When she described him at a thanksgiving service as a tough personality, disciplinarian and a strict husband and father at home, and to the larger society by extension, the audience laughed and cheered on. But that happened to be the operative remark of Ngo Rakiya Gyang Buba, wife of Gbong Gwom Jos, His Majesty Da Jacob Gyang Buba, at her husband’s 70th birthday anniversary.
Buba, the president of the Jos Joint Traditional Council and also chairman of the Plateau State Council of Chiefs, celebrated his 70th birthday last week.
The two days ceremony began with a thanksgiving service at the Buken Academy in Jos South Local Government Area. The event climaxed the next day at his palace with different thrills, speeches entertainment and feasting.
Present at the ceremony was Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State; Senator Istifanus Gyang; Plateau State House of Assembly Speaker, Abok Nuhu Ayuba; former Plateau State Governor and Senator representing Plateau Northern Zone, Janah Jang, among other dignitaries.
The other eulogies for the Gbong Gwom, who is also the Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, were in line with that of his wife, particularly from one of his lieutenants who worked under him when he was the Comptroller General of Customs. By and large, he was generally described as a forthright, brave and peace-loving man.
When he eventually spoke at the ceremony, he agreed to his wife’s comment about him, but explained that he has calmed down now due to some circumstances and age. He precisely said whenever he was returning home, his family members would be running helter-skelter to make sure everything was in order and not disorganized, or else they would have him to contend with.
The paramount ruler was projected as a man of order, uprightness, societal justice and peaceful coexistence. It’s not surprising therefore that the high point of his birthday celebration was the conferment of traditional titles on 10 persons of high repute as peace builders. Their mandate and term of reference is to build bridges of understanding among the populations and segments of the Plateau society.
This is seen as unprecedented, with the expectation that it would restore the peaceful coexistence the state is known for from time immemorial. The peaceful coexistence eluding the state following ethno-religious violence which erupted since 2001 (20 years ago) keeps recurring.
The violence, which has claimed thousands of lives and properties worth billions of naira over the years, has intensely instilled a forlorn hope in the people. Worse still, it has polarized into two competing ideological positions. Chief among the competing ideologies is that of the Christian Versus Islam faith or that of indigene versus settlers concept.
And the harsh reality from this polarization is that several parts of the state, especially Jos, has mostly been divided into two different settlements. People now reside according to ethno-religious affiliation. There are areas dominated by Christians, while there are other places where Muslims reside. And once you are of a particular religion, you don’t freely move around places dominated by people of the other religion, particularly during crises.
In his wisdom, however, the Gbong Gwom decided to try a different pattern of peace initiative with the belief that it would produce extraordinary impact. This led to the confrment of traditional titles on 10 illustrious persons to pursue the restoration of peace. This is seen as a delightful beginning in several quarters and it has risen people’s hopes.
Among those conferred with the chieftaincy titles are Mr. Austin Pam Dalyop (Galadiman Jos); Engr. Jang Chuwang Tanko (Jarman Jos); Alhaji Mansur Nakande (Makaman Jos); Chief (Dr) Felix Ezeanoche (Mutawallen Jos); Da Toma Chuwang Minti (Gwom Nkanang) and Da Michael Gyang Pam (Sarkin Pada). Others are Da Choji Zang Tott (Talban Jos); Mrs. Felicia Chomo Sodipe (Jakadiyan Jos); Mrs. Sarah Dagah (De Sele Berom) and Malam Yakubu Ibn Mohammed, Director General NTA, (Tafidan Jos).
Prior to the conferment ceremony, the Gbong Gwom canvassed support for the government, security agencies and other related stakeholders in order to effectively tackle the insecurity bedevilling the nation.
Buba said everyone is guilty of the current predicament in the country because the people are no more each other’s keeper, and that the love which originally should exist between members of the society is no longer there.
He said Plateau State has a sizable share of the security situation in the country, adding that all residents of the state, whether indigenes or not, should deliberately agree to live in peace and harmony and make up their minds to live in peace.
He said all those perpetrating evil in the land are members of people’s family, stressing that it is important for families to take care of their home front and bring their wards to moral uprightness.
Buba called on the religious leaders to join hands with the traditional rulers in finding the way out of the security predicament because this is no longer time for anyone to act singly.
He promised to keep engaging Governor Lalong in the quest and search for peace in the state, until a headway is made.
The 10 title recipients were accompanied to the podium by their spouses where they were decorated by the Gbong Gwom.
The royal father said, “It is not easy to accept a traditional title because these titles come with a responsibility. And the responsibility of these particular titles is for them to join us as foot soldiers of the peace reconciliation we want to make across the state. The Jos Joint Traditional Council has accepted to honour these 10 persons with the traditional titles, and it is our belief that all of us will key in accordingly. As we continue to take steps towards bringing peace, it is our prayer that God will lead us aright to do the needful,” he said.
He then enjoined them to live according to the requirement of their titles and the responsibility that comes with it.
After the ceremony, Alhaji Mansur Nakande (Makaman Jos) who spoke with Daily Trust on Sunday on the significance of the traditional title conferment, said it was timely and a pointer to the fact that his Royal Majesty is desirous of restoring and sustaining peace in the state.
He said there was need for the traditional institution to build a team that will actively participate in the building and sustenance of peaceful coexistence in the state, and that was what the Royal Majesty has done, after carefully considering the antecedents of the 10 of them in peace building and management over the years.
He also said their terms of references extended to partnering with not only the traditional institution alone but the government as well in the pursuance of peace as well as moral societal conduct.
Nakande said though their best reference or reference point for their selection was their antecedents in peace building, they were still screened at various levels, adding that they are all members of their various communities and understand the nitty-gritty of communal crises in the state.
He said the titles conferment apart from being unprecedented with respect to peace pursuance in the state, signifies a new approach to public administration by the Gbong Gwom.
He described the Gbong Gwom as a man of peace, very experienced and exposed, explaining that due to the fact that His Royal Majesty has worked in several places and has held key positions in the country, he understands public and human relations.
He promised to perform well in order to justify the confidence reposed in him, adding that members of the community should join hands with them to deliver on their mandate.
Commenting on the initiative, the representative of Wase Emir’s Palace and the Galadiman Wase, Mustapha Umar, said the Gbong Gwom has definitely picked a strategic approach to bring sustainable peace to the state, because those he picked are opinion leaders, strategists and focused people.
Umar, who is also the Acting Chairman Advisory Board of Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace (DREP) Centre in Jos, urged the recipients to be more community active, involve in vital societal activities/engagements and carry members of the community along.
The Galadiman Wase also urged the recipients to be loyal to the Gbong Gwom, give him credible and factual advice and refrain from acting on unverifiable information or fake news, and as a result advise His Royal Majesty wrongly/or on a wrong premise.
He called on members of the public to join hands with the recipients to collectively move the state forward and bring back the much-needed peace.
In his own view, the Plateau State Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said the initiative is commendable and that the title holders are the ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’ of His Royal Majesty in their various communities.
He enjoined the Gbong Gwom to keep the title holders in close contact at all times to get good feedback.
The CAN Chairman expressed confidence in those conferred with the traditional titles, saying that they are credible, have integrity and are influential in their localities and their people listen to them.
He advised them to live up to their responsibilities and play their roles very well so that sustainable peace can return to the state.
So, the conferment of this traditional titles on 10 deserving persons as peace builders, is an added strategy to the previous and accustomed means/initiatives in many quarters aimed at retuning Plateau to its original peaceful state. It is thus expected that this particular peace-seeking strategy would yield results in Plateau State.