AN ARRAY OF PEACE INITIATIVES
As globalization increases the movement of people, culture and ideas, managing diversity, ethnicity, religions, and security, social, political and gender mainstreaming will be the foremost challenge of any developing nation. It requires a positive vision of how plural societies thrive for harmonious co-existence.
Now, the nation basks in the euphoria of the centenary celebration. It is a time of stock taking, a time to reflect on how far the nation has come, a time to re-assess those reasons that held us together as a nation and those that divide us as a people. The global spate of terrorism across the world entered into our clime with kidnapping, rape, militancy, and most rudely, Boko Haram insurgency.
Like the President Jonathan said, 'it is not about the next election, but about the next generation,' which happens to be the youths.
As for the mother of the nation, negative or positive issues of the nation rest more on her shoulders, and she feels the pinch more, even beyond our shores, as the President of African First Ladies Peace Mission. Knowing full well, that during wars, the attendant ravages of the fabric of the society, is brought to bear more on the women, Dame Jonathan deems it necessary and wise at this time of our national life and history to re-orientate, re-enact our cultural values and history, including the love for one another which will be bequeathed on the next generation of Nigerians.
The First Lady, in conjunction with the Office of the SSA on Youths to Mr. President, came together in their drive to proactively engage the youths in a convivial and informal environment, irrespective of religions, party affiliations, and tribes on the need to embrace peace. She is merely emphasizing that it is only through peace that the nation will reap the dividends of democracy and grow to become one of the foremost nations in Africa. This is pointing out our collective responsibility to engage, enlighten and inform the next generation of Nigerians what really went wrong and where we have failed, so as to re-orientate, re-evaluate their mind-sets, change their perceptions and build a new moral 'CAN DO' mentality amongst our youths.
As a focal organ, AFLPM, has been in the business of advocating peace in the African continent, it behooves the First Lady to take a critical look and heed the saying, 'charity begins at home,' to see how the gospel of peace can be spread in the country, so as to bring us closer more than ever before.
That was why the concept of the National Youth Peace Concert, was a well thought out idea that not only preached and advocated peace, but also informed, educated and sensitized the youths on the dangers of vices, war and the negativity of being used as political thugs and puppets in the hands of mischief makers, fifth columnists and political gladiators.
The Peace Summit with the theme; 'Peace, Unity and Love for National Development,' had in attendance an array of personalities and eminent Nigerians, who gave their lives to Nigeria in various fields and shared their life experiences with the youths on the importance of peace and harmony.
General Gowon, topped the list with Pastor Enoch Adeboye, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, Sheik Abdulrahman Ahmad, (National Missioner of Ansarudeen), Chief Imam of Abuja Mosque, (Ustaz Musa Mohammed) and Imam Musa Olaofe (Imam Ansarudeen Central Mosque Abuja).
It was indeed a momentous event, when the General Gowon narrated and highlighted why he did everything possible to keep Nigeria one, in spite of the challenges and the desire by a few to split the country, which was also corroborated by the Christians and Muslims leaders.
They all agreed that the coming together of Nigeria was ordained by the Almighty God and that the youths should be drivers and builders of modern day Nigeria, devoid of acrimony, strife and senseless bloodbath.
They all preached peace, amicable co-existence and charged the Nigerian youths to collectively work for the overall development of Nigeria, saying their future was in their hands.
The peaceful advocacy and razzmatazz was spiced up by notable musicians who were also present at the occasion as part of the youths, conscious of the fact that the youths can easily grasp the values taught through musical rhythms, accentuate with moral messages.
Notably, among them were, Tuface Idibia, P-Square, D-banj, KCEE, Sani Danja, Aisha Niger, Mamuze Twins, Terry GEE, Mother of Songs, Onyeka Onwenu and other top Nigerian artistes, who came from far and wide to offer their services free of charge in heralding a new era indeed for the Nigerian youths.
As part of the mobilization, for the over 35,000 youths that graced the Eagle Square venue, from all nooks and crannies of Nigeria, youth Leaders from across the world spoke on the various mass media platforms to drive home the message and inform Nigerians of the benefits, importance and prospects derivable from such an event.
That the event was going to kick start a national re-awakening and orientation from the national level to the grassroots where youth ambassadors will be inaugurated across board to drive home the message to the grassroots. The inuaguration was also an icing on the cake that night and a sight to behold, as several youth leaders were inducted as ambassadors, to take the message to the various geo-political zones of the country.
Saturday, March 8, 2014, will remain a reference point in our national annals and a memorable day for Nigerian youths, whose event for the day started at the Executive Room of the African First Ladies Peace Mission's Office, where the First Lady of Nigeria, Dame Dr. Patience Jonathan, President of the Mission, was in an Executive Bureau Meeting, with the First Ladies of South Africa, Mrs. Nompumelelo Zuma, Mrs. Widad Omer Bibaker of Sudan, as well as representatives of the First Ladies of Cameroun and Congo Brazzaville.
To discuss, and rub minds on issues bordering on the permanent building structure of the mission, Peace in Africa, the hosting of the 8th meeting of the First Ladies, including the adoption of various matters pending before the executives.
The bureau meeting came to an end hours later, where the African First Ladies drove straight to the Eagles Square, to the warm embrace of the youths and leaders of thought that graced the august occasion.
The First Lady in her speech, reeled out our rich history which captured time and time again, the value and contributions of our industrious, committed youths to the development of our dear country, saying that for the first time in Nigeria, we are strategically engaging and working with the youths, 'because we believe they are the leaders of tomorrow.'
To drive the nation forward, she said that we must work hand-in-hand with the youths, so as to send the message and gospel of peace to other Nigerians and the grassroots.
Echoing that the success of the event bears an eloquent testimony to the importance the youths placed on this auspicious occasion, she praised their great commitment to the course of the Nigerian nation. Emphasizing it is our collective belief that real and durable democracy can only be achieved through the installation of basic democratic structures and the recognition of roles, which everyone has to play in promoting democracy and peace, she charged the Peace Ambassadors to be role models and to see themselves as change agents that will unite the country by loving one another and having respect for one other.
She also highlighted the value orientation, the 'Can-Do mentality' and the attitude that will rekindle the desired hope, yearnings, and aspiration of our founding fathers in irrespective of our differences in ideology.
According to the convener, Dame Patience Jonathan, the reasons for the concert is to convince the youths that the greatest resources are in the youth population and that through their active and full participation in governance, the country can surmount the challenges that lie ahead.
However, encouraging the youths and various stakeholders to embrace progress and recognize the various efforts made by government to address the economic, social, security, educational, cultural and spiritual needs of everybody, she said hat 'this interaction today, will empower the youths, carry all major stakeholders and actors along government policies, thereby bringing government closer to the people by providing access to information, so that they can take their rightful places as active agents in decision making and peace building mechanisms.
As the day progressed, various youth leaders took to the podium to solicit the support and confidence of their constituencies and made various pledges to work and assist government in whatever capacity they are called. The representative of the World Assembly of Youths, from Malaysia, ,gave an insight of the Malaysian experience and rallied the Nigerian youths to support government efforts at developing the country by partnering with government agencies on different aspects, so that lasting peace can be achieved, to place Nigeria in its rightful position in comity of nations.
She said that the youths need to imbibe positive proactive life styles and the 'Can-Do' spirit, so as to surmount any negativity in their midst.
Mama Peace thus ended the event on a philosophical note when she drummed these words to the hearing of everyone in the square;
'I love Peace, I seek Peace, I am for Peace, and I am an instrument of Peace.
'We can then begin to 'imagine Peace, think Peace, and talk Peace, and eventually make Peace.'
Written By Omoba Kenneth Aigbegbele, Media Adviser to Nigeria's First Lady.