Between God, Jonah Jang and the Plateau crisis

September 22, 2011
2 mins read

In response to a barrage of questions from journalists on the Plateau issues [SIC], Jang angrily said: “Am I God to end Jos crisis…He wondered why people were particular about insecurity in Plateau. ‘Is Plateau the only place that has security problem? Security situation is all over the country, so why are you so particular about Plateau State?”- DAILY TRUST, Wednesday, September 14, 2011.

Frankly, I was not surprised by Governor Jonah Jang’s response quoted at the head of this piece. Under his watch, crisis has turned beautiful Plateau State, into an unparalleled killing field. Jos was the most cosmopolitan city in Northern Nigeria, drawing vibrancy from peoples from everywhere, to post success in different human endeavours; while its most-reassuring geography made it a place to settle in or visit.

Whoever has experienced Plateau hospitality would feel the pains of its peoples today, lament the sorry state of social existence, the ruination of economic intercourse and the destruction of inter-personal relationships across divides that reign in city and outskirts today.

One of the most tragic expressions of leadership failure is refusal to rise above prejudices and mindset. Leadership obliges those at the helms to go beyond their own tunnel visions; appreciate the larger picture and work for the overall interest of society.

Unfortunately in Plateau State, elites on the two broad sides of divide have been unable to rise above their entrenched positions. If caught up in a hole stop digging, is a well-worn maxim. In Plateau State, contending groups of elite have chosen to ruin their society, rather than build an inclusive peace or search for truth and reconciliation.

Plateau’s crisis diminished the humanity of a lot of its people, judging by the tragic videos posted on the internet. I have seen shocking postings of human heads stuck into staffs and paraded on the street, with children, men and women, jubilating that an “enemy” was dealt with.

There were images of humans cut into pieces like rams during Sallah! The building blocks of genocide are already laid in the Plateau as well as other parts of Nigeria, where people are butchered on the basis of identity: religion or ethnicity.

The elites that encourage these acts and manipulate them hurt the long-term health of society, and make it very difficult to build platforms to deploy against underdevelopment. At the heart of the crisis is a vicious elite competition for hegemony as basic needs of the people suffer neglect.

The leadership recruitment process which threw up leaders like Governor Jang must be interrogated if we hope for the restitution of peace and the totally broken down inter-community relationships.

So when Governor Jang said he was not God to stop the crisis, he was right in a sense; but he also betrayed the mindset of an individual too lost in his biases and therefore, unable to rise above them. Certainly, there are crises situations in other parts of the country, but they don’t compare to the bitterness which feeds the Plateau crisis.

The ruling elite seem to have completely vacated rationality, almost as if it went through a lobotomy procedure; they preside over the death of social existence in Plateau. The city of Jos has been carved into “No-Go-Areas”; there are places where Muslims must not enter and vice versa for Christians too.

Most of the original tit-for-tat killings were urban-based but more problematic are those in rural settings pitching  Berom peasant communities against nomadic Fulbe groups. Rural Plateau is tragically hemorrhaging, just as its urban setting cannot find lasting peace.

Governor Jang cannot be God, but between him and God, he has become too sucked into the Plateau crisis; he does not seem to possess the statesmanship to navigate a route out of the morass. Our ruling class failed Nigeria, by recruiting the likes of Gov Jang to provide leadership; it has led to disaster!

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