Remarks by the Minister of Interior, OGBENI Rauf Aregbesola, as the special guest of honour at the start of the leadership course in Preventive Diplomacy and Conflict Resolutions 2 (LCPDCR 2),
It gives me great pleasure to be at this special event. I must therefore thank the leadership of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) for the kind invitation to be present here and my designation as the Special Guest of Honour at the start of the Leadership Course in Preventive Diplomacy and Conflict Resolutions 2 (LCPDCR 2).
I congratulate all the participants for being considered worthy of being selected from their various agencies to be part of the course.
Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional, says Max Lucado. This is true of human society. This is why this course on conflict resolution and preventive diplomacy is most apt.
As we speak, our nation, with the rest of the world, is beset with so many conflicts.The world is increasingly facing insecurity whose main causes are armed conflict, terrorism, organised crimes, food shortage, epidemics and natural disasters and extreme political contestations, among others.
Armed conflicts and terrorism alone have devastated large parts of the globe with 17 countries going through one form of armed conflict or the other as we speak, leaving in its wake thousands of dead bodies, ruined landscapes and a large army of internally displaced persons. In recent times, more than 100 countries have experienced more 1,500 acts of terrorism across the globe. By the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) account, there are 45.7 million internally displaced persons scattered around the world at the end of 2019.
In Nigeria, the security challenges we face include terrorism and armed conflict, insurgency, armed banditry, cybercrimes, kidnapping for ransom, crude oil and refined petroleum theft, carjacking, ritual killing, arson, road accidents, natural disasters (of flooding, drought and fire incidents) and epidemics.
Before the coming of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, there was general insecurity in the land. There were armed insurgencies, acts of terrorism and armed conflicts in which improvised explosive devises (IEDs) were going off among civilians and in crowded public places. Innocent lives were lost; many people, especially children, were taken into captivity; thousands were displaced and forced to live in camps, while social and economic activities were disrupted.
Farming activities were disrupted or halted in some places, causing food insecurity. Before the 2015 change of government, large swarths of Nigeria’s territory were seized by bandits who even had the audacity to plant their flags on Nigerian territory and pretended to be running an administration.
Nowhere was safe then, even Abuja was not safe as IEDs were going off intermittently at the nation’s capital, striking fears in the hearts of the people.
Happily, they have been routed and driven away and their rag-tag administration dismantled. Many of them now operate from inaccessible locations in Nigeria and our neighbouring countries.
Recently, what began as peaceful youths demonstration calling for the disbandment of the police’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad snowballed into a conflagration that devoured parts of the country, Lagos in particular, and leaving in its wake devastations of titanic proportion. The situation was exacerbated with the abuse of social media to spread fake news and cause disaffection against individuals, institutions and governments.
Elections and power successions are major sources of conflicts at election cycles. So also, are interpersonal relationships, domestic affairs and sports. Though sports are meant to promote peace and friendship, they can often be seen as war, leading to inter-ethnic and intercommunal clashes and international war as is the case between Honduras and El Salvador in 1969 over a football match.
I am of the firm belief that this course will prepare you to play active role in preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution. According to the United Nations Secretary General, Ba Ki Moon, “preventive diplomacy refers specifically to diplomatic action taken, at the earliest possible stage, to prevent disputes from arising between parties, to prevent existing disputes from escalating into conflicts and to limit the spread of the latter when they occur”
As I stated earlier, quoting Max Lucado, conflict may be inevitable, but you have a choice to escalate it into combat. But this can only happen where we have skilled diplomats adept at conflict resolution and preventive diplomacy. There is therefore a yawning need for you.
It is my sincere hope that you will take the course seriously, take as much as you can from it and fill this gap nicely and effectively. We all have a stake in the peace of the nation. Those who thought they were protected from the conflicts of faraway have now discovered that the conflicts sometimes come to them.
Those who also think they are in safe havens may also realise that their families, businesses and even recreation were not so protected. When covid-19 broke in Europe, before it even got to Nigeria, our people overseas were already falling victims while the English Premier League had to be stopped for long.
I am confident that the faculty lined up for imparting the wisdom of the course to you are up to the task. They will live up to the billing.
I thank you once again for inviting me as I wish you a happy, successful and fulfilling time during this course.
I thank you all for your kind attention.