CURBING VIOLENCE IN NIGERIA , THE ROLE OF THE STAKE HOLDER
I stand here on the shoulders of grace and honour as a guest lecturer in a very significant gathering of this nature and magnitude to confront the darker and more disturbing aspects of our everyday reality in my society. I am here to join The Nigerian Police Force Burutu Divisional Headquarters in conjunction with the Youth and Conflict Resolution Initiatives (YCRI) and Burutu Community to spread wisdom and strategy in the campaign against violence and the restoration of a crime free society. The theme of this seminar is “Enabling a Crime Free Society”. My lecture, drawn from this theme is titled: “Curbing violence in Nigeria: “The Role of the Stake Holder”
A stake holder refers to a person who has interest and concern in a country, a business, a political party and a profession. Every society needs protection, freedom and balance to function well. Any society denied these fundamental laws of nature cannot enjoy peace. A stake holder is very important in society because without his/her cooperation and collaboration society will be pushed out of social balance. A stake holder is concerned about his society and the services the society renders. A stake holder is a collaborator, a colleague, a partner, a team member, a comrade and clearly a person powered by law to act in the interest of the society and its people. All of us who are gathered here are stakeholders. For the purpose of this lecture let us identify categories of people and institutions that can be acknowledged as stakeholders. In this context they refer to: parents, government and community, individuals and employers. There are organizational and institutional stake holders. Besides, families, traditional rulers, youth and youth organisations, religious bodies, multi-national oil companies, politicians and political parties are stakeholders of Nigeria. There are both negative and criminal stake holders and positive and progressive stake holders. This lecture stands against the violence caused by the negative stake holders of crime and criminality.
Definition of violence
Another term worth defining and explaining in this lecture is violence. Violence as a term means human behaviours which apply physical force calculated to bring destruction upon a person place or thing. Violence can lead to killing someone or group of people. Violence can be physical and psychological. There is economic violence which is about exploitation and deprivation of disadvantaged individuals or group of people by majority or stronger minority. Political violence on the other hand is expressed as guerilla warfare, insurgency, terrorism, rebellion, revolution, rioting, civil war and institutional violence. Of course there is sexual or gender violence, Child marriage, female genital cutting, honour killings, which is killing because of shame. How can we forget female trafficking for sex and child birth, also called sexploitation? Sexploitation is a situation where women are sexually exploited to create wealth.
Violence is a hydra headed phenomenon. In this respect, it can be seen as physical punishment. Not forgetting emotional violence, which is denying feelings to a sex partner. This is also part of domestic violence. Interestingly, culture is also a weapon of violence depending on how it is used. Especially when it is deployed to legalise and enforce violence. Violence can be caused by religion. Other forms of violence are information violence which deals with false information or information not rationally disseminated that causes violence. There is historical violence which underscores false and deliberate distortion and suppression of the history of a people. In this discourse, need I remind us of intellectual and academic violence which expresses the cerebral subjugation of a people against their conscience with cannibalistic theories enforced through state apparatus? The list is almost endless. We also experience frequently, intra and inter communal violence, stool violence, violence over land, wealth, power and other matters of honour, child violence and cult violence and as well as portfolio violence. Violence trunks from hatred, fear, ethnocentric supremacy, diplomacy and discrimination in governance and policy formulation.
Crime on the other hand can be violent and non-violent. Non-violent crimes are without physical force and injury on a person. Bribery, prostitution, 419, embezzlement, receipt of stolen goods, gambling, racketeering and drug abuse, cybercrime, theft and hazing crimes are non-violent. Violent crimes on the other hand inflict injury on the physical body, thing or place. Armed robbery, murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, endangerment, child abuse, abuse and neglect of old people domestic violence, homicide, sexual abuse; rape, assault and battery etc are violent crimes. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, crime free society will require the eradication of all of this.
Violence is a major challenge of man across the globe. It brings pain sorrow, tears and destruction upon human life and human society. It has been deployed when it is terroristic, as a political weapon to enthrone an oppressive government and as well to fight against an oppressive government. Terrorism puts fear persistently in the heart of people and acts strongly as an agency of destabilization and dislocation in most human societies.
Terrorism has direct negative impact on democratic practice and process; it generates physical destruction and brings down the psychological strength and economic power of a nation. In African the point has been made that several complex of problems of terrorism stem from religious encumbrances, conflicts of power struggle, corruptions, election rigging, economic quagmire and resources control among others, which have however been occasioned by the craze and desires for the enjoyment of the spoils of the state to maintain the statuesque ( Israel Adoba Oche 1).
Violence when elevated to the level of terrorism can be categorised as state terrorism, religious terrorism, criminal terrorism, political terrorism and Oppositional terrorism. The common identity amongst these types of terrorism is that they are all inflicting pain on man and society (Ahmed 2). Some violence we experience in Nigeria today have attained the stature and structure of terrorism particularly the Boko haram insurgency. In trying to understand terrorism clearly, The European Union’s Framework Decision on Combating Terrorism of 2002 defines terrorism as:
Criminal offences against persons and property that, given their nature or context, may seriously damage a country or international organisation where committed with the aim of: seriously intimidating a population; or unduly compelling a Government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act; or seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, economic or social structure of a country or an international organisation (quoted by Alex P. Schmid in 15)
The principal goal of terrorism whether state or political or criminal terrorism is the crumbling of human rights, democracy and the rule of law and human happiness. It is for this reason Wilkinson views and expresses terrorism as a ‘special form of political violence’ (106).
Causes of violence
Contemporary violence in Nigeria is caused by political ‘attackancy’ this is not found in the dictionary; it is an Irobian coinage. Poverty, religious fanaticism, unemployment, corruption, inequality and poor governance are also responsible for violence in our society. These indices of violence cut across the Niger Delta, Boko haram terrorism and the new addition of Fulani herdsmen. Other causes include: Lack of parental control, poor social infrastructure, lack of academic training, unemployment, poor family, high cost of living, ritual and spiritual fortification, corruption and loss of value. I must say that oil and corruption are strong causes of violence that paradoxically unite Nigeria.
Violence at some point cannot be separated from youth restiveness. Elegbeleye (2005) identifies three major factors responsible for youth restiveness. “These are the peer motivated excitement of being a student, the hostile pursuit of patriotic ideas and perceived victimization arising from economic exploitation”. I must add that lack of good governance and corruption are strong incubators of violence. Corruption particularly has almost become an indestructible underground ministry made up of powerful and well-connected workers. The ministry of corruption is larger than the ministry that fights against it. Corruption multiplies in geometrical frequency and spreads intractably from generation to generation overpowering the moral scruples of the old and the young irrespective of gender in an alarming frequency. Unemployment, poverty, inadequate educational opportunities and resources, lack of basic infrastructure, inadequate training programmes, inadequate recreational facilities, moral degeneration and disregard for cultural values are responsible for youth restiveness. Youth restiveness brings about breakdown of law and order, economic adversity, increased crime rate, intra-ethnic hostilities and harassment of potential developers. In most cases violence in post-colonial Africa and even in advanced countries and continents is caused by oppression and unpopular actions. Paulo Freire in his work Pedagogy of the Oppressed harped on the fact that:
Violence is initiated by those who oppress, who exploit, who fail to recognize others as persons…not by those who are oppressed, exploited and unrecognized. It is not the helpless subject to terror, but the violent who with their power create the concrete situation which begets ‘the reject of life’ it is not the tyrannized who initiate despotism, but the tyrant. (1970:41)
This brings us to other dimensions of violence. And these are redemptive and resistance violence. These are political actions and pressure politics. Politics that counters and resists political oppression. The action of violence the actors of state terrorism deploy is a radicalized action but it can fittingly be grouped as counter terrorism and counter radicalism. Redemptive violence is the breed of violence that seeks freedom from oppressors, exploiters and those who declare other peoples existence as invisible. It is a socially redemptive act, invoking the agency of brutality into the ennobling rhetoric of political negotiation. For the purpose of this lecture there is the need to define the specific violence that matters. The question now is, is it redemptive or resistance violence this counter-violence gathering wants to curb or the violence that is fundamentally none redemptive? Violence is violence be it redemptive or none redemptive. Both redemptive violence and violence without redemptive value can be curbed for peace to reign. The stakeholders, particularly those at the supply centre and edge of the democratic space should do the right thing by positively addressing the dreams and aspirations of the oppressed people to avoid redemptive violence. None redemptive violence on the other hand will require both application of the prescription of law on violence. Stake holders of the nation must identify the fundamental goals of the groups perpetrating violence and provide the necessary solutions to end it.
Factors aiding violence
Violence as a matter of fact is aided by political, cultural and spiritual factors. Most Nigerian elections are characterised by bloody struggle. Party militants are harmed with guns and dangerous weapons to create violence just to win an election. These guns are never retrieved from the militants who are sometimes not even paid so they use such weapons to get back at the society. Gun democracy is one of the major causes and aids of violence in the society.
Spiritually, I raise my antenna of search against spiritual personages such as pastors, chief priests, medicine men and Imams who promote violence by spiritually fortifying violent people. These people in question are armed robbers, cultists, yahoo boys, ritualists and political thugs. Most of these perpetrators of violence are encouraged to carryout violent acts because they have confidence that nothing can happen to them as they have been spiritually fortified. The nation is being conspired against by spiritualists, some force men, politicians and even some business moguls. Violence must be fought radically. The roots must be uprooted to prevent germination. Cutting the branches of an evil tree cannot stop the further growth of the tree. There is this popular saying that “where a leader does not address the problem, the problem becomes the leader and the leader becomes the problem” We know clearly that oil and corruption are twin uniting forces in Nigeria. Because of corruption, we have merchants of violence. Because of oil we have agents and agencies of oppression. A fight against corruption in Nigeria is a fight against dark powers. Until the commanders of violence across the nation are commanded out of command, it would be an uphill task to produce a crime free society. Godfathers are not only in politics they are also there in violence and corruption and they are hypocritical stakeholders of this nation. Stake holders of nested identities. Stake holders in the outside world and stake holders in the inner darker world.
The role of the stake holder
The reality is that violence has become a way of life. People enjoy it. People make profit from it., people become rick from it. People gain their peace from it. People maintain and defend their wealth from it; people institute their superiority from it. People use it as a means to access and ascend thrones. I must say that considering the complex network of violence in the country, the attainment of a crime free society will be a utopia because Nigerian and its sub regions are heading toward a dystopia. I am not a pessimist. I am a positivist. We can achieve it if and only if we, both as subjects and as rulers allow we love to flow. For violence to be reduced in Nigeria I propose and support the following measures for stake holders:
Beatification of the area boy
The Federal Government established the NDDC, The Ministry of Niger Delta affairs and the Amnesty Programme to restore peace to the Niger Delta and the nation. Today those establishments particularly the NDDC is clearly manifesting as an agency of comic actors of greed. The impact is not yet felt strongly. Let us duel briefly on Amnesty.
Amnesty is an official pardon given to person convicted of political offences. This is a kind of legal pardon given to a political prisoner. The big goal of amnesty is reconciliation, peace and national stability. Historically speaking, the term amnesty originated from Ancient Greece. “In the war between Athens and Sparta, Athens was defeated. This resulted in the establishment of a type of government referred to as the Thirty Tyrants, by the Spartan conquerors and subjugators. History had it that these tyrants carried out numerous executions and human rights violations. Fortunately the reign of the Spartan tyranny was forced out of Athens when Thrasybulus, an Athenian general who was in exile to Thebes for speaking against the Thirty Tyrants, gathered a formidable military force to dispel the tyrants and re-established democracy in Athens. He issued a law granting amnesty to the oligarchs sacked by the Spartan rule of thirty tyrants”.
In Nigeria Amnesty became popular when the then President Shehu Musa Yar Adua decided to grant Amnesty to Militants of the Niger Delta in exchange for peace and economic prosperity in the country. The Militants and restive youth who raised gun and banner of destruction against the state and the multinational oil companies in pursuit of a world of their dream were not imprisoned but they were wanted by the laws of the land. They were involved in a political and economic struggle for the liberation of the Niger Delta.
The praiseworthy amnesty programme was intended to, among other things; assist in disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and integration of repentant militants. About 30,000 youths of the Niger Delta were registered by the Amnesty programme. Thousands of youths were to undergo vocational training in various centres within and outside the country for acquisition of skills in relevant fields. Some were enrolled in formal schools. Many youths have benefitted, many have not benefitted, and many are awaiting gainful employment after training. The Nigerian Amnesty programme ought to succeed like The Black Empowerment programme in South Africa and the United States Affirmation Action plan. In Nigeria, although the Amnesty has stabilised the security situation in the Niger Delta and the economy of the nation if not for the current global pandemic tagged covid-19, The NDDC, The Ministry of Niger Delta and the Amnesty programme are still being awaited to at least upgrade the social picture of the Niger Delta particularly, Ijaws, the martyrs of the region, to restore quality life and reduce crime in the region.
The Tompolo area boy beatification model
In fulfillment of his acceptance of Amnesty. High Chief Government Oweizide Ekpemupolo dedicated his post amnesty years to broker peace in the Niger Delta. He spent time, money, and other resources to stamp out piracy, kidnapping or hostage taking cases in the region to restore a crime free peaceful society. He erected a small but powerful vigilante group that identifies the violent youths and drags them to him for evacuation from their violent acts. Many violent young men have been taken off the arena of violence and terrorism. He makes them to take traditional oath to stay off violence. They changed their mindset from the bad boys of the creeks and rivers to the good boys through his deliberate agenda of beatification of the area boy. His model of peace building include strong will, identification of violent groups, constitution of a powerful group of ex-militants to bring them to his table of peace, taking of oath to forgo violence and embrace rehabilitation. Some have been sent to school, some have been powered as entrepreneurs. He is just one visible ex- militant out of the many militant generals embarking on the fight against violence. Over three thousand youths have been beatified. If this is generally practised by all ex- militant generals in their respective domains, violence would have reduced to a great extent. I therefore call on all militant generals to emulate the exemplary approach of Tompolo in creating a crime free society.
Nigeria’s history of violence in the Niger Delta has been traced also to oil extraction. The oil prospecting companies and the multinational and trans-national oil companies in league with the Nigerian government and capitalists have since the discovery of oil in the Niger Delta endangered the lives of the people. As the exploitation goes on without corresponding measures to ameliorate the suffering of the people, the youth and adults who are unemployed are compelled by the survival instinct to season after season, find alternative ways of economic survival. Oil companies should develop host communities and raise the quality of life of the people. They should see themselves as progressive indigenes of their host communities. It does not make sense to render the oil producing communities perpetually poor and disunited and environmentally degraded to strengthen and beautify other environments. They should avoid and discourage the strategy and politics of divide and rule.
Politics and violence
The Nigerian political scenario is an interesting one full of contradictions. I believe that one of the parameters of scoring a well-functioning democracy is the absence of politics of non-violence. Some politicians support violence when contesting an election and seek peace when in office. Most times they lead when aspiring for the post and are reluctant to lead when they are in charge. The Violent nature of Nigerian politics and democracy has identified new set of violent king makers. These are demobilized militants. In fact, it has become a commercial obsession. They make or mar the victorious ambitions of a candidate and political party. Consequently, they now work in paripasu with politicians with weakness for violence to use force to win elections. They are consulted and contacted not because they command the respect of the masses but because of their strength to generate and enforce violence. Most times they decide who wins. A nation without a good leader is a nation in flames.
Political violence has killed uncountable number of youths and injured many. People, especially prominent politicians die in hotel rooms or on the road near election seasons. Communities, religious bodies, youth bodies and ethnic nations are systematically injected with the psychological capsule of tension against political rivals and parties to create violence during the election season. Violence multiplies and goes up in flames in the minds of ambitious politicians until election is over. Politicians are also stakeholders of this nation and it is also their responsibility to act ethically beautiful to set forth a crime free society. How possible is it to erase political violence when it is a strong weapon now to win elections? To ask them to stop violence means asking them to fight their ambition, their fate. We are now in a political season where both violence and peace are rented. Violence is rented during elections and peace is rented by those in authority after elections. A certain sector of the society that is capable of causing violence commercialise violence and peace.
Elders must rise to communal command
Youth restiveness in Ijaw land has created a vicious circle between elders and youths. Restive youths are propelled by hubris. The phenomenon of militancy has devalued royal and communal authority in some parts of Nigeria. Some militant youths instead of receiving command from traditional rulers and community chairman now establish their empires and disregard their rulers. While the youth call elders cowards who are incapable of transforming dreams into concrete reality the elders call the youth ignorant and impatient people. In most communities youth have seized governance and government; the elders are now their subjects and live with laws made by them. Such a society is culturally dislocated. There is therefore a collapse of control mechanism. Elders must have good control of their communities to curb violence. . It is only when the dislocator of a terrorized space is dislocated that violence stops and peace reigns.
Campaign against cult violence and hubristic Pressure
Hubris was a powerful term of moral denunciation in ancient Greece, and in Athens, and perhaps elsewhere; it was also treated as a serious crime. Hubris is one principle that leads to the fall of the tragic hero in Greek drama. But the hero propelled by hubris brings destruction upon society and then is made to meet his waterloo by nemesis, the seeker of justice. What then is this hubris? It means wanton violence, arising from the pride of strength or from passion, insolence, the extreme over-valuation of the self. Vaulting ambition, thinking big, greed and choleric anger. For Plato, a failure to control disruptive forces within the personality and a refusal to accept one’s place within a rational system, constitute hubris. The restive youths of today carry themselves within this principle of hubris. Their pleasure for committing hubris is that by harming people, they think themselves superior. These youth who are also cultists compelled by the force of hubris embrace cruel duties, destinies and ruthless avenging fates. They are jealous of innocent people’s successes. The violent world around us has left a horrific walkway of portraits of young men and women of vice. self-destruction, societal unrest, industrial destruction, economic wastage, creation of fear and terrorism, destruction of the dignity of democracy, piracy, kidnapping and the use of narcotics such as heroin, cocaine, ephedrine, Indian hemp are some of the evil effects of youth restiveness and violence. Relevant and positive stake holders of Nigeria should open the youth world to love and progress. Provide employment. Provide quality education and good social environment.
The role of parents and surrogate parents
These include biological parents, adopted parents, teachers and church leaders. They are required to offer the best moral and character training to their children. Biological parents have a fundamental duty to bring up their children in the right way. There are instances in which well-trained children become bad and embrace violence when they leave their homes to the schools. This is due to peer group pressure and immoral approaches to life. Teachers therefore stand accused for this because of this moral breakdown. This suggests that the laws and principles governing the school system need to be revisited and reviewed to curb violence. Teachers, tutors and lecturers have a duty to help mould the character of the youth in their custody. The university degree is not given unless a student satisfies the two fold objectives of character and learning. But these days, the character component of the objective leading to the award of university degree is somehow not held sacrosanct. This is because stakeholders are not connecting properly and comprehensively. Chief executives of higher institutions should in practice reinforce the issuance of certificates, diplomas and degrees based on character and learning.
Responsibility of State and Regional Leaders.
The point must be made that we live in a society based on causes and effects of human actions or in actions and reasoning of right and wrong. The Niger Delta of Nigeria especially, is a geographical site full of human miseries and histories. Miseries of pointless existence and histories of struggle, mass protests and armed insurgency and violence. The history has been told why there is violence in the Niger Delta. To perfect this peace building effort the governments, the leaders of the region also have a huge responsibility to create the enabling environment for peace to reign. What the youth want is far different from what you impose on them. It is therefore imperative that youths should be given what they truly desire by their own confession if good enough for peace to reign. But I rationalise strongly that if the youths are satisfied with the environment in which they live there is the likelihood of greater peace. If a youth is gainfully employed or is undergoing academic and professional training in institutions of learning, it surely will reduce violence. The Niger Delta needs more universities and training institutions and the existing ones strengthened. Speed up human and infrastructural development of the region that lays the golden egg.
Nigerian youth are talented people but many are idle and wasting away because they have no access to stardom. More cultural institutions and entertainment centres need to be established to sustain the talented youth. Government and multinational oil and gas companies should establish functional regional arts and entertainment academies to help control violence. As stakeholders of peace and growth of our children we must all come out to embrace the talented youths of the society. They will serve as role model to others essentially to evacuate them from violence. Government and private business moguls should work together to create opportunities for youth participation in the entertainment business to take them away from violence. Apart from the annual Big Brother Nigeria reality show, youth cultural festivals, sports and artistic competitions should be encouraged at every strata of government including communities to take them away from violence, crime and criminality.
I must say that the problem of the Niger Delta Youth and his anger against the nation assumed psychological and pathological dimensions because of the long years of neglect and Subalternization. A nation cannot be built psychologically with violence. No nation can be healthy if it lacks psychological unity. Psychological problems are not easily solved until you provide the right therapy. In this case, the antidote is the generation of a beautiful and comfortable environment, the academic and vocational empowerment of the youth and the visibility and possibility of hope of the youth. This will do the magic to dislocate the raging psychological anger against the nation for peace to growth powerfully.
A Message for the youths of today
I believe the world view of Soren Kierkegaard, the existentialist philosopher who said, ‘life should be understood backward but must be lived forward’ and it was Frantz Fanon, the Australian political thinker and celebrated scholar who in his seminal book Wretched of the Earth states ‘‘each generation out of relative obscurity must discover their mission, fulfil it or betray it.’’. What life can we make with violence and anti-human acts? Why do we take pride in betraying our mission instead of fulfilling it? Begin to realise that violence of the destructive type is also self-destruction and one of the weapons of social decadence. Our destiny to become great is not in violence, do not be deceived. It is in hard work and determination. We should begin to rethink our place in the building of our society. Tomorrow’s successes and glories are dependent on the sacrifices we make today. Youths of the Niger Delta and the Nigerian Nation at large, stay clear from violence of any breed. Give peace a chance for the realisation and sustainnce of a crime free society.
A Message for Stake Holders
A crime free society fundamentally requires internal readiness. Internal glory, internal light and strong internal vision and mission. A people clamouring for a crime free society must first of all secure internal peace before seeking it externally. Internal peace is fully expressed in faith, hope and love. Coincidentally, these are doctrinal assets that establish the nub of spiritual life. When the heart and the mind of perpetrators of violence are liberated, the light of internal peace shines across the land. We must be morally, psychologically, intellectually, ideologically and emotionally united and decisive in our match to procure a crime free society from the captivity of violence and its agents. Gaining a peaceful and crime free society is an ideal far worthy than gaining violence.
Binebai Benedict Egocentrism and Social Symmetry in Effiong Johnson’s The Fight Has Just Begun: A Thermodynamic Post-Mortem. An unpublished part in the Department of theatre Arts, Niger Delta University, 2017.
Binebai Benedict Egocentrism and Social Symmetry in Effiong Johnson’s The Fight Has Just Begun: A Thermodynamic Post-Mortem. An unpublished part in the Department of theatre Arts, Niger Delta University, 2017.
Human Rights, Terrorism and Counter-terrorism. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Palais des Nations, 8-14 avenue de la Paix, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland. Council Framework Decision on Combating Terrorism, 13 July 2002 (2002/475/JHA
Marsden, Sarah V. and Alex P. Schmid, ‘Typologies of Terrorism and Political Violence’, in A.P. Schmid (Ed.), (201, pp. 158-200.
Oche, Israel Adoba. Africa and the resurgence of terrorism- revisiting the fundamentals global journal of arts humanities and social sciences vol.2, mo.2, pp. 1-13, march 2014 published by European Centre for research training and development UK (www.ea-journals.org)
Paulo, Freire. Pedagogy of the Oppressed.Trans.Myra Bergman Ramos. New York: the Seabury Press, 1970.
Being a Lecture Presented @
Burutu local Government,
Sea Side Civil Pavilion, Burutu, Delta State.
Benedict Binebai, B.A. M.A, PhD (Ibadan) Msonta
Professor of Drama, Dramatic Theory and Criticism
And The Orator Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa State.
At the instance of the Nigerian Police Force Burutu Divisional Headquarters in conjunction with the Youth and Conflict Resolution Initiatives (YCRI) and Burutu Community in a One Day Peace Seminar/Town Hall Meeting.