Rev. Fr. Dr. Cornelius Omonokhua

Director: mission and dialogue

Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja


It seems that we are at cross roads in the face of the recurring decimal of terrorism inNigeria. Many people have expressed worry and concern about the conflicts and insecurity inNigeria. Seminars and workshops on dialogue and conflicts have “filled the air” within and outsideNigeria. In a paper: “Conflict and Peace in Nigeria: Between Despair and Hope, the role of religion”, presented by Archbishop John Onaiyekan, in Nairobi- Kenya on May 16, 2012 in a seminar organized by the African Council of Religious leaders (ACRL), the Archbishop acknowledged several efforts made to promote dialogue by groups and individuals in Nigeria. He affirmed that religion is only one out of many dimensions of conflict inNigeria. This is true but before we give a brief analysis of some other conflicts, it is good to note these lingering questions:

  • Why is it that among places of worship only Churches are targeted by the modern terrorist?”
  •  How come no mosque has been bombed if Boko Haram terrorism is not a religious agenda?

Some Muslims have responded that the terrorists want to turn the Christians against Muslims to cause a religious war as a strategy to disintegrate the country even though Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has vowed thatNigeriawill never disintegrate. The minister of communication, Labaran Maku in NTA and AIT on Monday, June 18, 2012 said that the terrorist activities are aimed at destroying the economy of the North. In Daily Sun Tuesday, June 19, 2012 Chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) and governor of Niger State, Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu in a statement signed by his chief press Secretary, Danladi Ndayebo “described the targeting of churches as a diversionary tactic” because religion “is a very sensitive tool that could be used to cause disaffection in the region”. The Northern governors thus request in the same paper that we should look beyond Boko Haram. The seminar organized by Muslims in the National Mosque that was reported by AIT at 8.00pm news on June, 15, 2012 shows that the Muslims are desirous in restoring peace and security in Nigeria. One of the resolutions in that seminar is the training and education of the almajiri / almajira. It is hoped that this training will include capacity building for peaceful coexistence. His Excellency Architect Namadi Sambo, the Vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was a witness to this commitment.


In my last publication of June, 10, 2012, I had suggested an Ecumenical Dialogue among Christians and Inter-sect Dialogue among Muslims. This will enable the Christians and Muslims come together to identify the sources of conflict inNigeria. Generally conflict is seen as a disagreement between two parties whose objectives are perceived to be incompatible. However, the levels and stages of conflicts may be classified as follows:


  • Intra personal conflict – This is a conflict within a person. This could be a battle of inherited syndromes and phobias acquired by a person at birth that have been allowed to grow without proper debriefing.  This could give rise to split personality that is manifested in conduct disorder (CD). Failure in an examination or election of an over ambitious person can lead to this conflict. The patient can become schizophrenic like Lady Macbeth after persuading Macbeth to killDuncan in William Shakespeare, “Macbeth”. The demoniac in the Gospel of Mark expressed a split personality when he said: “I am legion for we are many” (Mk. 5:9) in response to Jesus’ question: “Who are you?” Other symptoms of internal conflicts are: insomnia, high blood pressure, hypo cardiac exhaustion and lost of value for life. Among the causes of intra personal conflicts are: inferiority complex, guilt, abnormal traits inherited from birth and lack of parental care. This kind of conflict calls for intra-personal dialogue whereby the person goes deep into the castle of his / her inner heart to discover his / her real self. This is however difficult hence the need of an expert in this process of debriefing and healing of memories.


  • Intra group conflict – This is the conflict that happens within the community. This conflict creates disharmony within the village, society or institution. This conflict if not resolved can lead to insurrection. Some of the causes of intra group conflict are: struggle for power, family land, fish ponds, inheritance and greed. This conflict is very common in a monarchical system where the king or community leaders misappropriate what belong to the community. This may, to some extent explain the oil conflicts in the Niger Delta region ofNigeria where some traditional rulers and leaders of the community deny the communities access to the dividends of oil grants by the oil companies.


  • Inter personal conflict – This is the conflict between two persons. It is a flow of the internal conflicts in the heart of a person. It leads to a blunt refusal to be each other’s keeper (Gen. 4:9) like the case of Cain and Abel. Some of the causes of inter personal conflict are: jealousy, ugly image from birth, greed, selfishness, wickedness etc.


  • Inter group conflict – This is the conflict between two different communities. This can lead to ethnic, tribal and religious conflicts.  Some of the causes could be: different ideologies, beliefs, territorial boundaries, inter personal conflict of some leaders who will get the whole communities involved etc. Usually, conflict starts with a little disagreement. The following tools may be used to analyze conflict; sparks, fire, anger, eruption of conflict and calm after the conflict.


In the above analysis, where does “Boko Haram” fit in? Is it a conflict within the sect? Is it a conflict between the sect and government or a conflict between the sect and Christians? If yes in either case, what are the issues? Who are the key actors and beneficiaries of the modern terrorism inNigeria? Is it possible for the government to invite some aggrieved politicians who failed elections for dialogue and political debriefing to heal their conflicting memories? I still believe that inNigeria, there is no conflict between Christianity and Islam even though Christians and Muslims are victims in many of the conflicts thereby making it difficult to completely liberate religion from the terrorist saga.