1.1 Background to the Study
Africa, especially the Sub-Saharan region has been plagued by conflict for many decades now (Clempson, 2012). There has been a great deal of war and bloodshed since the colonial masters left the continent. According to De Ree and Nillesn (2009), the last six decades has experienced up to 47 civil wars in sub –Saharan Africa which in turn has resulted in over 1.37 million deaths on the battlefield and an even larger number of civilian deaths. In Nigeria, over the past two decades, especially in the middle belt, the country has also experienced an increased level of violence” (Action Aid Nigeria, 2014). Experts have in several studies identified economic disparities and more importantly structural violence, as key factors in the rise of violence in the region (Olojo, 2013; Walker, 2012; and Adesoji, 2010).
According to Olojo (2012), structural violence has predicated thousands of impoverished and unemployed youths in northern Nigeria to take part in armed violence. This state of events according to the report has resulted in the said youths becoming willing recruits for the terrorist organisationBoko Haram’s who has being the main cause of a series of conflicts and armed violence predominant in the Northern part of Nigeria. Olojo (2012) attributed the main cause of the Boko Haram crisis to poverty, lack of education and social marginalisation. This makes a clear case for the premise that structural violence is one of the more responsible factors leading to armed violence and conflict in the region under review.
Another serious case of conflict that has plagued the North-central region of Nigeria in recent years is the crisis that has persisted between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in various states in the region. The problem here can be traced to a belief of land and ‘overlord-ship’ entitlement held by one or both parties and the resulting violence is caused by the feeling that the other party is trespassing or encroaching on land that does not belong to them. Other cases reported include Fulani herdsmen taking up arms against farmers who accuse them of despoiling their crops with cattle during grazing and farmers taking up arms against Fulani herdsmen upon hearing that ‘so and so’ farmer was attacked in ‘so and so’ town. Again the development of these cases of conflict can can be explained using the concept of structural violence. Galtung (1969)’s structural violence paradigm underscores how socio-cultural systems, political structures and state institutions create structural violence among people and indirectly act as instigators of armed violence and conflict. By implication, it is the many factors of political, social and ethnic machinations (e.g implementation of land tenure and the concept of communal land, lack of proper litigation and inter-ethnic conflict mediation in rural areas etc) that has created the aforementioned beliefs of entitlement as well as a system that can continually breed violence and conflict. Accordingly, the theory suggests how seeds of hostility are sown and ultimately degenerate into large scale uprisings, revolutions and conflicts within societies.
Structural conflict is therefore inherently built into a society through its structure and organization as it is seen in the forceful foundation of the Nigerian state’s adoption of federalism as was propagated by the British. Structural violence in this context examines the social problems that have manifested itself in the North central zone as a result of certain federal principles such as federal character/quota system, fiscal federalism amongst others that do not suit the system or are not properly balanced in practice, this principles have brought about; political and economic exclusion, poverty, injustice, exploitation, religious conflicts which are the major sources of conflict peculiar to this zone. Structuralism maintains that conflicts occur because of the exploitative and unjust nature of human society, domination of one class by another (Faleti, 2006).
Conflict is inherent in society; so are mechanisms for dealing with it. The decline of traditional authority and its role in conflict mediation has contributed to the development of large-scale conflict in countries such as Liberia, Somalia, Sudan and our case study, north central zone of Nigeria. Characteristic of many conflicts in the northern zone of Nigeria have degenerated to a critical level. It has so far defied possible explanations where life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. The state at present is in a dire situation of unrest, continual suspicion, perpetual fear of violence and death. In this condition, there is little place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain and worse of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death.
Conflict transformation is an emerging field or theoretical framework in the study of conflict resolution and management. The idea behind conflict transformation is to go beyond just resolving conflict and try to ensure that one attains a long-term goal of ‘transforming’ or addressing the reasons for the conflict in order to ensure that it never arises again (Miall, 2004).
Conflict transformation appears to be able to provide a lasting solution to the issues addressed above. This is because, unlike most other conflict management techniques, conflict transformation actually tries to tackle a problem of conflict from the cause through to its effects. Thus, this research aims at investigating the relationship between structural violence and conflict in North-central Nigeria as well as the suitability of conflict transformation for tackling the underlying problems.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
In Nigeria today, the adoption of Western civilization and system of government can be argued to have actually increased imbalances in the Nigerian federation as exemplified in continued centralization and concentration of power at the centre with its attendant consequences; conflicts of varying degrees. This has led to a great deal of marginlization of minority ethnic groups (e.g. Niger-Deltans and North-Central tribes); causing poverty, poor education and structural violence (Agang 2013). The resulting effect of this state of things has been conflict and armed violence which has troubled the region for the last two decades or so (Action Aid, 2014). Even though there is a consensus that the federal idea is the most suitable mechanism for fostering unity and diversity in the context of ethnic, religious and regional pluralities of Nigeria, there is still the feeling that the federal system; which was adopted by Nigeria as a way of managing her diversity and heterogeneity; has not yielded much peaceful output, but rather, has created problems and violence amongst the various groups in the country. In the North central zone, the idea of federalism in the Nigerian political space has so far not been able to tamed the recurrence of ethnic clashes and violence, there still exists imbalances amongst the people which is the major source of conflict.
It is based on the contending issues that this study is relevant for theoretical and practical reasons. A study of the nature and prevalence of structural violence and the role it plays in premeditating armed conflict and violence will be important for addressing the Nigerian Structural Violence problem whose solution has eluded both policy and experts till date.
1.3 Objective of the Study
The main objective of this study is to assess the incidence of structural violence present in the North central zone of Nigeria, and how conflict transformation can be used to proffer solutions to this problem.The specific objectives are to;
- examine the concept of structural violence;
- Interrogate incidences of structural violence in North Central Nigeria;
- assess the role structural violence plays in premeditation of armed violence and conflict in North Central Nigeria and
- evaluate how conflict transformation can be used to manage structural violence and conflict in North-Central Nigeria
1.4 Research Questions
- To what extent is the state of structural violence in North Central Nigeria?
- How has the prevalence of structural violence resulted in North-central Nigeria armed conflicts?
- How can conflict transformation be used to manage the structuralviolence posed in the North Central Zone?