Alexander Humboldt Fellows rose from a conference at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, May 10 calling on the Federal, State and Local governments to embark on regreening Northern Nigeria, revisiting the issue of the political, social and economic formations of the country and prioritising education as the best way to address and solve Nigeria’s problems of growing resource conflicts. They were worried about the growing incidence of “resource wars” over the control and management of natural resources across the country.
The Humboldt Fellows stated in their six-point communique that Nigeria requires “political will by the government for effective and efficient management of Nigeria’s resources for the interest of Nigeria” while the challenge of climate change “can be contained only through intensive research that will produce technological know-how and facilities to re-green our societies.”
The scholars noted “the urgent need for government to commission renowned researchers to study the local philosophies, cultures, and folkways of all ethnic groups in Nigeria with the view to enhancing inter-group relations. Most of the crises arise from the general ignorance of our diversity.”
They called for “an established system of constitutional review to create the opportunity for the different communities to be guaranteed their rights of nationhood and aspirations for self-determination.” They said it would ensure “sustainable security in the spirit of implementing human security needs as the most appropriate means of guaranteeing peace, security and prosperity for Nigerians within the existing legal framework.”
The Humboldt Kolleg dwelt on the theme of “Nigeria’s Resource Wars”. Prof. Egodi Uchendu, Coordinator of African Humanities Research and Development Circle (AHRDC) UNN, convened the conference.
Uchendu stated that the Humboldt Kolleg, as part of the commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the great scientist, researcher, scholar and adventurer Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) in whose honour the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation was established in 1860, addressed the issue of resource wars in Nigeria in answer to the question of what Alexander Humboldt would have tackled were he alive today.
Drawing on that research framework, the scholars at the five-day gathering interrogated the questions of Why are Nigerians at loggerheads with each other over our natural resources? How can we better manage and regulate the use of our resources to minimise conflicts? Are these conflicts, indeed, resource-related or are they engineered by other factors?
Papers presented included “Resources, Geopolitical Rivalries, Ethnic Instrumentalizations and Conflictuality between Southern Libya, Niger and Nigeria from Ottoman to Colonial Times” by PD. Dr Nora Lafi of Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin, Germany. Prof. Sati U. Fwatshak, University of Jos, spoke on “Herder-Farmer Conflicts in Plateau State: Colonial Origins and Current Trends” while Major-Gen Ishola Williams (Retd) did a “Diagnosis of Deadly Politrickal Violence, not Resource Wars; Federalist Structure based on Subsidiarity as Prescription.”
Asst. Commissioner of Police, Dr Abraham Nabhon Thomas spoke on “Policing Conflict Areas: Contents, Context and Operational Strategies”.
Professor S. O. Onyegegbu of the University of Nigeria chaired the 15-person Communique Committee with Dr Zara Kwaghe of Federal University, Lafia, and Chukwuemeka Agbo of the University of Texas at Austin, USA, as secretaries.
The Humboldt Kolleg drew scholars from within and outside Nigeria. Participants included His Excellency, the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany in Nigeria, Dr Bernhard S. Schlagheck; the Representative of the Vice Chancellor, Bowen University, Iwo, Osun State, Dr A. A. Aderibigbe; Major General Isola Williams (Retd) of PANAFSTRAG, Lagos; and Prof. Dr Dmitri van den Bersselaar, the Director of African Studies at the University of Leipzig, Germany, who was the Keynote speaker. There were other scholars and Directors of Institutes of different Nigerian Universities, security personnel, policy makers, graduate and undergraduate students, and members of the press.
Prof. Uchendu, the Convener, explained that a Humboldt Kolleg is a specialist conference of recipients of the Alexander von Humboldt (AvH) Fellowship, otherwise called Humboldt Fellows or Humboldtians. The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany, offers the fellowship on an annual basis to successful scholars of above-average capacity from around the world and encourages them to advance knowledge and find solutions to human problems of all descriptions. As many as 208 Nigerians from different universities in the country were recipients of the fellowship in the last 65 years, between 1953 and 2018.
The scholars also marked the 250th anniversary of Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859).