By Katdapba Yunana Gobum
RIGHT away, it is being suggested that what has happened on the Plateau cannot be isolated, if it can be used to address myriads of perceived injustice in the land. And to be candid, there are lots of such issues except if; Nigerians will pretend that all things are going on well for them. In the context of what has happened, no one is oblivious of the truth; there are fundamental problems desiring solutions by government and security agencies; and without doubt the communities.
If there is anything some of us have dedicated our energy lately to, it is in the creation of awareness on the continued attacks on various communities of Bassa, Riyom, Barkin Ladi, Mangu, Jos South and East and Bokkos. I am involved because human beings, being the target of the attacks and the fact that behind them, it has been observed; are a subtle device to grab lands from the ancestral owners, after they have been killed or displaced. Whatever opinion you may have; it can better be appreciated when one understands the knotty threads tied around the recurring attacks.
At the heart of this development, it should be noted is the allegation that no greater attention has been paid to the owners of the lands except consistent appeals by the government that there will be investigation into the attacks. If there have been such investigations, they may not have been made public and the grabbers made to face the law.
Rather, what the state been witnessing is the increase in the number of attacks and the casualties coming there from. More communities have kept lamenting their losses, yet, what we may not have witnessed is the lack or failure of security to have brought anyone to justice. It is on this note that many are genuinely worried and are demanding that if justice is given to one, all must enjoy it, as government is for one and all.
As things stand, there is more to it than experienced. In more ways than one, there are many who have questioned the perceived preferential treatment of one group against others. If anything, it fuels misunderstanding and pitches groups against another; hence it will be difficult for peace to be maintained, rather, mutual suspicion may grow thicker.
We are in the most difficult times needing tack and discretion from commentators and indeed sympathizers of the unfortunate crisis. Whatever one must say or do the peace of the land and its people should be the only thing that should be on people’s minds. The times are not for the glorification of anyone, neither can we make any headway if we remain silent about what has hit us.
‘The recent attacks’, as a commentator noted, ‘and killings of the Rigwe people in Jebbu-Miango in which a whole village was razed and destroyed in a prolong and determined effort not unsavoury of genocide, in which farm produce and crops were also mowed down is one too many. It also speaks of a well conceived, rehearsed, and programmed campaign to subjugate the people to capitulate them, and reduce them to vassals under a neo-cultural over lordship and eventually exterminate them in a genocidal pogrom. In a reversed narrative however, the attackers claim that the killings, during occasion they also stole, looted, and burnt houses, were merely ‘reprisal’”.
If anyone wants to appreciate what the state has gone through, it will be good to take a trip down memory lane. If it doesn’t refresh anyone, it may give a clue to where the state is coming from. The various attacks in several local government areas were ‘aimed at ethnic cleansing, land-grabbing and forceful ejection of the Christian natives from their ancestral land and heritage’.
Described always as clashes between farmers and herdsmen, isn’t it questionable ‘when one group is persistently attacking, killing, maiming, destroying; and the other group is persistently being killed, maimed and their places of worship destroyed?’ couldn’t we ask why it is the natives that are at the receiving end?
Recent events in the state have proven so, as Plateau State CAN noted; ‘and commenting about governments’ consistent, deliberate policy of refusing to pointedly name the Fulani herdsmen as the aggressors, the church leaders advised’ reiterated as far back as 2018: ‘Until we call a disease by its real name and the causatives, it would be difficult to properly diagnose the disease for the right curative medications.’
I am aware as many out there are, we can have positive peace when there is significant improvement in governance and relationship between and amongst communities and groups. The negative peace we have in the land is a fall out of the asphyxiating frustration experienced in the land. Therefore, when citizens demand for good governance, they do on account of the fact that they want to help arrest the circle of violence in the land.
Whatever has been said in the last week or more; and presented to the world is an attempt to achieve a point and ‘to demonstrate’, as observed by Chris Gyang, ‘that such unfortunate carnage and willful destruction of lives and property have a long history that cannot be wished away; these were not a one-shot affair that suddenly materialized within a few days and from nowhere’.
The sad event couldn’t have escaped the reactions of government and people from different divides. Many are indeed worried, and, to put it mildly, flabbergasted at the reactions from the Presidency to those who may have not been internalized the events of the past concerning what happened at Bassa and Rukuba road. Get it straight, we have reiterated it time and time again; the death of any human being diminishes some of us. We have denounced what happened and wish to God that none of such should ever take place in any community on any group of people.
Whatever condemnation may they have risen against the state depends of which angle they saw the development of what happened on August 14, 2021. Regrettable as it turned to be, Shehu Garba’s statement further compounded the kind of reasoning one would have expected from the federal government: ‘However, to be clear, this is not an agriculturalist-on-pastoralist confrontation – but rather a direct, brazen and wickedly motivated attack on members of a community exercising their rights to travel freely and to follow the faith of their choosing’.
To further state the side taken, the statement noted that it was “a well-conceived and prearranged assault on a known target.” This cannot be authenticated, except if is privy to documents related to the ‘plan’ by the group which carried the condemnable act.
As commented elsewhere, the presidential spokesman ‘knows that the matter is not so simplistic. If it were, the original crises that spawned the Rukuba Road killings would have become a bygone issue a long time ago. The crises have persisted because Garba Shehu and their core northern elite refuse to accept the truth that the root causes of the unfortunate Rukuba killings are tied to the much larger systemic imbalances and injustices that undergird Nigeria as presently constituted’.
But the version that frustrated some people the more came from the Daily Trust. The paper’s lead on August 15, 2021 was screaming so loud, readers could smell its odious intentions miles away. But as contentious as that was, ‘journalists, unfortunately, made a meal’ of the Plateau State Police Command press statement, ‘causing further strive and discomfort to a society that we claim to be serving. We forget in a hurry that without peace, we would not even have the right atmosphere to practice. We cannot destroy and expect to have the right environment to work’.
I believe strongly as Paul Jatau wrote that it is time to wake up. ‘That is why all sane Nigerians must stand up to correct all of the unfortunate happenings in our country today. We must work to entrench law and order, not the selective amnesia that is our lot today. We must take exception to rules being applied differently when someone or a part of the divide is affected. That is why we must condemn the statements coming from Mr. Garba Shehu for being one sided and bias. The presidency should not be reduced to commenting only when ‘our own is affected’ he must be made to understand that it is this kind of comments that have served as a drag on the development of our country. Every wrong should be treated as such and should not be coloured’.
Given what happened, let’s know that we are ‘mourning humans, no matter the shape of their language and creed. A corpse has neither religion nor ethnicity, what it needs is justice.’ But beyond any sentiments, Nigerians should ‘empathize with the bereaved in both attacks and carpet the system that (has) enabled this cycle of killings and reprisals’.
Frustration is the language of those who feel unattended to over time. Whatever atrocities they commit may come as a result of their frustration. Injustice drives people to do crazy things, they may regret after; which is why once governments get complacent, the outcome tells on people’s attitude and activities.
There are ungoverned spaces security presence is not felt, which government must occupy. The state can come out with ideas on how these spaces can be occupied as was done at the Falgore forest in Kano State.
I believe that peace is achievable in Plateau State. The state has engaged the youth and women with different social programmes apart from those of the federal government. There are many youths on the streets, however; and more importantly, it has to be recognized that government cannot continue to assuage and keep reacting without the provision of those things needed to make life better.
Presently, state and security personnel are out in the cold making efforts to fish out the perpetrators of the killings on Rukuba road. We shall require of them: ‘They should not forget to also go back to Irigwe land and indeed all other flashpoints in the state with the same speed, resources and determination to unravel the forces that have ravaged those societies for so long so that justice would also be extended to them. Peace is well entrenched only when justice is equitably dispensed’.
If anything, they should not stop there, the students of the University of Jos, who were killed within the week, deserve justice. Their killers should not be left to roam about freely, let them serve the punishment prescribes by law. Nothing more!