On Thursday, April 6th 2017, 100 participants gathered at the Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies (IPSS), University of Ibadan, Nigeria for the National Youth Summit on ‘Youth Participation in Countering Violent Extremism: Opportunities and Challenges’ organised by Nigeria Youth 4 Peace Initiative (NY4PI). 88 young people below the age of 35 years and others which included representatives of Civil Society Organisations, INGO, Professional bodies, Academia, Security agencies, UN agencies, Media graced the event.
In November 2016, Search for Common Ground (SFCG) in conjunction with USAID, NERI and the University of Maiduguri hosted a Regional Youth Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) held in Maiduguri, Borno State. The regional summit brought together young people from five (5) African states including Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Mali and Niger to discuss the various drivers of violent extremism and develop possible solutions towards building the resilience of communities against violent extremism. This One- Day National Youth Summit on “Youth Participation in Countering Violent Extremism: Opportunities and Challenges” was intended towards ensuring that the experiences and outcomes of the regional summit were disseminated to a wider network.
The summit was aimed at raising awareness on how youth participation, protection, partnership and engagements can prevent violent extremism and foster sustainable peace and development. It was intended to engage and strengthen local and national networks of young people focused on addressing violent extremism in their own communities and provide an opportunity to share experiences, challenges, and best practices to prevent/counter violent extremism across Nigeria.
The National Coordinator, Nigeria Youth 4 Peace Initiative (NY4PI); Mr Lawal Rafiu Adeniran while welcoming participants to the national youth summit opined that one major threat to the achievement of sustainable peace and development is the growing surge of violent extremism groups especially in Nigeria. He argued that while it is true that youth have been involved in violent actions in various part of the world, what is becoming evident is that majority of young people are contributing to peacebuilding across the world. He posited that one major reason for organizing the youth summit was to provide an avenue for young people to identify and discuss the drivers of violent extremism and possible solutions. He therefore, urged participants to tap from the several opportunities on how young people can counter/prevent violent extremism in their communities that will be discussed during the summit.
Professor Olawale Albert, Director, Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies (IPSS), University of Ibadan, who was represented by Dr. Benjamin Aluko, while presenting the keynote address on ‘Youth Participation in Countering Violent Extremism: Opportunities and Challenges’ defines violent extremism as the act of advocating, engaging in , preparing or supporting ideologically motivated/justify violence for achieving political or socioeconomic objectives.
He argues that due to the negative effects of violent extremism and its capacity to hinder societal peace and development, the whole discourse on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) which largely means responses to violent extremism should be taken seriously by individuals, state, nations and all relevant stakeholders.
According to him, youth participation in Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) in Nigeria should not be explored outside of the political opportunity structure. He posited that the political opportunity structures in Nigeria rather than mobilize youth in countering violent extremism, encourages them to engage in violent extremism. He argued that if youth are to be effectively involved in countering violent extremism, youth must question the political opportunity structures which largely forces youth to take up violent actions in the first instance. He concluded by saying that irrespective of the enormous challenges stopping young people from taking advantage of the available opportunities in countering violent extremism, youth must continue to take CVE initiatives.
The Guest Speaker, Dr. Zebulon Takwa; Peace and Development Advisor, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP-Nigeria) during his presentation on ‘Preventing Violent Extremism: The Antidote of Education’ appreciated Nigeria Youth 4 Peace Initiative (NY4PI) for taking the courageous step in bringing young people together to discuss their roles in Countering Violence Extremism (CVE). Dr. Zebulon pointed out that one major problem confronting international and regional organisations is the tendency to talk about the youth and not to talk with the youth. He pointed out that peacebuilding is all inclusive enterprise and therefore urged youth to continue to speak so as to ensure that their voices are heard and listened to by governments, regional and international organisations.
Dr. Zebulon while reemphasizing the United Nations support and willingness to partner with relevant stakeholders including youth in ensuring peace and development in Nigeria argued that education /teachers are a veritable tool in the fight against violent extremism.
Fatima Askira, Youth Coordinator, Search for Common Ground (SFCG Nigeria) presented the ‘Youth Action Agenda to Prevent Violence and Promote Peace’ and also the ‘Common Ground Approach to Countering Violent Extremism (CVE)’at the summit. She began by arguing that nobody is born a terrorist, that people only learn terrorist acts from their environment. She opined that, In Nigeria, Search is preventing violent extremism by engaging young people on how to address grievances constructively and also working with religious leaders on a project called “Protection of Holy Sites in Northern Nigeria”.
Fatima, while narrating to participants that the Common Ground Approach to Countering Violent Extremism hinges on four pillars which are Prevention, Disengagement, Enabling Effective State Response and Amplifying Credible and Constructive Narratives, encouraged youth to adopt embrace dialogue as the only means of resolving conflicts.
Samuel Olalekan, one of the participants at the Regional Youth Summit organised by Search in Maiduguri, Borno State in November 2016, who is also the founder of Gwise Global Community, took time to share with participants the experiences and opportunities identified at the regional summit which he said gave birth to the national youth summit in Ibadan, Nigeria. He therefore, charged participants to ensure that they take actions against the spread of violent extremism.
Goodwill messages were given by Mrs Oyewo Olakunbi on behalf of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Oyo State Command, Mr Simon Christian of ONE Campaign, Mr Adesina Oludare, State Commandant, Peace Corps, Oyo State and Mr. Amusat Kolawole of West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP Nigeria).
LAWAL, Rafiu Adeniran