In the wake of the recent unrest in Jos, institutions and groups have been expressing their anger over the sad incident and the events that followed it.
Of particular interest is the reaction of the authorities of the University of Jos and staff unions in the institution. Some of the reactions are, to say the least, in bad taste and occasioned by bad faith.
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It is sad to hear that the lives of innocent people, students and others alike, are lost as a result of the acts of some wicked elements in society.
For long, past administrations in the University of Jos had worked hand in hand with the communities around the institution to forge a harmonious relationship.
The impact could be seen in the peaceful coexistence and progress recorded by the institution in recent times.
However, it is sad to note that the unfortunate incident of Saturday, 14 August 2021, in which innocent travellers were attacked and killed along Rukuba Rd, an incident that happened outside the university and which has no connection whatsoever with either the institution or it’s students, has now become the reason for another round for antagonism in University/community relations.
Every life is sacred and there should be no discrimination in respect for the sanctity of life.
Leadership with the necessary security consciousness that is required in the management of such an environment would have taken proactive measures to advise students and staff to be careful about their movements in view of reprisal attacks, judging from experience in previous similar situations.
We believe there has been poor management response to the situation and rather than adjust to doing the needful, the issue is being exaggerated to a higher level of indecorous handling, threatening not only University/community relations, but also posing danger to a particular group of staff and students, going by the sentiments being expressed.
For anyone who might be familiar, with the use of terms such as ‘settlers’ and ‘religious extremists’ in the context of the Jos/Nigeria crisis, one cannot run away from the inevitable conclusion as to who is often referred to, in that stereotype and stigmatization.
If we view the current negative spotlight being given to the University of Jos from a wider perspective, it marks a big setback for our great Alma mater.
It is also undermining whatever efforts the governments, both state and federal are doing to restore law and order and sustainable peace in the state.
It, therefore, behoves the authorities of our respected Alma mater to show circumspection in the way it handles the current situation, rather than resorting to unnecessary hype and extremities over a matter that would require the involvement of all stakeholders to find a lasting solution.
Isolating students and the university from the larger community, ‘settlers’ or otherwise is not the answer to this unwholesome situation.
The management of the university has ironically boxed itself into a corner, such that it now has to work hard to reassure students and staff, of particular ethnic identity, of their safety and protection on campus, considering the way it surreptitiously attempts to stigmatise their communities.
This also brings the issue of objectivity and fairness in handling matters affecting them.
On the other hand, too, it has done much harm to the cause of the university and its vast interests in the field of knowledge and development.
On this note, We wish to appeal to both the management and the various unions, staff and students, to apply caution and discretion in the handling of the situation and not to escalate it to an irredeemable point.
For the avoidance of doubt, the University of Jos is like a family institution for many of us, we all are emotionally attached to UniJos. Therefore, we will not fold our arms to see our great alma mater destroyed.
There have been accusations and counter-accusations, therefore, we wish to draw the attention of the Management of the University of Jos to call its Union leaders to order so as not to escalate the already fragile situation in Jos with their provocative, malicious and careless statements.
We are going through hard times and we need to put our thinking caps, think and rethink until we find a solution that will be for all, we do not mean an ad hoc one that will only serve the short term interests of a few but a long-lasting solution.
Our sense of patriotism should be able to direct our thoughts, words and actions at this critical moment, for the sake of our dear country.
We should all pray and work for lasting solutions to the numerous challenges facing us as a people so that we can leave a legacy worthy of reference in the future.
It is therefore incumbent on the council to step into the matter at this stage as the mishandling by the management has done much damage to the image of the institution, in contrast to the sympathy they thought it would bring.
It has also put to question the good work of the state government and the security agencies and other stakeholders, especially the JNI in the state, in the manner they responded to the situation, as it has given political opportunists a chance for deceit through gestures of support to ‘endangered’ students.
All these and the school closure would have been unnecessary if proper discretion was applied in handling the matter.
Hon Suleiman Alkali writes from Jos, Plateau state