The Role of Diplomacy, Development and Defense in Ensuring Peace and Security in Multi-Ethnic and Religious States: A Case Study of Nigeria


It is a highly researched and well documented fact that power and authority have their domains in the public sphere and governments. Groups and influential individuals struggle to control the public sphere in order to access power and authority. An insight into governance in Nigeria reveals that the scramble for power and authority is to ensure the manipulation of governmental powers and the economic resources of the state for sectional, ethnic and personal advantages. The resultant effect is that only few people prosper while the political and economic development of the state stagnate. This, however, is not peculiar to the Nigerian state. A major cause of crisis in the world is the quest by individuals and groups to either dominate or resist the attempts of others to dominate them. This becomes more obvious in multi-ethnic and religious societies where the different ethnic and religious groups compete for political and economic dominance. The groups in power use coercive power to perpetuate their dominance while the marginalized groups also employ violence to assert their independence and to also seek better access to political power and economic resources. This quest for dominance by the major and minor groups thus breeds a cycle of violence from which there seems to be no escape. The various attempts of governments to ensure enduring peace and security using the “cane” (force) or the “carrot” (diplomacy) approaches often give but little respite. The advocacy of the ‘3Ds’ approach for conflict resolution, in recent times, has however produced encouraging results that conflicts can be resolved without being frozen and that conflict resolutions can lead to enduring peace. With copious examples from the Nigerian state, this study asserts that it is indeed only a judicious blend of diplomacy, development, and defense as packaged in the ‘3Ds’ approach  that can truly guarantee enduring peace and security in multi-ethnic states.


Traditionally, warfare and conflicts are often terminated when one party or some parties in the conflict gain the ascendancy and forced the other parties to accept the terms of surrender which are usually packaged to humiliate them and render them militarily impotent and economically dependent on the victors. However, a trip through history will reveal that humiliated foes often regroup to wage more ferocious attacks and if they win or lose, the vicious circle of warfare and conflict continues. Thus, winning a war or using violence to end a conflict is not a sufficient condition for peace or conflict resolution. The First World War between 1914 and 1919 provides a significant example. Germany was roundly defeated in the war, and the other European nations imposed on her conditions designed to humiliate her and render her powerless from engaging in any act of aggression. However, within two decades, Germany was the main aggressor in another war which was more intense in terms of scope and human and material loss than that of the First World War.

In the wake of the terrorist attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, the American government declared a global war on terrorism and subsequently sent her troops to engage the Taliban government of Afghanistan, the host of the Al Qaeda group which was accused of being responsible for the terrorist attack on the U.S. The Taliban and the Al Qaeda were defeated and later Osama bin Laden, the leader of the Al Qaeda, was apprehended and killed by the U.S. Special Forces in Pakistan, a next-door neighbor of Afghanistan. Despite these victories however, terrorism continues to gain much ground with the emergence of other deadly terrorist groups including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the deadly Algerian Salafist group known as the Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Boko Haram group with its main base in northern Nigeria. It is interesting to note that terrorist groups are often located in developing countries but their activities affect every part of the world (Adenuga, 2003). In these locales, endemic poverty, governmental insensitivity, prevailing cultural and religious beliefs, high level of illiteracy and other economic, social, and religious factors help to foster terrorism, insurgency and other forms of violence and also make warfare more expensive and tedious, and often reverse the gains of military victories.

To address the problem identified above, most international organizations including the United Nations and other supra-national organizations and nations including the United States, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Canada have adopted the “3Ds” as their approach to conflict resolution all over the world. The “3Ds” approach involve the use of diplomacy, development and defense to ensure that conflicts are not only terminated but also resolved in a manner that will address the underlying factors which may precipitate another round of conflict(s). Thus, the interplay between negotiations and cooperation between the parties involved in the conflict (diplomacy), addressing the economic, social and even religious factors contributing to the conflict (development), and the provision of adequate security (defense) have become the U.S. modus operandi for conflict resolution. A study of history will also validate the “3Ds” approach to conflict resolution. Germany and the U.S. are examples. Though Germany was defeated in the Second World War, the country was not humiliated, rather, the U.S., through the Marshall Plan and other nations helped to provide Germany with diplomatic and financial leverages to become not only an economic and industrial giant in the world but also a major advocate of international peace and security. The northern and southern parts of the U.S. also fought a bitter civil war between 1861 and 1865 but the diplomatic overtures of successive American governments, the reconstruction of areas affected by the war and the use of decisive force to checkmate the activities of divisive militant groups have ensured the unity and the overall development of the U.S. It is also instructive to note that the U.S. also used a form of the “3Ds” approach to curtail the threat of the Soviet Union in Europe in the wake of the Second World War through the establishment of the North Alliance Treaty Organization (NATO), which represented both a diplomatic and military strategy to curtail and roll back the frontiers of communism, the political and economic ideology of the Soviet Union, and the unveiling of the Marshall Plan to ensure the reconstruction of areas which had been ravaged by the deleterious consequences of the war (Kapstein, 2010).

This study intends to give more validity to the “3Ds” approach as the best option for conflict resolution by putting the Nigerian state under the searchlight of research. Nigeria is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious state and has witnessed and weathered many conflicts which would have brought many other similar states with diverse ethnic and religious populations to their knees. These conflicts include the Nigerian civil war of 1967-70, the militancy in the Niger Delta and the Boko Haram insurgency. However, the combination of diplomacy, development and defense has often provided the means of resolving these conflicts amicably.

Theoretical Framework

This study adopts the conflict theory and the frustration-aggression theory as its theoretical premises. The conflict theory opines that the competition by groups to control the political and economic resources in the society will always lead to conflicts (Myrdal, 1944; Oyeneye & Adenuga, 2014). The frustration-aggression theory argues that when there is a disparity between expectations and experiences, individuals, people and groups become frustrated and they vent their frustration by becoming aggressive (Adenuga, 2003; Ilo & Adenuga, 2013). These theories affirm that conflicts have political, economic and social underpinnings and until these issues are addressed satisfactorily, conflicts cannot be effectively resolved.

Conceptual Overview of the “3Ds”

As posited earlier, the “3Ds” approach, that is a combination of diplomacy, defense and development, is not relatively a new method for conflict resolution. As Grandia (2009) notes, most integrated approach for peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations to stabilize and reconstruct post conflict states by other independent states and organizations have always employed the “3Ds” approach, albeit under different terminologies. Van der Lljn (2011) also points out that the shift from the traditional use of the military approach to the adoption of different forms of the “3Ds” approach became imperative with the realization that without the underlying factors responsible for conflict being adequately resolved through diplomacy and development, peacebuilding operations will often become exercises in futility. Schnaubelt (2011) also avers that the NATO (and by extension, every other international organizations) has recognized that for contemporary missions to succeed, the shift from the traditional military approach to multi-dimensional approach involving the elements of diplomacy, development and defense must be effected.

In the wake of the terrorist attack on the U.S. by the Al Qaeda group on September 11, 2001 and the consequent declaration of war on global terrorism by the U.S., the American government developed a national strategy for combating terrorism with the following objectives:

  • Defeat terrorists and their organizations;
  • Deny sponsorship, support and sanctuary to terrorists;
  • Diminish the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit; and
  • Defend U.S. citizens and interests at home and abroad

(The U.S. Department of State, 2008)

A critical analysis of the above stated objectives of the strategy will reveal that it is a derivation of the “3Ds” approach. The first objective emphasizes the stamping out of global terrorism using military force (defense). The second objective revolves around the use of diplomacy to ensure that terrorists and their organizations have no safe haven anywhere in the world. It involves networking with other nations and organizations to stifle global terrorism by cutting off financial and moral support to terrorist groups. The third objective is a recognition of the fact that without adequately addressing the political and socio-economic factors which promote terrorism, the war against terrorism can never be won (development). The fourth objective can only become possible when the other three objectives have been achieved. It is also noteworthy that each of the objectives is not totally independent of the others. They are all mutually re-enforcing as it would take the interplay of diplomacy, defense and development to achieve any of the four objectives. Thus, the American Academy of Diplomacy in its 2015 report concluded that the U.S. and Americans are now safer because of the synergy between the diplomats, military personnel, development experts and people in the NGOs and other private sector.

Grandia (2009) and Van der Lljn (2011) consider diplomacy, in the process of peacebuilding, as the shoring up of the confidence of the people in the ability, capabilities and capacity of the government in resolving the conflict amicably. Defense involves the strengthening of the ability of the government in need to provide adequate security in its area of jurisdiction. Development entails the provision of economic aid to help such a government address the social, economic and political needs of the citizenry which often form the underlying factors for conflicts.

As noted earlier, diplomacy, defense and development are not mutually independent concepts, rather, they are interdependent variables. Good governance, which serves as the fulcrum of diplomacy, can only be achieved when the security of the citizenry is assured and where the developmental needs of the people are ensured. Adequate security is also premised on good governance and every developmental plan should be geared towards ensuring the security and the general well-being of the people (Human Development Report, 1996).

The Nigerian Experience

Nigeria is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. Otite (1990) and Salawu & Hassan (2011) affirm that there are about 374 ethnic groups in Nigeria. The pluralistic nature of the Nigerian state is also reflected in the number of the religions that can be found within her boundaries. There are basically three main religions, Christianity, Islam and African Traditional Religion, which in itself is comprised of hundreds and hundreds of deities worshipped all over the nation. Other religions, including Hinduism, Bahia and the Grail Message also have adherents within the Nigerian state (Kitause & Achunike, 2013).

The pluralistic nature of Nigeria has often translated into ethnic and religious competitions to gain political power and control the economic resources of the state and these competitions have often resulted into intense polarizations and conflicts (Mustapha, 2004). This position is further buttressed by Ilo & Adenuga (2013) who posit that most of the conflicts in the Nigerian political history have ethnic and religious colorations. However, these conflicts were or are being resolved through the adoption of policies and strategies which embrace the philosophies of the “3Ds” approach. This study will thus examine some of these conflicts and the way they were resolved or are being resolved.

The Nigerian Civil War

To get to the root causes of the civil war would require a journey into the creation of the Nigerian state itself. However, as this is not the focus of this study, it is sufficient to state that the factors that led to secession of the eastern region from the Nigerian state with the declaration of the state of Biafra by Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu on May 30, 1967 and the eventual declaration of war by the Federal Government of Nigeria in order to preserve the territorial integrity of the Nigerian state include the structural imbalance of the Nigerian federation, the highly contentious federal elections of 1964, the equally contentious elections in western Nigeria which sparked off a big crisis in the region, the coups d’état of January 15 and July 29, 1966, the refusal of Ojukwu to recognize Gowon as the new head of the military government, the discovery of oil in exportable quantities in Oloibiri in the eastern region, the pogrom of the people of Igbo extraction in northern Nigeria and the refusal by the Federal Government to implement the Aburi Accord (Kirk-Greene, 1975; Thomas, 2010; Falode, 2011).

The war, which spanned over a period of 30 months, was prosecuted vigorously by both sides and it had very deleterious effects on the Nigerian state and her people, especially on the eastern region, which was mainly the theater of the conflict. The war, as most wars are, was characterized by bitterness which was often expressed in the wholesale murder of unarmed civilians, the torture and killing of captured enemy soldiers, rape of girls and women and other inhuman treatment of both the captured enemy soldiers and the civilian populations (Udenwa, 2011). Because of the bitterness which characterizes civil wars, they are drawn out and often ended with the intervention of the United Nations and / or other regional and international organizations.

At this juncture, it is pertinent to make a distinction between civil wars and popular revolutions. Civil wars are often fought between regions and groups in the same state while revolutions are wars fought between social classes in the same society in order to create a new social and economic order in such societies. Thus, the Industrial Revolution, which was not an armed conflict, is considered a revolution because it changed the social and economic order of the day. Most revolutions often end up accelerating the processes of national integration and unity in the societies as witnessed in France after the French Revolution of 1887 and the Russian experience after the Revolution of 1914. However, most civil wars are divisive and often end up in the dismembering of the state as witnessed in former Yugoslavia, Ethiopia/Eritrea and Sudan. Where the state is not dismembered at the end of the war, probably as a result of the peacekeeping, peacebuilding and peace enforcement activities of other independent state and organizations, uneasy calm, which is often punctured by intermittent conflicts, prevails. The Republic of Congo provides an interesting study. However, the Nigerian civil war was a rare exception to the rule as it was brought to an end without the direct intervention of foreign states and organizations and also an astonishing level of national integration and unity was achieved after the war ended on 15 January 1970. Thomas (2010) attributes this achievement to the “no victor, no vanquished but victory for common sense and the unity of Nigeria” declaration of the Federal Government of Nigeria at the end of the war and also the adoption of the policy of Reconciliation, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction to fast track integration and unity. Despite his misgivings about prevailing conditions in the Nigerian state before, during and after the civil war, Effiong (2012) also attested that the peace accord at the end of the war “achieved a commendable degree of resolution and restored a profound measure of social normalcy.” Recently, the head of the federal military government during the civil war, Yakubu Gowon, averred that it was the conscious and deliberate adoption of the policy of Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction that helped the full re-integration of the eastern region into the Nigerian state. In his own words, Gowon (2015) narrates:

rather than bask in the euphoria of perceived victory, we chose to travel down a road never before traveled by any nation in the history of wars in the world. We decided that there was no gain in accumulating the spoils of war. Instead, we chose to face our most challenging task of achieving reconciliation, national reintegration within the shortest possible time. That worldview made it possible for us to quickly and deliberately administer healing balm to take care of hurts and wounds. It underscored our philosophy of No Victor, No Vanquished which I pronounced in my speech to the nation after we silenced the guns and rolled up our sleeves as we set our hands on the plough to rebuild Nigeria. Our search for solutions to the problems of the aftermath of war and destruction made it imperative that we established a set of guiding principles as anchors for our determined forward march. This was the basis of our introduction of the 3Rs … Reconciliation, (Reintegration) Rehabilitation and Reconstruction, which, we must, understand did not just try to rapidly address issues of immediate socio- economic and infrastructural concerns but vividly underpinned my vision of the future; a vision of a greater, united Nigeria in which anyone, from the East, West, North, and South could aspire to success in any field of human endeavor.

A study of the policy of Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (3Rs) will reveal that it is a form of the “3Ds” approach. Reconciliation which refers to the establishment of better and more rewarding relationships between erstwhile foes is mainly predicated on diplomacy. Rehabilitation which connotes the process of restoration is a function of the ability of the government to instill confidence in the people to be rehabilitated of its capacity to ensure their security and welfare (defense). And reconstruction basically refers to developmental programs to address the various political, social and economic issues at the root of the conflict. The establishment of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), the establishment of Unity Schools and the rapid construction, provision of structural and infrastructural facilities all over Nigeria were some of these programs embarked upon by the Gowon regime.

The Niger Delta Crisis

According to Okoli (2013), the Niger Delta is comprised of three core states including Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers states and six peripheral states, namely Abia, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Imo and Ondo states. The people of the Niger Delta have been suffering from exploitation right from the colonial era. The region was a major producer of palm oil and had been engaging in trading activities with European nations before the colonial era. With the advent of colonialism, Britain sought to control and exploit the commercial activities in the region and this was met with stiff opposition from the people. The British had to forcefully subjugate the region through military expeditions and the exiling of some prominent traditional rulers who were in the vanguard of the resistance including Chief Jaja of Opobo and Koko of Nembe.

After Nigeria gained independence in 1960, the discovery of oil in exportable quantities also intensified the exploitation of the region without any concomitant development of the region. This perceived injustice resulted in an open rebellion during the mid-1960s spearheaded by Isaac Adaka Boro who declared the region independent. The rebellion was quelled after twelve days with the arrest, prosecution and eventual execution of Boro. The exploitation and marginalization of the region however continued unabated. Despite the fact that the region is the goose laying the golden egg for the Nigerian economy, it is the most degraded and abused region, not only in Nigeria but also in the whole of Africa (Okoli, 2013).  Afinotan and Ojakorotu (2009) report that the region accounts for over 80 percent of Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP), yet the people of the region wallow in abject poverty. The situation was compounded with the fact that revenue derived from the region is used to develop other regions in the country while there is a heavy military presence in the region in order to ensure its continued exploitation (Aghalino, 2004).

The frustration of the people of the Niger Delta over the continued exploitation and marginalization of their region was often expressed in violent agitations for justice but these agitations were often met with military actions by the state. In the early 1990s, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSSOB), which had as its leader, Ken Saro-Wiwa, an acclaimed literary genius, threatened to disrupt oil exploration and exploitation in the region if the demands of the people were not met. Typically, the government responded by arresting Ken Saro-Wiwa and other key leaders of MOSSOB and they were summarily executed. The hanging of the ‘Ogoni 9’ heralded an unprecedented level of armed rebellion in the region which were expressed in the sabotage and destruction of oil facilities, oil theft, kidnapping of oil workers in the region, high rate of piracy in the creeks and the high seas. These activities drastically affected the capacity of government to explore the oil in the region and the economy was also drastically affected. All coercive measures taken to quell the rebellion failed, and hostilities in the Niger Delta continued until June 2009 when the Late President Umaru Yar’Adua announced an amnesty plan which would grant immunity from prosecution to any Niger Delta militant who willingly surrendered his arms within a 60-day period. The President also created a Niger Delta ministry to fast track development in the region. The creation of job opportunities for the youths of the region and the substantial increment in the revenue accruable to the states in the region were also part of the deal packaged by the Yar’Adua’s government to restore peace to the region and indeed the implementation of these plans ensured the needed peace in the region (Okedele, Adenuga and Aborisade, 2014).

For emphasis, it should be noted that the traditional means of using military action to enforce peace failed in the Niger Delta until a robust blend of diplomacy (the amnesty plan), development and defense was effected (although, the Nigerian navy and the army continue to patrol the Niger Delta to stamp out some criminal gangs which could no longer hide under the label of crusaders for justice in the region).

The Boko Haram Crisis

The Boko Haram, which literarily means ‘western education is evil’ is a terrorist group in northern Nigeria which came into prominence in 2002 under the leadership of Ustaz Muhammed Yusuf and which has as its main goal, the creation of an Islamic state in the country. The group was able to flourish in northern Nigeria because of the high level of illiteracy, widespread poverty and the lack of economic opportunities in the region (Abubakar, 2004; Okedele, Adenuga and Aborisade, 2014). Ikerionwu (2014) reports that the group, through its terrorist activities, has been responsible for the death of tens of thousands of Nigerians and the destruction of properties worth billions of naira.

In the year 2009, the Nigerian government used military action to deal decisively with the rank and file of the Boko Haram group. Yusuf and other leaders of the group were killed and many were either slammed into detention or had to flee to Chad, Niger and Cameroon in order to avoid arrest. However, the group bounced back better coordinated and re-invigorated to the extent that by 2014 it had taken over large territories in northern Nigeria and had declared a caliphate independent of the Nigerian state, a move which forced the government to declare a state of emergency in the three northern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe (Olafioye, 2014).

By the middle of 2015, the area under the control of the group had been largely restricted to the Sambisa forest and other forests in the northern Nigeria. How was the government able to achieve this feat? Firstly, it employed diplomacy and defense by establishing a defense pact with its neighbors through the constitution of a Multi-National Joint Taskforce comprising of Nigerian, Chadian, Cameroonian and Nigerien soldiers to flush the Boko Haram group from their hideouts in all these four countries. Secondly, it ensured the development of northern Nigeria through the rapid establishment of schools to reduce the illiteracy level and the establishment of many empowerment programs to reduce poverty level.


The way in which major conflicts, capable of breaking up pluralistic societies, were and are still managed in Nigeria shows that a consistent blend of diplomacy, development and defense (the 3Ds) can help resolve conflicts amicably.


The “3Ds” approach should be made a preferable approach for peacekeeping and peacebuilding exercises, and the governments of those states prone to conflict, especially multi-ethnic and multi-religious states, should be encouraged to adopt the approach as it also plays a proactive role in nipping conflicts in the bud before they become full-blown.


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Academic paper presented at the 2015 Annual International Conference on Ethnic and Religious Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding held in New York on October 10, 2015 by the International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation.


Ven. (Dr.) Isaac Olukayode Oyeneye, & Mr. Gbeke Adebowale Adenuga, School of Arts and Social Sciences, Tai Solarin College of Education, Omu-Ijebu, Ogun State, Nigeria


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