This analysis was written by Zakaria Bulus, who interned in the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy this summer through Ministry Summer Service.
Nigeria has been referred to as the Giant of Africa in terms of population and economy, and it is the largest democracy in Africa. The state has topped the list of wealthiest African economies.“ It has overtaken South Africa in 2014 with GDP valued at $568.5 primarily due to its richness in oil and gas reserves. This short paper is an analysis of the Nigeria Working Group meetings, resolutions and other related events in the United States capital on issues concerning the well-being, challenges and the progress of Nigeria. Currently, the group is discussing the 2019 general election, the farmer-herder conflict and issues of humanitarian support that will inform the policy makers in the United States.
About the Nigeria Working Group
The Nigeria Working Group is coordinated by Dr. Nathan Hosler, Director of the Church of the Brethren, Office of Peacebuilding and Policy. It started after the 2014 Chibok kidnappings, when over 200 school girls in Chibok local government of Borno State were taken as hostages by Boko Haram. Civil society advocacy groups met during a “Bring Back Our Girls” rally, and agreed to continue meeting to discuss their Nigeria efforts.
The Nigeria Working Group (NWG) consists of organizations and individuals that work on Nigerian issues within the context of U.S. policy. The group includes different international organizations in Washington DC. Some of these organization have field offices in Nigeria.
The NWG meets monthly to discuss the current situation of the Nigeria crisis and the operation of the government in general towards the welfare of its citizens, as well as how Nigeria influences the rest of Africa. Since its inception, the group has coordinated congressional briefings, written letters to various public officials, and organized discussions on providing support to Nigeria. They also meet with key stakeholders and policymakers to brief them on what is happening in the field to gain support that will improve livelihood as well as foster peaceful coexistence in the country, especially as the 2019 election approaches. This includes the State Department and legislators and their staff on issues affecting Nigeria.
NWG are working on issues around human rights, peaceful coexistence, research, and providing humanitarian and other developmental support by organizations within the group. Beneficiaries include the victims of farmer-herder conflict, victims of the Boko Haram insurgency in IDP camps and host communities. Due to their in-country presence, they receive regular updates regarding the situation on the ground in Nigeria. It should be noted that most of the organizations working in Nigeria are also from the United States.The NWG also intends to draft a joint letter on the farmer-herder conflict and another joint letter to Secretary of State after consultation with members for their inputs about the broad strategy on elections in Nigeria.
The group should continue inviting Nigerian citizens that are in the US and are well informed about the issues in Nigeria to bring diversity into the group discussions. This will bring diversity into the group deliberation with more relevant ideas and insights on the Nigerian situation. It would also make Nigerians themselves keep reflecting on what they can do while in diaspora for the development of their country.
As Nigeria approaches its general election in February 2019, the group should develop a strategy on how to be involved in election monitoring so that they can have firsthand information on election credibility and its outcome.
The working group should pay close attention and time to the issue of religion in relation to conflict as most of the facts on the causes of religious conflict are viewed as a result of poverty, ethnicity, or the growing population of people looking for livelihood which are part of the sources of conflict but the role of faith cannot be overemphasized in Nigerian peaceful coexistence.
For the congressional briefing, the NWG should reflect on the violence surrounding the 2011 presidential election and the peaceful outcome of 2015 general election. This will provide an opportunity to learn lessons from the elections’ outcome and how they impact Nigerian polls positively or negatively.
Another issue of concern is the safety of and the provision of basic amenities for the returnees from the IDP camps and those in host communities as they return to their places of origin so that their livelihood, education, shelter, and healthcare can be guaranteed. The group should also advocate for the support of local peacebuilding efforts in the conflict-affected states and non-conflict states, and increase their call for good governance within the three tiers of government in bringing healing and trust among the people.
Nigeria has the potential to be an example of good governance and peaceful coexistence in Africa, but is weak due to lack of good governance, tribalism,lack of good public educational system, devaluation of its currency, and religious fundamentalism among others. Presently, its GDP has dropped to $375.77 billion in 2017. Hence, the Nigeria Working Group in DC is strategic in coming out with recommendations to the government on how to support Nigeria sustainably since they have some considerable knowledge about the happenings in Nigeria. Their meeting outcomes can serve as an eye-opener to the Nigerian government, the US Congress and the United States government towards policies that affect the country. By continuing to pursue its current advocacy work and incorporating the suggestions above, the Nigeria Working Group can have a positive impact on policies that impact the country.