Ezekiel Gomos, Member of the order of the Federal Republic (MFR) and one time Secretary to the Plateau is the Vice Chairman of the Conflict Management and Mitigation Regional Council a non- governmental organization of the USAID. He spoke on why violence keeps erupts in Jos and the way forward in a chat with Sunday Vanguard.
By Tayo Obateru
Why, in your view has the crisis in Jos persisted?
I keep on saying that the fundamental issues are still left untouched. There are basic and fundamental issues that people need to see being addressed. The first major issue is calling the people together to engage one another, sitting down to dialogue. When people are standing afar, they cannot agree on fundamental issues. When people are forced to discuss and not out of their free will, they wonâ€™t be able to understand the fundamental issues.
The fundamental issues are very critical and when they are not addressed, of course, anger will boil and any small thing that happens can trigger it. Whether a quarrel between a commuter and a driver or maybe a quarrel between a tenant and a landlord or even one between a teacher and a pupil.
Once they are of two different religions or ethnic groups, the divide comes up again because the fundamental issues are still boiling in them and until and unless we sit down as a people and engage each other towards understanding these fundamental issues, the dichotomy will still be there.
One recalls that the interim administration of Gen. Chris Ali organized a peace summit which was meant to achieve what you are sayingâ€¦
That was a good effort but again, it was done in a somewhat military style and was a bit rushed. It didnâ€™t flow freely and there was a time limit. There was this idea that we had a time frame to conclude out assignment and get out of here by the conveners so it ended up leaving some issues unaddressed.
Fine, it was a good effort bringing people together and it started very well but I think because the administration that organized it needed to conclude it before leaving office, I think they left it hanging. The person who began the process ended up not being the person that concluded it, so there was that gap. But the idea was good. The question that should be asked doing that kind of thing are, what are those key problems and what do you as a stakeholder want to propose for discussion before you sign on to the peace process? Unless we engage, we cannot solve the problem because nobody gets anything achieve through violence and what you cannot get through peace, violence does not give it to you. We have examples in Northern Ireland of a people who, for hundreds of years, were at war and then about 20 years ago, they had peace. So, it shows that itâ€™s possible for people who had disagreement before to come together. But, as I said, it has to start from the willingness to talk to each other; itâ€™s very important.
Many have also blamed the failure to implement the reports of past crises on the situation. Do you agree?
Yes, in a way. In the sense that if justice is not done in the past disturbances obviously people will continue to have disturbances stored up and they are boiling. So when a previous fight between two people or groupsÂ have calmed down and then people donâ€™t see the guilty party being punished, or see the perpetrators being dealt with, of course, there is bound to be anger. But thatâ€™s on one part. The other part is that litigation only brings temporary peace in the sense that in a situation where one side wins and another side loses, there canâ€™t be peace.
They will only return to their trenches and wait for an opportunity to win. So when you have a win-lose situation which is what litigation brings, the side that loses will not just take it in its stride and accept defeat. Itâ€™s like a football match; if one side loses today, it waits for an opportunity to revenge. So litigation has its advantage in that when justice id given and is seen to be done, that can bring peace. But we also need to realize that we are dealing with human beings with feelings so even if you use previous reports to punish people to serve as a deterrent, you must go beyond that and ask, what next?