It was indeed an honour to be invited as a resource person between the 14th and 15th of February 2022 to the 'Strategic Management Retreat' of the Institute for Peace & Conflict Resolution (IPCR), Abuja. The retreat was held at De Peace Hotel & Suites, Ilorin, Kwara state. IPCR is the Federal Government's think tank for non-kinetic conflict transformation in Nigeria. I retired from IPCR in 2010 (12 years ago), as the very first and only female Director to date! It was quite pleasant for me to see many of my mentees, some of whom I sat on the interview panel for their recruitment, now with grey beard! (lol). Many of those I trained are now Directors and Deputy Directors...
Photo L-R: Dr. Bakut tswah Bakut (DG, IPCR) & Dr. Dayo Oluyemi-Kusa
In his welcome address, the DG, Dr. Bakut tswah Bakut said he was delighted to see former DGs and Directors after so many years. He complained about the under-funding of IPCR. He also observed that some offices within the office complex, in the section occupied by the African First Ladies Peace Mission (AFLPM), were locked up, in spite of the fact that such spaces were needed to accommodate members of staff of IPCR.
Some of the participants are:
*Representative of the Minister of Foreign Affairs - Amb. Samson Itegode
*Acting Chairman, Governing Council, IPCR - Rt. Hon. Alex Ukang
*Prof. Sani Lugga - Wazirin Katsina/Guest Speaker
*Prof. Sunday Ochoche - 1st DG, IPCR
*Prof. Joseph Golwa - 2nd DG, IPCR
*Prof. Oshita Oshita - 3rd DG, IPCR
*Dr. Bakut tswah Bakut - Current DG, IPCR
*Dr. Pogu Bitrus - Former Director, IPCR/President, Middle Belt Forum (MBF)
*Dr. Dayo Oluyemi-Kusa - Former Director, IPCR/Independent Conflict Transformation Strategist
*Jonathan Yisa - Former Director, IPCR (Admin)
*S.O. Amin - Former Director, IPCR (Admin)
The high point of the retreat was the courtesy call on the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Sulu Gambari. The Emir lamented the fact that traditional rulers, whom he preferred to address as 'natural rulers' do not have a Constitutional role. He said there could be value added to the conflict transformation processes in many areas if he and his colleagues had constitutional roles.
In my intervention, I highlighted the fact that the project I conceptualised as Director, External Conflict Prevention & Resolution (ECPR) - 'Post-conflict peace-building in Africa' was the first to be approved by the National Assembly then. All other departments had to latch on to my project and make proposals relevant to my sphere, so they could get a' piece of the action' - some largess (in monetary terms) from my departmental project vote to enable them execute some form of project in their respective departments. I wish to put it on record that when I made this assertion at the retreat, I waited for a few seconds to enable anyone who had a contrary re-collection of what transpired then to speak up or keep his/her peace forever. Nobody took up the challenge. The video of my speech is available...
Besides, I alluded to the fact that I had 'bragging rights' beyond IPCR. I told the audience that I was a foundation member of staff of Lagos State University (1984), where I rose to the position of Senior Lecturer. Between 1994 and 1997, I was the first female Head of Department (HOD) of Political Science. At the end of my term as HOD, I set up the Centre for Refugee & Conflict Studies (CRCS) in 1997. For my effort, LASU appointed me the first Director of CRCS. Before LASU, I was a journalist. I was the first National Assembly Correspondent of the Guardian Newspaper at inception in 1983. I met my husband, Femi Kusa, a veteran journalist in the Guardian Newsroom - he was then the News Editor. The bottom line is that I have traversed Advertising, Journalism, Academia, Public Service and now Civil Society. I said all these about myself for a purpose: to inspire the female research staff to 'shatter (break) the glass ceiling'. I would like to see the next female Director in IPCR (after me) very soon. Beat me to it and be the first female DG...
There was much discussion about 'political will' at the retreat. I pointed out he fact that there could be no political will without 'political pressure' from civil society actors. IPCR could be a veritable platform for such pressure that would benefit the populace. Furthermore, I advised the researchers to have impressive digital footprint(s) that would make them visible worldwide. I suggested that henceforth, retired Research Directors and DGs who are willing and available to teach courses at the Peace Academy, housed by IPCR, should be invited to contribute to the expansion of knowledge. The 'Gender Unit' in IPCR should remain a stand-alone entity and not 'merged' with any other Unit/Directorate in view of the fact that gender is a veritable cross-cutting issue... Because government has a preponderance of the use of force, she takes responsibility for keeping Nigeria and Nigerians safe. Civil society actors are limited to the non-kinetic arena: advisory role/activism. The extensive potential of IPCR is yet to be actualised...
In his keynote address titled: 'Repositioning IPCR for sustainable peace, security & national integration', Prof Sani Lugga was worried that reports of many 'Probe Panels','Commissions of Inquiry'.etc.are gathering dust on numerous shelves, un-implemented.Such reports need to be implemented. The idea of using mercenaries to fight insurgents was accepted in principle some years ago, but it was later dropped. He believes mercenaries could be useful in the fight against insurgency.
He suggested a change of name for IPCR: 'Nigeria's Institute for Peace'. He advocated for a 'Peace Fund' via an Act of the National Assembly that would ensure proper funding of IPCR. More offices should be opened in parts of the country. Kidnapping seems more lucrative now than cattle rustling: Simply kidnap the owner of the cattle, so that he/she would sell the cattle and bring the proceeds to the kidnappers! The 'contemporary causes of insurgency need to be further interrogated - poverty/unemployment/out of school kids (almajiris)/proliferation of SALWs/corruption/misuse of religion & ethnicity etc.
The representative of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Samson Itegode, emphasised the fact that in addition to monitoring Constituency Projects executed by legislators, IPCR should participate in 'Peace Committees'.
Dr. Pogu Bitrus, President Middle Belt Forum, and former Director, IPCR was optimistic that insurgency could be tackled headlong with the necessary political will. He meticulously traced the origin and trajectory of discontent and insurgency in Nigeria. IPCR remains a veritable platform for continuous engagement with government to actualise the much needed peaceful co-existence in the country.
L-R: Prof. Sunday Ochoche (1st DG, IPCR) & Dr. Dayo Oluyemi-Kusa
In his paper, titled: 'Building stakeholders' capacity for peace policy & interventions: Appraising IPCR's roles & future pathways', Prof. Sunday Ochoche, the very first Director-General of IPCR would have liked a submission from IPCR, via the current DG, as regards the vision and challenges of the Institute. This would then form the basis for his critique. In the absence of the desired think piece from IPCR, Ochoche made the following assertion:
-IPCR is even more relevant now than in the year 2000 when it was established, because the scope of conflicts in Nigeria and beyond has expanded.
-When IPCR was established, the national capacity to contain conflicts was at its infancy. Now, the 'conflict transformation industry has ballooned!'.
-IPCR must stand out and establish itself as a credible brand.
-Some of the recommendations of the Oransaye Report are questioning IPCR's existence. Why is government querying itself?
-IPCR has no business remaining under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. IPCR should be returned to the Presidency.
-IPCR should be strategic in the selection of her partners, while assessing herself vis-a-vis capability and comparative advantage.
-It's un-necessary to set up offices in the 774 local government areas. IPCR might stretch herself too thin.
-IPCR must first develop her capacity, while doing away with civil service mentality.
-Peace work is not for anyone who just needs a desk assignment.
-The Department of Security Studies should be able to analyse some of the contemporary issues. For example, how do Nigerian Army equipment get into the hands of insurgents?
-Being an 'elder' is not enough to make one a 'peace-maker' or 'conflict manager'.
-There should be Conflict Impact Assessment of all projects.
-IPCR should develop more independent funding sources.
Prof. Joseph Golwa, the second DG of IPCR presented the paper - 'Mediatory & Advocacy interventions towards sustainable peace, security & integration: The way forward for IPCR'. The proposed International Mediation Centre (IMC), mooted by IPCR, is a welcome development. The attributes of a good Mediator are relevant here. Golwa mentioned the many interventions in conflict zones. He shared the successful and not-so-successful stories...
Some members of staff wanted a more streamlined career training plan for IPCR.
The third DG IPCR, Prof. Oshita Oshita, discussed 'Research strategies for building sustainable peace, security and national integration: The roles of IPCR'. He said that institutional self-assessment must be authentic. The academic relationship with University of Ilorin should be sustained. Solving research problems adds to knowledge. The major elements of research are: identification of the problem, methodology, data gathering, etc. Peace-building entails constructive relationship with the community. Oshita recommended that the mandate of IPCR should be continually interrogated. The UN functional capacity assessment of IPCR should be re-visited. IPCR should reel out Policy Briefs, Occasional Papers, Monographs, Books, etc. Research is simply doing over and over again using certain procedures. Research is both an art and a science. Research should be systematic, it should have a practice code, a definite procedure, a code of ethics, etc. Such research should be targeted at critical end users.
What then are the major recommendations from the retreat?
*IPCR is more relevant now than ever before.
*Government should fund research more in IPCR. The establishment of a Peace Fund via an Act of Parliament is desirable.
*IPCR should identify and leverage on her comparative strategic advantage.
*The Strategic Conflict Assessment (SCA) of Nigeria should be conducted more regularly.
*Qualitative & quantitative research should exist side by side. Research activity should be connected with the end user. A definite House Style is needed in IPCR.
*The capacity building of members of staff is germane to growth in IPCR.
*IPCR should be excised from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and returned to the Presidency.
*IPCR needs to expand to other parts of Nigeria as and when necessary.
*Without political pressure, political will may remain an illusion.
On the whole, I had a fulfilling outing in Ilorin at the 2022 IPCR Strategic Management Retreat. Kudos to the DG and his capable team for pulling off this impressive parley...