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Herdsmen/Farmers Disputes Can Be Resolved – Anas

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Yusuf Anas, a retired Air Commodore and former director of Public Relations and Information (DOPRI), Nigerian Air Force, is the Executive Secretary, Centre for Crisis Communication (CCC). He granted an interview where he talked on sundry matters bordering on security challenges in the country in particular and the world in general and the forthcoming 2019 general elections.

The topical issue trending presently in the country is call for states in the country to have their own police force. The Vice President spoke positively on the matter while state governors rose from their meeting and endorsed the idea. As a security expert, what are the pros and cons of states having their police?

We are in a democracy and the will of the people stands supreme in whatever is done and if the elected people who superintend, headed by the Vice President, feel strongly that there is need to improve on the security of the country by the establishment of state police, I think it is a good idea. Some other countries in the world, like the United States (US), have both federal and state police working hand in hand. Whatever it will take to protect the lives of Nigerians, is a welcome development. This is not the first time it has been canvassed, during the constitutional review, the issue was intensely debated. I hope the national assembly will look at it holistically and do the needful, by looking for how the constitution can be amended to accommodate state police.

 

What, in your opinion, is responsible for Herdsmen and Farmers’ clashes in the country?

This issue has been burning across the nation. We tend to forget the historical antecedent. Before independence, there were local clashes which were settled by local chiefs. As to the present problem, we have to take it into account that our population has grown over the last 30-40 years, which means it will require additional space for farming since agriculture remains the highest employer of labour. The available space for herdsmen has been greatly reduced and this is bound to increase tension between the farmers and herdsmen. However, the inclusion of arms into the conflict is new and very worrisome. Herdsmen did not carry arms in the past. We must employ a holistic approach and understand the present situation about the grazing land to be able to come up with realistic approach that will bring to an end the crisis.

 

What efforts are your organisation putting in to mitigate the crisis?

Our organisation is a Non-Governmental Organisation, (NGO). So, we don’t have enforcement mechanism to leverage upon to take direct part in conflict resolution. What we do is try to provide strategic communication and conflict advice to security agencies and other stakeholders in the country. We also do provide training and capacity building for security apparatus to inform Nigerians of their activities. There is a gap that needs to be filled but is not yet filled by government and organisations.

 

In the cause of your duties, do you also look at the cases of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)?

We interface with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) periodically, to conduct research and studies on current level of assistance provided by NEMA and donor agencies to ascertain whether they are on top of their game and where they are deficient. We research and advise on how they can improve on service delivery. We have also been partnering with the National Stabilisation and Reconciliation Programme to see how we can provide media review on the organisations to understand public perception on how they are faring and advise them on need for improvement. We are also working with the presidential committee on the North East initiative on how to provide conflict sensitive training to the security in the North East, along with the media to be able to understand the various roles they are playing, so that conflicts can be mitigated without necessarily inflaming ember of hatred.

How does your organisation intend to sensitise the citizenry against pre/post-election violence in the run up to the 2019 general elections?

I think democracy is a paradigm that all nations tend to key into, and election is the key ingredient that ensures that qualified leaders are elected to represent the people. Every Nigerian, especially those within the voting age, has a responsibility to go out there and register with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and get a voter’s card. We must all endeavour to vote and get the leaders we want. 2019 Elections are around the corner, obviously the polity is getting heated up. Though, INEC has not officially given the go ahead for campaigns to commence, I think what is happening is that people are just testing the waters to see how they can align with different philosophies and ideologies. For us at the Crisis communication, we are following our monitoring closely, the political trend, but what is of major concern to us is that we would want all the political leaders in different parts of the country to be mindful of the kind of statements they make. Recently, we have seen the rising trend of hate speeches coming from different political divides and individuals who tend to use either religion or tribal sentiments to further their political aims. I think what should be paramount in the minds of our leaders is the fact that Nigeria must remain united, strong and a virile nation. So, we must avoid playing to the gallery by making statements that will divide us rather than unite us. As an NGO, we always try to ensure that we come up with sensitisation things that will make sure that hate speeches and divisive tendencies are avoided as much as possible.

 

How do you go about this sensitisation process?

There are several ways we go about this sensitisation process. Aside using the media, we also go to the communities, schools, motor parks etc and sensitise them on how to detect and counter some of these elements that carry bombs about the places and talk to them on the need not to get themselves connected with the people fanning the embers of divisiveness and hatred in the society.

 

Going global, do you think sir that world peace is achievable?

That is a million dollar question. What I do know from the perspective of international relations, global peace is not something one can pin down to a particular level and say, yes, we can achieve this. Looking at the global level, we know that the United Nations (UN), the European Union, Africa Union and other regional bodies, are doing their best, but in politics as they say, there are no permanent friends, no permanent enemies. We are all praying for global peace because we know that when there is no peace, trade and other social activities across the globe will not thrive. However, we all know that it is not possible to have conflict-free world because some people produce arms and ammunition, not for the security of their countries, but for sale to countries to defend themselves and we also discover that conflicts occur. It’s a natural phenomenon, we know that conflicts and crises are things that are bound to happen, but we can mitigate conflicts and crisis at different levels which is the most important factor.

 

People tend to blame the social media as an avenue through which hate speeches are propagated, would you support a clampdown or moderation of the medium by government?

What I believe is that there is a need to moderate the way we use the social media to inform, educate and even entertain Nigerians. It is important that we follow best practices in the way we use the social media and try to use it positively to inform our fellow countrymen and women. We mustn’t use it to tarnish or impugn our neighbours, communities or incite. I think the social media should be used in a more positive sense. Agreed, we are now in the digital age, therefore, you can hardly regulate use of the social media because anybody with a hand phone and can afford data, has become a kind of citizen journalist. It is going to be difficult but I believe that there is the need to come up with the appropriate legislation that will sanction people that intend to impugn the organisations or individuals, communities without facts and justifications for doing that. There is no country in the world that will allow people to put almost everything and anything without a thought that some of the things they put up can be injurious to others.

o you think that the media is to blame for conflicts?

The media plays a pivotal role in any country. So, to squarely put the blame on the media, as the precursor of conflicts or crisis in the society, will be a disservice. The media is there to educate and inform on what is going on. However, sometimes we are aware that the media, whether government owned or privately owned, take sides on some issues during conflicts or crisis, by and large, the media is playing a watchdog role on the society. I think what needs to be done is to enhance the capacity of the various media, management and staff to enable them to remain professional and above all, to put forward and remain conscious of what the imperatives are and enhance those good values that we are known for as Nigerians. The media has that important role. Always, we should put Nigeria first at the back of our minds whenever we are pushing out any story irrespective of what is taking place.

Quote:

I think what should be paramount in the minds of our leaders is the fact that Nigeria must remain united, strong and a virile nation. So, we must avoid playing to the gallery by making statements that will divide us rather than unite us



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