Peace and conflict resolution were in focus as the Lagos Rotary Club under the leadership of Larry Agose marked the World Understanding Day with two former ambassadors examining where Nigeria and the world at large got it wrong in terms of peaceful co-existence. Labake Fasogbon reports

Why is the world permanently at war? Where are there conflicts everywhere? Why is there no understanding amongst ethnic nationalities? These were the questions speakers and participants attempted to answer as the Lagos Rotary Club under the leadership of Larry Agose, marked the World Understanding Day. It was a gathering of who was who as well as stakeholders in the Nigerian Project at the Institute of International Affairs, Lagos, as eminent Nigerians examined what was at the root cause of conflicts and breaches of the peace, both in the country and at the international level.

Speaking with THISDAY before the event which was held last week, Agose said Rotary Club anywhere in the world has always been concerned with peace and understanding in the world. According to him, it has always been part of the cardinal programmes of Rotary.
“Rotary has always been concerned about conflicts in different parts of the world and has done a lot to help contain, reduce or manage local, national or international violence through the following: the establishment of Peace Centres in collaboration with seven world class universities and the designation of the entire month of February to Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution. During this month, the 34000 clubs that make up Rotary International are engaged in activities to promote peace and violence free world. Towards this end, in addition to three guest speakers who would address my Club on the matter, we are organising World Understanding Day Symposium”

Agose said the event was also organised to promote the country’s peace and to enlighten the citizen as well as to find solution to the world conflict which can be reduced through peace center in collaboration with world leaders and opinion molders.
Speaking at the event proper, Agose, in his welcome address said: “We have chosen this day to celebrate the world understanding day, because every continent has a conflict. In order to solve the conflict there’s need for us to put in place the Rotary Four-way Test in operating and directing the affair of the country.”
The former corporate affairs adviser of the brewing giants, Nigerians Breweries Plc., said the Club was determined to help the country overcome its numerous conflicts. He stated that that was why the Lagos Rotary Club would always be at the forefront of promotion of peaceful co-existence.
“We are keen towards helping the country to overcome its conflict that’s why we are enhancing peace and friendship, with the use of peace fellow sponsored to institution to learn conflict resolution”.

One the keynote speakers and former Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil, Dr. Patrick Dele Cole, spoke extensively on the role the National Assembly had to play in enhancing peace and understanding amongst various ethnic nationalities in the country. His words:
“It is better to start by understanding ourselves in Nigeria before we can understand the world. National Assembly has many clowns but many serious and high minded people. I feel we need to talk about them because they make deals and rules which baffle the electorate. National Assemblies, the world over, tend to be clubby. They are fierce protectors of their interests. A National Assembly member developed a swagger which can only come from confidence of being untouchable. He is extremely well paid and can threaten the Executive either by impeaching the executive or threatening to do so.”
Ambassador Cole said the1999 constitution (Section 109) was put there to forestall shenanigans of this type unequivocally. He said that section demanded that if an elected member of one party wishes to leave that party, he must seek a fresh mandate under auspices of this newly preferred party.

“But this has never happened. Why? May be because of the weakness of the political structures and because parties lack discipline but largely because of selfish party or personal interests. The failure to enforce this provision of the Constitution is one of the main reasons for much of the political instability since 1999.”
In his own address another former envoy and erstwhile Nigeria ambassador to the United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, Ambassador Kunle Adeyemi, said: “our greatest problem in this country is lack of leadership. Promoting goodwill and peace should be the first on our mind; also our leaders’ involvement in the people should be paramount.”
The diplomat said the young generation should be brought into consideration in whatever governments at different levels are planning. He added that our local industries should be patronised instead of relying on imports all the time.
“Our local industry must be patronised and the main thing we have to deal with is energy, re ignite our manufacturing and there’s need to promote world understanding through planning.”
The World Understanding Day is held every year Rotary Club International to mark the anniversary of its first meeting held on February 23, 1905. Rotary International has now designated the day World Understanding Day as part of activities marking Rotary Month of Understanding, which is February.