The World Bank puts the annual global cost of conflicts at US$100 billion; — From pre to post colonial era, till the present, Africa continues to be haunted by political instability and crises occasioned by wars and conflicts, most of them orchestrated and provoked by senseless avoidable conflicts provoked by religion and other avoidable and meaningless issues. Peace has continued to elude several nation-states with the result that enormous resources that could have otherwise been expended on development are wasted on armaments and the prosecution of civil and religious wars.
The giant of Africa, Nigeria fought a bitter and avoidable fratricidal Civil War that commenced in 1967, and lasted till 1970. It was provoked by political intolerance which almost tore the nation apart. Before the Nigerian debacle, a very fierce war, engineered by foreign interests had been fought in Congo Democratic Republic. Additionally, Somalia, Chad, Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia and the Maghreb nations have all tasted civil and military disturbances that have rocked several parts of the region. From available indications, all these conflicts have slowed down the development of Africa. The economic situation in Africa also would improve if the military conflicts that have plagued the continent over the past half-century stopped.
ARMED CONFLICTS: The natures of sub-regional conflicts have been described as strange and peculiar. “These conflicts are cruel, protracted, make no distinction between combatants and civilians, often have no discernable political agenda (unlike the Cold war insurgencies), and are relatively resistant to external pressure” (Hutchful, 1998, 1). Different types of conflicts have ns, succession conflicts in territories decolonised, political and ideological conflicts, and others, including those related to transhumance arisen in Africa in the past 100 years. The Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) Aide-Memoire equates conflict in Africa to civil war and describes four dimensions of a civil war. For example Salim (1999) classifies conflicts in Africa to include ‘’Boundary and territorial conflicts, civil wars and internal conflicts having international repercussion and irredentism. During the four decades between the 1960s and the 1990s, there have been about 80 violent changes of governments (Adedeji 1999, 3) in the 48 sub- Saharan African countries. During the same period many of these countries also experienced different types of civil strife, conflicts, and wars.
At the beginning of the new millennium, there were 18 countries facing armed rebellion, 11 facing severe political crises (Adedeji 1999, 5), and 19 enjoying more or less various states of stable political condition. And some of the countries in the last two categories have only recently moved from the first category. A UNDP representative paints the picture in these terms: A snapshot of explosive conflict in today’s Africa presents a worrying picture: of Eritrea and Ethiopia; of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, the last with the longest-running civil war on the continent; of Sierra Leone with gruesome atrocities against civilians; of Somalia, Burundi, Guinea Bissau and Lesotho, the latter reeling from South Africa’s recent intervention.” The World Bank puts the annual global cost of conflicts at US$100 billion; the African Development Bank estimates that on average, states affected by conflict and fragility, have missed out on half their potential GDP since 1980. Countries in conflict suffer a rapid decline in cross-border trade and do not attract foreign investment.
The World Bank Report cited above states further that: They (Africans) often suffer extreme devaluation of their currencies. ‘’Their infrastructure is destroyed or damaged; hospitals and schools may be used as camps for displaced people; children miss out on years of education. More consequences include poverty that is afflicting millions who also lack access to basic healthcare. They are vulnerable to climate shocks and price volatility, leading to food and nutrition insecurity which has been described as a ‘’serious obstacle to long-term stability and development for Africa’s people, its institutions and its businesses. ‘’Two recent examples are the 10 million people of South Sudan – a country which should have been moving on from conflict and poverty to economic development – and the resource-rich Central African Republic, which could be an engine for regional economic growth. Both are in the grip of a major conflict. Children, women and men are dying, families and communities are being uprooted, and South-Sudan and the Central African Republic are losing the fragile development gains they have made.’’
COMMITMENTS TO TIMELY ENGAGEMENTS: Bishop David Oyedepo delivered a speech at the COVENANT UNIVERSITY a few years ago and asserted that: ’’The effects of all these conflicts on the development of Africa have, to say the least, been devastating. In his address to the 9th Convocation Ceremonies of Covenant University, Ogun State, Nigeria, delivered on June 27, 2014; its Chancellor, Dr. David Oyedepo took a cursory look at the cost of some major wars in Africa, and pointed out how foolhardy it is to go to war. In the paper titled: ‘The Way out for a Nation on Trial,’ Oyedepo painted a gory picture of destruction, disruption and desolation of lives and property, and pointed out that there is the need for introspection on the part of Africans. He noted that all the statistics should, in the paper presented by him provoke ‘’commitments of timely engagement in a quest to finding solutions to looming dangers, by finding the way out of our current events before it degenerates to a calamitous situation.’’ Oyedepo reeled out the statistics below that are strong enough to make Africans reason positively:
- Sudan: Nature of Conflict: Ethnic and religious – Duration: 1955-1972; and 1983-2005 (almost 50 years of conflict) Casualties: About 500, 000 killed; over 2 million people displaced
- Sudan/Darfur: Nature of Conflict: Religious and ethnic (Darfur Genocide) Duration: 2003-Date (9 years of conflict) Casualties: Over 400, 000 killed; 3 million displaced
- Somalia: Nature of Conflict: Religious and ethnic – Duration: Ogaden War, 1977- 1978; CivilWar, 1991-2003; Islamic War, 2003- Date (22 years of conflict) Casualties: 550, 000 killed
- Ethiopia: Nature of Conflict: Power struggle, Duration: 1971-1984 (12 years of conflict) Casualties: 500, 000
- Rwanda: Nature of Conflict: Ethnic – Duration: April-July 1994 (just within 100 days) Casualties: Over 800, 000 killed
- Democratic Republic of Congo: Nature of Conflict: Power tussle among political gladiators, and resource struggle. Duration: 1996-Date (6 years of conflict) Casualties: 800, 000 killed
- Liberia: Nature of Conflict: Ethnic and political (class, personal; ambitions of warlords) Duration: 1990-1995; 1999-2001 (7 years of conflict) Casualties: 220, 000
- Sierra Leone: Nature of Conflict: Political, resource (diamond) struggle, ethnic. Duration: 1991-2000 (9 years of conflict) Casualties: 200, 000
- Uganda: Nature of Conflict: Power struggle, class and personal ambitions of Political leaders. Duration: 1969-1979; 1989 (11 years of conflict) Casualties: 300, 000; 30, 000
- Nigeria: The Civil War, an ethnic induced conflict of only 30 months claimed over 800, 000 lives.
INEQUALITY & FOOD SECURITY: President of the African Development Bank Group, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina has in several public speeches campaigned vigorously for the development of the agriculture sub-sector as a means of combating hunger. Adesina has asserted that: “There is tremendous suffering going on in the world. While progress is being made, we are not winning the war on global hunger. There cannot be peace in a world that is hungry. Hunger persists in regions and places going through conflicts, wars and fragility. Those who suffer the most are women and children” Adesina who believes a peaceful world will be a food secure world, pointed out that only 1% of the world’s richest own 50% of global wealth.
He argued further: ‘’Nothing is more important than ensuring that we feed the world and eliminate hunger and malnutrition. Hunger is an indictment on the human race. Any economy that claims growth without feeding its people is a failed economy. Nobody has to go hungry, white, black, pink, orange or any colour you can think. ‘’We must reduce global income inequality. We need wealth, yes, but we need wealth for everyone not just a few. Today, the poor are stuck and only end up eating crumbs, if any at all, that fall from the tables of the rich. This sense of exclusion and lack of equity or fairness often drives conflicts. We have an opportunity to reverse the situation through sustainable agriculture as a business, and not as an aid program.”
SECRET OF WEALTH OF RICH NATIONS: Akinwumi Adesina, in his remarks at a Lecture of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, in Rome, Italy stated that: The secret of the wealth of nations is clear – rich nations process all of what they produce – whether in agriculture, minerals, oil and gas or services – while poor nations export their produce as raw materials. While demand for raw commodities is elastic, demand for processed and value-added commodities is relatively inelastic. The future of food in the world will depend on what Africa does with agriculture. I am sure you must be saying did I hear right? Yes, you did. Africa holds 65% of the uncultivated arable land left to feed 9 billion by 2050. Its’ vast savannas are the world’s largest agriculture frontier, estimated at 400 million ha. But only 10% of this is cultivated. That’s a mere 40 million hectares.
Africa accounts for 75% of the world’s cocoa production, with 65% of this being produced in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, but the continent is a price taker and receives only 2% of the $100 billion annual revenues from chocolates globally. The reason is because Africa exports just raw cocoa beans. This pattern is the same for other commodities in which Africa is a major producer. Africa produces 146 million tons out of the 268 million tons of cassava in the world – or 55%, 5.4 million tons of the 5.6 million tons of cowpeas globally – or 9.62 million out of the 28 million tons of millet globally – or 43% and 29 million tons of the 69 million tons of sorghum globally – or 42%. But producing raw materials is not enough. It is time for Africa to move to the top of the global food value chains, through agro-industrialization and adding value to all of what it produces.
SOLUTIONS – THE FEAR OF GOD: Daily, we speak about the need for evolving a road map for engendering peaceful and harmonious coexistence among the citizenry to cope with the religious, political, ethnic and racial problems that are threatening the polity, and even humanity. It is most desirable for the populace to embrace peaceful solutions rather than bitterness, confrontation and violence. I was amazed two weeks ago, when my Pastor Rotimi Olugbule in his sermon asserted that anybody who deliberately and willfully sheds blood or tells a lie against another person has blood on his/her hands. And of course, blood speaks! That means God is displeased with violence as well as calculated and deliberate falsehood against any human being and would ask questions in the fullness of time.
THE ESSENCE OF TRUTH & PATRIOTISM: I told a friend who discussed this issue with me that with all modesty, I was brought up by parents who were urbane and cosmopolitan in outlook and this has reflected in my attitudes. And this is why you will not find me anywhere there is likely to be trouble, and I act on conviction, as a matured human being. This publication is a non-political and non-partisan outfit and nobody has come out to accuse us of partisanship or opposition to anybody because we entertain only issue-based discussions grounded on merit, patriotism, fair play and justice. Our efforts are chiefly directed at influencing the citizenry for improvements and better standards of living and conducts, through sensitization and advocacy activities. I have gone further to challenge anybody who has seen me in any political meeting after 2015 to come out and state where and when the meeting occurred; and stop spreading falsehood. That was after the merger of the major political parties took place. I viewed a video clip of an event where a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington told his audience that we Nigerians know the areas to address if we require development. Stuart knows what he was speaking about because United States has the sophisticated means to collect information on just anything and anywhere in the world. And it translates into the fact that the elite and political classes should wake up.
JOINING HANDS TO BUILD NIGERIA: No society could develop successfully if the government and the governed work at cross-purposes. Government must cultivate the citizenry. Clearly, something is wrong when everybody thinks the same way about issues, events and conducts of personalities, given the principles of objectivity, subjectivity, as well as selective perception and retention that combine to shape human thoughts. Therefore, our publications have always been done in good faith and for posterity, in recognition of virtues and values that are worth reading and recording for future generations. Our commitment to rebuild Nigeria is evidently based on the ability of leaders to offer good governance. Its importance is underscored by the fact that democracy is inter-twined with good governance. As a society, we have no prospect of developing except our common policies, programmes and plans are executed in accordance with modern established principles of governance. We must look for solutions to our common problems that appear to be tearing us apart. From the society, political parties and all segments, let’s be honest in our dealings and embrace the tenets of democracy. Let people who advise do so dispassionately and honestly so that leaders are able to take decisions that are for the common good. Finally, let us embrace selflessness instead of selfishness.
LET THERE BE PEACE & LET’S WORK TOWARDS HAVING PEACE: Rigoberta Menchu, a Guatemalan and Nobel Peace Prize Winner is just 60 years old. Rigoberta has gained prominence as a political and human rights activist. Menchú has dedicated her life to publicizing the rights of Guatemala’s indigenous feminists during and after the Guatemalan Civil War, and to promoting indigenous rights in the country. I think that nonviolence is one way of saying that there are other ways to solve problems, not only through weapons and war. Nonviolence also means the recognition that the person on one side of the trench and the person on the other side of the trench are both human beings, with the same faculties. At some point they have to begin to understand one another. Nnamdi Azikiwe, it was, who stated that: ‘’Violence has never been an instrument used by us, as founding fathers of the Nigerian Republic, to solve political problems. In the British tradition, we talked the Colonial Office into accepting our challenges for the demerits and merits of our case for self-government. After six constitutional conferences in 1953, 1954, 1957, 1958, 1959, and 1960, Great Britain conceded to us the right to assert our political independence as from October 1, 1960. None of the Nigerian political parties ever adopted violent means to gain our political freedom and we are happy to claim that not a drop of British or Nigerian blood was shed in the course of our national struggle for our place in the sun. This historical fact enabled me to state publicly in Nigeria that Her Majesty’s Government has presented self-government to us on a platter of gold’’.
Let there be further discussions and consultations.
May the Good Lord bless Nigeria.
First published — July 12, 2019