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The path to peace and development

Despite their very best and good efforts, Nigeria has witnessed one major civil war, (1967-1970) numerous riots, countless border disputes, religious disturbances, political differences and…

Despite their very best and good efforts, Nigeria has witnessed one major civil war, (1967-1970) numerous riots, countless border disputes, religious disturbances, political differences and at times a “revolution” of rising expectations from the people leading to labour strikes. While our leaders have tried to grapple with these phenomena, many more challenges keep coming up. While the present government has succeeded to a large extent in achieving peace in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria through the Federal Government Amnesty programme for ex-militants who had been agitating for a better deal for the region, it is currently facing another kind of challenge which this time is not economic but religious – the Boko Haram issue.
Again, the current administration is not throwing in the towel as it has just inaugurated a 25 member Committee on Dialogue and Peace Resolution and Security Challenges in the North, which will dialogue with the Boko Haram insurgents with a view to finding a lasting solution to the crises. It must be stated that since the Boko Haram conflict started, economic activities in the Northern part of the country have been completely paralysed, as a result of the absence of a peaceful and conducive environment for development.
The National Orientation Agency (NOA) is also implementing a new framework for peace across the country called the NOA Peace Project.  Mr. Mike Omeri, Director General (NOA), has said that the Peace Project is a national initiative tailored to engage all sectors and representations in the Nigerian socio-political and cultural spaces, in the conversation on national peace. In order to drive the project, the Agency has assembled a core group of selected leaders and captains of industry that can network and synergize efforts to achieve the goal of national, regional and continental peace. This group, according to him, will be meeting bimonthly to share experiences, brainstorm on solutions, receive progress reports and review the project strategy.
In its effort towards peace and national development, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) has not been resting on its oars. It has diligently been discharging its mandate which includes: – to orientate, inform, educate and sensitize the public on the policies and programmes of government as well as mobilize favourable public opinion and support for government. It also engages in value re-orientation, as well as pulling together and harnessing the creative energies of the citizenry for National development.
For example, in the last one year under the able leadership of its Head Mr Mike Omeri, the Agency has done much in mobilizing the people to appreciate the virtues of religious and ethnic tolerance, social harmony, peaceful co-existence and active political participation. It has planned and executed series of programmes through rallies, the media, seminars/ workshops, one-on-one discussion sessions, inter-faith and community meetings, etc. The Director General has travelled  not less than twenty thousand, two hundred and eighteen kilometres with his entourage visiting not less than twenty states, which include:- Kano, Plateau, Abia, Nasarawa, Bayelsa Niger Adamawa, Lagos, Kwara. Ondo. Kogi, Oshogbo, Anambra, Calabar, Benue, Katsina, etc. on a peace advocacy mission.
In these States, he paid courtesy calls on the State Governors, traditional rulers, religious leaders, market women and other influential members of the communities where his message has always been peace, peace, and peace.  He has also visited various schools, in this regard. The Director General’s motive for this peace advocacy mission cannot not be divorced from the fact that he recognises that there can be no development anywhere without peace and in the same vein, there can be no peace without development.
For good measure, Mr Omeri during these travels always emphasizes to his audience the need for them to embrace one another despite their religious, tribal, social and cultural differences. He also encourages the people to continue to appreciate government’s efforts in trying to build a united, virile and indivisible country.
In a multi-ethnic, multi cultural and multi- religious country such as Nigeria, which has a long history of  rich pre-colonial contacts among the ethnic groups, Mr Omeri’s message is critical. He has been making invaluable inputs towards re-orientating, re-awakening and re- engineering the people to the fact that peace is an index of national development, and that there can be development without peace.
Onuoha wrote from the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Abuja.

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