Nigeria is a very complex and interesting state. With 188 million people, over 250 ethnic groups and close to 400 different languages spread over 923 763 km2 , it is one of the world’s most diverse, exciting and complex nations. Expectedly, with Nigeria’s rich diversity, comes the challenges of understanding and cohesion amongst its many ethnic nationalities. Some aver that the amalgamation of Nigeria’s Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914 by the Governor General, Lord Lugard, did not take into cognizance the country’s diversity. Out of a sheer need for simplified administration, the British colonialists ‘merged’ regions with very diverse sociocultural, sociopolitical and socioeconomic characteristics into one, leading to tensions and fear of possible domination by one region over another. Thus, unsurprisingly, ethno-religious fault lines soon emerged shortly after the country attained independence in 1960, culminating in an unfortunate (and possibly preventable) civil war that lasted three long years, from 1967-1970, and claimed over a million lives.
Since after the Civil War, Nigeria has attempted to build a sense of social cohesion and togetherness amongst its diverse populations. One standout scheme is the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), which is a mandatory one-year national service for graduates of Nigerian universities. The graduates are often transferred to a region (state) other than theirs, to boost understanding of other cultures and lived experiences. Although the scheme has been maligned by many due to its many shortcomings, it is still Nigeria’s best attempt at national integration. Another attempt at national integration and peace is the introduction of peace and conflict studies in Nigerian universities and specialized institutions and this article explores the history of peace education in Nigeria.
University Education in Nigeria
Nigeria’s first full-fledged University, the University of Ibadan was established in 1948 as an affiliate of the University of London. It was a result of years of demands and agitation by Nigeria’s political class for a University to meet the yearnings of a growing population desirous of the tertiary institution within the country. Suffice to add that before the University of Ibadan’s establishment in 1948, Yaba Higher College (now known as Yaba College of Technology) existed as the first form of higher education institution in Nigeria.
After the establishment of the University of Ibadan, the then Nigeria’s regional governments established universities in their respective regions. For example, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe established the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1960, Chief Obafemi Awolowo established the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in 192, while the northern region established the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1962. The University of Lagos was also established at the period, in 1962.
Early Courses Offered
The early universities did not offer a lot of courses, partly due to the paucity of funds available at that time, and also due to the lack of capable manpower to handle the various departments. The vision of the early universities was to provide the needed manpower for critical areas of agriculture, science, and technology, so as to jump-start the nascent economy. For example, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka’s early courses were organised to relate to its mission which was to meet the social and economic needs of the then Eastern Region. Thus, at its inception, the following institutes were considered necessary: agriculture, architecture, diplomacy, domestic science, dramatics, education, fine arts, journalism, pharmacy, public health, secretarial studies, surveying, and veterinary science.
The Ahmadu Bello University, University of Ife and University of Lagos all had similar focus areas. They all started with courses they believed were of immediate importance to their regional socioeconomic aspirations. As the number of universities and degree-awarding institutions in Nigeria increased over the years, the number of courses offered also increased. Soon, universities started offering courses in international studies and diplomacy, security studies, and eventually peace and conflict studies.
The Emergence of Peace and Conflict Studies
The University of Ibadan is often credited as the first public institution to offer courses in peace and conflict studies. Although the university’s Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies (IPSS) was formally established in 2015 by the university’s senate, it was, however, a merger of several ‘smaller units’ (including peace studies), that have existed since as far back as 1996. Thus, what happened with the emergence of the IPSS in 2015 was the harmonization of existing peace and security-related programmes located in different faculties within the institution.
The Centre for Conflict Management and Peace Studies at the University of Jos is also one of the earliest peace and conflict studies programmes in Nigeria. The Centre, which began academic programmes in 2003, offers postgraduate diplomas and master’s degrees in peace and conflict studies and is arguably the first university in northern Nigeria to offer courses in peace and conflict studies.
Perhaps, one of the most significant peace and conflict studies programme introduced to Nigerian universities is the one offered at the University of Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria. The state has been a hotbed of Islamist insurgency in the last decade and a half, and the centre was a bold response to the need to build peace in a very volatile, yet resilient city. In 2005, the Centre for Peace, Diplomatic and Development Studies (CPDSS) was set up at the University of Maiduguri to serve as a research and training unit of the university saddled with the responsibility of undertaken research on peace and conflict resolution, in collaboration with organisations with similar objectives within and outside the country. The city has been badly affected by a decade-long insurgency, and the university has been badly hit on many occasions, but the programme has remained strong and relevant, with very good ratings.
In 2008, the Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies (CPSSP was established at the University of Ilorin in Northcentral Nigeria. Its goal was to make a contribution to the production of the needed manpower for the promotion of sustainable development and managing conflicts in Nigeria, Africa and the globe in general. Interestingly, the first Director of the Centre was Prof. Isaac Olawale Albert, who also pioneered the peace programme at the University of Ibadan. Some of the new staff of the CPSS at the University of Ilorin also came from the University of Ibadan. Peace studies have since been introduced in the Universities of Port Harcourt, University of Nigeria Nsukka, and the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). Other universities have modules in peace and conflict studies, but not full-fledged degree programmes.
Suffice to add that research institutes focusing on peace and conflict issues in Nigeria and on the continent of Africa emerged shortly after the turn of the century, but they were not degree-awarding institutions. For example, the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) was established in February 2000, under the auspices of Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its primary responsibility is to conduct research on issues bothering on peace and security in Nigeria and on the continent, as well as serving as a think-tank and an agency to strengthen Nigeria’s capacity for the promotion of peace and conflict prevention, management and resolution.
Another independent institute that was set up to offer research and learning in peace and conflict studies is the Abdulsalami Abubakar Institute for Peace and Sustainable Development (AAIPSDS). The institute, named after Nigeria’s former military Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, seeks to provide expert training on peace, conflict and security-related issues. The institute now offers courses such as Professional Diploma in Peace and Development Studies, Certificate courses in Border Management and Security, Private Security, and Public Safety, Women in Peace and Security and Disaster and Humanitarian Emergency Management. The institute also awards Postgraduate Diplomas in Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism, and Security Studies, as well as Peace, Security and Development Studies.
The Future of Peace and Conflict Studies in Nigeria
Interest in peace and conflict studies is growing rapidly in Nigeria, especially given that the country has been bedeviled by internal conflicts in the last few years. Some private universities in the country have started offering courses in peace and conflict studies, and several independent research institutes have sprung up across the country. Afe Babalola University in Nigeria’s southwest city of Ado-Ekiti now offers undergraduate courses in peace and conflict studies, the first by a Nigerian institution. Landmark University in Nigeria’s Northcentral state of Kwara also offers undergraduate courses in peace and conflict studies.
With the increase in the number of licensed private universities in the country, as well as interest in the field of peace studies by government-owned or traditional universities, the future of peace and conflict studies in Nigeria looks bright. There is general agreement amongst academics and policymakers that sustainable peace and development in Nigeria can only be achieved when the process is homegrown, and when the members of the public can have a feeling of ‘ownership’ of the process the birth the ‘peace’. The more universities that offer peace studies (especially hands-on practical peace studies), the more likelihood that a ‘Nigerian solution’ to the conflicts plaguing the nation can be found.