Thursday 23 May 2019
The title of this post was at the heart of my submission at the Netherlands Embassy in Abuja on the 20th of May, 2019. I addressed a delegation of Policy Officers from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Hague. The delegation comprised diplomats working in diverse areas of the economy - agriculture, manufacturing, modular refineries, small & medium scale enterprises, etc. They wanted to know how the many conflicts in Nigeria have affected each of these sectors.
The crux of my argument was that conflict hinders development in any clime, including Nigeria. In recent times, there has been a delicate and uncomfortable intersection between rural banditry, insurgency, criminality, kidnapping, etc. Many of the explanations of violence in Nigeria, so far, have been descriptive. We need to move beyond this.
A number of unresolved issues are the root causes of these conflicts viz; group exclusion, elite domineering authority, state violence against the citizenry, lack of internal Political Party democracy, etc. Sometimes, violence is the result of contention among dominant groups. Structuring Nigeria around bargains of rent distribution has also been problematic. Conflicts should not simply be reduced to 'fault lines'. Besides conflict could be cyclical, following election cycles.
I recommended a few remedies that could assuage the high level of tension in the country:
*Political Parties should develop internal mechanisms for ensuring that democratic ideals are adhered to.
*There should be equitable distribution of public goods.
*There should be safety nets for the poor, the unemployed, etc.
*There should be devolution of powers, which would make for more autonomy for the regions/states.
*Elite management/consensus should not be self-serving. The vulnerable in the society and other groups should be accommodated.
*Security Sector Reform (SSR) is of utmost importance in order to counter the more sophisticated forms of banditry and insurgency.
*Identified 'conflict merchants' (gun runners, hate speech vendors, etc) who profit by fueling crises should be named, shamed and punished. This would serve as a deterrent to others.
*A comprehensive plan, beyond SSR should be drawn up by government to address various types of conflict. The 'Peace Commission' has its job cut out for it in this regard...
We had robust discussions on the Netherlands comparative advantage, which could form the basis for their entry point into the Nigerian economy at this time...