Prof. Dada J. P.* and Ani K.J.** Abstract

Dada, Joel P. and Ani, Kelechi Johnmary (2009) “Traditional Recreation and Entertainment as Tools
for Peace Building in Post Conflict Nigerian Communities”, Maiduguri Journal of Peace, Diplomatic
and Development Studies, Vol. 2, No. 2, July-December, pp.99-111
Prof. Dada J. P.* and Ani K.J.**
This paper examines the role the traditional recreation
and entertainment played in peace building in post
conflict Nigerian communities. It is pointed out that
during traditional festivals; all forms of inter-communal
actions take place. During the festival, the gathering of
spectators in community theatres and mobile theatres
often promote the peoples sense of integration and hence
help in building peace among the belligerent
communities. It is good that leaders of Nigerian
communities should therefore encourage traditional
recreation and entertainment in their communities,
especially those that were involved in community
* Prof. J.P. Dada is the Coordinator, Training, Research, Documentation and
Publication, Centre for Peace, Development and Diplomatic Studies, University of
Maiduguri, Nigeria.
** K.J. Ani is a Postgraduate Student, in the Department of History, University of
Maiduguri, Nigeria.
It is almost as if, in choosing to write in
Gikuyu, I was doing something abnormal.
The very fact that what common sense
dictates in the literary practise of other
cultures is questioned in an African writer is
a measure of how far imperialism has
distorted the view of African realities. It has
turned reality upside down: the abnormal is
viewed as normal and the normal is view as
abnormal… Africa even produces intellectuals
who now rationalize this upside-down way of
looking at Africa… Unfortunately, some
African intellectuals have fallen victims - a
few incurably so- to that scheme and they
are unable to see the divide and rule.
(Thiong’ O: 1986)
Danjibo (2006:69) stated that “the world over, each group
has its own sources of tradition and how to preserve and
perpetuate it”. Shils (1958) stated that
Tradition is not the dead hand of the past but
rather the hand of the gardener, which
judgement, which would otherwise not be
strong enough on their own. In this respect…
tradition… establishes contact between the
recipients and the sacred values of his life in
the society.
In traditional Nigerian setting, people gather at one time or
the other for recreational or entertainment programmes. Such
programmes were developed to the level of festival co-operatives
among different communities across the country. Festival cooperative is the gathering of people from various clans,
communities or towns to share in traditional recreation and
entertainment, on a rotational basis. The primary aim is the
rotational show-casing of the people’s rich cultural heritage.
Okafor (1998) explained festival co-operatives as the traditional
exchange during festivals in which the host today becomes the
guest in the next feast. In the course of this festival co-operative,
the people would promote the cords of love, fair play, justice,
entertainment etc. The implication becomes the growth of mutual
bond which leads to inter-communal peace-building.
The Concept of Peace Building
Peace building involves individual and collective efforts, through
sound interaction that promotes peaceful existence. Wilson
(2009:3) stated that peace building is associated with efforts
aimed at conflict prevention, reconciliation, transnational justice,
education for peace, bridging the reality gap and communication
of peace. Kombol (2009:45) wrote that peace building is one of
the four strategies in agenda for peace- namely: preventive
diplomacy, peacemaking, peacekeeping and post-conflict peace
building. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2004:1)
argued that peace building is:
Action to identify and support structures
which will tend to strengthen and solidify
peace in order to avoid a relapse into conflict
…Peace building does not encompass
peacemaking processes, but it can facilitate
and support such processes. Peace building
does not encompass peacekeeping operations
but is often part of their mandate.
Lederach (1994:14) defined peace building as “efforts to
transform potentially violent social relations into sustainable
peaceful relations and outcomes”. Kombol (2009:46) agreed with
Lederch, when he wrote that peace building efforts attack the
root causes of conflict. On their part Fearnely and Chiwandamira
(2006: 15) wrote that:
Peace building refers to the full spectrum of
intervention that is focused on restoring
relations between groups that have been in
conflict. As such peace building involves a
number of different aspects, which may
include forgiveness, cooperation, negotiation,
mediation, facilitation, creation of mutual
understanding and /or reconciliation
Haugerudbraaten (1998) has argued that peace building could be
used in six different ways, namely:
to remove the root cause of conflict as a way of resolving
efforts at peace building involve security, humanitarian,
political or economic intervention, separately or all at the
same time
the duration of peace building – short, medium or long
the main actors in peace building – indigenous or foreign
the dimension of peace building – specific actions or over
all action and
the organisation of peace building – top to down
approach or vice versa.
Traditional recreation and Entertainment in Peace-Building
Traditional recreations are those activities that our people do
in order to refresh their body and mind. Traditional recreations
are the traditional activities of the people which they engage in
for pleasure or relaxation rather than as work. While traditional
entertainments are performances and exhibitions that are
produced or performed for the enjoyment of the audience. It is
noteworthy that there is no line of separation between traditional
entertainment and traditional games; they are a part of an
integral whole.
Traditional recreation and entertainment always promote
inter and intra-communal contact. During traditional festivals,
all forms of inter-communal actions take place. During the
festival cooperatives, the gatherings of spectators in community
theatres and mobile theatres often promote the peoples sense of
integration. This is because; no festival is celebrated without the
presence of “foreigners” that come to share in the joy of the
festivity. During the course of the recreation and entertainment
which are displayed during the festival cooperatives, the
spectators, the recreational and the entertainment actors all tend
to display the best public relation’s behaviour. This is because
any community or group that exhibits any behaviour that is
detrimental to the collective mood of the festivity is often banned
in some cases; they are prevented from attending the next
festival. Sequel to the quest to ensure continual participation in
the festival cooperative, the people are collectively responsible for
the promotion of mutual orders, and justice in the course of the
This Traditional festival cooperative is about building
peace in divided communities. In the course of the festivity, the
economy is often boasted. This is because many people come to
buy and sell different products of their material culture in the
surrounding environment. The implication becomes the
increasing control of biting poverty which is a threat to peace,
hence promoting peaceful society.
The fact that some of these recreation and entertainment
are carried-out in mobile theatres, during a week (often four days
in the Igbo traditional week calendar) of festival cooperatives,
there is always the tendency to host people in the houses of
different people. Some of the people who were guest in a
particular community today become the host tomorrow; the
implication becomes the growth in hospitability which enhances
peaceful interaction. During this period of hosting the festival;
the guest comes in contact with the people’s food and drinks. He
or she learns the people’s norms and tradition which helps in
checkmating bias and prejudice. Equally, such guests are taken
to places of traditional tourist entertainment. Hence, cultural
association would reach its climax in the mind of the guest. The
implication is that such a guest begins to plan towards
reciprocating such gestures in line with their own norms and
The idea of traditional recreation and entertainment is
vital in a post conflict situation because it promotes a peacebuilding process which is holistic in nature. In this form of post
conflict peace initiative, the people have recognized and
acknowledged the dangers of inter and intra-communal conflict.
In most cases, they are already tired and worn-out by the gross
dysfunctional impact of conflict. Thus, the people are easily
repentant, ready to forgive and stop all the injustices that
promoted the conflict.
Hence, the easiest expression of peace-building becomes
traditional entertainment and recreation which often promotes
peaceful co-existence. The recreation and games promotes the
essence of human existence. Among them includes hospitability,
generosity, care, friendship and forgiveness.
The essence of the traditional recreation and
entertainment automatically becomes to promote the culture of
peace, tolerance, peaceful co-existence and mutual development.
This peace-building strategy is rooted on the principles of
collective communal reciprocity, communal inclusivity and a
general sense of shared destiny between different people and
different communities.
The Bantu word Ubuntu which is used across East,
Central and Southern Africa is a concept that captures the
traditional peace-building process. Desmond Tutu quoted by
Francis (ND: 26) stated that the concept means:
That my humanity is caught up, is
inextricably bound up in theirs, we belong to
a bundle of life. We say ‘a person is a person
through other people’ (in Xhosa Ubuntu
ungamntu ngabanye abantu and in Zulu
Umuntu ngumuntu ngabanye). I am a human
because I belong, I participate, I share. A
person with Ubuntu is open and available to
others, affirming of others, does not feel
threatened that others are able and good; for
he or she has a proper self-assurance that
comes with knowing that he or she belongs in
a greater whole and is diminished when
others are humiliated or diminished, when
others are tortured or oppressed or treated as
if they were less than they are.
Francis (N.D: 26) stated that Ubuntu is an “all embracing African
interpretation of both ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ peace”.
Some Traditional Recreation and Entertainment that could
be used for Peace-Building Process
communities. In Hausa land, this act of wrestling called ‘kokuwa’
is performed in traditional wrestling ring called ‘Gida Dambe’.
Among the Igbo people, wrestling is often performed with a
peculiar wrestling music called ‘egwu mgba’. It is essentially a
part of formation for a young man of certain age grade to contest
in such wrestling at the preliminary stages before the winners are
nominated to represent the kindred at village level while village
winners go to the community level and winner at community level
goes to represent the community at the festival cooperative
competition. Achebe (1958) captured the story of traditional
wrestling in his Things Fall Apart where he presented Amalinze,
the cat. A man who became extra-ordinarily skilful in wrestling,
that his back never touches the ground. Traditional wrestling in
Nigeria has complex connotation than the Greek wrestling. Its
attributes promotes friendship and peace. Okafor (2000: 226227) wrote that:
Fairness is a hallmark of traditional
wrestling and that is why it is both a contest
and training. He must never take unfair
advantage of his opponent. He must never
throw the sand into the eyes of his opponent.
He must never bite, hit or twist the arms… If
a person is down on the ground he must
never fight back… Great wrestlers have been
known to be the greatest friends. People who
have faced themselves in the traditional
arena have become life-long friends because
victory has been won and defeat has been
inflicted in strict and open fairness.
Communities contribute in training great
wrestlers from among them to match their
weight, their strength and their skill against
wrestlers from other communities. And so,
whenever there is a wrestling festival in a
village, it is a gathering of many communities
simply to watch two people at a time put their
skills one against the other. There is hardly
anything to beat it in traditional societies for
attracting people and for making long-life
There is the seed-board game that is played across the
length and breadth of Nigeria. The Igbo people call it ‘okwe’. It is
a game that is played by two to four contestants, each
distributing the seeds, doing fast mental calculation to know
where to begin and end in order to outsmart the other
contestants. Each contestant strategically uses the seeds in the
chess board in order to win. This is a form of traditional
recreation that promotes the peoples accuracy of reasoning.
Basden (1966: 134-135) have this to say about the game:
It is a recreation more in favour with the older
folk, the old men being particularly partial to
it. (Today, generation change has made it the
game of youths and children). The number of
holes varies from ten to twenty per side… the
players may be two three or four.
The Durbar is the Hausa traditional horse ridding game which is
continuously growing in fame. In 2009, an international Dubar
competition that witnessed the presence of competitors from all
parts of Northern Nigeria and the neighbouring countries took
place in Maiduguri. It is a game that is popular among the young
and the old.
The langa langa, dembe and fishing competition are
equally popular among Nigerian communities. President of
Traditional Sports Federation of Nigeria, Alhaji Mohammed Baba
Abdullahi quoted in Ngobua (2009:58) stated that:
Talking about dembe, yes, it is predominately
a northern affair. It emanated among the
Hausa/Fulani. We can give it to them but I
can tell you that as of today, Bayelsa, Ogun,
Delta and Edo states now win medals in
dembe. So you cannot say it is a regional
sport. But we must always acknowledge the
fact that dembe and langa actually originated
from the North. It may interest you to know
that other states like Lagos and Ogun now
beat even the Northern states in these events.
In fact all traditional sports are now national
and cannot be localized.
Canoe racing and swimming are popular competitions in the
Niger-Delta and other river-rine areas. In Anambra state and
during the Argungu festival, fishermen engage in fishing
expedition and competitions. The person who succeeded in
catching the biggest size of fish within a given time frame
becomes the winner of the fishing competition.
Throwing the seed game and ‘ikpo oga’ are both games
and entertainment that are popular among the Igbo people of
Nigeria. In the throwing of the game, one collects kernels, stones,
seeds etc and throws them up one after the other while ensuring
that about two to three are thrown up into the air at different
times simultaneously collected and thrown back over time with
the same hand without a break. The Igbo people call it ‘Itu Osa’.
It involves the fast movement of the hand in other to manipulate
all the stones. Ogbalu (N.D: 69) has stated that “this is more
demanding of the nerves and the eyes than perhaps throwing the
On the other hand, the leg game, ‘ikpo oga’ is a game
contested by a minimum of two girls in which they face each
other sing, clap and move their legs to any side of their choice. To
deny a young Igbo girl the opportunity of this game is to deny her
basic expression of right to recreation and entertainment. Okafor
(2000: 225) wrote that “a brand of this game is played in the
streets or roadsides of Harlem in New York. Perhaps, the Igbo in
Diaspora took that to the USA about 200 years ago and the
generations that developed thereafter have never forgotten it”.
The traditional ballad called ‘Ewi’ in Yoruba and ‘Oja’ in
Igbo are popular forms of entertainment and recreation that
enhances peace-building process. This form of entertainment is
vital in peace-building process because it allows the traditional
poet an opportunity to present many peace-building proverbs and
idiom in the traditional ballad. Such ballad criticized the place of
conflict and violence in the society. A good traditional poet goes
extra-mile by crying as he or she re-counts the deadly impact of
conflict and violence on the different communities. This singular
act of crying by the poet evokes the mood of regret in the mind of
the citizenry. This is because at that time, most of the audience
who experienced the terrible effect of the conflict begins to picture
the ordeal they pass-through during the conflict era in their
mind’s eye. Often, the result becomes the peoples resolve to
pursue peace and ensure the growth of a more peaceful society.
The masquerades are vital tools of peace-building which
falls within the traditional entertainment. The Igbo calls it
‘Mmanwu’, while in Yoruba it is ‘Egugu’ with varieties like ‘Eyo of
Eko’ and ‘Jendu of Egba land’. These masquerades re-enact the
ancestors and the sense of communal spirits. The
pronouncement of the masquerades is the pronouncement of the
gods which nobody challenges. The masquerades are believed to
be the custodians of the sovereign will of the ancestors. Hence,
when masquerades from different communities that were once at
war, come-out to declare an end to violence and conflict through
an oath of peace, it automatically becomes a divine covenant
which the people respect with all sense of sanity. In short in
some communities, if a person tries to cause blood to gush-out of
the body of someone from a community that has an out-of-peace
with his or her community, the person is often banished because
such act is seen as sacrilegious until certain rituals would be
done to appease the earth goddess.
Again, during traditional games and entertainment,
drama, songs, music, dance-drama is all exhibited to show the
need for peace and the terrible effect of conflict upon the
Why Traditional Approach to Peace-Building?
Traditional approach to peace-building is important because of its
epistemological (theory of knowledge and the basis of what we
claim to know) and cultural implications. Fundamentally,
traditional approach helps in developing peace-building
perspective that has the following characteristics:
1. Ownership: In traditional approach to peacebuilding, conceptualization, participation and
development of the peace process is completely
owned by the people.
2. Nigerianess: This approach to peace-building is
holistically Nigerian in orientation. It reflects the
perception of reality in the world view of Nigerians.
Hence, the endogenous or the indigenous
approach to peace-building that resolves around
the Nigerian personality is utilized.
3. Relevance: This is a peace-building approach that
is relevant to the Nigerian traditional experience.
Hence, acceptance and placement into any setting
in Nigeria would produce positive result.
Brainbant and Spengler (1961: 86) stated that:
Traditionalistic action takes place within a
context in which explicit reference is made to
the past history and development of a society
and to previous states of its existence. Hence,
societies in which “great traditions” have
developed may arrive at a point at which
traditional norms are not only consciously
held as true, but in which it is asserted that
they derived their validity because of their
transmission from a sacred origin.
4. Acceptance: The willingness of the masses to
accept this approach is going to receive massive
legitimacy unlike a foreign oriented approach that
would easily be perceived in the light of “haram”.
Nigeria must develop an indigenous practical and
participatory approach to peace-building in the face of the threat
of ethno-religious and communal conflicts that has bedevilled her
post independence history. The continuous, reoccurrence of
communal conflicts in Nigeria therefore promotes the idea of a
traditional approach towards peace-building in Nigeria. This
would be the basis for the development of a sustainable culture
of peace. In this peace approach, there would be no need for
special pedagogical training to understand how it works because
it would be part and parcel of the people’s way of life.
This would promote a “Nigerianist” world view to peacebuilding. In this new approach, the diverse experiences, norms,
culture etc of the people would be harvested in the peacebuilding process. This would lead to the decolonization of our
peace process in Nigeria; from the domineering and difficult-toapply approaches of the western world. Hence, through the
diverse and dynamic cultural heritage of the Nigerian people, a
traditional approach would promote the active participation of
the majority in a peace-building process, which would be upheld
and protected by the majority of Nigerians.
The tragedy is that there are some of us,
those that have the possibility to occupy the
media spaces, who claim that they are
Africans, among them intellectuals, “who
now rationalize the upside-down way of
looking at Africa”, according to which ‘the
abnormal is viewed as normal and the
normal is viewed as abnormal’… regardless
of the fact that we are poor and need support
of others richer than ourselves to overcome
our problems, we should always refuse to
rationalize the upside-down way of looking at
Africa. Our poverty and underdevelopment
should never serve as a reason for us to
abandon our dignity as human beings,
subservient recipients of alms, happy to
submit to a dismissive, intolerant and rigid
attitude of some (to Africa). Mbeki (2004:24)
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