Conflicts are part of life they say, but in the world today, there seem to be too many violent conflicts. Most of which have degenerated into full scale wars. I believe you are familiar with Afghanistan, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo, Georgia, Libya, Venezuela, Myanmar, Nigeria, Syria, and Yemen. These are current theatres of war. As you may have rightly guessed, Russia and the United States of America with their allies are also engaged in most of these theatres.
The ubiquity of terrorist organizations and acts of terrorism are well known. They currently affect private and public lives of individuals and groups in many countries of the world.
There are also numerous religiously, racially or ethnically motivated killings going on in many parts of the world. Some of these are of genocidal scale. In the face of all these, should we not ask what the nations of the world meet for at the United Nations here in New York City every year? What exactly for?
Is Any Country Exempted from the Current Chaos?
I wonder! While the US troops are busy in most of the international theatres, what happens here in the American soil? Let us be reminded of the recent trend. The shootings! The sporadic shootings in bars, cinemas, Churches and schools that kill and maim children and adults alike. I think they are hate killings. The El Paso Texas Walmart shooting in 2019 injured many and claimed 24 lives. The question is: Do we just helplessly wonder where the next shooting shall be? I am wondering whose child, parent or sibling is going to be the next victim! Whose wife or lover or husband or friend? While we helplessly guess, I believe there could be a way out!
Has the World Ever been this Low?
Like the sides of a coin, one could easily argue for or against. But it is a different ball game for a survivor of any of the horrors in question. The victim feels an inexplicable pain. The victim bears a heavy burden of trauma for a very long time. I do not therefore think that anyone should attempt to trivialize the deep effects of any of these now common place horrible crimes.
But I know that spared this burden, humankind would have been better off. We may have descended too low to feel this.
Our historians say that many centuries ago, humans were secure in their safe social enclaves. Of cause they feared to venture to other lands for fear of death. Venturing actually led to certain death most of the time. However, with time mankind evolved different sociocultural structures that enhanced their lifestyle and survival as societies interacted. Traditional governance of one type or another evolved accordingly.
Brutal wars of conquest were waged for many reasons including ego and for gaining advantage in commerce and natural resources. Along the line, the western type of governments of the modern state evolved in Europe. This came with an insatiable appetite for all kinds of resources, which led people to commit all kinds of atrocities across the world. Nevertheless, some indigenous peoples and cultures have survived all of these centuries of steady assault on their traditional modes of governance and living.
The so called modern state, though powerful, does not seem to guarantee anyone’s security and peace these days. For an instance, we have the CIA, KGB and the MI6 or Mossad or similar agencies in almost all of the modern states in the world. Interestingly, the prime objective of these bodies is to undermine the progress of other countries and their citizens. They are to sabotage, frustrate, arm-twist and destroy other nations so as to have one advantage or another. I think it is now getting clearer that the subsisting setting has no room for empathy at all. Without empathy, my brothers and sisters, world peace will remain a fleeting illusion to be pursued and attained.
Do you believe that the vision and mission of a government agency could solely be to meddle into other countries’ affairs to the point of starving their most vulnerable to death or murdering their leaders? There has been no room for win-win from the onset. No room for the alternate argument!
The traditional win-win that is central in most indigenous or traditional systems of governance with respect to conflicts and interactions is completely missing in the western type of government structure. This is another way of saying that the UN General Assembly is a gathering of world leaders who have sworn to undermine one another. They do not therefore solve problems, but compound them.
Can the Indigenous Peoples Heal the World?
While arguing in the affirmative, I know that cultures and traditions are dynamic. They change.
However, if sincerity of purpose is central, and live and let live is another reason for the change, it will properly mimic the traditional governance method of the Ekpetiama Kingdom of Bayelsa State and surely produce a win–win outcome. As earlier said, conflict resolution in most indigenous settings invariably produce a win-win outcome.
For example, in Izon land generally, and in Ekpetiama Kingdom in particular where I am the Ibenanaowei, the traditional head, we strongly believe in the sanctity of life. Historically, one could only kill during wars in self-defense or in the defense of the people. At the end of such a war, the fighters who survive are subjected to a traditional cleansing ritual which psychologically and spiritually restore them to normal. During peace time, however, no one dares to take another’s life. It is a taboo!
If someone kills another person during peace time, that killer and his family are forced to atone for the forbidden act of taking another’s life in order to prevent the escalation of hostilities. Two fertile young females are given to the family or community of the deceased for the purpose of reproducing human beings to replace the dead. These females must come from the person’s immediate or extended family. This method of appeasement puts the burden on all family members and the entire community or kingdom to ensure that every one behaves well in the society.
Let me also announce that prisons and imprisonment are alien to Ekpetiama and the entire Izon ethnic group. The idea of prison came with the Europeans. They built the slave warehouse at Akassa during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the Port Harcourt Prison in 1918. There was never a prison prior to these in Izon land. No need for one. It is only in the last five years that another act of desecration was carried out on Izonland as the Federal Government of Nigeria built and commissioned the Okaka prison. Ironically speaking, I learned that while the former colonies, which include the United States of America, are commissioning more prisons, the former colonizers are now gradually decommissioning their prisons. I think this is some kind of an unfolding drama of swapping of roles. Prior to westernization, the indigenous peoples were able to resolve all their conflicts without the need for jails.
Where We Are
It is now common knowledge that there are 7.7 billion persons in this ailing planet. We have painstakingly made all kinds of technological inventions to improve life on all continents, yet, a whopping 770 million persons live on less than two dollars a day, and 71 million persons are displaced according to the UN. With violent conflicts everywhere, one could safely argue that the governmental and technological improvements have only made us more and more morally bankrupt. These improvements seem to rob us of something – empathy. They steal our humanity. We are fast becoming machine men, with machine minds. These are clear reminders that the activities of a few, due to the docility of so many, are steering the entire world closer and closer to the biblical Armageddon. That predicted apocalyptic chasm we may all fall into if we do not get active sooner. Let us remember the nuclear bomb blasts of World War II – Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Are Indigenous Cultures and Peoples Capable of Anything?
Yes! Available archeological, historical, and oral traditional evidence points to the affirmative. There are some interesting accounts of how stunned the Portuguese explorers were at the vastness and sophistication of the Benin kingdom around 1485, when they first got there. As a matter of fact, a Portuguese ship captain named Lourenco Pinto observed in 1691 that Benin City (in today’s Nigeria) was wealthy and industrious, and was so well governed that theft was unknown and the people lived in such security that there were no doors to their houses. However, in the same period, Professor Bruce Holsinger described medieval London as a city of ‘thievery, prostitution, murder, bribery and a thriving black market made the medieval city ripe for exploitation by those with a skill for the quick blade or picking pocket’. This speaks volume.
The indigenous peoples and cultures were generally empathetic. The practice of one for all, and all for one, which some call Ubuntu was the norm. The extreme selfishness behind some of today’s inventions and their uses seem to be the very reason behind the palpable insecurity everywhere.
The indigenous peoples lived at equilibrium with nature. We lived at equilibrium with the plants and animals and fowls of the air. We mastered the weather and the seasons. We revered the rivers, creeks and the ocean. We understood that our environment was our life.
We would never knowingly discomfort nature in any way. We worshipped it. We will ordinarily not extract crude oil for sixty years, and not burn off the natural gas for same length of time not minding how much resources we waste and how much we damage our world.
In southern Nigeria, this is exactly what the Trans-National Oil Companies like Shell have been doing – polluting the local environment and destroying the entire world without scruples. These oil and gas companies have suffered no consequences for sixty years. In fact, they are rewarded with making the highest declared annual profits from their Nigerian operations. I believe that if the world wakes up one day, these firms would by all means behave ethically even outside of Europe and America.
I have heard of blood diamonds and blood Ivory and blood gold from other parts of Africa. But in Ekpetiama Kingdom, I see and live in the inexplicable effect of the wanton environmental and social destruction that blood Oil and Gas as exploited by Shell in the Niger Delta of Nigeria cause. It is like one of us starting a fire at one corner of this building believing that he or she is safe. But eventually the building will burn down roasting the arsonist as well. I mean to say Climate Change is real. And we are all in it. We have to do something quick before its apocalyptic effect gains irreversible full momentum.
In conclusion, I would reiterate that the indigenous and traditional peoples of the world could help in the healing of our ailing planet.
Let us imagine a gathering of persons who have so much love for the environment, for animals, for birds, and for their fellow humans. Not a gathering of trained meddlesome interlopers, but a gathering of persons who respect women, men, cultural practices and beliefs of others, and the sanctity of life to discuss open heartedly how to restore peace in the world. I do not suggest a gathering of stone hearted, unscrupulous creepy money mongers, but a gathering of courageous leaders of traditional and indigenous peoples of the world, exploring win-win ways of achieving peace in all corners of the globe. This I believe should be the way to go.
The indigenous peoples could help to heal our planet and bring peace upon it. I strongly believe that for the pervading fear, poverty and ills of our world to be permanently put behind us, the World Elders Forum should be the new United Nations.
What do you think?
Distinguished Speech Delivered by the Interim Chairman of the World Elders Forum, His Royal Majesty King Bubaraye Dakolo, Agada IV, Ibenanaowei of Ekpetiama Kingdom, Bayelsa State, Nigeria, at the 6th Annual International Conference on Ethnic and Religious Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding held on October 31, 2019 at Mercy College – Bronx Campus, New York, USA.