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Building Bridges, Healing Communities: The Compassionate Path to Nigerian Prosperity

By Chidy Lasbrey Martins, Spring 2024 Compassionate Listening Facilitator Trainee



The continent of Africa is presumed to be a bed of complexities but with patience and resilience these complexities can be processed, revealed, understood and better appreciated.

Africa is a big continent in terms of landmass and population. Africa is also rich in mineral resources, yet it has remained one of the poorest continents in the world. These mineral resources have become the major source of conflicts in the continent which has left many people traumatized and hopeless.


These and more have turned Africa into an enclave of all manner of violence ranging from terrorism, banditry, armed robbery, religious extremists seeking domination, to violent communal clashes orchestrated by an incompetent and corrupt political class who believe that the only way they can hold on to political power is by intimidating and suppressing the people as well as sponsoring still more violent clashes.


Nigeria has struggled for more than twelve years with these issues, without any meaningful success. The security agencies are doing what they can under these circumstances but there is no end in sight. 


In all of these circumstances, one thing has remained conspicuously absent and that is a platform for dialogue where both the perpetrators and victims can be heard. The psychological effects of these experiences can only be imagined. Families and family trees have been completely erased, communities deserted, their economic lives completely destroyed, properties taken over or destroyed, educational facilities wiped out thereby leaving the few survivors with no opportunity to acquire basic education.


 Dialogue as well as listening are very effective strategies in conflict management that should never be overlooked. Compassionate listening works anytime any day. It has been tested overtime and proved to be a credible and trusted process. Compassionate listening skills when deployed properly have the capacity to dowse tension. It can create the enabling environment for aggrieved parties to listen and appreciate other parties’ point of view. It paves the pathway for future collaborations and enhanced relationships. Most importantly,



I have no doubt in my mind that Nigeria and indeed the entire African continent will benefit immensely from the experiences that the Compassionate Listening Project will bring to bear on the fragile situation in Africa.


A SHORT BUT TRUE STORY


My community Agwa in Oguta, a local government area in Imo state in Nigeria, is an oil producing community. However, this precious gift of nature has only brought sorrows, tears and blood to my community instead of loads of expected benefits that should naturally accompany such deposits of sweet crude.  The exploration company in a bid to avoid some of its corporate social responsibility decided to adopt a kind of divide and rule tactic which began to divide a once united community. Enemy images began to emerge and serious violence followed. At the centre of these destructions are those who could be referred to as youths. These boys started acquiring sophisticated weapons as rival factions began to emerge. 


The military in all their weapon mastery could not get these boys to lay down their weapons until the Catholic Reverend Fathers who are in charge of the JDPC in Imo state intervened.  Their intervention which involved, trust, rapport building, effective communication, as well as listening skills and other soft and interpersonal skills were able to encourage the boys to lay down their arms and decided to follow the path of peace. Their rehabilitation process is currently ongoing and is a project I am working to get involved in. I am just waiting for signals from the Bishop to enable me to draw a road map. Truth be told, not all the boys have laid down their arms but at least they made a huge step towards peace. It was not rocket science as all the boys needed was somebody who would listen to them in a non-judgmental way and appreciate their fears, and concerns. It worked. This, I believe, is part of what Compassionate Listening is all about.


Similar scenarios abound in other parts of Nigeria and Africa where the Compassionate Listening Project practices are needed and valued.


Therefore, I have no doubt that the Compassionate Listening Project will be important, valuable and highly needed in managing some of the challenges in Nigeria and other parts of the African continent.


Depression has taken the centre stage and suicide rate is on the rise here therefore, Compassionate Listening Project is needed urgently first in Nigeria and in the whole of Africa. The least we can do is share this work and restore hope in people’s lives by providing a credible platform for them to tell their stories and by so doing initiate the healing process in their lives. For us in Africa, beyond the listening aspect, there is the support aspect because the majority of these people have watched all that they have worked for in life destroyed and they need all the support that they can get to kickstart their lives again. When that is achieved then the possibility of using whatever experiences they've had as a tool for reconciliation and prevention will be possible. Compassionate Listening Journeys could be helpful too to meet the people concerned in their current abode for a meaningful conversation to take place, data collection and an on-the-spot assessment of the situation with a view of presenting the world the challenges that Africa and Africans are facing. Their stories are hardly reported by the media houses that have a global reach. Compassionate Listening Project can help to draw the attention of the world to Africa with a view to supporting the much-needed humanitarian efforts in the continent.


The situation in Nigeria and indeed Africa is dire and we believe strongly that the Compassionate Listening Project should be supported so that we can support a world where all of us are valued and appreciated. 



 

Chidy Lasbrey Martins is a seasoned professional in conflict resolution, with a focus on mediation, conflict management, and negotiation. He brings a wealth of experience and expertise in Preventive Diplomacy and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) processes. Throughout his career, Martins has demonstrated leadership and commitment in his roles at the Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators (ICMC) in Nigeria. As the National Director of Training, he spearheaded initiatives that improved the quality of mediation training programs, contributing significantly to the professional development of mediators across the country. In his capacity as Director of Marketing and Membership Drive, Martins strategically expanded the institute's reach and membership base, enhancing its visibility and impact in the mediation landscape. His involvement as a member of the Governing Council of the Imo State Multidoor Courthouse further underscores his recognized expertise and relevance in conflict resolution beyond the confines of the ICMC. Chidy Lasbrey Martins is widely regarded as a respected figure in the field, known for his practical approach and substantial contributions to the advancement of conflict resolution practices.

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