An international non-governmental organization, UFUK Dialogue, has resolved to assist the Federal Government of Nigeria to find enduring solutions to violent extremism in the country, writes GBUBEMI GOD’S COVENANT SNR.
At the Fourth International Conference on Love and Tolerance which focused on “Countering Extremism through Peace Education and Love” held in Lagos recently, Mr. Mehmet Ozleyen, Representative of UFUK Dialogue in Lagos, revealed that “The individual who is conscious of divine creation is first of all a hero of affection. Such a person is deeply concerned about every existence; embraces everybody and everything compassionately. With love, he or she sees the existence of other religious beliefs and philosophical views as a reality and constantly seeks the ways of living together peacefully with other people with the idea of ‘accepting others in their own place and respecting everybody.”
Ozleyen maintained such fellow would never despise or hurt anyone because of their ethnic origins, religious beliefs, denominations or just because of thinking differently. He continued:
“In our contemporary world, however, we unfortunately, witness persecution, despotism, oppression, conspiracy, murder and pressure on the individual’s consciences.
“Although, there have been some recent provocation-based conflicts that appear to be religious oriented, I hold the belief that Nigeria is strongly proceeding towards peaceful and happy future, thanks to those who view the future with hope.”
Dr. Sophia Panya, a scholar from California State University at long Beach, USA, and lead discussant at the confab, espoused that Love is the strongest bond God has created to bind humans.
“We should celebrate our similarities and coordinate our differences; extremism instigates feelings of “I don’t want to tolerate; I want to tolerate,” she said and remarked further that “Muslims don’t take the part of accepting other religions, they create fear, call them Kaafir.”
She acknowledged that “Jesus was extremist for the gospel, extremist for justice, love, and not for discrimination in the society.”
Panya advocated that Muslims are supposed to be extremists on issues of social justice, human rights, equity, liberty – and not violence. She bemoaned that “While Boko Haram may have grievances, its methodology has caused grievous pains to humanity.”
Panya identified isolationism as another social element instigating extremism, “The belief that God is only with my group and not with your group.” She stated that this is the way religious groups identify themselves; which gives rise to religious “inclusivsm” and “exclusivism”, noting that this is the root of isolationism.
“The more isolated a group is, the more its disconnect from others and this is fueled by attendant violence, class warfare and corruption which have been rampant in Nigeria.”
The scholar also identified joblessness, small arms proliferation, political thuggery, etc, as sources of violence and extremism in Nigeria.
“Therefore,” she advocated, “Government must create youth development programs, create jobs and humanise Nigerian youths, including the teaching of different religions at secondary school level; teaching of strong values of unity and harmony of interests. “War creates angry people,” she declared.
On the same platform, retired Director, Department of Security Service (DSS), Dr. Abayomi D. Zamba, in his speech, observed that Nigeria was a child of amalgamation of numerous nation-states in 1914 by colonial fiat with complete lack of dialogue amongst the amalgamating units and absolute disregard for differences and divergences in culture, code, ethics, creed, need or demands of the moments.
“This absolutism is a firm foundation for misunderstanding, lack of trust, and incurable suspicions amongst and within the different units or nation-state,” he declared.
Zamba said that Counter Violent Extremism (CVE) evolved as policy and practice in response to the conflagrations as a preventive and mitigating force focused on countering the pull of terrorist recruitment and influence by building resilience among populations vulnerable to radicalisation.
He stated that violent extremism is a driver of conflict, and violent extremists are often spoilers in peace-building efforts.
Zamba said that violent extremism constitutes beliefs and actions of people who support or use violence to achieve ideological, religious or political goals. This, he said, includes terrorism and other politically motivated communal violence.
He revealed also that current approaches to weaken terrorism include: counter-terrorism (CT, e.g. using military or policing resources to deter or disrupt terrorists); countering violent extremism (CVE –preventative approaches using mostly non-coercive means); and risk reduction (seeking to ensure that violent extremists do not cause harm, e.g. through efforts to change behavior).
Zamba stated that CVE involves engagement, prevention, intervention, interdiction and rehabilitation/réintégration.
“Violent extremism has become an area of concern to government and policy makers, especially, in Nigeria, because of our struggle with Boko Haram which currently is at the rebuilding stage,” he said.
Zamba further explained that De-Radicalisation Programme is the main approach of counter terrorism because it deals with the root cause(s) and reforming the learned radical behaviors and ideologies of inmates in Nigeria’s prison facilities.
He stated that the soft power approach will cut-off the recruitment supply chain which will ultimately diminish the strength of the Boko Haram group. He revealed that the Nigeria’s De-Radicalisation Programme Guide is adopted to change behavior, attitudes and beliefs of radicalised individuals.
Zamba emphasised that counter-terrorism issues go beyond security operatives’ interrogation of the captured members of Boko Haram but involves behavioral evaluations; character and psychographic mappings; clear analysis of the driver’s resistors of change.
He articulated that the various strategies for countering violent extremism are built on love, desire for peaceful co-existence, understanding and a good degree of tolerance.
Zamba said that counter-terrorism strategies include empowering Victims of Violent Extremism.
He also identified peace building within existing local mechanisms, networks, and practices to ensure the sustainability, relevance, and impact of any conflict prevention program.
Other Strategies, he said, include: Religious education among youths to create religious literacy against the narratives of violent extremists; build early warning response systems among young people as a mechanism to identify and report signs of violent extremism and identify locally influential religious and traditional leaders to establish credible and effective messaging and narratives, and developing peace language and messages.