The Society for Peace Studies and Practice (SPSP) is an off-shoot of the MA and h.D. degree programs of the University of Ibadan in Peace and Conflict Studies that I founded in the year 2000, following the academic link between Ibadan and the Initiative on Conflict Resolution and Ethnicity (INCORE), University of Ulster, Londonderry starting from 1996. INCORE was established as a United Nations University center and one of the world’s leading organizations for international research on conflict in 1993. The organization has now changed the meaning of INCORE to the “International Conflict Research Institute”. I jointly coordinated the Ibadan/INCORE link first with Prof. Mari Fitzduff (1996/1997) and later with Prof. Gillian Robinson with the generous funding support of the British Council (West Africa), then under the leadership of Dr. David Hawkins.
The Ibadan Peace and Conflict Studies program was conceived not to be another narrow-gauged academic specialization but a practice-oriented package that could make a contribution to Nigeria getting out of the crises thrown up by the annulment of the June 12 1993 elections. The program was most particularly targeted at building Nigeria’s capacity to deal with the different types of violence witnessed under the administration of General Sani Abacha (1994 to 1998). Hence, the British Council link with INCORE was structured in a manner that afford me not just the opportunity to audit how peace studies programs were designed and taught in Northern Ireland but also how divided societies could be rebuilt. This, indeed, was why the academic link was located in Northern Ireland where the Catholics and Protestants were in a bloody conflict. In the course of my many visits to this part of the United Kingdom, I saw and heard terrible things that resulted from the violent conflict. I saw the conflicting parties negotiating their differences. I lived in communities divided by “peace walls”!
For enabling me to hone the skills I brought back to Nigeria, the British Council involved me in the management of many violent conflicts across Nigeria from 1995 to 2002 and helped to get some of my ideas published. Additional helping hands were provided by the United Nations International Leadership Academy, Amman Jordan; UNDP, USAID, USAID/Office of Transition Initiatives and several other international development agencies working on peace practice in Nigeria and far beyond. The experiences from all these opportunities informed the high quality of the Ibadan Peace and Conflict Studies Programme today. It framed the origin and growth of what is today known as SPSP.
SPSP assumed its present public outlook in 2003. However, it started working quietly as a forum for linking the Ibadan peace and conflict students with peace practitioners for further enriching the knowledge provided in classroom settings. Several peace practitioners were brought to the University of Ibadan to interface with the students. As more and more people showed interest in the Society, it was thrown open to other Nigerians. It now has members across the globe and has an enviable publishing profile particularly targeted at producing Afrocentric literature for teaching peace studies and practice.
As we look back at the humble beginnings of the Society for Peace Studies and Practice (SPSP), now 20 years old, it is pertinent to recognize and show due appreciation to some outstanding individuals for their supportive roles. They include the Foundation Board of Trustees, which consisted of the following: late Gen. Nuhu Bamali, Prof. Nuhu Yaqub (First Board Chair), Mallam Yusuf Ali (SAN), Dr. Nurudeen Olarinde (First National President), and Dr. Badmus Aliu (First Secretary-General). The others are: Dr. Babangida Aliyu, Mallam Shekarau, Prof. Suleiman Elias Bogoro (Current Board Chairman), and Dr. Willie Eselebor.