Beyond the alluring titles of our work, the sectoral and thematic good we do in communities across the country, the conflicts we have seen in the last few months in different parts of Nigeria should worry all civil society leaders from traditional nonprofits, religious nonprofits, associations, unions, and academics through to the media, think tanks, business associations, faith-based groups, political parties, foundations, and philanthropists.
No doubt, the year 2021 has a lot riding on it as we recover from the pangs of COVID-19 and the fallout of the #ENDSARS protests. With many Nigerians pinning their hopes for the year and the future on good health, improved finances, access to better services and a good life, these needs are better achieved in a period of calm and quietness when all as citizens can go about their business without fear and insecurity.
Over the last few days, one has been discouraged by the level of insecurity, ethnic clashes, racial profiling, and herdsmen – farmer crises, amidst growing injustice and an overwhelmed security architecture. If sustainable democracy and development are to be truly implemented, peace and security must be recognised as their very foundations. As government commences dialogue and stakeholder engagements across the country, civil society leaders must act by using the resources, experience, and community assets built over the years in giving the needed energy and impetus to the essential elements of these dialogues, which is trust.
As the most trusted between political and business leaders, civil society leaders must heed the call to bring to bear their capacity to raise awareness on issues devoid of partisan politics and to jumpstart or curate difficult conversations in ways that ensure that issues are addressed, and solutions identified within a culture of mutual trust and respect. Agreed as leaders we are all pained by the attitude of government to our sector especially when we flag real social issues and are largely ignored.
We only have one country, which is why we use our own resources, those of friends and families, donors (local and international) and millions of volunteer hours yearly to bring democracy and development to the doorsteps of the common man. Everywhere in Nigeria, charitable nonprofits are providing and serving the needs of residents as the nation’s social and economic absorber, it is time to play the role of unifying our diversity. Our speeches, opinions, projects, programmes, and outreaches should now be framed along those of healing and inclusion.
No one doubts that we are hurt. And we are not immune to ethnic bias ourselves, hence the healing must start from our sector. Our understanding of the issues and framing them within the right context and evidence away from sentiments, stereotyping and ethnic bigotry will go a long way as we start the difficult journey of managing and safeguarding our diversity without leaving any one behind. While our disappointments in government and businesses remain valid, we must reflect on our role as to how we got to this stage as a nation and what, as civil society leaders, we could have done differently ourselves. Even if it is a pie, we have also disappointed other critical stakeholders.
Our reflection must centre on speaking truth to power and working with those in and outside of power to put off the raging fires of hatred we see across our country. We must be united in our quest to ensure peace returns to our communities and that we face head-on the issues that divide us. Understanding that no one sector has all the answers, we must, whether consulted or not, share our thoughts, opinions, and insights with government at all levels. Even if we will be ignored yet again, we must be able to say we played our part.