By Marie-Therese Nanlong
Jos – Plateau State widely acclaimed as the “Home of Peace and Tourism”; also prides itself as the “home for all” because people of diverse nationalities and religions are resident in the State which is blessed with various tourism sites and spectacular scenery.
Despite the clement weather, serene environment, nourishing crops and fruits and friendly tribes, the State has had a fair share of violent conflicts which make the many blessings seemed a waste as the result of incessant crises, violent conflicts and economic downturn.
In the last one year, this seeming ill-luck has been partially reversed and the residents heaved a sigh of relief as the State is currently enjoying relative peace and people of goodwill working hard to sustain the feat.
Although the almost two decades disturbances had engendered mutual distrust in the pluralistic and deeply divided communities but a new vista is opened as citizens; tired of violent conflicts are engaging constructively to safeguard the communities, dialogue with one another and try to build bridges of communication among hitherto warring neighbours.
Critical stakeholders including the government, religious, traditional, political, youths, women and community leaders as well as security agencies and civil society organizations have come together to strategize on how to improve on the existing peace so that citizens can have a reprieve.
Tremendous successes have been recorded as a result of these engagements as the almost daily mass or isolated killings, ambushes which were recorded especially in Riyom, Bassa and Barkin Ladi local government areas have greatly reduced.
With the feat so far attained and a target of achieving more, a non-governmental organization, Search for Common Ground has built the capacity of hundreds of community members and media practitioners to promote peace, peaceful co-existence and practice peace journalism.
The organization has equally inducted 21 Media Fellows from three North Central States of Plateau, Nassarawa and Benue with a charged on them to set peace agenda in their reportage so as to mitigate the negative violent narratives being portrayed in the region.
One of the Fellows, Juliana Olajide said of the effort, “The Fellowship means a call to action; it means me putting in my professionalism to bear to ensure that these communities ‘under my care’ move from tolerating themselves, to accepting one another.”
Also, the Administration of Governor Simon Lalong has embarked on some reformations aimed at rescuing the State from the shackles of violent conflicts among the steps taken was the creation of the Plateau Peace-building Agency where aggrieved parties have access to present their grievances for timely resolution.
The Agency has successfully doused tension and address emerging issues which would have frayed nerves and re-escalates tension. A resident of Jos, Anthonia Tok observed, “We are tired of the problems, and we are ready to cooperate with government and other critical stakeholders to sustain the peace we currently enjoy through different levels of engagements. This is because we know that peacebuilding is not a race for self-glorification as no one individual can do it all alone. We encourage communities to monitor conflict and crimes and relate same to relevant authorities.”
Also, Umar Maikifi, a petty trader at the Terminus market in Jos welcomed the emerging peaceful coexistence saying, “Some years ago, my business almost collapsed because of the crises.
“I could not go to certain areas to meet with most of my customers for supply and they could not come to my area. The market was our only meeting point but today, the situation has improved because we are free to move about without any fear. I will support any peace initiative because with peace, there is progress, there is development.”