Building Blocks for Peace Foundation in collaboration with Action Group on Free Civic Space with support from Haella Foundation organized a one-day training on ‘Community Organizing, Mobilization and Nonviolent Civil Resistance’ for the North-central states in Nigeria on November 1, 2023, at Crestwood Hotel and Suites, Lugbe, Abuja-FCT. The event was attended by twenty-five (25) participants across the states in North Central Nigeria.
WELCOME ADDRESS AND INTRODUCTION OF PARTICIPANTS
Mr. Rafiu Lawal BBFORPEACE Executive Director, while delivering his welcome address noted that the power to shape our destiny is in our hands. He stated that the success of this training lies in the active participation, dedication, and willingness of the participants to apply the knowledge gained in the training to their various communities. “It is time to rise above our differences, embrace our shared goals, and work together to create a North-central zone, and a Nigeria that we can all be proud of,’’ he said.
The opening address was delivered by Mrs. Lantana Bako Abdullahi. She encouraged participants to take the training very seriously and implement what they will learn from the sessions. She admonished the participants to start small from their little corners and communities because little drops of water make a mighty ocean. She reiterated her fondness for the youth because in them she sees great hope for our country, Nigeria.
THE STATE OF CIVIC SPACE IN NIGERIA
Mr. Lawal started this session by playing the Action Group on Free Civic Space documentary that explained the state of civic spaces in Nigeria and some African countries leading up to the 2023 general elections. He stated that the major pillar in every nation is the civic society. He insisted that the civic space is the yardstick for measuring good governance and to know a nation with good governance and leadership, the civic spaces in that country are open and free. However, to know a nation with bad governance and leadership the civic spaces in that country are closed or repressed. He further cited the shutting down of X (formerly Twitter) in Nigeria by the previous administration as an example of attempts to close civic spaces in Nigeria.
Community Organizing, Movement Building and Advocacy training – Mrs Lantana Bako Abdullahi
This session was facilitated by Mrs Lantana, she gave an overview of community organizing and movement building and she explained the similarities and differences between both saying that community organizing is more short-term and immediate while movement building is more long-term and gradual. She explained in-depth the principles of community organizing, the core elements of movement building and the qualities of a community organizer, which are; Sense of humor, Creativity, Flexibility, Genuine Respect and Love for the People, Tenacity, Willingness to Share Power, Excellent Leadership Skills, and Reference. She narrated the importance of advocacy, highlighting the difference between advocacy visits and courtesy visits.
She ended her session by sharing her lived experiences as a community organizer on several social issues in Jos, Plateau State. She shared some mistakes and lessons from her experience and called on all participants to be effective community organizers in their various communities.
Social Change and Nonviolent Civil Resistance – Mr. Amos Oluwatoye
Mr. Oluwatoye started his session by posing a question to the participants asking if one should negotiate with his or her oppressor, after entertaining a few answers from the participants and their reasons, he went on to give his answer as No. He stated that one should not negotiate with his or her oppressor that the oppressor intends to subdue. He went on to say that the response to an oppressor should be nonviolent civil resistance. Mr Oluwatoye further stated the methods of nonviolent resistance which are;
- Methods of Nonviolent Protest and Persuasion
- Methods of Noncooperation
- Methods of Nonviolent Intervention
He also highlighted the principles and philosophy of nonviolent civil resistance as well as the theories of Nonviolent Action.
Mr Oluwatoye ended by stating the significant effectiveness of nonviolent actions in achieving goals compared to violent resistance. He gave instances that emphasize the compelling case for nonviolent strategies as powerful tools for driving positive change.
Organizing Effective Protest and Demonstration – Comrade Hassan Taiwo Soweto
Mr. Soweto started by sharing the news he received while in the training of the arrest of the Nigerian Labour Congress President, Comrade Joe Ajaero in Imo State. He called for his immediate release by the state actors responsible for his arrest. He went further to share his experiences with the EndSARS protest and other protests he was a part of. He also narrated how he had been arrested by the Nigerian police because of his involvement with the protests. He elaborated on the various forms of protests, the components of an effective protest and how to effectively handle protest disruptors, the police and other security agencies as well as the media.
Mr. Soweto ended his session by reiterating the power of collective action for a good and just cause.
Questions were asked by the participants, with Mr Micheal, a participant from Niger state asking whether the lack of an independent judiciary is to be blamed for the shrinking of the civic space in Nigeria.
Another participant named Ms. Francisca from Nasarawa State sought to gain more insights on the validity of using some forms of protest like hunger strikes as a means of getting the government’s attention to a cause.
These questions and more were answered by the facilitators using their lived experiences.
The training came to an end with the participants filling out the post-evaluation form in which they expressed satisfaction with the training and shared insights on things they learned. They also gave their recommendations and made their individual and institutional commitments on strategies that they will adopt to improve their community organizing, mobilization and nonviolent civil resistance to drive social change in their communities. This was followed by the closing remarks, lunch, group photographs and departure, with the participants leaving energized from the thought-provoking sessions. Also, participants from the training were inducted into the Youth Protection Network.
Report Written by:
Ijeoma Seraphie Obiedelu
Advocacy Officer, BBFORPEACE