In what may be regarded as a landmark paradigm vote for contextualism in conflict analysis, veteran academic and the Vice-Chancellor of Veritas University, Abuja, Professor Mike Kwanashie is saying it is time stakeholders go beyond the slogans to the fundamental disconnect underpinning conflicts in the society. Peace research must, in his view, go beyond the general or surface impression, a role he thinks centres for the study of Peace have been set up to play by producing people with the capacity for such analysis.
The Vice-Chancellor who was speaking while welcoming members of the Abuja Chapter of the Society for Peace Studies and Practice, (SPSP) to Veritas University Thursday noted how we all talk about the imperative for harmony, justice or fairness but argues how all such concepts must be properly contextualised to add up. Prof Kwanashie argued how there could never be too much of focusing on conflict management or peace practice “because we need to build a coherent society”. The conflict management community must, however, have the capacity to analyse the facts about a conflict in terms of the fundamental or overarching context, he said, linking his joy in Veritas University’s Centre for Peace and Development, (CEPAD) to such prospects. Calling the centre one of the landmarks of the university in its first ten years, Prof Kwanashie expressed further joy that the centre is already networking, saying such is how the centre could make its entry into the arena of peace practice.
Witnessed by Dr. (Father) Peter Okonkwo, the Registrar of Veritas University as well as Dr. (Father) Jooji, the Director of CEPAD, the occasion was the first time the SPSP came calling in the university as a body. But it is the second time the Vice-Chancellor would have used such platform to make critical intervention. During the First National Conference on Peace and Development organised by the centre last November, he had said it was evidence that the university had reached a level where it could stand in Nigeria’s capital city and call a major conversation. That was taken as announcing the ambition of Veritas University to be a major player in the crowded hall of academia in contemporary Nigeria.
In this intervention, the VC has moved the debate to a vote for contextualism or the idea that any particular conflict is best read off in terms of the socio-economic, power and related configurations foregrounding it rather than a strict focus on causality in terms of materialism or idealism. There is substantial grumbling regarding how the restriction of analysis to either materialist perspectives, (poverty, underdevelopment or similar economic variables) or idealist perspectives, (ideas, values, belief systems) has impoverished scholarship not only in Peace and Conflict Studies but across the disciplines. The implication is that Kwanashie would be ruffling established feathers in his vote for contextualism vis-a-vis the bland universalism noticeable in much of conflict analysis and management around this clime. But others might take note of the tragicomedy in his intervention: the Kwanashie generation with the intellectual confidence to take such positions is a disappearing generation even as Nigeria is not producing new or enough scholars to replace them. Or, is this a hint that Veritas University’s Centre for Peace and Development is heading in a particular analytic tradition very much aware of this situation? Only time might tell, especially as the centre moves to the stage of unfolding its own academic programmes!