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ROADMAP TO PEACE IN THE NORTH

By NBF News
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It treats the return of peace in the north not in isolation but in relation to the other parts of the country, and segments of the Nigerian polity. No doubt, the north is now embroiled in crisis. Contrary to the usual application of the word 'crisis' to refer to an impending disaster, psychologists tell us that crisis signifies a turning point.

Crisis occurs in a normal course of life with its attendant tensions, e.g. in a growing child as he or she reaches adolescence then conflictual tensions begin to stir within. This does not necessarily indicate a bad omen but an opportunity and challenge for growth. He or she is only meant to come to terms with the new realities in life. So also is the Nigerian state, we need to come to terms with the changes that have enveloped us. This does not mean we surrender but we strive to conquer and initiate a peace process. I hereby map out six benchmarks for evolving a peace process in northern Nigeria.

First, the federal government should expose those that are complicit in the Boko Haram crisis. In the time past, some leaders have made careless statements in relation to the peaceful state of the nation. That will be a good place to begin and pick on them. This will then extend to the presidency for its complicity as the president himself told Nigerians that Boko Haram members have infiltrated his government. The time has arrived to call the demon by name so that the demoniac will be healed. It is high time we minded our language, knowing what to say and how to say it so as not to inflame violent passions.

Second, security agents should stop the big grammar that they are churning out on this matter. They are talking too much in the Nigerian style. While they are busy assuring people that security is under control, they themselves are killed daily together with the masses. Security agents could become whistle blowers for the masses to at least take cover whenever they have security inklings regarding possible attacks. This is an unusual crisis that requires unusual handling. Our hope is not in governmental probes/investigations either. We are used to them and their absurd endings.

Third, religious bodies, traditional rulers, NGOs and well meaning individuals like Barrister Shehu Haruna, the lawyer activist in Kaduna could mobilize for nonviolent ways of ending the crisis. They must come together to fashion a sensible strategy for social change in the north. They are the ones who are closer to the people penetrating the villages on daily basis . These grassroot leaders are in the villages, where everyone knows everyone and these are the same places that Boko Haram members reside and train. To these grassroot leaders lie the task of engaging the local communities where the members are recruited to discourage the spread of the movement.

Lastly, we must then map out clean clear cut international relationships with treaty countries with respect to religious affiliations. For instance, everyone knows the political and religious nature of the Vatican State and Saudi Arabia. While individual members of the faiths that have their headquarters in these states have personal affiliations with them on the level of piety, that relationship excludes the non members of their faith. Nigeria's relationship with these states should be clearly on the political level and not religious level. If this were straightened earlier, the issue of OIC wouldn't have arisen (in spite of the military suspension of the constitution). It should be clear by all that any attempt at islamization of Nigeria will fail. Turkey is ninety seven percent Muslim but remains secular after attempts to introduce a sharia run state could not get through in the 1990s. Indonesia as the largest Muslim concentration country in the world with over two hundred million Muslims still recognizes other religions and grants freedom of worship to other faiths.

The Boko Haram idea of purifying Islam can be noble if it is a spiritual jihad that excludes members of other faith, but if Boko Haram necessarily sees other people joining them in mosques then, it is a mission impossible. For instance, just as a Boko boy sees Islam as a path to meet Allah, I see Christianity as the only way to my salvation, with Jesus as the way, the truth, and life, and do not see myself going to worship in any mosque against my wish in my life time. The principle of mutuality seeks reciprocity and goes beyond to incorporate the principle of reversibility, which has the logic of equal regard. According to Don S. Browning, it is 'the logic of being able to reverse our claims; any claim we make on others they should be able to make on us.' If you want to make me a Muslim at all cost be ready to accept that I too can make you a Christian at all cost. The best thing is leave and let's live. Violence begets violence.

Asue writes from Miami, Florida in USA.