By Prudence Arobani
New York – The Nigeria Senior Working Group, a group of Nigerian senior civic leaders, have converged on the United States Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C., to rekindle hope for peace and stability in Nigeria.
The group of eminent Nigerians was in the U.S. for a symposium on Nigeria tagged ‘Peace in Nigeria: How to build it, and America’s role’, organised by the U.S. Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C.
The group has as members the Archbishop of Catholic Archdiocese Abuja Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Sultan of Sokoto Sa’ad Abubakar, Gen. Martin Agwai (rtd) and Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.
Others are Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili, Prof. Attahiru Jega, Amb. Fatima Abubakar, Dr Nguyan Feese, Dr Chris Kwaja, Dr Usman Bugaje, Dr Jibrin Ibrahim and Aisha Murtala Muhammed-Oyebode.
The group was brought together by the United States Institute of Peace in 2016 to represent public issues about Nigeria.
They also lend their expertise in support of the efforts of the State Governors and national policymakers to address the social, religious and political forces that fuel extremist violence and instability in Nigeria.
Amb. Hassan Hassan, Ambassador/Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Nigeria in Washington, at the symposium, emphasised that Nigeria needed peace now more than any other time in its history.
The Nigerian envoy also said that “once there is peace in Nigeria, “it will vibrate across Africa because peace in Nigeria means peace in Africa”.
Hassan identified the prominent cause of instability and breakdown of peace in Nigeria as religious animosity and rivalry among the adherents of the Christian and Muslim faiths.
The Nigerian envoy tasked the group to carefully, effectively and incisively consider the issues at stake in Nigeria, extend it to Africa and the world at large.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Agwai stressed that one of the group’s task was to help the Nigerian government to resolve insecurity, especially the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast.
He said that their mandate was to liaise with the U.S. Government through its Think Thank and policy makers to proffer solutions.
According to him, the group is also mandated to suggest steps Nigeria should take to build and sustain peace as Africa’s most important country.
Agwai said the Nigerian government was determined to achieve sustainable peace and development in the country.
He stressed that there could not be peace without development and there could be no development without peace.
The outcome of the discussion was to reduce instability and re-weave the social fabrics of the country.
Amb. Johnnie Carson, the Senior Adviser of United States Institute of Peace, remarked that Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari had made military gains against the Boko Haram extremist group.
Carson emphasised that conflict resolution, peace and security would not be achievable purely through military solutions alone.
To achieve sustainable peace in Nigeria, he advised that all levels of government, non-governmental organisations, and other stakeholders must get involved.
He said every Nigerian should join to fight to defeat the Boko Haram insurgency, corruption and other security challenges through dialogue, community policing and promotion of good citizenry.
Thomas Shannon, the U.S. Under-Secretary for Political Affairs, praised the various initiatives by the government towards establishing and preserving peace.
Shannon said peace was required to foster a prosperous Nigeria and Africa, stressing the U.S. Government will continue to encourage the Nigerian government to take up a call as peace-loving government.
The U.S. envoy noted that President Buhari had demonstrated that his administration was positioned to strengthen Nigeria’s dignity in the world.