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On Busa-Buji Bridge; Jos (1)

By Dele Sobowale

“We have to find our way back to peace……
Founder Rotary Club

This column could easily have been entitled  HOPE RENEWED IN JOS and it would have been just as apt. For three days last week, I was back again in Jos because it is an enduring story and it represents one of the many puzzles we must solve as a nation for unity and peace to prevail.

What was I searching for? Oddly enough, I was hoping to find that the city, where my father spent much of his adult life, after being born in Gusau, and where he became a Christian after being born a Muslim, has once again become a refuge for all citizens of Nigeria. Did I find what I was looking for? The answer is “Yes” and “No”; but mostly “Yes”.

Busa-Buji Road is the road linking motorists to Zaria Road wanting to avoid Gada Biu and divided almost in half by a bridge. The bridge symbolizes a lot of things, unfortunately some negative, that unite us. On Sunday morning May 16, 2001, I took a stroll from the Jossy Royal Hotel along the road at about seven. On getting to the bridge, I rediscovered one of the reasons why we are perpetually backward.

The government had constructed a beautiful bridge over a gorge providing alternative route and decongesting Zaria Road from Gada Biu. But, as usual with us, the intention of government has been turned into an environmental disaster about to happen. In less than two minutes, at least ten people from various directions brought refuse for dumping into the flowing waters of the stream without giving the least thought to the havoc it will create downstream.

The first thought which came to my head was “whatsoever we might fight about, at least we are united in thwarting the efforts of government and ruining our environment”. Then it occurred to me that perhaps a campaign to clean up the city and save it from impending disaster might be the master-key to a re-union of all the parties currently at war because Jos is worth saving for all concerned.

Fortunately, environmental degradation, pervasive as it is in Jos, was not the only cause for optimism. After interviews with at least 37 residents from all walks of life, and in different sections of the city, there is a sense of renewal and HOPE – which was not there just two months ago. Jos is returning to its eminent position among the prime cities of Nigeria.

However, again, as the experience has been in Jos lately, the slender ray of hope is already being threatened by developments to which the authorities in Abuja and Rayfield must respond proactively. The Fulani/Hausa are returning to homes they have fled. That should ordinarily constitute the beginning of the rapprochement indispensable for lasting peace.

But, even that development is becoming prey to the worst enemies of peace in Jos –RUMOURS, MUTUAL DISTRUST, QUEST FOR REVENGE and GROWING APARTHEID. On both sides of the conflict, actions are predicated on rumours because there has been a near total breakdown in direct communications between the Berom and the Hausa/Fulani. Rumour mongers dictate the pace and direction of activities and this has become a cash-and-carry affair.

The Federal and state governments in particular should note this because without peace in Jos there will be no 2011 elections – unless they will be conducted in a river of blood.

That, however, is only the introduction to the first lesson this Sunday and others to follow. I visit and re-visit Jos because I am emotionally involved; because my father spent many years of his adult life here and he told me a lot about his life as a tin miner – one of the biggest in his day. My grandfather also lived there in the 1980s when he went to work as a Supervisor for the Nigerian Railways Corporation.

He married his first wife in Jos; a woman from Wuse who died at child birth; then he moved to Shinkafi, Zamfara State, and married the woman who was destined to be my grandmother –Aishat. I also lived in Jos in 1992 when I was a consultant working on the World Bank financed National Water Rehabilitation Scheme at a time Plateau and Nassarawa states were one. So for me and my family there has been a history of engagement with the tin city running close to 150 years. I am also an indigene of Jos….


“Life is full of surprises…”

You probably were thinking of the Nigeria Police, or NEPA or INEC – the usual suspects. But will you believe there is an organization, a parastatal of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under the Ministry of Transportation which makes even the police look like saintly amateurs? Well, the winner, ladies and gentlemen, is the NIGERIA PORTS AUTHORITY, NPA.

It is not only totally corrupt; it is totally lawless. Wait for the evidence. By the time we are through you will discover how just about everyone connected with the authority should have a room in Kirikiri .

To start with lawlessness becomes the Board and management of the NPA as if they were born with it. They defy any and everyone –including the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the Executive Brach of government, the Federal Ministry of Finance and all the rules of decency known to honest people.

If President Jonathan really wants to fight corruption in Nigeria, then the NPA should be top of the list of organizations to be probed. And he will increase the revenue the Federal government collects from that den of wharf rats by at least N20 billion annually –enough to keep all federal roads in good repair every year….

“Never argue with a fool; people might not know the difference”.

One day my mother saw me having an argument with a fellow suffering from dementia. She called me aside and offered a rebuke saying “Never in your life again argue with a lunatic; people will think you are the same”. CAN religious leaders arguing with Obasanjo for his remark about Jesus will be well advised to bear those pieces of advice in mind.

They might as well be talking to a mule – if they continue. That goes for journalists also. Why they keep trying to interview a fellow who should be avoided like the plague that he is remains a mystery to me.
Case closed.


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