Reports of renewed attacks in Plateau State have shattered our assumption that the relative peace which the state had enjoyed for some time now, had come to stay.
As carried in the media, the attacks are concentrated mainly in Mangu Local Government Area, where about 200 persons have reportedly been killed and injured many of them women, children and the aged. Many more have been declared missing presumably dead and rendered homeless as a result of the destruction of their settlements.
This latest development is indeed very sad and we join other Nigerians to mourn the dead and commiserate with families of the deceased and the injured and wish them a very quick recovery. Across the country as the tally of the casualties from the attacks kept mounting, the question on the lips of most people is why again in Plateau? And the follow up question is why at this time that a new administration is set to take over with renewed hope that the peace which the state has been experiencing will endure and be even consolidated under the new dispensation?
Nigerians are rightfully exasperated that once again Plateau State has relapsed to the ugly past where killings were taking place routinely rendering this very beautiful area of Nigeria into an ugly killing field.
We recall with regrets that when against expectations Plateau State was convulsing with killings in great big bleeding batches, the whole country reverberated with the unending reports of the gory developments which struck at the heart of virtually all Nigerians. This is due to the fact that for long Plateau State with its ambient weather and scenic beauty coupled with the discovery and exploitation of large deposits of Tin and Columbite, attracted people from far and wide in Nigeria and even beyond.
From this origins, Plateau emerged as a cosmopolitan haven for Nigerians looking for fortune and peace rightly earning the logo “Home of Peace and Tourism’’. It was such that while other parts of Nigeria were erupting in violence, Plateau was the place victims of such crisis sought refuge in the hope that due to its composition where every shade of Nigeria was represented in peaceful coexistence, they would find solace.
That is why it is heart wrenching that the violence which residents of Plateau State thought will never visit the state because of the peace they enjoyed in the past couple of years, erupted into an orgy of blood-letting. It shook the country to its very roots.
We believe it is not possible that folks who have been co-existing and interacting peacefully for years under such ambient conditions in Jos will just wake up suddenly and start going at each other’s throats.
We believe as it happened some years back and now, some hate merchants bent on causing disaffection must be behind all this. The stock in trade of such hate mongers is to stoke the febrile differences and relations between various groups for political gain.
The fact that this ultimately results in violence leading to killings and displacement of people as we have seen in the current situation in Mangu, seems to be of little concern to them.
As it is, incoming Governor Caleb Muftwang, who is set to take over the mantle of leadership in Plateau State tomorrow has his work cut out on this sensitive issue. Apart from coming from the Mangu Local Government, where the violence is taking place, he is a former chairman of the council.
In this regard as he will most certainly be familiar with the issue, he will be expected to get to grips immediately on assumption of office. We will suggest that he sits down with outgoing Governor Simon Lalong to discuss on how the latter was able to tackle the issue of nagging sectarian violence which he inherited on assumption of office in 2015. It was largely due to Lalong’s approach that relative peace came to Plateau State which endured throughout his administration of the state.
As governor of the state, Caleb Muftwang must consider this issue on a non-partisan basis and shun the temptation and pressure to apply measures that will exacerbate the situation. His immediate task will be to douse the situation by applying the necessary security measures and to open constructive dialogue with community and religious leaders in the area. This will check the violence from spreading to other parts of the state, thereby preventing reprisal attacks which often follows such incidents. From this dialogue also culprits involved in the killings should be identified and be made to face the law.
For what it is worth, the search for peace in Plateau State is imperative. All measures necessary to prevent the state from relapsing into the violence witnessed some years back must be taken.
As a cosmopolitan state which is more or less a home for many Nigerians, Plateau State is too important to be allowed to return into a cauldron of unending violence.