3 February 2013

Nigeria: Onuche - a Reverend in Pursuit of Peace

About a fortnight ago, the former Head of State General Abdulsalami Abubakar gathered dignitaries from across Nigeria to the first graduation ceremony of Abdulsalami Abubabakar Institute for peace and sustainable development studies (AAIPSDS), it was speeches upon speeches.

The chairman of the Nigeria Governors forum and Governor of River state, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, Governor Gabriel Suswan of Benue state, Governor RochasOkorocha of Imo state and the host governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu were all there to give speeches.

Even the former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida was on hand to give his compatriot support.

The speeches were well delivered and the messages were lucid, contained in the most scintillating languages to capture the attention of the audience. But one man stole the show - and that was the best graduating student of the institute, Rev Sunday Onuche.

Rev Onuche was the only student who graduated from the institute with distinction of the 35 class students which included technocrats, force men and professionals in different field.

The reverend gentleman consequently received the best graduating student award from the AAIPSDS academic board members which included Professor Abiola Lipede, Professor Gambo, General Ishola Williams, professor mohammed Tawfiq Ladan, Diamond preye Ogidi, Dr Tyoor Terhembe, Mallama Hannatu K Ali, Professor Kuna and Godwin Ashituabe.

He also received the Inspector General of police's award for the most outstanding student.

The IGP award was on the most outstanding student in peace making, peace building and peace enforcement and the two awards were delightfully presented to Rev Onuche by the former Head of state, General AbdulSalami Abubakar.

Onuche who was the secretary of Christian Association of Nigeria in Niger state for eight years was born at Odeke in Ibaji Local Government Area of Kogi state on 18th July 1961 and has been a Reverend since 1988.

The callings of Onuche to the pastoral world, however has not deterred his crave for education, hence apart from the training from the institute on peace, he also proceeded to complete a Master degree in Peace studies where he also came top of the class.

Onuche started his modest life as a school teacher at Government Day secondary school, Minna in 1986 before becoming a pastor in 1988, and to him as much as he likes imparting knowledge so also he likes receiving knowledge.

Sunday Onuche said in an interview that his passion is peace because with peace other things of life could be achievable and the pursuit to be in the right path in line with divine teachings would be in line.

He said peace is built on tripod of Justice, truth and care. "These are the three pillars of peace that is justice to all, truthfulness and care for one another but in Nigeria as an entity development is lopsided".

According to him, development is concentrated on individual political office holders without any remembrance of the less privileged members of the society that they were meant to serve.

Consequently, he said that indicators to leadership of integrity must be good governance, accountability, transparency and honesty of purpose which he said were also strong indicators to guarantee peace.

Onuche believes that what Nigeria has in some place as peace today was a "forced peace" because the political elites give what they want down on the people without regard to the rights of the people.

He said people are not allowed to decide what they want, adding that, "It was what the ruling class wanted that they forced the people to accept and this is causing repression and submit peace in Nigeria to a fragile situation".

The Governor of River state, Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi who received Honorary award of peace at the graduation also shared Onuche's view as he posited that the elites' often conceptualized peace to suit their purposes and that the political class was oblivious of the economic realities in the country.

The chairman of the governors forum said that religious difference will come to play when the political class have differences in their sharing formula declaring "When you see difference in religion, there is a particular political undertone "I was in Jigawa for the governor's child wedding, I was in the mosque and my former leader here was also in the church for a wedding, no body sees religious difference".

Amaechi said Nigerian leaders must adopt a more consultative approach to governance because the people have the power to hire and fire in democracy. It was also on this premise that Onuche said that recognizing the right of the people to choose is the primary route to peace.

Amaechi said for the people to know their rights, they must be educated, but Onuche said that made him to always toe the path of knowledge, where he always comes top. It was therefore not a surprise that he was so appointed as the member of the state inter religious council.

Onuche will no doubt find his theoretical knowledge and practical approach to peace handy to always promote interfaith cordial relationship; to him religion could not be used as a tool to breach peace but to enhance peace.

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