Rev. Fr. Dr. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua

Director: Mission and Dialogue

Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja


In my publication in Sunday Trust, June 24, 2012, I identified the following levels of conflict: “intra-personal, intra-community, inter-personal and inter-community conflicts. In my publication in the same paper of July 1, 2012, I recommended that the government should put in place a dialogue commission to create a space for all who have any type of conflict trauma to bare his or her mind. However, this transformation is not the duty of the Federal government alone. The village heads, traditional rulers, Local Government chairmen, State governors, and religious leaders must come together to analyze a prevailing conflict. In every village, the inhabitants and elders know the good people and those who make trouble. It only takes courage and fortitude to address the issues either through dialogue or penal measures. Although no one person is above the community, those making trouble may have their reasons. They have the right to be listened to hence the dialogue commission I am recommending should be all embracing such that everybody will play an active role. No matter how the tempest rages, the end result of every conflict is calm but we do not have to wait till every body is killed before conflict transformation. In conflict transformation, we can examine the structure of the society as follows:

  • Top level- The people at this level have the capacity to protect themselves; their people and their property. Their children do not often attend our local schools. Sometimes their children are not even inNigeria and so are not available to be used for terrorist activities. The people at the top may not even feel the heat of riots although they have more animosity but they do not go physical. They use the people at the bottom level to cause violence. They operate in a civilized way. They may shake hands but still hate one another and promote terrorism.
  • Middle Class: The people at this level prefer to make their feelings known through writing. They are not as protected and secure like those at the top level. They too can be influenced by those at the top class. They are the conscience of the society. They are the elite and critical thinkers, the sages and the intellectuals. If this level fails, then the society is in trouble.
  • Bottom level: – The people at this level feel the heat- it is their houses that are often burnt. They are the most vulnerable because they have no protection. They go physical and they affect all the other levels. These people have the capacity to learn but they are kept at the level of ignorance because they have no one to train them. These people need to be educated to know that they are being used for selfish interest. Until now, their availability for education is questionable.  Nevertheless, this level has the right to be enlightened to know that they are always the worst affected in any act of violence.

Conflict transformation should start from the individual. The transformation of any society depends on the level of the positive change of attitude of each individual person.  This actually should be the beginning of grass root transformation. Every aggrieved person need help to reach a level of personal avowal with a genuine disposition to ask: “Who am I? Where am I? Where am I going to? Why am I not happy with myself? Why am I always conflicting with others? What does life mean to me? Who is God to me? What is my mission on earth? What is my ultimate vision? Once individuals have peace within themselves, we can then guarantee a society and nation adorned with peaceful coexistence. The next stage of conflict transformation is the harmony and relationship that should exist between the top level, middle class and grass roots. The tools for this relationship are service delivery and human rights. Those at the top level should be seen to be transparent in all the arms of governance: Executive, Legislative and judiciary. To address some of the changes, there is need to identify the strategies of the middle class who are the elites. These strategies should be developed to have capacity to build the relationships that is based on social justice. Teachers belong to the middle class, therefore they must be given maximum incentive since the formation of character of our future leaders depend largely on them. Those at the bottom level should be meaningfully engaged such that they can take care of their needs for “a hungry man is an angry man”. “The only difference between anger and danger is the letter ‘D’”

On the religious level, religious leaders should be proactive in establishing and promoting mutual relationships. For instance, a priest should visit his next door neighbour who may be an Imam and vice versa. Already existing friendship helps in: preventing fire and prejudice. It helps in non violent advocacy, limiting damage, reconciliation, healing of trauma, regeneration, trauma counseling and working on the historic memory. Existing relationships give rise to the creation of social space for offering and receiving graciousness. It creates space for discovery and building a new relationship. Let us take a clue from the resilience, trauma and the wise relationship between Imam Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye. From the Christian point of view reconciliation includes healing of memory, being at peace with self, God and neighbour. We must not reduce ourselves to the level of causing violence. If you throw a stone into the market, the stone may hit your own mother: Reconciliation with self is psychological; it is the peace that the world can not give (John 14, 27). Reconciliation with neighbour is liturgical (Matthew 5, 23-25) and reconciliation with nature is ecological (Psalm 85, 10). The ingredient of reconciliation is “MERCY”. We can use mercy to get truth, justice and peace. Mercy demands nothing. It is unconditional. It diffuses tension and prevents an eye for an eye syndrome. Mercy invites forgiveness; humility; graciousness. We should open a space for others to open their heart. Conflict has never brought success or progress to a person, community or nation. It is only dialogue that leads to peace and happiness. Let us transform all our conflicts and make this world a better place.