“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
The President of the Nigerian Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio, obviously took Roosevelt seriously when he went to Angola, recently, for the 147th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). Hence, as a very practical leader, he felt mere talks about “parliamentary action for peace, justice and strong institution”, would be meaningless without appropriate actions.
As Akpabio spoke, parts of Europe, the Middle East and Africa boiled over in crisis. Hence, his charge for urgent solutions to the crises between Russia and Ukraine, Israel and Palestine, among others, received global applause. In Africa, nations like Ethiopia Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Somalia, Central African Republic (CAR) and even Nigeria have witnessed conflicts for years on end.
The sad implication of these crises is that they impede development. Where there is no peace, devastation reigns supreme. Peace, it is generally held, plays a crucial role in development as it creates a favorable environment for growth and progress. When there is peace within a society, resources can be allocated towards economic development, infrastructure improvement, and social welfare programs. Peace allows for the stability to attract investments and promote, leading to job creation economic prosperity.
Akpabio, a known advocate and astute implementer of development, considered all those. For him, “promoting and maintaining peace and development in the society must always be our (parliaments’) primary role. That is why we enact laws to protect human rights, foster social cohesion, and address the root causes of conflicts. We also promote dialogue in resolving conflicts and build a culture of peace,” he said.
Like Mahatma Gandhi, Akpabio appreciates that “peace is not merely the absence of conflict”, hence, he called for the recognition of its prime
importance as the foundation upon which prosperous nations are built. “Without peace, we cannot achieve sustainable development, protect human rights, or ensure the well-being of our citizens. Therefore, it is essential that we prioritise peace as a fundamental pillar of our parliamentary agenda, ” he said.
A key harbinger of peace is justice. And, to arrive at that, the society must adopt what Martin Buber calls the “I and Thou” approach to life. The Africans call it the Ubuntu philosophy (I am because you are!). Akpabio deew attention to these when called forthe pursuit of justice. According to him: “Justice is the bedrock of fair and equitable societies. It ensures that no one is above the law and that the rights of every individual are safeguarded. By enacting legislations that promote justice, combat corruption, and uphold the rule of law, parliaments play a vital role in creating just and inclusive societies where all individuals can thrive.”
Implicitly, Akpabio, deeply understands that there can never be justice until we treat the other as fellow humans, whether at the individual or societal level. This is in sync with Buber’s thoughts.
The Jewish philosopher believed that justice and true peace can only be achieved through genuine dialogue and understanding between individuals and communities. He emphasised the importance of establishing meaningful connections with others, based on mutual respect and recognition of each other’s humanity. Buber also highlighted the significance of active participation and responsibility in creating a peaceful society.
Once we recognise the inherent worth of the other and spare time to actively listen, in a “genuine dialogue” and engagement with others, peace will ensue!
Just like Akpabio hinted deliberate actions towards peace attainment, Buber stressed the need for active participation and responsibility in creating a peaceful society. Peace comes through a continuous process that require efforts and engagement from all members of a community. Not through mere tolerance or avoidance of conflict. Interestingly, the 147th IPA assembly represented one fora needed for deliberate actions towards world peace.
Overall, like Buber, Akpabio focused on fostering authentic relationships, practicing empathy, and actively participating in the creation of a peaceful society. He believed that by cultivating these qualities and engaging in meaningful dialogue, individuals and communities could work towards achieving lasting peace.
Indeed, as an African, Akpabio drew his notion of peace from the concept of “ubuntu”, deeply rooted in the idea of interconnectedness and collective well-being. This is an African philosophy promoting the understanding that we are all connected and that our actions have an impact on others.
When individuals embrace the principles of ubuntu, they recognise the humanity in others and prioritise harmonious relationships. This recognition of shared humanity and a sense of community fosters a peaceful environment, where cooperation and conflict management can thrive. In essence, like Buber, ubuntu encourages empathy, compassion, and respect, which are essential for building and maintaining peace. Those form the foundation of Akpabio’s commendable stand on justice, global peace and development.
Generally, peace fosters social cohesion and unity, paving the way for inclusive development. It encourages cooperation among individuals and communities, promoting dialogue, understanding, and tolerance. In peaceful environments, people are more likely to engage in constructive activities, education, and skill-building, which ultimately lead to human capital development.
A peaceful society encourages citizen participation and ensures equal opportunities for all, regardless of background. This inclusive approach to development reduces inequalities and promotes sustainable progress.
In summary, peace is a vital element for development in multiple aspects. It facilitates economic growth, social harmony, democratic governance, and environmental sustainability. No wonder Akpabio asked the lawmakers to invest in peace-building efforts, as it lays a solid foundation for sustainable and inclusive development.
Globally, peace allows nations to collaborate and work together towards common goals, addressing challenges like climate change, poverty, and pandemics. International cooperation becomes more effective when countries are not caught up in conflicts or disputes, enabling them to pool resources, share knowledge, and find collective solutions.
Thus, Akpabio was right that, peace is not just the absence of violence or conflict; it is a foundational element for sustainable development on multiple levels. By calling for prompt action, he agreed with John Lennon that: “Peace is not something you wish for; it’s something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away.”
*Usoro, a public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos