In the face of lingering Boko Haram attacks on Nigerians, especially on Christian Churches in some parts of Northern Nigeria, three eminent world figures, former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, the Archbishop-designate of Canterbury, Bishop Justin Welby and His Royal Highness, Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammad of Jordan, have unveiled an initiative that will broker peace among adherents of Christian and Islamic faiths in the country.
The faith-based peace deal, according to its promoters, is to facilitate truce between followers of the two major received religions in the country. The participating parties observed that “the country has seen deep divisions and tensions between these communities in recent times, caused by the challenges of poverty and barriers of ethnicity, class and religion.”
Reportedly, the Tony Blair Foundation will embark on a plan of action with local Christian and Muslim faith leaders and young people.
Expectedly, these leaders and young people will work together, as well as with the Foundation, to build sustainable co-existence through joint leadership, education and action on shared challenges.
Blair, Welby and Muhammad participated in a Faith Foundation-run video conference between Muslim and Christian students to encourage greater dialogue and understanding between the faiths. It is also meant to break barriers and equip the students with the knowledge to resist extremist voices and ideology. The overall goal, the organizers say, is working towards a longer-term peace for the next generation in Nigeria.
Also, the Foundation’s high school programme, Face to Faith, which brings high school students together in over 19 countries, will enable the participants learn from one another directly. It will also enable them learn to respect difference and not fear it and ultimately replace conflict with cooperation.
The peace deal has already received the blessings of the President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III. While Oritsejafor described the move as crucial, Abubakar said that the video conference was an eye opener.
While we do not oppose any deal that will ensure that all Nigerians, Christians, Muslims and adherents of Traditional religions live in peace and harmony, we are not persuaded on how this new move is going to work in a nation highly fractured by ethnicity, class and religion. It is a shame that over 50 years after our independence from the erstwhile colonial masters, the same colonizers will come again to negotiate peace amongst us. We doubt if the new initiative will achieve lasting peace in the country in view of the many contradictions of the foundation of the country. A nation not founded on equity and justice cannot know peace or achieve it piecemeal simply because some foreigners have elected to intervene.
While most people see Nigeria’s problem as caused mainly by religious differences and ethnicity, the major problem facing the nation is more from class division and the continued fight for political power among the various classes. In the fight for the soul of Nigeria, members of the different classes often use religion to mask their various intensions for power and the control of the nation’s material resources.
Unfortunately, the unequal power relations between the North and South of Nigeria bequeathed to us at independence and perpetuated by past military regimes and their manifold contradictions are at the heart of the intractable Nigerian post-independence traumas. Not even military coups and a bitter civil war could resolve most of Nigeria’s foundational inadequacies.
To resolve the current crisis facing the country, there is the need for all Nigerians to come together and decide their future, the type of government they want and the relationship between the Federal Government and the Federating units. Many successive administrations in the country have shied away from convoking a national conference yet the problems persist. Perhaps, that might have prompted the late Libyan leader, Col Muamar Ghadafi, to once suggest that the country be split into two, between the predominantly Muslim North and the Christian South. He was berated by Nigerian officials for such audacity. Yet, the problems keep multiplying with each passing day. Except all Nigerians come together and decide their future, either for a truly federal system of government or any other political arrangement that will suit them, peace moves, especially by foreigners, are exercises in utter futility.