Taking The Devil Out Of Plateau

The Devil has found an abode in Plateau State. He exploits human frailties and plants doubts, distrust, hatred and revenge in people’s hearts. He finds hearts filled with prejudices and pours in venom. Then he fuels the accumulated anger, heating it to a level where it must burst into violent rage, remorseless killings and destruction. The Devil laughs whenever we discard the love which binds us as a community and is joyful that he can use us to destroy our societies. He lures people onto destruction and, finally, Hell. Isn’t the Devil man’s enemy?

Jos is hellish today because the Devil is there. Jos is almost no longer fit for human habitation. It is a war zone in a jungle, where people live in fear. Human life no longer has any sanctity. Death stalks the city, even in the interludes of peace, like the promise of acid rain. Today, even policemen and soldiers, on whom the civilian population depends for protection, are afraid to serve there. A report published in LEADERSHIP yesterday said that 52 cops had been killed in the crises that rocked the city since 2002.

It is most unfortunate that the Devil lives in Jos because, first, it is a beautiful city; the Devil should display his wares in ugly places. Second, Jos used to be very peaceful, hence people from all over the world made it their home, making it the most cosmopolitan town in northern Nigeria. In the past, people ran to Jos whenever there was sectarian violence in Kano or Kaduna. Third, the Devil shouldn’t have been living there because it is home to some of the most religious people in Nigeria. It has been a missionary hub since colonial times. Christian and Islamic evangelists regarded it as an important base in their task of spreading the Word not only in the old Benue-Plateau area but also across northern Nigeria.

So, how could the Devil, that most accursed creature, find a safe haven in this idyllic place, the city of pastors, reverends, malams and sheikhs? Who gave him a permanent residence there, a base from which people carry machetes, knives, swords, cudgels – and now bombs – to send one another to the great beyond? Who are his landlords on the Plateau? Politicians blame politicians for the crises. I want to agree because in the past, before politics was used to divide the city, ordinary people lived together in peace, eating together, partying together and sleeping together. Many inter-married.

To drive the Devil away, our leaders must find the so-called politicians who instigate this murderous conflict. Everyone agrees that some high-level personalities are culpable. But who are they? They should be named and severely punished, together with their errand boys, the killers who carry out the attacks.

Another point on which everyone is agreed is failure of leadership. This contributed much to the crisis. Meaning what? The Jonathan administration has refused to declare a state of emergency there. It is only paying lip service to the crisis. The state government has also failed to embrace every resident as a Nigerian citizen. Instead, it is mouthing phrases like ‘settler’ and ‘indigene.’ Where was this deadly dichotomy in years past when the people lived together as brothers and sisters?

This failure of leadership has been linked to the governance style of Governor Jonah David Jang. A wide spectrum of opinion in and out of Plateau is agreed on one indisputable fact: Jang is part of the problem – if not THE problem – in the resolution of the Plateau conundrum. His failure to provide statesmanlike leadership in his domain, by either wilfully fanning the embers of the crisis or from sheer incompetence, has been an obstacle in the way of finding a lasting peace. Many Christian leaders who are not afraid to tell the truth believe that the governor is pitifully incapable of solving this seemingly intractable problem; instead, he has been chasing shadows – such as blaming his opponents within his own political party. This gargantuan failure is responsible for the unending calls from both sides of the divide for the imposition of a state of emergency in the state.

In more civilised climes, Jang would have resigned from office long ago. Amazingly, he is eyeing another four-year term as governor! But it is imperative for him to quit the Rayfield Government House at the end of his first four-year tenure and not seek re-election. This is because it is easy to surmise that four more years of him as governor could mean four more years of conflict in Plateau State; four more years of hundreds or thousands killed, and four more years of the wild goose chase and failure to end the inter-ethnic and inter-religious divisions in the state.

Jang should show statesmanship, as any conscientious leader should, by not regarding himself as a factional leader. He should accept that his four years as governor have brought only death and destruction, and that renewing them would have a long-term implication for interreligious harmony not only on the Plateau but also in the rest of the country. It could redefine the future of cohabitation in the country. All civilised nations are becoming multi-ethnic and multi-religious. Jang should accept that he has had enough of this madness and allow another person, who could even come from his village, to become governor so that, perchance, a sea-change would occur.

This all-important decision may not be Jang’s alone; community leaders nationwide should help him decide. Because it is for the common good, they should impress it upon him that a new leadership is needed to address this unfortunate tragedy, a leader with a new vision of how peace could return; a leader untainted by the divisive politics of the moment. Any other governor in Plateau would be more trusted than Jang, who wears a cloak of suspicion and distrust. It is important to know that Jang cannot protect anybody; was he not there, with all the executive powers and funds, when hundreds of Christians and Muslims were killed and properties destroyed as if in Beirut, Baghdad or the Gaza Strip?

If Jang refuses to see the light and decides to carry on at all cost, then the good people of Plateau State must vote him out this year. In a democratic dispensation, and with the promise of free and fair polls, any recalcitrant politician must be shown the door by the electorate in a peaceful manner. Voting for Jang would mean voting for four more years of conflict. That would mean giving the Devil the licence to continue to stalk this picturesque state, causing mayhem and genocide. Jang should help his people – Christians, Muslims, Berom, Hausa, etc. – to expel Satan.

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