A peace-building council, a fresh initiative of the American University of Nigeria to restore communal harmony in Adamawa State, was unfolded in Yola on Tuesday, January 10. Tagged Community Peace Council, the government-backed body comprises the leadership of various interest groups.
The path-breaking meeting was convened at the instance of the AUN board chair Ahmed Joda and the University’s President Margee Ensign following last week’s unprecedented marring of the Adamawa State capital’s longstanding reputation as a bastion of peace in Nigeria’s northeast.
In attendance were religious leaders, business men and government representatives from across the state, including representatives of the Lamido Adamawa, Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) as well as those of the Christian Association of Nigeria. Others are representatives of the Nigeria Police Force, State Security Service, Muslim-Christian Forum, the Muslim Council and the traders’ associations.
These groups jointly denounced the violent attacks in the Adamawa towns of Mubi and Jimeta, especially as the capital Yola has been reputed for peaceful coexistence from time immemorial. They also called for the culprits to be brought to book.
The Community Peace Council will meet again on Saturday, January 14, to discuss further on ways to broker peace among the people in the community. They will emerge at this gathering with youth in their communities to express love, and share in each other’s concern.
Alhaji Joda said the dialogue was set up by the AUN whose duty as a Development University is to help to solve the problems of the host community. “We conceived this idea less than 24 hours ago,” he said and added that the University consulted with the key sectors of the immediate society and found acceptance to form a meeting to discuss the circumstance in which this society has found itself.”
He said unlike AUN, most universities in Nigeria were isolated from the communities by reason of location, and observed that AUN was deeply concerned about the goings on in the state.
“Most universities in Nigeria have been isolated and set up in virgin lands away from the communities,” he said. “This university (AUN) was set up to be a part of the community; this is why we are deeply concerned when certain things disrupt the community.”
AUN President said she received the news of the Adamawa violence with shock while in the United States. “I care deeply about this community and so we’re here at this table to contribute in any way that we can to this important country.”
She identified poor communication gap as one of the huge challenges that must be overcome in order to achieve peace among the people. “When there is this huge gap, rumours rule the day.”
She urged the parties to confront key challenges with purpose even as the American University of Nigeria is willing to partner in making Yola a safe place. “One of the ways we can contribute is by being a broker,” she said. “We are here to ensure that Yola is a safe place where people can find peace, and have respect for one another.”
Some of the factors the parties present blamed for communal clashes were unemployment, poverty, inadequate security, depletion of cultural values, unchecked movement of persons via the border posts, political divisions and lack of information.
Mallam Gambo Jika of Jama'atu Nasril Islam was of the opinion that the perpetrators of the crime were neither Christians nor Muslims within the Adamawa region. “No religion in Nigeria accepts this. We have been living together and even inter-marry.”
Chief Paul Ogbonna urged Nigerians to unite, adding, “the more we come together to know ourselves, the better.”
Bishop Stephen Mamza of Yola Dioscese said the sheer size of Nigeria was no reason to complain about the difficulties and problems facing the nation. “Our country is large but we cannot say because it’s large, we cannot solve our problems.”
Concerned, the groups called on the police and other security agencies to urgently dig deep into the remote cause(s) of the violence that may have sent wrong signals about the people in the state.
Mr. R.M. Haladu of the NPF said the force was concerned within telligence gathered from the community but lamented the attitude of the people toward giving vital information to enable them to act decisively.
At the end of the meeting, the groups agreed on a joint statement condemning the killings in the state and elsewhere in the federation, pledging to work together to build a more peaceful community based on trust and understanding.
Toward the success of the emerging partnership for the sustenance, AUN will contribute literacy and enlightenment programs, scholarships as well as research programs on conflict resolution through development.