Dr. Chris Kwaja speaks on “Dangers of War, Dynamics of Peaceful Co-existence and the Challenges of Nation Building” in a paper at the ongoing Two-Day Conference on “the North and the Future of the Nigerian Federation.”

Former Director General Research, Strategy and Documentation Government House, Plateau State and Commissioner Local Government and Chieftancy Affairs, Dr. Chris Kwaja of the Centre for Peace and Security Studies, Modibbo Adama University of Techonology Yola, Adamawa State spoke on the Dangers of War, Dynamics of Peaceful Co-existence and the Challenges of Nation Building in a paper at the ongoing Two-Day Conference on “the North and the Future of the Nigerian Federation”  organized by the Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP), at Arewa House, Kaduna, Kaduna State.

Below is the paper presentation;

Dangers of War, Dynamics of Peaceful Co-existence and the Challenges of Nation Building


 Chris M.A. Kwaja, Ph.D

Centre for Peace and Security Studies

Modibbo Adama University of Technology

Yola, Adamawa State

[email protected][email protected]


Paper Presented at a Two-Day Conference on the North and the Future of the Nigerian Federation, Organised by the Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP), @ Arewa House, Kaduna, Kaduna State, 11th& 12th October, 2017.



The casualties are not only those who are dead;

They are well out of it.

The casualties are not only those who are wounded,

Though they await burial by installment

The casualties are not only those who have lost persons or property, hard as it is

To grape for a touch that some

May not know is not there

The casualties are not those led away by night;

The cell is a cruel place, sometimes a heaven,

No where as absolute as the grave

The casualties are not those who started

A fire and now cannot put it out.

Thousands are burning that had no say in the matter.

The casualties are not only those who escaping

The shattered shell become prisoners in

A fortress of falling walls.


The casualties are many, and a good number well

Outside the scene of ravage and wreck;

They are the emissaries of rift,

So smug in smoke-room they haunt abroad,

They are wandering minstrels who, beating on

The drum of human heart, draw the world

Into a dance with rites it does not know.


The drums overwhelm the guns…

Caught in the clash of counter claims and charges

When not in the niche others have left,

We fall.

All casualties of war,

Because we cannot hear others speak,

Because eyes have ceased to see the face from the crowd,

Because whether we know or

Do not know the extent of wrong on all sides,

We are characters now other than before.

The war began, the stay-at-home-unsettled

By taxes and rumour, the looter for office

And wares, fearful everyday the owners may return,

We are all casualties,

All sagging as are

The case celebrated for kwashiorkor – JP Clark


Background and Context:

The quote above by the renowned poet, John Pepper Clark, was one of the most incisive post-mortem on the consequences of the thirty-months civil war that ravaged Nigeria between 6th July 1967 and 15th January 1971. He stated quite graphically that we were all casualties. This poem is as relevant today as it was in the aftermath of the civil war, with cries of injustice and marginalization by each region that make up the Nigerian federation. The whole question of poverty, inequality and unemployment are directly linked to these notions of injustice and marginalization. In fact, the reality today is that for an average Nigerian, the prospects of life are bleak. This is not a phenomenon that is unique and peculiar to a particular region, as each of the region that make up the Nigerian federation has experienced one form of marginalization or the other.

Though, projected as the largest economy in Africa and one of the fastest growing economies in the world, this has not translated into better livelihood, security and development for the country and its people. Across the country, the North ranks as the most impoverished region, with human development challenges that bothers on economic deprivation, poverty, unemployment and illiteracy that are all acute.Recent development in Nigeria such as the resurgence of separatist movements and the call for secession by the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), has introduced new dimensions and drivers of instability, which threatens the corporate peace and unity of the country. To understand the dangers that such a development pose, this paper examines the dynamics of peaceful co-existence, with specific reference to some key manifestations and recommendations both for North and the Nigerian state in general.

In pushing forward its articulated agenda for secession, the IPOB of the South East is adopting what seems to be negotiation by force, as against the call for a national dialogue by the other regions. In the case of the North, there is currently no concrete direction on what approach and framework it seeks to adopt in advancing its positions and interest as part of the federalist construct. The fact still remains that the future directions of Nigerian federalism will largely be defined by the need for restructuring as the fundamental basis for political stability. Under the present circumstance, the present federal structure is viewed as an impediment to growth and development, in the light of the unitarism that defines Nigeria’s federal system, with little or no powers granted to the federating units.


Is Nigeria Dancing on the Brink?

In the context of the present call for restructuring, what does it mean for each of the regions that make up the federal republic? Is it just about secession as seen in the IPOB agitation? Is it also about creating a platform and opportunity for all the nationalities to review the federal project with a view to correcting certain imbalances? In reality, what are the benefits of a peaceful dialogue? What are the dangers of using war as a currency for articulating and achieving such goals?

One of the attempts by Nigerians to use war in pushing forward the demands for secession was the period between 1966 and 1967, which led to a thirty months civil war (1967-1970). Some of the consequences of the civil war included the death and displacements of millions of Nigerians, reversals of the gains of development, prolonged military dictatorship among others. One of the legacies of the civil war that has continue to hunt us as a country lies in the seed of ethnic and regional mistrust, as well as suspicion, which was firmly sown in the hearts, minds and brains of Nigerians. The fear today is that an Igbo presidency is suspect. The perception is that it might fast-track the process towards the balkanization of Nigeria. Are such fears legitimate in the present circumstance? Can dialogue allay such fears?

As the drums of war get louder and stronger in Nigeria, it also signals the transition from a peace economy to a war economy. Are Nigerians ready for such transition? What does it really mean?It is simply a condition whereby the Nigerian state produces, mobilises and allocates resources principally to sustain violence or a state of emergency. Under such circumstances, the economy feeds the war- time needs of the country at the expense of the people. The resources expended for the civil war, the agitations by militants in the Niger Delta, the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, as well as other forms of violence across the country, are key pointers to, and examples of how the Nigerian state has been able to sustain war economies. The military industrial complexes of Europe and North America are ultimate beneficiaries of our slide towards a war economy, while the average Nigerian is the principal casualty.

Merchants of hate, violence and crime are profiteering from our collective inability or reluctance to use the opportunity of good and democratic governance as a key platform for discussing Nigeria’s federal project. Instead, the elites are enmeshed in intra-elite struggle for the appropriation and consolidation of power. This situation of elite struggle and fragmentation become a major determinant for both the vertical and horizontal distribution of power in the country. Unfortunately, the “vertical power syndrome” is the major challenge to co-existence, hence, the slide towards violence. The consequences of this for the country and its people would be dire. The manipulation of religion, ethnicity and regions have become key pivots for systemic violence, in the light of the huge disconnect that exists between what the elites does and what the people want. The elites want people, but the people want good democratic governance that is built on the foundation of justice and inclusivity. As pointed out by the Late Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, “behind every crisis anywhere in the world is injustice. The solution to that crisis is justice”[1]. Unfortunately, there are varied meanings given to notions of exclusion, marginalization and alienation as phrases used in Nigeria today. While for the elites, it has more to do with access to, and control of power, it is all about livelihood and survival for the average Nigerian.

At the heart of the crises Nigeria confronts todays is the rise and dominance of too many strong men, with either very few and reactive institutional mechanisms for response. The activities of strong men as the deciders of the fate of the millions of people, has created a condition whereby attempts towards the institutionalization of good democratic governance and mechanisms for conflict prevention, management or resolution has not been quite successful. Such situations continue to fuel and sustain separatist agitations, which in the case of IPOB, has crystalized and transformed into a real threat to both human and national security. How did we get here?



The North in the Shadow of Nigeria:

Fragility and Weak State Capacity to Protect and Provide:

Northern Nigeria, made up of nineteen states occupies about 70% of the landmass of the country. One of the key social indicators that dominate in the region is to the effect that it has the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the country. Coupled with the fact that it has the lowest rate of child enrolment in schools, highest number of youth unemployment people, and above all, the highest levels of poverty. The fragility of the states within the northern region is best explained in terms of its inability to deliver on its core responsibilities of welfare and protection. This is evident through the measure of its human development that , which manifests around issues such as illiteracy, girl child education, conflicts, the marginalization of women in terms of access to governance and the economy, shrinking livelihood, as well as weak cooperation among states that make up the region.

The Sharpening of Identity Faultlines:

The 1960s can be regarded as the golden age of northern Nigeria, as underscored by the philosophy of “One North, One Destiny”, as proclaimed by the Late Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello. Unfortunately, this solidarity has since waned, with the faultlines of ethnic and religious identities sharpened across the region. There is a sense in which mutual hatred is deepening in an already fragmented Nigeria that is confronted with huge challenge of co-existence. In fact, the current implosions in the country are a manifestation of the meltdown that defines the institutions of governance. Fragile and weak! Those beating the drums of war today are either people who never experienced war, or did not learn any lesson from the dangers of war, which shook the very foundation of our common patrimony.

Bad Governance and the Rise of Extremism:

The extremist interpretation of the social ills associated with rising inequality, unemployment, illiteracy, deprivation and alienation of the people, particularly the youths, is a contributing fact to the spate of conflicts, violence and insurgency in the country[2]. For instance, a report on the poverty trend across the regions shows that all the regions that make up Northern Nigeria have highest poverty rate in the country.

Trends on Poverty by Geo-political Zones in Nigeria[3]

S/No Zone Percentage (%)
1. North-West 71.4
2. North-East 69.1
3. North-Central 60.7
4. South-East 59.5
5. South-West 55.5
6. South-South 49.8


The point must be made here that poverty and conflicts are not organic to the North. They are self-imposed, as a result of bad leadership and governance. One of the consequences of bad leadership in the North that has been deeply entrenched in the body polity of the region is that it has robbed the people of their confidence. Corruption became a key instrument used to disempower the people and weaken their capacity to organize, mobilise and speak out against the injustice, inequity and greed of a privileged few. The relationship between corruption and poverty better manifest themselves in the climate of uncertainty and hopelessness that defines the daily lives of the people. For such people, particularly the youths, restructuring makes no meaning as long as they remain disempowered.


Pathways towards Peaceful Co-existence:


A One North Policy:

As the north engages other region in the restructuring debate, there is a sense in which, the notion of a North or a Northerner is not in any way, a rejection of the state-building project in Nigeria. It has more to do with the acceptance of a Nigeria that is consistent with the enduring commitment and aspiration of mobilizing the people of the North, regardless of ethnicity, religion and political inclinations on the path of unity and development. The goals of peace and security in Nigeria, in the context of the federalist discourse, should be pursued through a united North. One that recognizes and respects diversity at all levels!

Institutionalised Architecture for Peace and Security:

The overall peace and security agenda for the North should be situated within a human security framework where emphasis is placed on a broader set of issues to address the economic, social, political and personal security needs of its people. In the light of the foregoing, there should be a strategic agenda for peace and security, which would serve as the foundational pillars for co-existence and harmony between and among the people. In fact, the absence of this agenda remains one of the key obstacles to a united, secured and developed north. The starting point here is to have state specific as well as regionally designed architectures for peace and security. Plateau and Kaduna States are models for such, with the establishment of peacebuilding frameworks that have become institutionalized agency and commission respectively. Beyond establishment, they must be funded in order to be functional.

Good and Democratic Governance (Visionary and Competent):

As the call for restructuring gets louder and in a way, what is the future direction of the North in the context of defining and designing pathways for peaceful co-existence? The North must strengthen its capacity to understand, anticipate, interpret, forecast and plan as developments unfold, while articulating appropriate responses. This include the quest for good, democratic, visionary and competent leadership, the management of diversity, a shared sense of justice, promotion of rights and the rule of law, stronger and robust regional plan of action for peace, security and development among others. In fact, the North and its people must have a common and shared understanding of unity and togetherness as a basis for articulating an agenda that seeks to preserve the unity and indivisibility of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.


Inclusive Governance (Giving Minorities, Excluded and Marginalised a Space and Sense of Belonging):

As a precondition for forging a united front on restructuring, the North cannot afford to engage the other regions, when it is yet to resolve or address some of the key developmental and existential challenges that it confronts. In this sense, inclusive governance must be embedded in all spheres – politics, the economy and social relations among others. The rights of minorities, both in its political, economic, ethnic and religious sense, must be recognised and respected as a basis for forging a society that is inclusive and protective of all its citizens. In a sense, a united North outside should be seen as the function of a more united North inside. 

Investment in the Youths as Leaders of Today and Tomorrow:

The collective action of the youths as key stakeholders in the governance processes of the region should be one that recognizes the importance of, as well as create a condition for their voices to be heard, provide a platform for them to be seen, and give them access to power as a basis for influencing change.For the younger generation, the future is now. Unfortunately, the challenge the North is confronted with is such that – the old is ‘dying’ and the new cannot be ‘born’ (Antonio Gramsci.



The might and glory of this union called Nigeria is embedded in the diversity of its people.We must think and act in ways that will make us to be proud to say we worked hard for a Nigeria that is united and prosperous. This is really the time to have a credible conversation that would move the country forward. No more blame game. Such conversation should be premised on that common creed that binds us together as we affirm thus:

O God of creation,

Direct our noble cause

Guide our leaders right

Help our youths the truth to know

In love and honesty to grow

And living just and true

Great lofty heights attain

To build a nation

Where peace and justice shall reign.

So help us God!


The drums of war might sound sweet to those who beat it. No matter how sweet it sounds, it is the fastest and easiest path to human misery.



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Dr. Chris Kwaja speaks on “Dangers of War, Dynamics of Peaceful Co-existence and the Challenges of Nation Building” in a paper at the ongoing Two-Day Conference on “the North and the Future of the Nigerian Federation.”

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