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Oh Lord, may this be the last fire and brimstone on the Plateau

Before last Sunday’s attack on three villages on the fringes of Jos South and Barkin Ladi local governments in Plateau state, many assumed that the…

Before last Sunday’s attack on three villages on the fringes of Jos South and Barkin Ladi local governments in Plateau state, many assumed that the bloodletting in Plateau State was over and that the theatre of war had shifted to the round-table. But the early morning attack on the three villages which, according to official figures, left about 109 persons dead, has jolted the government and the people that the issue of bloodshedding has not altogether disappeared.

Past efforts of government had been to set up commissions of inquiry to probe each crisis. This happened in 1994, 2001, 2004 and in 2008. But the January 2010 crisis had a different formula.

The federal government, instead, set up a committee comprising all the parties to the dispute to go round and recommend to it what must be done to achieve peace. In the latest crisis, more issues have been thrown up even as more options are being explored.

One of the issues thrown up by last Sunday’s attack is the fact that the bitterness and resentment that existed in the minds of the people runs deeper than the authorities had imagined. Another is that the confidence of the people in the recognized instrument for justice is weak and that the security of lives and property is not guaranteed even with the presence of the military.

Because of that, many groups and individuals have called for the withdrawal of the military from the state to the extent that some of them were stoned last week when grief-stricken youths sighted them.

Our correspondents observed that indeed there have been some concrete steps taken, unlike in the past, that seem to suggest a resolve to put behind the ugly incidents. Unlike in the past when every side stuck to their guns by threatening more fire and brimstone, there seems to be a sober realization in this instance that life cannot continue this way on the Plateau.

Governor Jonah Jang, in his broadcast after the attack, acknowledged this. He said: “My dear citizens, at this hour of hurt and despair, it is human to start trading blames and making excuses. This will in no way solve our situation. As humans, too, we are likely to be inflamed with hatred and bitterness. Also, this will do us no good both as individuals and as a state.  We must not allow this to continue. Violence cannot be used as a way of solving conflicts. We must all respect each other irrespective of any affiliations. The responsibility of achieving peace is a collective one. Therefore, all hands must be on deck for us to achieve this goal.   However, let me warn all those contemplating any reprisals or vengeance attacks to desist.”

As a cross-section of Nigerians have begun asking for a lasting solution to this problem, Governor Jang seems to have taken the lead. According to him, “unless we begin to punish those found guilty of perpetrating  violence, the cycle of violence cannot be arrested. Those who live by causing violence, no matter who they are, should be made to face the consequences of their actions,” he stressed.

Former President, Shehu Shagari, who was in Jos at the same time with former Heads of State, Ernest Shonekan and Yakubu Gowon, decried last week’s killings and pointed out the importance of unity for the country. Shagari said that there is need to find a lasting solution to the Jos crisis.  He said the solution lies in not ignoring any situation that has the potential to disturb the peace, unity and integrity of the country.”

He said this is because the unity of Nigeria has been a source of envy to many African countries. “They are envying us because of our ability to make several countries into one country. Many countries have tried to unite but very few of them have been able to do so. Therefore, we cannot afford to be in pieces but in peace.”

Chief Shonekan, on the other hand, attributed the recurrent crisis in the state to the lack of coherent economic structure, stressing that the problem of Jos goes beyond mere ethnic and religious dimensions.  He recalled how Jos used to be the home of mining and industry, and further attributed the crisis to population explosion, closure of mine fields and oil boom, factors which, he said, have resulted in general decline of employment opportunities. “If economic opportunities have remained buoyant, there would have been less conflicts.”

The former head of the Interim National Government (ING) said the solution to the problem lies with the government, which has the task of creating an enabling environment where people will have access to basic necessities of life. He said if this is done, “people will have no time to resort to violence. We all know that a hungry man is an angry man”.

To create these opportunities, he said, government needs to liberalize the acquisition of land, invite the private sector, and improve the educational sector as well as create of community-based cooperatives at the local level which, he said, will all fast-track development in the state.

He added that people have to learn to accommodate one another in order to allow for a free flow of liberal minds and new reforms that will pave way for rebranding the community.

Similar to the suggestion made by Jang, Chief Solomon Lar, who is the  Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee set up by the federal government, believes that non-implementation of the recommendations of previous reports of past commissions is responsible for the recurrent crisis in the state.

Former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, retired Lieutenant General Jerry Useni, on his part, wants people to have the fear of God in their hearts. He said once people have that at the back of their minds, they will strive to live in peace, irrespective of ethnic or religious affiliations.

Musa Alkasim who resides on Bauchi Road, on his part, argued that, “unless we start thinking about having an artificial society, we will not go anywhere. When I say artificial society, I simply mean having a society that is not polarized, a society where people of diverse cultures come together to attain a common goal without bearing in mind their cultural or religious background. When we keep our affiliations at the background and bring to fore, the issues of developing our society, we will surely have a peaceful state.”

How kaduna tackled sectarian crisis

Several measures were adopted by the former Kaduna State Governor, Ahmed Muhammad Makarfi during and after the 2000 ethno-religious crisis that rocked the state. The crisis followed the purported introduction of Sharia, an Islamic legal code. The governor gave preference to security, creation of several chiefdoms in the Southern and Northern Senatorial districts, citing of additional developmental projects and making political appointments.

Though the creation of additional chiefdoms didn’t go down well with the 19 century-old Zazzau Emirate, the then Makarfi insisted that it was done to remedy the age-long allegation of marginalisation by the Southern part of the state. The former governor was criticised for citing of more capital projects in the Southern part of the state didn’t deter him.

There was apparently no change of policy even after he left office in 2007. His successor, Architect Muhammad Namadi Sambo went ahead and made security one of the administration’s 11-point agenda. Governor Namadi established a joint security outfit called, Operation Yaki, that constantly patrols the 23 local government areas of the state.

The security outfit, which is jointly funded by the state government and the 23 local governments, is a combination of military, the police, civil defence corps and the vigilante. The presence of the security outfit in the state, according to observers, has brought about a reduction in armed robbery, among other security-related offences in the state.     

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