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Plateau State: A Hemorrhaging Entity without Help in Sight

Three herdsmen arrested for killing farmer in Ogun

By Prince Singa Edward Zhattau….

Voices of reason from all across the nation have spoken out against the carnage that was the massacre of hundreds of innocent citizens of this nation in the Gashish District of Riyom and Barkin Ladi Local Government Areas of Plateau State. Plateau youths have also hit the streets, to not only show the world their disaffection, but to also draw the attention of the Federal and Plateau State Governments to the senseless, but frequently perpetrated killings of innocent people on the Plateau by the enemies of peace and social co-existence. If one has truly got in perspective the reason for these protests and the factual reality on the Plateau, it then goes without saying that these protests could not have come at a better time, if not earlier. Ranging from mass murders, to isolated and targeted killings, to arson, to destruction of farmlands, to cattle rustling and other sorts of sadomasochistic acts, Plateau State, amidst these daunting challenges, is indeed at a cross roads and it is surely critical times insofar as our history as a people is concerned. And for a state that prides itself as the Home of Peace and Tourism, these beastly acts are truly a ridicule of the state’s ideal and all the positives that it once represented.

This is not the first time though that we are being confronted by acts which directly point to a celebration of utter disregard for human life on the Plateau: Wase-Kadarko maiming, Yelua-Shendam massacre, Kuru Karama carnage, Dogo na Hawa annihilation, Irigwe Chiefdom savagery, and most recently, the carefully planned decimation of mourners in Gashish and the surrounding localities etc., all lend credence to the fact that Plateau State has been at the centre of a ferociously evil battle launched by her enemies, enemies who are both from within and without.

The young people on the Plateau have swiftly demonstrated in the open their revulsion and remonstration over the latest round of attacks. But if the energetic youths and other right thinking members of the society had hoped that mass protests and condemnation in unison against these senseless killings would be enough to rein in the perpetrators of these inhuman acts, fresh killings that keep occurring intermittently suggest that these murderers are light years away from the world of penitence, and are as resolute as ever in unleashing terror on any part of Plateau State. Should we then hold back and allow our land to be taken as a conquered territory? Capital No! When those pursuing unworthy causes have chosen to persevere in their ignorance, the sane and human section of the society can only forge a greater alliance in illuminating the dark world of these murderers.

There have been pockets of dissenting voices here and there that tend to simply proclaim the current occurrences as a Berom problem. That is, at best, an erroneous view. What should be paramount in our minds is whether the victims of these attacks are human beings. These attacks constitute an injury on the conscience of the entire humanity, and not only on a given people. In fact, those who subscribe to this “aloof-ism” might well have forgotten that when it began in Wase-Kadarko, it was mischievously tagged a Taok problem, which at the end turned out to be false; when it moved to Kuru karama, it was sheepishly viewed as a Hausa-Fulani predicament and it turned out to be false; and more surprisingly for me, when scores of Igbos were massacred at the Dilimi Terminus Market, it was unfortunately labeled an Igbo ordeal and that also turned out to be false; the flaws in this line of argument were yet again exposed when the killings were taken to Irigwe land. Whether it affects Tarok, Berom, Hausa-Fulani, Igbo or Irigwe, the spate of killings already witnessed in Plateau State is simply unacceptable. We have much been palavered into believing this kind of rhetoric, but the current wave of protests that have drawn the participation of young people from diverse ethnic groups is a pointer to the fact that we are beginning to reclaim our sanity. I say a big kudos to the Plateau Youths.

Read also: SUPER EAGLES and the killings

The last time I checked, I found out that Government exists primarily for the protection of lives and property. A little bit of a foray into legalism would reveal that section 14 (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria obligates as follows:
“The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”.
The spirit of the constitutional provision above is borne out of the social contract theory whereby citizens had given up all their rights and resources to government in exchange for protection and provision of welfare by the government. As an obligation on it, one cannot just dismiss with the wave of the hand the claim that the orgy of killings that is witnessed on the Plateau and elsewhere is evidence of failure of government to act both proactively and reactively. Whether we like it or not, the blame as to the security failure can only be deposited at the door post of the government. It then behooves President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Simon Bako Lalong to ensure that this bloodbath on the Plateau, and elsewhere, is quickly brought to a halt.

While assuring the Plateau youths who had thronged the Government House, Rayfield, Jos sometimes in 2015, Governor Lalong revealed that he had repeatedly knocked on the President’s door concerning the thriving insecurity on the Plateau, and the President on his own part, had responded by ordering the deployment of an additional 1500 riot policemen to the flashpoints of violence. For the Plateau State Governor who supposedly is the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of his state to have “knocked repeatedly” for help from Abuja in dealing with the security challenges in his state is a chilling reminder of the handicapped nature of the power of state governors under the Nigerian Constitution as CSOs. If I may ask: What is power without command and control?

You may also recall that among the important committees set up by the Lalong administration in its first few days in office was the Committee on Peace, to see to how the insecurity problems in the northern part of the state can be resolved. The Plateau Peace Building Agency was established and during the President’s visit to Plateau, the “Roadmap to Peace” was launched. And when it had appeared as if these efforts would finally restore the much needed stability on the Plateau, the marauders have struck time and time again, and once more, the Federal Government in her bid to restore normalcy has ordered the deployment of helicopters and Special Forces to Plateau State. The Vice President was earlier dispatched to Jos as forerunner to the President who himself later touched down in Jos for personal assessment of the security challenges in the state.

While appreciating the efforts already made, the reality on ground is to the effect that a lot more needs to be done. I wish to state that it is imperative for the government (both federal and state) to deploy all manner of resources that are deployable with the aim of not only halting this bloodbath, but forestalling a future occurrence of the same. We have developed a penchant for inviting to government houses “illustrious stakeholders” of our community anytime we are faced with problems of this nature. But sadly enough, some of these figures are simply ascribed the tag “illustrious” because they are known within media circles, but who unfortunately, have extricated themselves from the rural communities they hail from, and resultantly, do not wield any leverage over their people, if they are not the abettors of the violence themselves. The government must therefore strive to deal directly with community leaders that either live together or regularly keep in touch with their people.

The supporters of the current administration, of which I am one, have claimed that these killings are being sponsored by the political detractors of President Buhari – granted! However, this claim will somewhat ring hollow if sponsors of these violent campaigns are not brought to book by this government. Apart from bringing to book the foot soldiers of this evil war, the government must also get behind the façade and arrest the “high priests” of these evil machinations who live in social opulence while innocent people are being hastened to their graves. Our land has gone crimson due to their immoral self indulgence, chiefly oiled by the financial booty they derive from murders, destruction of farmlands and cattle rustling.

One man who appears to have given the government a clue as to why the these attacks have been perpetrated is the North Central Chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Danladi Ciroma, who had cited the killing of hundreds of cattle by the local populace as the reason for the latest cycle of violence. The security agencies, therefore, must invite Danladi Ciroma for interrogation to help us get on the trail of those who had carried out the crimes of killing herder cattle and murdering of innocent citizens.

The government must also run an inclusive and participatory system that will tend to accommodate all manner of people. Most importantly, the government must also be corrupt free and must deploy public funds toward the provision of the basic amenities of life (food, portable water, shelter, education, healthcare, infrastructure etc) with the view of eradicating the deep seated structural violence that currently bedevils our society, which to me, is the foundational cause of Nigeria’s insecurity.

It will be foolhardy to think that all security solutions are in the hands of the government. As citizens, we must also play our own part. We don’t have to allow ourselves to be used in the execution of these evil acts. We can make the job of ensuring security of lives and property easier for the government by providing the necessary agencies with useful information. However, let me be quick to add that security agencies must not, in any way, render vulnerable those who volunteer information to them.

The local populace must organize themselves into neighbourhood watch for the defence and protection of their communities as security is everybody’s business. In ensuring that their evil acts stir the most profound of emotions, these attackers have razed down numerous Christian cathedrals in Gashish District which were more or less defenceless. In my interaction with patriotic Nigerians of different faiths, I have found none who subscribed to violence as an ingredient of religion. All the religions preach peace and stability, for without peace, one cannot even practice their faith. The society must prepare to defend itself at all times against invasion by evil forces, the right to self defence being a natural instinct embedded in all living things ( both flora and fauna) by the Almighty Creator. Little wonder, Jesus Christ who has been widely referred to as the “Prince of Peace” in espousing the necessity of self defence once urged his disciples in Luke 22: 36 thus: “…And if you don’t have a sword, sell your clothes and buy one!”

As a Christian has the right to life, so is a Muslim, so is a traditionalist, so also is an atheist. Religion is a personal affair, and if you must be a champion in the religious realm, please be and remain a champion unto yourself and not unto another. Civil society groups, moderate religious groups, and Non Governmental Organizations must truly deploy the resources channeled to them by the international community towards peace management and conflict resolution, and no more.

The “educated” young generation who, through the instrumentality of the media (especially the social media), continually fan the embers of ethnic, religious and political hate have to realize that they are unwittingly propagating the ideology of these marauders. I had to travel to southern Plateau from Jos on Sunday when tension was still very high in the northern axis of the state. And my co-travelers on board the taxi were two Fulani, three Muslim women and three other Christians. And what surprised me was that all of us feared for our lives due to the uncertainty that had engulfed everywhere. I then asked the question: Whose interest does this violence serve? Nobody could answer me.

The selfish ruling elite are so adept at manipulating us into championing primordial sentiments of partisanship, religion and ethnicity. In Nigeria whereby merit is treated like an enemy, corrupt, immoral, clueless, incompetent and desperate politicians who form the bulk of the ruling class have identified “blood” as the sure way of winning elections since they have nothing to offer. They are truly at the heart of the violence in Nigeria. They pitch the downtrodden masses against one another and they make cheap political gains from bloodshed. While the ruling party at any given time should bear the brunt that may arise in form of citizens’ disaffection over the failure of its government to protect lives and property, the scenario ought not to be overtly politicized. When we push partisanship to the front burner anytime people are killed, we will continue to argue endlessly without finding any solution. It is that kind of disposition that will lead to the question: What did you do when you were there? This is not the time for partisanship! Not until we move beyond petty partisanship and face our problem collectively as victims, we will only be endorsing and fuelling the ploy of the selfish ruling elite of using blood as a tool of securing electoral victory.

While we have rightly spewed fire over these killings, we are the same people who would applaud the vigour of the National Assembly in insisting on formalities such as the wearing of uniform by the Customs boss; but ironically, will turn a blind eye to the absence of such vigour on the part of the National Assembly to tinker with the security architecture of this country by creating state police through constitutional amendment.
Ironically, some of us who have been left despondent by these killings are the same people that will ignore, if not laud the National Assembly for cutting budgetary allocation to capital projects (remember infrastructure deficit as index of structural violence) simply because we do not like the face of the man at the top.

While we want to see the root causes of this cyclical violence addressed, we inexplicably chastise the government for jailing those who have diverted funds meant for eradicating inequality and ensuring security in our society.
One great mind once said:

“Injustice alone can shake down the pillars of the skies, and restore the reign of chaos and Night.”

And I dare say that the worst form of injustice is the one we occasion on ourselves by ourselves. For in that case, we will remain perpetually in chaos and night. While the citizens are called upon to do their part, government must do justice to the victims of these attacks by conspicuously demonstrating the will to prosecute the perpetrators. Enough of the bloodbath! May the souls of those murdered in cold blood rest in peace. Amen!

 

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