Column Opinion

Nigeria’s Truth And Reconciliation Commission

By Prince Charles Dickson PhD

South Africa’s last white president, F.W. de Klerk, died on Thursday aged 85, he apologised for the crimes committed against people of colour in a video released by his foundation on its website hours after his death.

The abridged text of his recorded message to the people of South Africa.

“This is my last message addressed to the people of South Africa…

“Our country faces so many challenges of a serious nature. I hold firm opinions about all of them, but decided to keep this message very short, and only really focus on two issues – touching me and touching the country.

“The first issue I want to focus on is apartheid, and apartheid and me.

“I’m still often accused by critics, that I, in some way or another, continue to justify apartheid or separate development, as we later preferred to call it. It is true that in my younger years, I defended separate development as I never liked the word apartheid. I did so when I was a member of Parliament, and I did so as I became a member of cabinet.

“Afterwards, on many occasions, I apologised for the pain of the indignity that apartheid has brought to persons, to persons of colour in South Africa. Many believed me, but others didn’t…

“I, without qualification, apologise for the pain and the hurt and the indignity and the damage that apartheid has done to black, brown and Indians in South Africa. I do so not only in my capacity as the former leader of the National Party, but also as an individual.

“Allow me in this last message to share with you the fact that since the early 80s, my views changed completely. It was as if I had a conversion. And in my heart of hearts, I realized that apartheid was wrong. I realized that we had arrived at a place which was morally unjustifiable. My conversion, to which I refer didn’t end with the admission to myself of the total unacceptability of apartheid. It motivated us in the National Party to take the initiatives we took from the time that I became leader of the National Party. And more specifically, during my presidency. We did not only admit the wrongness of apartheid, we took far-reaching measures to ensure negotiation and a new dispensation which could bring justice to all.

“This brings me to the second issue I want to focus on.

“Together, with most other South Africans, I’m proud of our Constitution. The Constitution which we hammered out in the negotiations we started in 1990 and which culminated in the final constitution of 1996. I truly associate myself with the values and principles enshrined in our Constitution, and I’m deeply concerned about the undermining of many aspects of the Constitution, which we perceive almost day to day.

“It is my plea that the government, all parties, civil society, and all South Africans should once again embrace the Constitution and interpret it in the balanced way which the Constitution demands. We need to align the principles of non-racialism and non-discrimination with the need to deal with the past, and issues like affirmative action.

“We need to guard over the independence and the impartiality of our courts.

“We need to promote economic growth and job creation by basing economic policies on the principles contained in the Constitution, and not on ideologies, which militate against the Constitution.

“We need to make the Constitution the cornerstone of the new society we are building.

“The road forward is a difficult one. But I firmly believe that if we take hands and if all the reasonable people in South Africa put their heads together, we can overcome the challenges we face and we can fulfil the tremendous potential that South Africa has.

As I reflected on this, it was a coincidence that I was amongst those facilitating a five-day immersion training on Conflict Sensitivity, Restorative Justice (Healing and Forgiveness) and Effective Messaging For Peace.

At the heart of the F.W. de Klerk’s message was the need for transformative and restorative justice.  So, with the space opened for some 50 participants across Correctional Services, the Civil Defence, the National Council of Women Societies NCWS, the Judiciary, the Police, Faith Based, Community, Civil and Non-Governmental Organizations, Media, the Orientation Agency; it was a learning, unlearning and relearning experience…for which I dare say my nation needs urgently a truth and reconciliation commission.  

While we reflected as a team, it is safe to say that for many, whatever knowledge possessed  before now was largely enriched, broadened and opened up by Dr. Yakubu’s exposition of not just an overview of RJ but also Social Justice nexus, and the narratives on Transformative Justice. His experiences from research across South America and the Correctional Systems helped the entire learning.

Listening to Mugu Zaka who had lost 5 siblings, and whose wife lost her entire village in Southern Kaduna actually co-facilitate with Aisha a Fulani as they brought trauma healing, conflict transformation and RJ to life saw participants express that humanness in us all.

The learnings were numerous, the unlearning hard, the relearning; a continuum, for example my christian brothers wanted to know exactly the place of virgins, and divorce and what the Koran said about Jesus, and the prophets, it was tense, questions, answers, wrong notions held and conversations explaining the laws of Qisas, Suluh, and Diyyah, a big thank  to Ahmed, Auwal, Hajiya Aminah, the Aishas, and Sheikh Dickson. We all kept nodding and the learning only exposed the need for truth. O.J Afwanks was very bold in his positions but the truth is that we all need each other.

It was no difference as Sunday Aimu facilitated discussions RJ, the Christian Perspectives. It was equally very rewarding as participants thanks to Chris Ogbonna of Search were made to understand the “Do No Harm” concept from a deeply RJ angle, especially in a Nigeria where conflict sensitivity is a BIG ISSUE, given that often than not, when we have tried solving a problem, we created another. Barrister Rhoda added perspectives of the law to RJ

Madam Bridget brought in the dialects of Gender, while Kitshwe, touched on the true meaning of Advocacy, as Mr. John Danboyi helped us all put a wrap.

As we mingled, it was a miature Nigeria, listening to Folorunsho of the Correctional Services share experiences and how as a Kabba man born, and raised in Maidugiri battles acceptance across Nigeria, or how the culture and ritual of name calling amongst ethnic nationalities was disappearing, we put our police friend on the spot on whether bail was free and restorative justice and criminal law.

Our friends from the media were not left out, Freda (who is from Bassa in Plateau and hubby from Akwa Ibom) of the FRCN and Mathew a blogger amongst many helped as we x-rayed perspectives, creating messages and the complexities that comes with it.

In Plateau we have the Muslims, we have the native Muslims, and we have the non-native Muslims, we have Muslims who belong to different sects and then different denominations, same applies to the Christians, we largely agree that the state is a Christian state, but debate on the exact percentage of Muslims, but there are Christians that cannot govern as Muslims may not. The Fulanis became a big part of the discussion as a result of the farmer/herder conversations, but we seldom fixate on good governance, accountability or transparency.For the five days of learning, representing the Tattaaunawa Roundtable Initiative I did say a BIG THANK YOU to Basel based Mission 21, and the Mennonite Central Committee. The Plateau Peace Practitioners Network PPPN in collaboration with the Plateau Peace Building Agency PPBA alongside Lifeline Compassionate Global Initiatives LCGI, Peace Training Centre, PTC Jos, anchored by a strong team PAMO. Special thanks to Dr. Yakubu!

Nigeria and Nigerians need to dialogue, for healing and forgiveness to take place, to vigorously preach peace rightly. We need for the sake of our collective humanity, the victim, the aggressor, and the community to come together quickly, and speak the truth, we cannot get what is lost, but we can start afresh with reconciliation, do we want to—Only time will tell.

Contact the writer: pcdbooks@gmail.com

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