Unification News for May 2003

Nigeria National One-Day Seminar: A Recipe for Peace

By George M. Ogurie

Welcoming participants to Port-Harcourt, Nigeria, 3 April 2003, , the Chairman of the opening plenary session, Alhaji M.A. Abubakar, Rivers State Resident Commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) thanked the organizers for initiating the event. He said that INEC highly cherishes every opportunity to educate the public on the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections. He said he believed that one of the major causes of electoral malpractice and attendant unrest is ignorance.

His Excellency, Chief Segun Olusola, Founder/Patron of the African Refugees Foundation, former Nigerian Ambassador to Ethiopia and a Trustee of IIFWP, Nigeria as well as Convener of the seminar presented the keynote address. He said,

"It is not an accident that we are starting off this new series here in Port Harcourt – heartland of the South-South Geo-political zone where the incumbent Governor became the first serving Governor to be honoured with the Ambassador for Peace Award this year…"

Chief Olusola used the opportunity to announce the establishment of a Peace Embassy in Abuja; a place where Ambassadors for Peace would be gathering to discuss pressing national problems and plan for practical solutions to them. "The Peace Embassy has been procured through the generous support of the IIFWP International Headquarters … and will be launched …on a date to be announced later," he said. He concluded by thanking the Rivers State Government for providing the venue for the seminar.

After a short break, the second plenary session began, chaired by Professor S. C. Achinewhu, the Vice-Chancellor of the Rivers State University of Science & Technology. Four papers with titles – "The Rules of the Game," "Security and the Electoral Process," "The Role of Traditional Institutions in the Electioneering Process," and "The Rule of Law in the Electoral Process," were presented by Alhaji M. A. Abubakar, State Resident Commissioner, INEC; Dr. N. N. Okonkwo, State Commandant of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps; His Royal Highness Sir Weli Wobo Onunwor, the Traditional Head of the Oropotama Kingdom in Rivers State and Chief Uyouko S. Uyouko, a Legal Practitioner and an Ambassador for Peace, respectively.

Dr. N. N. Okonkwo, in his own paper explained the role of the NSCDC in ensuring the success of the elections as being that of monitoring, sensitizing the public, education and intervention in the eradication of conflicts. He urged that spiritual renewal should be intensified and acknowledged, and that upright individuals in our society should be encouraged in order to sustain the democracy in Nigeria.

HRH. Sir W. W. Onunwor, began by saying that "…the name IIFWP begins with the world ‘Inter-religious’ which suggests that there is accommodation and tolerance for all religious groups. Let me therefore quickly take the liberty by quoting from the Holy book as recorded in Mathew Chapter 5, Verse 9 which reads… "Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the sons of God." Hindu, Shinto, the Vedic scriptures and many others all have similar texts but put slightly differently."

Next, was the discussion session, chaired also by the good VC, Professor Achinewhu. It was a very lively session. As all participants were there in their own right as Nigerians there was a high degree of openness during the discussion.

The participants expressed concern on a wide range of issues. They included irregularities in the electoral process in Nigeria, particularly on the non display of voters’ registration at the appropriate time; threats to life associated with the conduct of the elections on the date scheduled; hijack of the media (both public and private), as well as the state security apparatus, by the incumbents across the country; threats of election boycotts from some quarters; and the absence or lack of will of the appropriate authorities to deal with criminals presented by political parties as candidates.

At length, two members of the audience, Hajia Mariam Usman, President of Rivers State Islamic Sisters Association and Mr. Harry Macmorrison of the Niger Delta News Center for Environment and Development were appointed to put together all the issues raised into a communiqué.

To conclude the seminar, IIFWP, Nigeria presented Ambassador for Peace Awards to twelve distinguished Nigerians from the Niger Delta Area, including HRH King Alfred Diete-Spiff, the King of Twon Brass; Capt (Dr.) Elechi Amadi, a thinker and writer; Chief (Mrs.) Eunice Ogan, an Administrator to mention a few.

Chief Olusola, IIFWP trustee, explained that the Ambassador for Peace initiative was announced by the founder, Rev. Dr. Moon, at an IIFWP convocation in May 2001 in New York. Responding on behalf of the recipients, Chief P. N. Ehoro, a Port Harcourt based businessman thanked the organizers for deeming them worthy of such an award. He said he was aware that the award was a call to greater responsibility and duty and promised to live up to it.

The program came to an end with a beautiful song presented by ten members of the Youth Arrow Ministry, calling on all to live in unity and oneness.

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