The power of music and football in peacebuilding

Salis Abdulsalam, Executive Director of The Displaced Women and Children Foundation (DWCF), emphasises the remarkable role of music and football in promoting peace and harmonious coexistence. He highlights their undeniable allure as unifying forces, bridging divides, and encouraging dialogue. Through these shared musical and football experiences, individuals from diverse backgrounds find common ground and cultivate mutual respect.

Music: Nigeria’s Vibrant Expression

Music occupies a profound place within Nigeria's rich culture, serving as a vibrant and dynamic expression of creativity, identity, and social cohesion.

Alfred Vincent, a peace builder, says “Nigeria boasts a multifaceted music scene encompassing various genres, styles, and influences. These musical traditions reflect the country’s deep cultural heritage and the people's unwavering appreciation for the art form.”

He highlights, “One of the most remarkable aspects of music in Nigeria is its remarkable ability to transcend language barriers and connect people from diverse ethnicities and regions.”

Regardless of one’s mother tongue or cultural background, music becomes a universal language through which Nigerians can communicate and share their experiences.

In essence, music in Nigeria is far more than a collection of songs; it’s a living, breathing testament to the country’s creativity, diversity, and resilience. It connects people, tells stories, and addresses pressing issues, making it an integral part of Nigerian society and a powerful tool for fostering unity and promoting change.

Football: a cultural phenomenon in Nigeria

In Nigeria, football is more than just a sport; it’s a source of hope and inspiration, particularly for the youth. It provides a platform for talent and dreams to flourish and instils essential values like teamwork and discipline within communities at the grassroots level.

The Music+Football Peace Initiative

The DWCF-led initiative, in collaboration with the Jos Town Ambassador, has harnessed not only the power of football to tackle ethno-religious intolerance in Plateau State, Nigeria but has made music a vital component of the Music+Football Peace initiative, to foster unity and understanding among communities.

Salis Abdulsalam emphasises how the tournament breaks down longstanding divisions within the city: “Participants discover their shared humanity, learning they have more in common than what sets them apart. The uniqueness of the tournament lies in its inclusivity, deliberately forming teams with players from different faiths and backgrounds.”

Inclusivity through Music

Hassana is part of the Plateau state government’s support of the initiative, she believes that “the resonating power of music has become an integral component of this groundbreaking peacebuilding initiative, it is not just about the rhythms of melodies and the beats of drums are not just for entertainment but serve as catalysts for reconciliation, unity, and communal healing.”

Haji Abdallah, a community leader, expresses his happiness that “the initiative is fostering inclusivity through music in a city that has experienced its fair share of ethno-religious conflicts, the use of music in peacebuilding represents a paradigm shift. Music has an innate ability to transcend language barriers and connect with people on an emotional level.”

And that is what we see in Jos, as Abdallah adds, “This connection is harnessed to bring together individuals from different backgrounds, fostering a sense of belonging and shared identity.”

Musical storytelling: addressing social issues

Beyond the cultural aspects, music becomes a medium for addressing the social issues that have divided Jos in the past. Local musicians compose songs that speak to the shared challenges faced by the city’s inhabitants. These songs touch on themes of unity, forgiveness, and peaceful coexistence.

John is one of the football players. He testifies that through the music, “musicians convey messages of hope and reconciliation. Their words resonate with myself and my friends who are Muslims, reminding us of the importance of harmony over discord. As these songs become anthems of peace, they inspire us to take steps towards healing and rebuilding their communities.”

Transformative impact

In communities, the initiative imparts valuable conflict-resolution skills. Players learn fair play, teamwork, communication, negotiation, and compromise, essential for resolving conflicts peacefully.

Stakeholder support and community healing

The project enjoys strong support from stakeholders, including the Plateau State government, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Social Duties, the Plateau Peacebuilding Agency, and the Plateau Football Federation. Technical expertise is provided by the Tattaaunawa Roundtable Initiative (TRICentre), specializing in sports and music for peace-building.

Aliyu Alkassim is the Project Lead for TRICentre. He believes that “ultimately, this initiative’s impact is transformative – promoting unity, breaking down barriers, teaching conflict resolution, empowering individuals and communities, preventing violence, bridging divides, and encouraging dialogue and reconciliation.”

The initiative encompasses advocacy visits, and mentoring sessions by religious and traditional leaders, sports veterans, and peace practitioners. Engaging 22 communities, 12 coaches, 9 matches, 96 players, and 15 match officials, and culminating in a grand final at the Jos Rwang Pam Stadium, it continuously reunites estranged neighbours and fosters unity.

Music and Football –Nigeria's Path to Unity

Music and football are integral to Nigeria’s identity and cultural fabric. They serve as powerful tools of expression, empowerment, and social change, contributing to the country's artistic, economic, and social development. The Music+Football Peace Initiative stands as a testament to its extraordinary capacity to unite communities and heal deep-seated divisions, proving that, in Nigeria, the right chords can lead to lasting harmony and peace.