The Words of the Alao Family
Lagos, Nigeria -- A marriage and family conference in Lagos June 5-7 will launch a series of events on "Marriage and Family as Instruments for Peace and National Development." Conferences are planned in six cities leading up to a national conference and interfaith blessing festival in Abuja later in the year.
UPF approaches the issue of peace and development in Nigeria from a unique, but fundamental standpoint -- marriage and family. This comes from the understanding that the state of the nation reflects the state of the family. One does not have look too far to see the troubled state of families and its effect on the nation. A national discussion can explore ways to turn around the trend of family dysfunction and encourage strong marriages and families as a way to promote peace and development.
A national conference is envisioned that will involve participants from government and civil society, religious and traditional leaders, educators and media professionals. To ensure wider participation, there will be a series of zonal conferences exploring religious perspectives on the family as well as legal, socio-cultural, and health factors. Women's perspectives will be discussed, along with the extended family system and the relevance of polygamy in present-day Nigeria.
Raise awareness of the need for strengthening marriage and family in contemporary Nigeria
Assemble information and identify common core values in Nigeria about the institution of marriage and family with a view to developing resource materials for marriage and family education programs
Explore ways to transcend conflicting cultural traditions relating to marriage and family
Identify gaps in knowledge on the subject and encourage further research
Identify points at which current social trends and public policies conflict with the best interests of family development
Serve as a platform for advocating programs that will enhance the viability and stability of families
Nigeria has the potential of soon becoming a leading nation in the world. It has much of what it takes to achieve such height: a relatively stable natural environment, ample natural resources, and a vibrant and diverse population with lots of talented people and a huge market. However, there are some important foundations for our nation to develop into an efficient, modern and prosperous society capable of being a world leader. Already we are in the process of fixing our basic public infrastructures that haven't been functioning well. We are dealing with unemployment and poverty. We are addressing the problems of insecurity and all manners of restiveness in our society. We are fighting corruption and other expressions of moral and spiritual decadence. But one very important thing we must do is pay serious attention to our institution of marriage and family.
The Universal Peace Federation is of the view that of all the efforts being made in building a great nation, addressing issues of moral and spiritual values is most critical at this time. The breakdown in moral and spiritual values has far reaching expression nowhere else more than in the family; for the family is the basic unit of any society.
Everything in the universe has dual aspects. In fact, there are two dimensions of every existing entity: an internal character and an external form. The two aspects are related as cause and effect. Therefore our national maladies also have duals aspects: the breakdown in our national structures and infrastructures, which is external; and the breakdown of moral values, which is internal. To adequately promote socio-economic and infrastructural development we must address the problem of moral degradation at the roots. The institution of marriage and family, therefore, is the place to start.
Family ties and bonds must be firm. Then the nation can be strong, because its core institution, the family, is strong. When we focus on healing and strengthening our families we are automatically healing and strengthening our communities and the nation at large. We cannot expect our nation to be straight when our families are not straight; neither can we expect our nation to be at peace when our families are not at peace; nor can we expect our nation to prosper when our families are not prospering.
The world has changed a lot in the last 120 years and changes still continue. If our nation, and even the entire human race, is to survive, we must critically examine the ways such changes affect us and the world in which we live, particularly such non negotiable foundation of human life as marriage and family. By this we refer to the fact that economic development and material prosperity have often been accompanied by decline in moral and ethical standards.
In the 20th century, which is described as the high point of the industrial age or the modern age, the world attained a level of material prosperity never before witnessed. At the same time the rate of marriage and family dysfunction and divorce reached unprecedented levels the world over. The consequences of such trend are well documented. Today, in the 21st century, described as the postmodern age or the information age, the trend is even more intense.
An unfortunate state of affairs is that although, on the aggregate, the world has attained a high degree of prosperity, such prosperity is not evenly distributed. There are the rich advanced nations, the poor underdeveloped nations and the developing nations in-between. While wealth and prosperity are not evenly distributed among the nations, the accompanying malaise of moral depravity seems to be more evenly distributed among the various categories of nations. In some cases the malaise is more intense in less developed nations than in developed nations. For example, Sub-Saharan Africa has more than fair share HIV/AIDs victims in the world.
Before the advanced nations attained their present heights, they did not have the problem of moral depravity and family dysfunction anywhere close the scale that we currently witness. These problems came as negative by-products of their prosperity as already noted above. Less developed and poor nations on the other hand are striving for economic emancipation and at the same time they are burdened with moral and spiritual depravity, which indeed work against their striving. Less developed and poor nations are therefore in danger of being stuck in their backwardness, unless a way can be found to utilize and enjoy the benefits of modern methods of economic development and wealth creation and still retain the ingredients and elements that bind the family and society together and consciously reject those things that undermine the moral and spiritual well-being of society. Our National Assembly did very well in 2011 by passing a law against homosexuality. It was a good example of the way in which we must reject things that are unhealthy and antithetical to development.
But more needs to be done. Setting our families straight must come to the front burner of our national agenda. We must take the necessary steps in properly educating our youths on a most a essential journey of life. Why, for example, do we not have a course in the General Studies program in our tertiary institutions on Marriage and Family? In the absence formal instruction on marriage and family, we graduate students in technical and vocational skills but with the least preparation for life itself whereby marriage and family is fundamental.
As it is said, the family is the building block of society; then proactively, we need to "mould the right quality of block for the desired quality of building.? As our society becomes more complex, it will not do to leave the matter concerning the institution of marriage and family in the hands of any one group. We certainly cannot say this is a matter for only religious leaders or marriage counselors to deal with. It is a discussion that must necessarily involve voices from all segments of society, including those of religious leaders, traditional rulers, law and policy makers, those in the judiciary, educational institutions, health professionals, the media, the civil society and the entertainment industry. Everyone should bring something to the discussion table on marriage and family, because everyone is involved; and God willing (Insha Allah), we will find the right materials for a rock solid foundation to build a great nation.
For more information email Olaleye Alao.