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Peace and Security

UPF-Nigeria Offers Input on the Committee for National Dialogue

Abuja, Nigeria - In October 2013 when Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated the Committee for National Dialogue, there were calls for memos on how the conference should be organized. UPF-Nigeria initiated a program that brought some Ambassadors for Peace to the Peace Embassy for deliberations on the National Dialogue. On Oct. 22, an Ambassadors for Peace Seminar on National Dialogue was convened with the theme "Exposition of an Innovative Framework for Sustainable National Dialogue" - the UPF Perspective. The outcome of the seminar was the submission of a position paper to the committee on Nov. 12.

Several recommendations were considered in the final planning of the conference. Ambassadors for Peace suggested that the conference should last for three months, and this suggestion was adopted. Also, the submission focused on the need to make the conference a dialogue for unification and not a gathering to discuss how to divide Nigeria. The Nigerian President has insisted that the conference must NOT discuss the division of the country but rather focus on how to strengthen our unity in diversity.

Ambassadors for Peace proposed that the conference be held nationwide at all tiers of government - local, state, zonal and federal - within the 12 weeks. The committee did not adopt that recommendation but rather decided to bring the conference to one central point, Abuja. Ambassadors for Peace feel that several issues will not be discussed because of the limited way it has been organized.

Following is UPF’s submission to the National Dialogue Committee on Nov. 12, 2013. Twenty Ambassadors for Peace are among those selected for membership in the National Dialogue Committee.

Submission by UPF Ambassadors for Peace to the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue
November 12, 2013

Recalling that His Excellency, President Goodluck Jonathan in his October 1, 2013 address to the nation announced the setting up of a committee to develop a framework for a national dialogue to address the several challenges facing the nation, and the follow up inauguration of the committee as well as call for submission of memorandum by the Committee, the Universal Peace Federation, an international NGO with a Special Consultative Status at the United Nations ECOSOC, convened a special meeting of the Ambassadors for Peace in Abuja and Lagos to deliberate on the terms of reference provided by The Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue.

Commendation: The Ambassadors for Peace commends His Excellency President Goodluck Jonathan for the response to the agitations of the Nigerian people for an opportunity for an all-inclusive dialogue of citizens across the nation and noted with keen interest the fact that the President has moved the focus of the nation through the proposed dialogue from fighting one another to bringing all of us together to dialogue with the hope that we can identify our differences and commonalities in order to forge genuine national reconciliation.

Considerations: The Ambassadors for Peace expect that at the end of the proposed national dialogue, the diverse views of Nigerians should be considered, understood by each other and a renewed determination to build a more united Nigeria should be achieved. The Ambassadors for Peace propose for the consideration of the Committee that the dialogue should be tagged “National Dialogue for Unification,” implying that all deliberations and activities throughout the national dialogue should be devoted to identifying those issues that will help the nation become a more unified country.

Furthermore: The Ambassadors for Peace noted and wish to draw the Committee’s attention to the fact that national dialogue is necessary as a tool for resolution of national differences and conflicts and that global best practices recognize fighting, dialogue and reconciliation as tools for conflict resolution, and that the obvious implication of the proposed national dialogue is the demonstration of the government to move to the higher-level consciousness beyond fighting by various groups to resolve our differences and build a united country for all.

Therefore, the framework for the proposed national dialogue should addresses the core areas of national conflicts in Nigeria, which the Ambassadors for Peace identified to include the following:

  • Religious and cultural conflicts
  • Regional/ethnic/tribal/state conflicts
  • Resource development and utilization conflicts

The UPF Ambassadors for Peace in Nigeria therefore recommend that the proposed national dialogue should be a nationwide dialogue which should focus on three key areas of national conflicts and should include:

  • Nationwide Interreligious dialogue that should bring together relevant stakeholders from the faith groups and religious traditions to deliberate on our interreligious/interfaith challenges to fashion ways of living together despite our religious affiliations with the expected result of national unification;
  • Nationwide Inter-regional/ethnic dialogue that should bring together leaders of states, ethnic groups and associations to deliberate on inter-ethnic relations for national unification
  • Nationwide Inter-resources dialogue that should bring together stakeholders in the development and utilization of natural resources throughout the country to deliberate on effective nationwide resources development and utilization.

Terms of Reference/Recommendations: On the specific terms of reference provided by the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue for memoranda from interested members of the public, the Ambassadors for Peace recommend that the national dialogue should be organized as a nationwide dialogue where all sectors and levels of the society can have their voices heard and should be as follows:

The structure of the Dialogue: In considering a structure for the dialogue, we propose that the existing nationwide structures for dialogue and reconciliation should be utilized. These include:

  • Local-Level Structure: The LGAs should be used to organize local-level dialogue sessions where issues that are limited to the local government levels can be resolved. For instance, there exist differences and agitations from different groups within each local government on specific issues that may not be applicable to the other areas. In such situation, the issues should be deliberated and resolved at the local government dialogue level
  • State-Level Structure: Taking into consideration that the federating units of the country as the 36 states and the FCT, there should be state-level dialogue to resolve issues that are specific to the states at the state levels, and which can also look into issues discussed at the local levels
  • Zonal-Level Structure: Presently, Nigeria has 6 geopolitical zones. and each of the zones has zonal level challenges that need zonal-level dialogue to resolve. We propose that the nationwide dialogue should involve zonal-level dialogue sessions in all zones of the country to discuss zonal issues
  • Federal-Level Structure: The highest level of the dialogue should be organized at the federal-level structure, where mostly national issues shall be discussed. The national-level dialogue should be the summary of the other levels of dialogue sessions and should be focused on national level-issues only.

Legal framework for the dialogue: In view of the proposed structure of the dialogue, corresponding legal support should be provided to complement the existing structural framework of the country. Local-level dialogue should be legally provided for by the local legislative councils as well as at the state assemblies for state-level framework. The National Assembly should provide the legal framework for recognition of the efforts at the zonal and federal levels. The national dialogue should be recognized as national response by National Assembly and recommendations should be adopted by the National Assembly as well as debated on areas of conflicts. Decisions at the other levels should accordingly be adopted by the corresponding assemblies.

Duration of the proposed dialogue: The Ambassadors for Peace recommend that simultaneous dialogue sessions should be held across the nation within three months (12 weeks) on weekends as in election days. The duration should hold as follows:

  • Week 1 – 3: Local-level dialogue session in all local government areas every Saturday
  • Week 4 – 6: State-level dialogue session in all states every Saturday
  • Week 7 – 9: Zonal-level dialogue sessions in all zones on Saturdays
  • Week 10 – 12: National-level dialogue sessions at the federal level on Saturdays

Issues to be discussed: The Ambassadors for Peace propose that the core issues to be discussed should center on formulating a new national vision for Nigeria as we complete the 100 years of amalgamation and in recognition of the increasing global interdependence of nations. The new national vision should take into consideration the following:

  • New National Culture (code of conduct, curriculum of education, constitution of the nation)
  • New National Structure (National citizenship, Federating units/structure, governance, etc.)
  • New National Resources/Infrastructure (national resources development and utilization issues)

Legal procedures and options for integrating the outcomes into the constitution and laws: Outcomes of the dialogue should be integrated into the constitution at various levels, from local by-laws to state assembly laws and national assembly laws. Dialogue should involve both parliamentarians and others to ensure that decisions taken at the dialogue sessions have their inputs and not to be subjected to rigorous post-dialogue deliberations again. Involving elected representatives in parliament is very necessary.

Any other related issues: The Ambassadors for Peace recommend that year 2014 be proclaimed at all dialogue sessions as a Year for National Unification of Nigeria. Each dialogue session should endorse the need for a Ministry for Interreligious Affairs, Ministry for Family Affairs and also consider the replacement of State of Origin with Place of Residence and that all Nigerians should be regarded as citizens of the country and not indigenes of tribes. In seeking to formulate a new national philosophy for the nation, the Ambassadors for Peace recommend the consideration of the core universal ethic of Living for the Sake of Others to be the nation’s guiding philosophy. We are also attaching the UPF’s 5 universal principles for peace and dialogue, which we consider as relevant for consideration and endorsement by the Committee as the guiding principle at all sessions of the nationwide dialogue.

  • We are one human family created by God. The way to rise above the pursuit of self-interest is to recognize our common humanity, given to us by our Creator. Just as a parent can intercede in the disputes of children, the parental heart originating from the Creator can help us resolve the differences that exist between and within our nation, cultures and religions.
  • The highest qualities of the human being are spiritual and moral in nature. Human beings long for truth, beauty and goodness. Life’s deepest meaning and purpose can be found through their pursuit. Each person has an eternal spirit that transcends physical life. Spiritual principles are to be practiced in this life so that we are prepared for the eternal world.
  • The family is the “school of love and peace.” In the family, the most basic personal and public virtues are learned. Understanding the family as the school of love helps us to recognize that family is the most essential institution. The foundation for a healthy family is a faithful, committed marriage.
  • Living for the sake of others is the way to reconcile the divided human family. By practicing living for the sake of others, we become other-centered rather than self-centered. The essence of good character is true love expressed through unselfish actions.
  • Peace comes through cooperation beyond the boundaries of ethnicity, religion and nationality. Lasting peace cannot be achieved through political compromise alone but requires addressing the root causes of conflict. Transcending racial, religious and ethnic barriers is an imperative of our time. Faith can give people the power to forgive, and the love to overcome even generations of hatred, resentment and violence.

Appreciation and Conclusion: On behalf of the Ambassadors for Peace of the Universal Peace Federation, who met in special sessions to deliberate on the terms of reference provided by the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue and made the above recommendation, we wish to convey our appreciation and pray that the Committee’s work should gain the support of all Nigerians and should be able to move the nation forward in our desire to become a global leader in the 21st century and beyond.

The nationwide network of Ambassadors for Peace and staff of the Universal Peace Federation are available to offer more insights into the proposed ideas and the work of the Committee at all levels and look forward to fruitful engagement of our services as you may consider it necessary. While thanking the President and Commander In Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue for this unique opportunity to contribute to the building of a new Nigeria, please accept the assurances of our highest regards and considerations.

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