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CONFLICTS IN NORTHERN NIGERIA: 13 years of civil rule in perspective

By The Citizen
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The Nigerian state is aggressively in search for peace, particularly in the North as peace has eroded most parts of the region. People and government appear inestimably confused on how to reassert sanity/ order in that milieu. Hence, protractions of violence especially in the last 13 years of civil rule.

Akinlade M.T. in this discourse delves into a brief but vivid historical account of conflicts in the region, taking its composition into consideration, while also establishing the nature of the impasse, as reasons for its persistence, despite some purported steps aimed at engendering peace were equally examined.

INTRODUCTION:The eve and eventual birth of the twenty-first century saw peace take its flight in most parts of Africa, with the protraction and escalation of conflicts increasingly entrenched, thereby making peace the greatest value of the continent.

The continent has so far been enmeshed in complex social, political and economic debacles, whose effects are of unprecedented intensity, which resulted in a 'series of devastating intra-state conflicts ever experienced in a single continent anywhere in the world in the last decade and a half'.

This perhaps prompted the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs to declare eight of the fifteen 'complex emergencies' in Africa, as conflicts ravaged Liberia, Sierra-Leone, Angola, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan and Uganda.

Collapsed state
Somalia was until recently described as a collapsed state as Western Sahara continues to struggle with Morocco, just as Eritrea and Ethiopia have not fully stopped fighting. D.R. Congo, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Central Africa Republic and the youngest state in Africa, South Sudan, are experiencing varying degrees of conflicts.

Darfur region of Sudan is still attracting peace keeping mission. Nigeria, the self acclaimed giant of Africa is not insulated from the abyss as the intensity of conflict  in the country has roared, since the return to civil rule in 1999, with armed struggle increasingly becoming the norm.

Rather than bring forth the long awaited public good of peace and development, the return to civil rule brought along conflicts and violation of right of unimaginable proportion.

Nigeria's nascent democracy has made headline news on the gruesome murder of five Students' Union leaders in Obafemi Awolowo University, Hausa/Yoruba killings in Lagos, Ife/Modakeke hostilities,  Hadeijia, Jigawa crisis, Tsagari/Share conflict in Kwara, Ijaw/Urhobo/Itsekiri uprising, Umuleri/Aguleri violence, Odua People's Congress near warfare, Transport Union uprising in Ibadan and Lagos.

Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra imbroglio and Ezillo/ Ezza bloodbath, Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta and other Niger Delta militant group attacks in the South-South, Odi massacre in Bayelsa, Zaki Biam in onslaught in Benue; crises over planned introduction of Sharia in Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi and reprisal attacks in Aba, Onitsha, and Oweri. Tiv/Azara as well as Agyragu conflict in Nassarawa, Tiv/ Jukun and Fulana confrontation in Taraba.

Fulani/Tiv/Berom clash in Nassarawa, indigene settler recurrent brouhaha in Plateau, relocation of Ikere College of Education as well the location of the Federal University crisis in Ekiti State, Gwari/ Fulani confrontation in January 2013. Boko Haram terror in the North among others. In fact, Ezeibe identified thirteen violent conflicts between July 1999 and September 2004 in Northern Nigeria.

The various conflicts were with scores of casualties as lives and property were destroyed on a large scale, particularly in the North, where the menace has largely crippled productive activities.

The scene has propelled the declaration of state of emergency in different states in the region. The first was declared by President Olusegun Obasanjo in Plateau State in May 2004.

President Jonathan in December 2011 declared it in 15 local government councils across Borno, Niger, Plateau and Yobe States. A year has hardly gone by since 1999, without a major outbreak of crisis in Northern Nigeria. Boko Haram now appear to be the king in the region as they hold sway despite intimidating presence of joint military task force.

This has instigated the thinking that the region is fast becoming Nigeria's Somalia! Although, conflicts are not new in Northern Nigeria, as the region has since the eighties witnessed an upsurge of such conflicts, what is new is the resort to terrorism and the determination of the conflicting parties to annihilate one another.

Concept Clarifications: The concepts to be clarified for the purpose of better understanding of this work are conflict and civil rule. They are clarified below
Conflict: Scholarly definitions of conflict abound, with some seeing it in the same way, while others see it differently.

The diverse perspectives of scholars made Akpuru-Aja, Nwaodu and Udochu to observe that, 'scholar's perception and theoretical interpretation of the phenomenon itself manifests conflict situation'.

Of course, serious dispute is an inevitable phenomenon in human community, since people pursue different interests. It is the different interests that spur-up conflict, especially when such interests are not compatible and pursued with less maturity.

Perhaps that was what made Schmidt, cited by Abiodun and Igbalajobi, to contend that conflict is a struggle over values or claims to status, power and scarce resources. And that the groups involved may not only try to obtain the desired values but may try to neutralise, injure, or eliminate rivals.

Akinlade, M. T. is of the Department of Political Science, College of Education, Ikere-Ekiti, Ekiti State.