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Violent clashes and the future of Plateau State

By Istifanus Pam Gyang

Plateau State has been in the news since 2001 for the wrong reasons. Following the Jos crisis on the 7th of September of that year and subsequent events that culminated in the killings at Yelwa-Shendam and the declaration of a state of emergency, Plateau has not been the same again.

The recent orgy of violence in Jos and environs and the level and manner of killings and destructions again put the state on world stage, yet again, in negative light and has left many asking, ‘what is wrong with Plateau State?’

As many have argued, crisis is not peculiar to Plateau State as outbreak of sectarian and communal clashes are also frequently recorded in other parts of the country. Lately, communal clashes have been reported in Abia, Benue and other places. What has made that of Jos peculiar is the recurrence of the crisis and its seemingly intractable nature. Whereas violence happen in other places and end after a while, that of Plateau appear to have defied solutions. Commissions have been set up to investigate different crisis and recommendations were made, yet nothing seems to have improved. Rather, the crisis appears to be worsening from one to the other. Must things continue like this?

The questions that need to be answered include: Why has the problem in Jos defied solution? Why has it suddenly become difficult for the people of the state who have lived together for centuries to co-habit peacefully? Or have new sets of people been brought in to pollute the peaceful ambience of a state which was once celebrated for her cosmopolitan nature? Is the problem religious, ethnic, economic, political or a combination of some or all of them?

The questions are legion and a search for answers for them would no doubt contribute to ultimately finding a solution to the problem.
All lovers of Plateau State, especially those who have been direct victims of crisis either by losing loved ones, property and other things or even by the psychological damage inflicted by the frequent disruptions and dislocations cannot but wish for an end to the recurring violence. The issue remains, what is the way forward?

As another election year approaches, different permutations as to the future of the state are again emerging with politicians positioning themselves to profit from the current situation. The scenario that played out during the tenure of former Governor Joshua Dariye when rather than see the crisis then as a common problem which should be jointly tackled, some politicians rejoiced and allegedly fueled the crisis to discredit the administration is again playing out. Talk about the plausibility or otherwise of a second tenure for Governor Jonah Jang has been dominating political discourse and some appear bent on stopping him from returning. While those for him insist that he should be allowed to continue to consolidate on the numerous developmental projects especially roads that he started, those opposed to him argue that whatever achievements he recorded have been obliterated by the recurring violence especially the sheer number of innocent blood that was shed.

To such people his ‘time’ is not favourable to the state hence giving him another term would be disastrous. One does not wish to join this debate but to rather look at the implications of this development for the state. Jang became governor after a long battle by the Northern Senatorial District to produce a governor like the other districts and it was expected that the governorship would remain there (Plateau North District) for another four years.

However, some have argued that the arrangement was never formal and was more for expediency which should not be used to deny credible candidates from other senatorial districts the opportunity of giving the state a leader that would guarantee peace. This probably explains why some governorship aspirants from the Southern Zone are believed to be warming up their political machines in preparation for the race.

But if the truth must be told, I feel it is bad politics to take the governorship ticket away from the Northern Zone at this time. The trauma and other effects of the crisis must not be exacerbated politically by making the people feel ‘defeated’ through the denial of the ticket. So even if there are those who feel Governor Jonah Jang should not return (they are entitled to their opinion anyway), the idea of taking the ticket away from the Northern Zone should be weighed properly so that it does not send the wrong signals.

The best way out is to either allow the incumbent to continue, if he wins the ticket of his party and eventually the election or to scout for another credible candidate from the same Northern Zone. This would remove any ill-feeling from the people of the senatorial district and check the truncation of the ‘gentleman’ agreement of rotating the governorship from district to district which ensures that no part of the state is left out in producing the leadership of the state. Plateau North Senatorial District definitely does not lack good materials that can lead the state.

*Gyang, a concerned Plateau indigene sent in this piece from Jos.


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