take you through the conflict analysis tool called “the onion” just to explain the attitude of the successive Nigerian governments towards conflict. This tool presents three layers of conflict, namely position, interest and need. Position is what people say they want, interest in what they truly want, while need is what they must have or require. Unfortunately, need and interest are hidden in the innermost parts of the onion ball, while position stays obvious on the surface. Until the onion ball is unveiled layer by layer, interest and need which are the main conflict drivers cannot be detected, and position will continue to act as smokescreen.
From this illustration, it should be clear the position of those in government (what they say they want) about the crisis situation in Nigeria is a far cry from their interest (what they truly want) and their needs (what they must have). What they say they want is peace and claim to be working towards attaining it, but their interest is to fuel conflict. They causerecur so as to attain their need which include financial and political aggrandizement.
Therefore, it is safe to assert that the root cause of Nigeria’s crisis is lack of Political Will resulting from unhealthy political interest and conflict merchandize. As one would expect, Political Will to end conflict in the country would be at level zero for the interest and needs of politicians to be actualized, though at the expense of peace. This explains the continuity and flow of crisis evidenced in the country, particularly since the beginning of the Fourth Republic: from Niger-Delta militancy to Boko Haram terrorism, to IPOB agitation, to Herdsmen onslaught, to Bandit hijack, then to terminal abductions.
It is at once dangerous and irresponsible of our leaders to put the blame on ethnicity and religion which happen to be inseparable from Nigeria. Those aren’t the cause of our problem. Let’s face facts. Somalia is one of the very few ethnically and religiously unilateral nations in Africa, yet it got ruined by violent conflicts. What about the State of Osun which is virtually the only ethnically unified state in Nigeria? The large-scale crisis between Ife and Modakeke almost brought it to ruin.
Without altercation, conflict merchandize exiles Political Will. From my six years of mapping local and international conflicts, I can tell you that politicians in power all over the world commercialize conflict – especially large-scale kinds – and those in Nigeria cannot be thought of differently if we still recall the Dasukigate affair. Needless to mention that conflict commercialization feeds on the involvement of third parties in conflicts, particularly on the international pedestal. Among third parties are shadow parties and spoilers who fuel conflicts in order to justify their criminal syphoning of global funds.
No nation can survive conflict with such a diagonal confrontation from home and abroad, least Nigeria where shadow parties and spoilers of international repute also double as consultant conflict managers and aid actors. How then can an end to crisis in Nigeria be in sight? You have asked me about what Nigeria can do differently. The take-off point of solving Nigeria’s plethora of conflicts is to depoliticize them so as to enhance Political Will. Once motion is set to achieve this, many loopholes will be discovered and filled.
One such of loopholes is government’s overdependence on foreign conflict interveners, thereby underusing or even disusing the country’s rich human resources. Indeed, Nigeria is replete with academic and nonacademic thinktank institutions who have all it takes to effectively manage the country’s conflicts and attendant crises.
Major academic citadels in the country yearly turn out competent scholars and professionals of conflict management in their number, but they are left unharnessed. These are autochthonous breeds who understand the history, contexts, dynamics and realities of the country’s hydra-headed predicament and are equipped to capacity with the physical and cerebral stamina as well as zeal to solve it in good time. Yet, no one is paying due attention to them. What a waste of human resources!
Fridur Advisory, for instance, is a leading autochthonous thinktank consultancy outfit that has all it takes to manage conflicts in all spheres of society.
Can you explain what Fridur Advisory is about and what it seeks to achieve?
We are a decagonal cutting-edge Peace and Development outfit strategically positioned to tackle the challenges of conflict and underdevelopment in Nigeria, and indeed Africa at large. As a ‘glocal’ outfit, we work with international, subregional and local communities, as well as government agencies and private firms to manage conflicts and propel development in those spheres.
Fridur is actually an Icelandic word for peace. We decided to symbolically adopt the Islandic word for peace because it is a truism that Iceland is the most peaceful country in the world. The aim is to communicate our desire for sustainable world peace in all social strata. That informed our slogan: sustainable peace on all fronts.
What do you ultimately intend to achieve with Fridur, in other words, what is your mission?
Well, I will say that at Fridur, our vision is to attain Sustainable Peace and Development on all fronts, and our mission is to harmonize and coordinate Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution, as well as build Sustainable Peace through networking, research, analysis and knowledge exchange.
To achieve this, we work around ten areas of peace and development which we term OUR FORTES. These are, Strategic Security Advisor, Strategic Workplace Conflict Management, Conflict Mediation and Negotiation Consultancy, Strategic Conciliation and Arbitration Consultancy, Emotional Intelligence Building and Measurement, Strategic Political Communication Consultancy.
Others are: Strategic Research and Early Warning, Peace Education Consultancy, Strategic Family Mediation, Strategic Conflict Sensitivity planning and Development.
We are in a country where politics looms large and almost anything you do is tainted by it. Is Fridur…?
(cuts in) No, at Fridur, we are apolitical, or better put, we are nonpartisan. Our interest is strictly in peace building. Fridur works for anyone and everyone who values peace and sustainable development. We consult for government agencies and NGOs, the private sector, businesses, Political organizations, religious organizations, communities, families, academic institutions, security agencies and everyone in society who desires peace.
What’s your mode of operation?
We engage in pragmatic research and analysis of conflict situations and emerge with actionable solutions through policy recommendations and strategic training to manage or resolve conflicts as well as enhance governmental, societal and organizational output towards development.
Some of our methods include Conflict Profiling, Conflict Transformation, Conflict Mapping, Conflict Tracking, Political Communication, Strategic Security Management, Impact Assessment, Management and Evaluation, Public Opinion Analysis and Management, Programme Management, Project Management, Security Risk Analysis, Post-conflict Reconstruction, Early Warning and Disaster Management, Security and Organizational Reforms, Peace Education and Training of Management and staff.
When was Fridur established and what was the motivation?
Conflicts abound in every facet of society and hampers development. No development is feasible without peace. This was the drive of a group of five young University of Ibadan graduates of Peace Studies who met early this year and decided that it was time to move Nigeria and Africa from conflict theorization and grandiloquence to pragmatic solutions to conflicts in all facets of society.
We can therefore say that Fridur Advisory is a child of necessity. A number of Nigerian Universities produce seasoned graduates of Peace Studies in their numbers every year, yet our society remains meshed in conflicts and crisis of varying degrees. What then is the essence of producing peace graduates if they cannot pragmatically engage their acquired knowledge to solve problems that continue to increasingly ravage their society?
How do you intend to accomplish your mission and vision?
We are already on it. We intend to take it one step at a time. We are not to accomplish our mission and vision. Our mission and vision will accomplish us as we work to help our target audience achieve peace. We hope to network with local, regional and international organizations in research and knowledge exchange so as to be able to render the best of consultancy services in line with international best practices. We are out to do something different, something out of the norm, by operating at the highest level of pragmatism and professionalism, with partnership and a result-oriented outlook.
Where will Fridur be in the next five years?
Everywhere! We will be known by everyone in Nigeria and in Africa as the biggest and most efficient indigenous peace consultancy outfit on the continent because we will be solving problems in sub-regional organizations, government agencies and parastatals, local and international NGOs, religious organizations, companies, private sector businesses, Universities, market places, communities and families.
Is Fridur open to partnership?
Absolutely! We are willing to partner with organizations from all sectors and individuals who share our mission and vision and who work for societal peace and development anywhere in the world. Currently, we are partnering with PEPNET, ABDR and a few other organizations.