The search for peace in Nigeria: My story
Conflict in my country started a long time ago, before I was even born. Like my mom would say: I was born during a period of conflict, tensions, and riots. As a witness to these conflicts, she would recall dead bodies shattered lifeless everywhere on the ground. To this day, this conflict grieves me. For many in Nigeria, the occurrence of these conflicts still continues.
Non-peaceful co-existence among different ethnic groups and people of different religious beliefs in my country has affected every aspect of our daily lives. For my entire life I have witnessed and heard about conflicts. One war gives birth to another: it's between us, it's within us, yet I still hope for a peaceful Nigeria. Human rights violations and the inability of people to express their views freely both in public and in private is rampant in every aspect of our lives. Religious conflicts, hatred and strife have eaten deep into the fabric of our society. Like many families over here in Nigeria who were victims of these conflicts, my family was not exempt from it. My uncle was shot dead by Boko Haram insurgents on a Sunday morning because they thought he was holding a Bible, but he was actually holding the bread he had bought for his family. I believe religion itself does not speak war, so why use it as a means to carry out conflict? This is an important theme of my advocacy. That we have become victims to the same conflicts we created does not mean that we should remain powerless. I believe every action, every voice, every idea, and much determination is needed to bring peace to our society today.
My goal to bring peace to Nigeria started seven years ago in 2015, when the Chibok girls were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents. As we protested in support of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, I realized and felt the pain that violence had brought to my country. Working with the coalition for psycho-trauma and peace in Nigeria and the Forum for African Women Educationist (FAWE) in creating a protective space for children and adolescent has shown me that I am not alone in the search for peace in Nigeria and in the world today. I formed a social media-based peace platform called ‘The Peace Keeping Forum’ on Facebook and WhatsApp using technology to educate youths, children and individuals from different ethnic and religious groups. The Forum came to be my source of strength towards building peace; creating a Nigeria where violence is not an automatic reaction to conflict. Through this platform, we engage in meaningful conversations and tackle topics of concern, as well as core values such as respect, non-violence, peacebuilding, and unity. What we are going through today in Nigeria is a very painful process of learning to be together, even in the face of our diversity.
I believe just as a culture of violence and war is learned; a culture of peace can also be learned. That's what my work centers on: educating young people, school children, individuals from different ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs will help inculcate peace values in Nigeria. Working with local populations, involving locals in peace processes, one individual at a time, is a starting point for me. Whilst growing up as a child, seeing the smiles of school children having the opportunity to get an education was a thing of joy. Back then, we never knew it would vanish all of a sudden due to the violent conflict and extreme ideas. We now hope for a future free from violence, but many Nigerians don't believe that it could happen, they see peace as a utopia, as something we could only wish or hope for. I have come to realize that helping them believe that there's a possibility of peace in Nigeria is key. Helping people see they can work together as one is my goal. If I was created for something, then this was it.
I started peace building in my local community here in Nigeria because I realized that if peace was ever going to be possible, then it would start from changing every individual’s view of believing and working towards it. I work towards the goal of reaching out to ten individuals a day. Over 10 days I could reach one hundred people, engaging more and more people in peace building in Nigeria.
I know most Nigerians out there still see peace as a myth. I feel it is my duty to make them see that we can work together as one, even in the face of our differences, but this must start with every individual.
Peace is an important message which every Nigerian needs to hear and until it reaches every individual, my work at the Peace Keeping Forum will never stop. Together, we can, and together we will, as the journey for the search for peace still continues.