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Sep 06, 2019


The bold proclamation of, “Let Peace Reign in Nigeria” was the theme of the second quarter meeting of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) held on March 29, 2019 at the Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja, laying a strong emphasis on the imperative of justice and good governance. In furtherance of this aspiration, “Justice and Good Governance for Peace” was chosen as the theme for the third quarter meeting of July 23, 2019 at Sheraton Hotel, Abuja. This theme was necessary more so, now that the nation is increasingly starring into the abyss of unnecessary religious and ethnic conflict. Central to this, is the need to realize and recognize that God created human beings in his likeness, and the justice of God lies in the fact that God has made Himself and His love known to everyone without admixture of error. God has put in the hearts and minds of everyone how to live and relate to each other on the earth that he has given us freely to dwell in. Ethnic and religious stigmatization will therefore be a distraction in dealing with people who have chosen the path of criminality. Crime has no tribe and religion. Good governance is an antidote to this danger, under which everyone, Zones and Religions are exposed to the dividends of justice. Peace would flow like a river when equity is respected in governance.


Irrespective of the definition criteria used, we can perceive a structure of three classes in Nigeria: The Upper, Middle and Lower classes. These classes are not mutually exclusive, as people transit from one class to the other all the time, and peaceful coexistence demands a high level of interaction between them. Largely, in every society, the lowest class tends to have the least education and the means to move up into the other classes. However, many of us have overcome the barriers of moving up and away from the lowest class. Authentic justice would depend on how we manage the lowest class. One of the ways to do this is to recognize and tap into the natural knowledge that is innate in every human being, irrespective of formal education. Every member of the aforementioned classes can actively participate in dialogue of life, religious experience, encounter, action and dialogue of love. In dialogue of theological exchange and literary discourse, we tend to discount any possible contribution from the lowest class, as these are dismissed as “uneducated” or “illiterate”.


To make dialogue more effective, comprehensive or encompassing, it should involve individuals at the grassroots so as not to reduce dialogue only to the pages of newspapers, social media and academic conferences. This is why NIREC is embarking on reaching the Geo-political zones and States of Nigeria. NIREC will continue to engage the youths and this will include reaching out to the students in Primary, Secondary, higher institutions and NYSC orientation camps. Another initiative is the proposed training of trainers in the Board Room of the office of NIREC at the Federal Secretariat complex, Abuja, which is intended to produce experts in dialogue and peacebuilding who will take the message of justice, peace and good governance to every Nigerian. The transformation of any society depends on the level of the positive change of attitude of every one of its members. Once individuals have peace within themselves, we can then guarantee a society and nation adorned with peaceful coexistence.


Since NIREC is made up of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA). it would not be out of place for any Christian or Muslim to write a petition to the council.  The Co-Chairmen of NIREC are committed to looking into matters that could cause conflict between Christians and Muslims. The office of the Secretary to Government (OSGF) is giving the Council appreciable attention. This has made NIREC a visible sign of Government’s promotion of dialogue and Peacebuilding. We, therefore, are encouraged to take advantage of this development, to make Nigeria a peaceful and secure nation. If you must demand justice in writing, think properly of whose interest you are fighting.


In collaboration with NIREC, faith-based councils or organizations need to take very seriously, conflict transformation which could bring about harmony and relationship that should exist between all the aforementioned classes using all forms of dialogue. The tools for these relationships are unbiased and focused service delivery; prompt emergency response; faithfulness to our laws; intensive application of basic human rights, as well as close collaboration and transparency among the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary arms of our government. To address some of the challenges, there is also need to develop relationship-building strategies for the elites of the middle class, based on social justice. There is an urgent need for the middle class to engage in rational evaluation before reacting to issues raised on the media or online. Promoting unverifiable, and uncharitable information can lead to anarchy and conflict. While everybody has the right to be listened to, there is need to identify a target partner who would respond, since dialogue is a call and response activity. Those at the bottom level should be meaningfully engaged such that they can take care of their basic needs.


Religious leaders should be proactive in establishing and promoting mutual relationships. Already existing friendship helps in preventing mutual suspicion and prejudice. It aids nonviolent advocacy, limits damage, aids reconciliation, healing of trauma and hurts, regeneration and working on the historic memory. Existing relationships give rise to the creation of social space for offering and receiving graciousness. It creates space for discovery and building new relationships. Justice and good governance can open the hearts of the citizens for peaceful coexistence. Credible people and criminals exist in every tribe. To prevent the syndrome of stigmatizing a particular ethnic group, criminals must be made to face justice regardless of their tribe or religion. To assist the government’s security agents in doing this, traditional and political leaders of each ethnic group must expose the criminals who are destroying their ethnic integrity and shaming their tribes. As the saying goes, “the relation of a mentally-challenged person has a duty to prevent him from roaming the forest and streets”. The bad eggs in the various ethnic groups must be disciplined by their leaders to know that a good name is better than silver and gold.


Conflict has never brought success or progress to a person, community or nation.  Let us therefore promote only the information that is true, good and useful to build a healthy society. Let writers keep their pens from provocative publications just as those who talk should keep their tongues from evil and their lips from hate speeches. Government at all levels must have the political will to manage ethnic diversity and religious pluralism. Let us strive to harness the innate beauty and strength of our diversity. Unity is strength and in justice we can stand strong as a united people. Yes, in justice, we can carry our Nigerian passport with pride as good Nigerians. Let us be good ambassadors of our home and native land. May God bless us with justice and good governance! May we love as human beings who will give account to God on the day of judgement! May the peace of God abide with us forever!


By Rev. Fr. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua

Rev. Fr. Cornelius Omonokhua is the Executive Secretary of Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) (

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