The foremost prerequisite to the economic growth and development of any country is the peaceful coexistence of its people, and by extension, its neighbors. The absence of peace is not only an albatross to development but also a cause for regression. Nigeria is no exception.
In recent years, but especially over the past few months, peace seems to be eluding Nigeria. Indeed, as stated in President Muhammadu Buhari’s Democracy address to the nation, the president acceded that in tackling the Boko Haram insurgency engendered the unintended consequence of spreading violence across larger parts of the country.
But not only that, violence has touched other parts of the country for reasons other than Boko Haram. The situation is no doubt pernicious for Nigeria’s unity and ultimately, Nigeria’s economic growth and development.
Peace is a formidable force for economic progress. For example, the Global Peace Index (GPI) of 2020 reckons that the global economic impact of violence was $14.3 trillion PPP, equivalent to 12.6 per cent of global GDP, or $1,953 per person.
The index measures the relative position of nations’ and regions’ peacefulness.
The GPI is a report produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) and developed in consultation with an international panel of peace experts from peace institutes and think tanks with data collected and collated by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The Index was first launched in May 2009, with subsequent reports being released annually.
The study was conceived by Australian technology entrepreneur Steve Killelea, and is endorsed by individuals such as the late UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, the Dalai Lama, archbishop Desmond Tutu, former President of Finland and 2008 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari, Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, economist Jeffrey Sachs, former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Jan Eliasson and former United States president Jimmy Carter. The updated index is released each year at events in London, Washington, DC; and at the United Nations Secretariat in New York.
In assessing peacefulness, the GPI investigates the extent to which countries are involved in ongoing domestic and international conflicts. It also seeks to evaluate the level of harmony or discord within a nation; ten indicators broadly assess what might be described as safety and security in society. The assertion is that low crime rates, minimal incidences of terrorist acts and violent demonstrations, harmonious relations with neighboring countries, a stable political scene, and a small proportion of the population being internally displaced or refugees can be suggestive of peacefulness.
The eight pillars of positive peace are well-functioning government, sound business environment, acceptance of the rights of others, good relations with neighbors, free flow of information, high levels of human capital, low levels of corruption, and equitable distribution of resources.
Well-functioning government, low levels of corruption, acceptance of the rights of others and good relations with neighbours are more important in countries suffering from high levels of violence. Free flow of information and sound business environment become more important when a country is approaching the global average level of peacefulness, also described as the Mid-Peace level. Low levels of corruption is the only pillar that is strongly significant across all three levels of peacefulness. This suggests it is an important transformational factor at all stages of nations’ development.
The GPI ranks 172 independent states and territories (99.7 percent of the world’s population) according to their levels of peacefulness. In 2020, Nigeria ranked 147th out of 172 countries ranked. The 2020 position was a marginal improvement over the past eight years at 151st position, and an improvement by one position compared with the previous year. According to the index, Nigeria is in the red of three colours: green for positive peace, yellow for neutral peace and red for negative peace. By implication, Nigeria’s peace condition is in a bad state.
The cost of war, economically, environmentally, and to quality of life, is tremendous. Since material resources are finite, devoting so much of energy and money to military spending trades off with what is invested in promoting sustainable societies.
While violence of all kinds takes a toll, in war, we don’t just kill other human beings, we also destroy the forests and fields and crops and water they rely on. We drop bombs, set fires, plant explosive devices, and cause oil spills, and the environmental devastation that follows remains even if peace can be negotiated.
In the current agricultural revolution being embarked on, Nigeria, although making progress towards the goal of self-sufficiency in food production, would have been making giant strides in that direction. But instead of keying into the agricultural revolution, the more than 10 years of civil unrest in the country has not only taken the lives and maimed tens of thousands, but has also rendered many more jobless in Displaced People’s Camps.
The high rate of food inflation in recent months is a clear impact of violence taking over huge swathes of land that were hitherto food baskets of the nation. Paying more for less is a clear path to poverty. Nigerians don’t want to go that route!
That is aside from the fact that billions of dollars that would have been expended on gainful public and private investments for economic gains are being expended to end war and other unrest in the country.
In low-peace environments, the factors that matter the most are related to well-functioning government, low levels of corruption, acceptance of the rights of others and good relations with neighbours.
Ensuring those fine features of good governance would be a clear path to socio-economic restoration, which Nigeria so dearly needs at the moment.