MasterwebNews 8/1/17: Nigeria`s secessionists should learn from South Sudan -General Agwai (rtd)

[ Masterweb Reports: Hir Joseph & Lami Sadiq report ] - The first commander of the United Nations/African Union (UN/AU) combined peacekeeping mission in Darfur, General Martin Luther Agwai (retired), has advised proponents of Nigeria’s breakup to take a look at South Sudan. In this exclusive interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, Agwai said the civil war rocking the new country should serve as a mirror for secessionists.

Soon after you landed in Dafur, South Sudan, the BBC quoted you as telling the people of the troubled country that you were not there to compel peace on them but to work with them for peace. Where did you derive this inspiration?


In conflict resolution you apply force. In conflict and war you force and defeat the person. And the person has nothing to do but to accept what you want. In conflict, there is the enemy to defeat. But peace is when you and I sit together and talk. Sometimes, when two of us are fighting, we need a third person to come in to broker peace; to mediate between us to resolve problems. As long as we are not ready to compromise and mediate, we will never have peace. Therefore, the term I have always used is peace resolution, not conflict resolution.  


Would you see your statement as a prediction of what happened afterwards: the break-up, and by extension, the new country, South Sudan starting a civil war soon after the secession? 


When we hear people in this country say they want to break away, we laugh because we know it is not the solution to the problem. Let me tell you, if you are breaking away because you are a minority and the majority is lording it over you, at the end of the day, one of the minority zones will now become a majority; you will never have an end to it. 


That’s why I told one of the newspapers during an interview in Kaduna that I won’t support the argument for the creation of another state for Southern Kaduna. It will never end their problem. If you know why Kaduna should be broken into two states, then we can sit down and see how we can use the situation to our advantage and remain together. 


With all sincerity, are you saying that with 36 states, Nigeria is more peaceful than when we had four regions? Has the creation of several states solved our problems? It has even aggravated our problems. The truth is that some of us, the elite, see break-up as an opportunity to achieve political relevance and become senators, governors, commissioners, etc. It is not for the interest of the people. 


There is no problem in this world that doesn’t have a solution. You can only say there is no solution if you are not determined to solve the problem. People do a lot of things ignorantly. So the thing is to sit down, trash out your differences, talk about it and move on. 


In this country, if we had sat down and honestly discussed our problems and removed all those things that are stopping us from moving forward, we would have gone far beyond where we are today. This is a very rich and blessed country. Honestly, if Nigerians knew what God has given us and we harnessed and used it positively, we would be a force to be reckoned with in the world, not only in Africa.  A Hausa proverb states that if there is a crack in your wall, the lizard can come in. So because we allow cracks in our wall, external people will find them, get in and expand their own interests and divide us the more. How many people want to see a strong Nigeria? Not many. Nigerians should understand that we will be better off in collective security than individual and sectional security.  


It was reported that you had 26,000 peacekeepers under you in Darfur, the largest ever in peacekeeping operations. How were you able to handle such enormous responsibility? 


Again, what we should understand is that we are talking about peacekeeping, but we are using more and more arms.  I don’t believe in that. There has to be confidence building among people, not fear. There is a limit to fear. If you are stronger than the other person you will kill him and dominate. And as long as you dominate, the person will look to fight back to regain what he has lost so that he can be at par with you or dominate you. I do not believe that might is right, and that is part of the challenges we are having - we believe that the more you arm yourself and you can demolish and destroy the other person, the more you become stronger and whatsoever you want to do is right. That is not possible, especially with the level of information technology and social media in the world today. 


I still believe that an all-inclusive way of approaching our problems - dialoguing to understand, respecting other people’s rights so that they also respect yours, eliminating or reducing the degree of ignorance among people and finding a meaningful way of living in peace with everybody - will reduce most of the conflicts bedevilling this country.  And you have to invest on those who are to maintain the peace, such as the security forces. But they must also be answerable and accountable to the taxpayer. They should be held accountable for any wrong they do. It is the same thing with the judiciary, executive and legislature. If we live collectively, honestly, this world will be a beautiful place. 


Recently, you predicted a worse security situation in the country if the factors that forced people to carry arms against others are not addressed. How would such a situation affect our already overstretched military?


It will leave our military and other security agencies in a very difficult situation. They are going to be overstretched the more. And the mistake we are making is that we are looking at these crises with the mentality of conflict resolution. It should be peace resolution, not conflict. In Nigeria today, most security organs are becoming more armed, and we think that is the solution. It is not. This is because the more the security forces are armed, the more the warlords who are creating rivalry will be armed. So, what we will always have is clashes by armed people. But when you start talking about peace resolution, you are sure of removing conflict out of it to create confidence and close ungovernable space. 


Those who know how the Boko Haram insurgency started have said that the current faceoff between the government and Shiites movement is the making of another group of insurgents in the country. Considering justice as a critical factor in peace resolution, what is the best way to handle the crisis?


One of our challenges in nationhood is that people seek convenience when some cry out about a wrong somewhere. Some people feel it is okay or that time will solve the problem. And when time does not solve the problem it becomes a bigger issue; then we start getting worried. We know the reasons behind Bako Haram insurgency and the issues around the Shiites movement. The Shiites did not start today in Nigeria. Anything happening today was there before, but what have we done about it? There are other movements in the country, and what are we doing about them? We have to nip them in the bud.


I will always say that government at every level should not be afraid to dialogue with groups of people to find out what is wrong. I am not saying that government should negotiate, they should dialogue. But government should not dialogue out of fear. When you dialogue with groups and discover what the problem is, you take charge of it. You don’t allow such a problem to get out of hand. Once you allow it to get out of hand it becomes war and you start creating no-go areas, ungovernable space or rivalry with the government. That’s why we have what we have today.


Recently, Governor Nasir el-Rufai came under heavy criticism for saying that, to avoid reprisals, his administration was negotiating compensation for Fulani herdsmen who lost their cattle to attacks. The governor reportedly said he was acting on the recommendation of the security committee, which you headed. What informed such a controversial recommendation?


I have heard such rumour; but my report is open. What the committee recommended was for the government to dialogue and compensate all the aggrieved parties, not an aggrieved party. If the Kaduna State governme

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