By Milcah Tanimu
International Alert, an NGO, has organized a two-day Media and Strategic Communications (STRATCOMS) workshop with the objective of involving journalists in initiatives aimed at reinstating peace and stability in Nigeria’s North-West region. The workshop, conducted in partnership with the Office of the Secretary to the Sokoto State Government, brought together participants from Sokoto, Zamfara, and Kaduna States.
During the inaugural ceremony, Alhaji Muhammad Sifawa, the Secretary to the Sokoto State Government, emphasized the significance of adopting both kinetic (military) and non-kinetic approaches to resolving conflicts that have led to the loss of lives and property in the region. He urged politicians, security agencies, and the public to prioritize reconciliation over radical strategies, which can contribute to the sustainability of peace and stability.
Sifawa also acknowledged the adverse effects of banditry on farming communities in the North-West, particularly in Sokoto State. While recognizing the positive outcomes of military actions in restoring peace, he underscored the need for a comprehensive approach that includes non-kinetic peacebuilding efforts.
Mr. Paul Nyulaku-Bemshima, Country Director of International Alert, underscored the role of narratives in influencing individuals’ decisions regarding violence or defection from it. He emphasized the importance of reinforcing narratives that promote defection, rehabilitation, and social cohesion, alongside military efforts to address physical threats.
The workshop’s primary objective was to heighten public awareness of the media’s role in promoting positive messaging while reducing harmful cultural norms. It provided a platform for key stakeholders to develop alternative narratives, key messages, identify target audiences, and select appropriate channels to achieve behavioral change outcomes. The initiatives focused on preventing populations from endorsing violence justified by ideology, tackling root causes, averting recruitment and radicalization, and countering narratives that perpetuate violence and instability.