DIALOGUE AND CONFLICT ANALYSIS

Rev. Fr. Dr. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua

Director: Mission and Dialogue

Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja

 

The report of PUNCH on Thursday, June 21, 2012 that the alleged dying suicide bomber said: “we are doing God’s work” is not funny. If this report is true, then Nigeria has a hard nut to crack in conflict analysis. Which God demands suicide bombing and killing of innocent people as a mission to reach him in heaven? Which religion professes this article of faith? I am sure that all revealed religions will deny a concept of the God of terrorism and suicide bombing. If no body contest my position, then the question of how some believers arrived at the concept of the God of suicide bombers becomes very relevant. In this context conflict analysis requires an individual’s mental “re-engineering” and “focus reconstruction”. The process should include a sincere investigation of the root causes of the conflict.

In conflict there are always several causes to a particular problem. This means that there could be several solutions and several options; so there is need to identify these options and choose a particular action. In other words, identify the problem, diagnose the causes, choose a solution option, take a specific action and be committed to it. Conflict analysis is not a one time exercise. It must be an ongoing process. In analyzing conflict, we can identify the people, the problems and the process. This will enable the conflict manager to identify the benefactors, the hidden actors (financiers), visible actors, interested parties and invisible actors. If this is established, then we can go further into the analysis of actors who benefit; actors affected; actors with power influence and actors with critical background. In conflict analysis we should bear in mind that the enemies of today may be the friends of tomorrow. This calls for sincerity and openness.

Another process we may use in conflict analysis is to identify the history of the problem and the conflict tree. This will further help to identify the related events because the history recorded in the memory can be very far. This process can even help to identify some people who are waiting for the day they can revenge: For instance, somebody may say: “They came to our village, killed my parents and burnt our houses.” This person has recorded the dates and events in memory. Some of these events are sometimes mythologized in form of a narrative of victim-hood. Attentive listening will help the peace builder to identify a chosen trauma the victim wants to avenge. This chosen trauma often blinds a person to see any good in the future. For a person going through a traumatic conflict, the future reality has no green light. This trauma is transferred to the future generation. The parents continue to teach the children to revenge.

With the tools I have given so far, can we attempt an analysis of the present terrorist conflict in Nigeria? Let us see how far we can go. Perhaps we can use the discourse of Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde on: “The Christian Answer to Boko Haram.” Tilde was able to argue that the mission of Boko Haram is not the mission of Islam but the interview granted to Sunday Trust by Prof. Ango Abdullahi on Sunday, June 24, 2012 seems to contradict this view. Prof. Abdullahi said that “Boko Haram has always made it clear that it is a religious sect with objective of bringing about Islamic rule in Nigeria or some parts of it.” Dr. Tilde went further to mention Malam Abubakar Shekau and his spokesperson, Abu Qaqa whom he claimed featured twice on You Tube claiming responsibility for some of the terrorist activities in Nigeria. The issues identified in Dr. Tilde’s discourse may be summarized under a broad heading: Organized revenge mission:

  • To avenge the attack on Muslims on Eid ground in Jos and the cannibalization of their bodies in the presence of law enforcement personnel and that of how Muslim villagers were massacred in Southern Kaduna during the post election violence in 2011.
  • Muslims in the past twenty years became targets of barbarous attacks by some Christians in areas where the latter dominates as in the case of Kafanchan, Tafawa Balewa, Zangon Kataf, Kaduna, Plateau and Zonkwa. How Christians get away with these crimes so easily worry Muslims.
  • The violent reactions of Muslims to these atrocities are greeted by severe punishments by tribunals, courts and law enforcement agents that play the prosecution and the judge at the same time. From Karibi-whyte tribunal of 1987 to the latest arrests on the Plateau, it is the Muslims who consistently receive the butt. It is this selective justice and indifference of Nigerian authorities to Muslim blood, property and dignity that gives Boko Haram the pretext to retaliate on Christians.

Dr. Tilde affirmed the reality of the events narrated above but condemned the mode of operation. His position was not however clear whether he was trying to proffer a solution to terrorism or telling the terrorist to leave innocent Christians and concentrate vengeance on the areas mentioned in his analysis. Dr. Tilde did not mention the initial Boko Haram’s claim of protesting against western education. The aim of this analysis is not a critique of Tilde’s discourse. The point I am trying to make is that these facts can take us somewhere in the present conflicts in Nigeria. What can we do with the conflicts of some politicians who may be hidden actors and financiers of terrorism in Nigeria? How can we know the hidden trauma that they are avenging?

AIT reported the return of President GoodLuck Jonathan in June 22, 2012 with what sounded like a rhyming chorus: “If you destroy the country now, which country will you govern in 2015? Before you get the country back to where it was, the people will even pursue you.” Many Nigerians are expecting the government to provide solution to the insecurity in the Country but I have not heard any body telling the government the how of this project. I am wondering if they expect the president to deploy the army to “uproot the seed and the weed” like the case of Odi community in Balyesa State. I recommend that the government should put in place a dialogue commission to create a space for those who have different types of conflicts to openly bare their minds as a step towards conflict transformation akin to Justice Oputa’s panel.