The importance of peace and safe environment to the development of societies and actualisation of human potentials cannot be over emphasized. The correlation between conflict areas and the prevalence of poverty, crime, displacement of people, disruption and destruction of commerce and general state of insecurity, has been long established. The challenge of peaceful and stable environment requires therefore, that the skills of dispute resolution, conflict management and meditation be popularised across the country and particularly among communities that have witnessed, or are involved in escalated conflicts.
Dialogue is a process, which enables people from all walks of life to talk deeply and personally about some of the major issues, and realities that divide them. Dialogues are powerful transformational experiences that lead to both personal and collaborative action. Dialogue is often deliberative, involving the weighing of various options and the consideration of different viewpoints for the purpose of reaching agreement on action steps or policy decisions.
An exciting grassroots initiative has emerged out of a need for youth leaders to share strategies, experience one another’s models, and help mould the future of the dialogue process. HEDA then conceive of a consultation of youth leaders in the different communities involved in conflicts community representing a wide variety of dialogue programs, models, topics and applications leading to these roundtables, with the ultimate aim of a national conference on dialogue and deliberation for youth leaders.
Being the first of its kind, this roundtable brought together youth leaders from all sides possible to be involved in conflicts – ethnic nationalities, religious, students, etc a welcoming, respectful and informal atmosphere in order to work towards five goals: defining and clarifying our work and our field, knowledge-building and sharing information, building skills, meeting and getting to know colleagues in the field, and initiating collaborative projects. At the same time, the roundtables helps to ensure, develop and strengthen the need for follow-up activities and the future of dialogue process – and the dialogue community – by examining the field as a whole, assessing what work needs to be done to ensure its growth, and creating the infrastructure that is needed to get the work accomplished.
The choices of Osun and Plateau as the two states for this pilot phase are informed by the reflection of the all the possible factors to a conflict- social, economic, political, ethnic, identity and personal factors.
People are proposing dialogues across the country in and between religions, in communities and workplaces, and in virtually every other venue imaginable. They are encouraging people to engage in dialogue about issues ranging from race relations in their communities and handling the build-up of ethnic clashes or the rapid rate of political evolutions in their region. Dialogues are organised in order to resolve conflicts, to increase citizen participation in governmental decisions, to educate, to help people build self-awareness, to improve communication skills, to strengthen teams or build coalitions, to stimulate innovation and to foster effective community change. That process is what this project set out to achieve.
Conflicts are a fact of human life and not unique to Nigeria or Africa alone as widely believed. Though, in our conflict guns and not placards are the tools of choice. The recurring pattern of armed conflict in our country is a reflection of the unfinished business of citizenship, ethnicity and religion. Conflict, youth and development are symbiotic. Development rests on the energies and dynamism of youth.
I will like to conclude that there is a need for platforms to be built, cutting across various communities and that youth must be at the centre of such conflict management process. The Tivs has a popular adage Ben Hemba, Tahau “ peace is greater that power” this depict them as peace loving people. Yet, it never stopped them from engaging the Junkun in the violent conflict under focus. This follows that there is a need for reorientation of the youth.
This project, with the support of Centre for Democracy and Development’ s Leadership Fund, was implemented in the two states with twenty-one participants in all. The experiences at the roundtables showed that there is more to desire in the institutions and strengthening of dialogue process and ultimately, peace in Nigeria. The report of the exercises is presented below.
HEDA therefore wish to express its utmost appreciation for the support received form the leadership of CDD and more importantly, our indefatigable sister, Stella Amadi, for her trust, belief and conviction in our ability to deliver the require serviced towards the achievement of the overall objectives of the leadership fund. We further thank members of our board of trustees in the person Bar. Nurudeen Ogbara and Bar. Olawale Fapohunda for their invaluable advises in the course of implementation. We will not fail to say thank you to all our resource persons, LHR, for offering its office space for our use at a reduce rate, the implementation would not have been successful without the commitment and timely attention of the project staff, Mr. Olawale Arigbabu, Ms. Idayat Hassan and other members of the HEDA family for their understanding and forthrightness.