The difference incidents of rural violence and banditry in North-West Nigeria are fluid and complex. Every day, the conflict evolves with increasing intensity and sadly creates a situation wrought with hopelessness and despair. The situation has morphed into instances of rural banditry, kidnapping, killings of innocent citizens, rape and other forms of violence. Armed banditry in the North-West has taken a dangerous dimension of feeding into wider existing ethno-religious tensions and social bigotry often amplified by the media, political commentators, and conflict merchants.
The complexities and changing narratives of armed banditry in the North-West points to the involvement of multiple actors, who cut across state, non-state and extranational actors. The implication of the involvement of state actors in the violence is damning. Traditional leaders, who are well-positioned to be closer to their people as custodians of traditions and social norms, are increasingly accused of being involved with different actors. Examples include bandits, the Yan Sakai, and other terrorist elements. The alleged involvement of the traditional leaders has radically changed the dynamics of armed banditry from mere rural terror and criminality to ‘ethnic conflict’ and an attempt to build religion—jihad—into it, and this is the most dangerous dimension of the conflict. Already, it has taken the line of Fulani against the Hausas and vice-versa.
However, traditional leaders—Hakimai and Ardo’en—are always at the centre of any conflict—as its victims, actors or agent of peacebuilding and resolution. Based on this existential reality, traditional leaders must be placed at the centre of any conflict resolution and peacebuilding. As agents of peace and social cohesion, they operate at the grassroots and interact regularly and closely with the masses. They are also the major pillars for the success of any social programme and public policy, especially its design and subsequent implementation. A major reason is because of their vast knowledge and experience of the acceptable traditional methods and procedures of conflict management, conflict resolution
and peacebuilding in their various domains.
The mere collapse of the traditional conflict resolution and peacebuilding architectures in many societies has been cited as a possible reason for the escalation of this violent conflict in the North-West. Similarly, perhaps because of the protracted nature and barbaric pattern of armed banditry, their capacity for conflict resolution and peacebuilding is historically too limited to confront the challenges of modern conflict.
As part of its mandate in development, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), West Africa in partnership with the Centre for Peace Studies, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto organised a series of two-day capacity building training for selected Hakimai and Ardo’en in three frontline states on conflict resolution and peacebuilding under its Strengthening the Delivery of Peace and Security (SDPS) Phase II Project.
The key essence of this training is to provide a platform in which the capacity of traditional leaders could be improved by strengthening their traditional methods of conflict resolution in order to serve as agents of peace and conflict resolution in their respective areas and societies in the selected states. This is on the premise that traditional leaders are in a pivotal position to counter negative narratives by the media and individuals that could instigate and inflame violent conflict.