20/22/23 and the Need to Maintain Peace

It is an incontrovertible and incontestable truism that peace is an indispensable factor to the development and progress of any society. Human history is replete with examples of how lasting strides had been made in societies that enjoyed long lasting peace. For instance, one of the epithets that describe the English Neoclassical period (1660-1798) is the Augustan Age, a historical epoch that alludes to the time in classical antiquity when Augustus Caesar ruled in Rome. Both Ages, the English and the Roman’s, had one thing in common; peace, long lasting peace that came after a prolonged civil war. The strides recorded in the arts and sciences in the English Neoclassical period could not have been possible ten years previously when the English nation was embroiled in internal religio-political conflicts, with its developmental woes being compounded by the reign of the Puritans.

We live in troubled times, surrounded by violence and deadly pestilence everywhere here in Africa and Nigeria. The two Big Bs, Bandits and Boko Haram, continue to ravish our land. The Covid-19 pandemic and its vaccine fallouts heighten our collective anxiety. The economy has turned terrorist, threatening our very existence. Hardship walks the land and Hunger haunts the average and the common Nigerians. In such a scenario, everyone cries for the solution; for peace, for development and for deliverance.

Peace, then, becomes a brand that sells. It is a capitalist commodity in high demand, especially in troubled climes like ours. It is an irresistible political catch-phrase any time any day. All you need to do is dangle it and the whole world would rush to your camp. Who does not love peace? Who would not want peace? Who, in his or her right senses, would not fall in love with Peace? Who would not allow himself to be hypnotised by Peace’s celestial and soothing arms? Indeed, it is only an individual with a beastly mind that would reject the offer of peace even in political contexts. The reason Jesus was so successful in his ministry was because he operated on the principles of peace. Of course, he is the Prince of Peace. He never did harm to any one; he always came and went in peace, and anywhere he went, he was doing good. His gospel was a gospel of peace. When he was about to return to heaven, he presented peace as his last gift to his disciples as recorded in John Chapter 14 Verse 27: ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.’

The greatest political movements in the world have been anchored on peace. Most of the individuals who have effected revolutionary changes in the world did so through the weapon of peace, for indeed, peace is not a cowardly word; it is a weapon. Peace, paradoxically, is like the pen, which many poets have likened to a sword. It fights on long after the best gun-wielding and machete-brandishing men had fallen and disappeared on the sands of time. Martin Luther Kings Jnr went about his campaign/war for black liberation in America armed with the weapon of peace. Today, governments around the world fear non-violent protesters more than the Americans feared the Taliban army in Afghanistan. Mahatma Gandhi deployed a simple method of hunger strike and other non-violent means to send the British out of India. Nelson Mandela chose the path of forgiveness and reconciliation instead of avenging his humiliation and torture in the hands of his former colonisers and oppressors, allowing the South African society to heal and to avoid self-destruction.

To choose the peace and dialogue route in dealing with conflicts and conflicted issues in society does not mean that the individual is weak; far from it. It rather speaks of courage and maturity. It signals spiritual strength, soundness of mind and vision. It is only a wise man who chooses to walk away from the trouble spots of life. The fool fights all battles and gets hurt and irreparably damaged in the long run. The peaceful man, often tagged a coward, is often the one who points to the ruined house of the rashly brave man and says, ‘he used to live there’. But then again, most peaceful men and nations choose to be peaceful not because they cannot fight. Indeed, the most peace-loving nations are those with the largest defence budgets. They simply choose peace because they have known the irrecoverable loss and cost of war. They choose peace because they know that peace is a necessary condition for the development of society.

Another reason peaceful persons and nations are powerful is because peace itself requires protection from war and conflicts, which are the things that destroy peace. Sometimes the best way to protect peace is through deterrents in the form of the presence of physical and visible security assets to scare off would-be aggressors. This is the reason powerful nations are wont to display their military might and security advantages as a way of warning off their perceived enemies.

However, I truly believe that the best way to gain and maintain peace in society is through the instrumentality of Justice. Let me quickly state that peace is such a fragile treasure and can be easily breached. The same thing applies to the discourse of peace; it can be easily carnivalised. A carnivalised discourse is one that has spiralled out of control. While peace can be an excellent political catch-phrase, its existence and sustenance is at the mercy of the words and actions of those who promote it. Discourses themselves are social codes that resist control, as utterances usually go beyond what they claim. Some utterances even speak against themselves and their utterers. Thus, the gospel of peace in the political arena must be handled with the care of an egg, otherwise it dissipates in different directions when it clashes with other discourses out there in the field.

Let me give you an instance. When a man of power says, ‘I am telling you the truth’, the statement quickly presents a counter response within seconds of it being uttered. The counter discourse helps the audience to scan other existing discourses, both immediate and remote, past and present, that relate to the current discourse in order to test its essence, its value. If nothing contrary is discovered, the statement is accepted, but only for the time. This is because discourses are always pending or waiting to be reinforced or altered in the future, or at any given time. If world players, including political ones, knew the dynamics of the human discourses, they would learn how to guard their actions, for actions are also languages: they can speak for and against their utterers. They also continue to speak across ages and across spaces.

To return to the idea that peace is best maintained through Justice, I must reference the lyrics of Peter Tosh’s song, ‘Equal Rights’: ‘Everyone is crying out for peace/none is crying out for justice. I don’t want no peace; All I need is equal right and justice’. This song is an aesthetically pleasing poem wrapped up in its own paradoxes. The message it sends across is simple: fix the question of justice and equal right and you do not need to search for peace. A restive polity like Nigeria lacks justice and equality in its politics. A careful study indicates that societies that have low crime rates and low prison inmates are ones with a sound social justice system – they are those societies that have done everything possible to discourage its population from taking to crime. And most of these countries are not so religious like our own. A society with overflowing and crowded prisons is an unjust society. In recent times, terrible crimes have been recorded even inside churches and mosques. This actually reminds me of a folkloric song I used to hear growing up. It is an Ibibio song and it goes: ‘Afid owo edo mme aka ufok Abasi, mme nkid ikid eto uke?’ Transliterated, the song reads: ‘Everyone is a churchgoer, who are the witches and wizards?’ This implies that overt religiosity has not been effective in reducing crime in society, especially where the churches are being run like capitalist enterprises, with all the ruthlessness, brutality and heartlessness of capitalist profiteerism, with little or no attention being paid to the spiritual life of their members.

All I am saying is that peace will continue to elude a society that fails to cater for the wellbeing of the generality of its population, but shows itself as being mainly interested in catering for its small and privileged members. Hence, as we gradually approach an election year in 2022/23, we must rethink our politics and social justice system. We must think about the poor and the unemployed in society. We must think about the less privileged and oppressed members of society. We must think about those whose rights have been denied. We must think of those frustrated workers and the pensioners. We must think about the plight of poor students in public schools. We must have the wisdom to think of the orphans and widows, and all the vulnerable members of society. We must plan on how to include them in the scheme of things, give them a sense of belonging and make them feel the warmth of society’s fire in an economically cold world. Anybody who will not do this, or cannot do this, or does not know how to do this or does not want to do this, should not be ambitious in 2022/23. The reason(s) is/are obvious.

The truth is that owing workers many months in arrears of salary is a form of economic violence. It causes trauma and its effects through the years can only be imagined. It is a form of social violence for a graduate to walk the streets for years without being meaningfully employed. How can a society which allows sordid realities like this ever imagine peace? Yes, we need peace. But let us, first of all, fix our social justice system.

How do we fix our social justice system? It begins with the kind of leaders that we will elect in 2022/23. I believe that leadership is an important factor in the development of any society. I also believe that the current crop of leadership should either undergo behavioural transformation or be overhauled in the coming years. They would then be replaced with leaders who are genuinely interested in the welfare and wellbeing of the people, leaders who are not interested in enriching themselves to spite the very people they are meant to serve. The current crop of leaders should be replaced with ones who are creative and visionary and want the best for their society. I equally believe that the next set of leaders should be young people. We must not repeat the mistake of 2015 and 2019, the mistake of electing old people who are out of touch with the reality of things in the post-postmodern world. Any political party that does not present youthful candidates across the board in 2022/23 is setting itself up for self-extinction and permanent irrelevance. When we have the right leadership in place, come back and ask me for the rest of the recipe on how to fix our social justice system. Or maybe then there will be no need for any recipe prescription.

Meanwhile, I join the peace train as we approach the New Year. I am a man of peace and want no trouble with anyone. Let no man trouble me either. I come in peace and my critique is all for peace. I equally write in the season of peace. That is what Christmas is all about: when love and peace, as personified in our Saviour, came down to dwell among men. It is my perspective on how to secure lasting peace in society so as to attract meaningful and lasting development. You can criticise my critique if you want. But, please, do also present your recipe and garnish it with peace.

Let me wish us all a Merry Christmas and a peaceful 2022/23.

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2 thoughts on “20/22/23 and the Need to Maintain Peace

  1. Wow! This is really nice sir as it educate us about the need for a peaceful Nigeria.

    Third to the last paragraph really touched my soul, heart, and mind. The reality here is that the old men in politics will never agree for the younger ones take over from them. Without considering their old age, they think things should be done the same way it was in their youthful days. Even if they agreed or step down or even die, the young ones tends to copy them or rather they administered under their control.

    These old men has already structured what they want 22/23 to be like. Therefore, it is in the hands of the citizens to vote thier heart but the power to office is in their hands ( old men).

    But all hope is not lost. Let’s hope and pray for a better 2023.

    Wish you a merry Xmas and a prosperous new year.

    1. A very great article, Sir!

      One thing remains certain: there can be no peace without social and economic justice.

      That Nigeria is overtly religious cannot guarantee peace. The most religious set of people are hypocrites. They perpetuate evil and covert justice, even in our churches.

      Every educated soul should learn to look beyond religion, and focus on justice. Where justice is not guaranteed, peace can’t be guaranteed as well.

      I believe that God can do everything, but I sincerely believe that God has given man all he needs to survive in a cruel and crude environment like ours— rising against injustice or evil.
      Everyone who desires peace should first all desire justice, equity, freedom of speech, and dignity of humans and of labour.

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