I come in Peace. The escalating discordant tunes being sang by various segments of the Plateau population regarding the planned rebuilding of the burnt terminus market through the JAIZ bank partnership has deeply divided the state along political and religious lines. It should be a serious cause for concern to every Plateau person. This is for peace, stability and development to reign.
Scary utterances emanating from among the people either in support or against, are too fiery for comfort. These are early warning conflict signals that should not be ignored by anyone of us, including the security. They are clear indications that all is NOT well. The state government as the initiator of this idea should return back to the drawing board, review the issue(s) and see how best it can go on with the project. Anything worth doing should be done well. If time is not on its side, government can halt the implementation until all interests are reasonably satisfied to accommodate each other, in the overall interest of the peace of the state. There is no need for haste if it can lead to untoward situation. Every Plateau person wants the once bubbling indoor tourism monument market back to life.
There is no Plateau man or woman that has no pride in the market and there is none that is happy with its present situation. However, it will be disastrous for government to ignore these dangerous signs of crisis if what we want is a lasting solution to the problem. It is in our collective permanent interest to give ourselves time to work out a lasting solution to the matter. If we fight, all of us will be affected, but if we are patient and tolerate one another ,it will be very well for all of us and our children.
Since government is for the welfare and security of the people, it must be sensitive to the expected outcomes of all its actions. A result-oriented way of addressing these issues by the Simon Lalong administration is very necessary. If democracy is of the people, for the people and by the people, then it behoves on the state to genuinely get the people involved with collective strategies towards revamping the market and not to insist on one idea.
To me, the issue is not whether it is JAIZ bank or any other bank , but how Plateau people can be satisfactorily integrated into what is been done. The suspicions being generated daily on both political and religious divides are enough to create deeper impressions and divisions among the people. Business and politics ought not have religious coloration, but where impressions are linked to such colorations, adequate consultations are needed to douse tensions, to avert crisis.
As it is now, religious and political sentiments and emotions are quite high and have risen to boiling points and each person is determined to protect and defend his or her position without minding the consequences. This is a clear indication that government has not done enough due diligence in the course of setting to do this work. Due diligence is not just about government processes and procedures, but how to do things to get good results. It is also about how a policy is receiving the needed cooperation from those who are expected to benefit from it. If government forced its way to carry on with this project without addressing emerging signals of disagreements and division , we may find ourselves in terrible situations of regret. Already some citizens have gone to court and more may be seeking to challenge government on the project. As a democratic government, due process is sacrosanct and must be followed.
The state has gone through enough crisis and cannot afford another one at this time. This can also be compounded by the accumulating 2023 electoral tension in the state. There is no need for the desperation or unusual speed been carried on by the state government which is raising a lot of suspicions against the government. Once there is palpable apprehension about government doing something, especially an outgoing government which has less than 10 months to go, the public insinuation is that officials of the government want to prepare retirement packages for themselves at the expense of the economic good of the people and the state.
I have read a lot of arguments on the market imbroglio , some very intelligent and interesting while some on the opposite. Everyone is trying fiercely to defend his or her group interest. This perhaps forced the state government to asked the 24 state legislators to embark on town hall meetings to seek the views of their constituents on the issue. This has been done in an unusually speedily manner. The outcomes of the town hall sessions have been predictably reflective of the mindsets of the various groups and in some places controversial. The entire state is unfortunately heavily divided along political and religious lines, but more on the latter. Even with this, the government seems bent on going ahead with the plan. The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, the Jamaatul Nasril Islam, JNI and the Plateau Indigenous Development Association, PIDAN have taken their respective positions. While CAN and PIDAN are against the decision, JNI is in support. This should worry the government . It is not about the supremacy of the authority of government, but being calculatedly responsive to the people through an amicable resolution and solution. Hearing some top officials of government saying,’ there is no going back on the plan, Lalong must do it, it’s the work of the opposition’, creates negative impressions about the project.
I hope Security agencies in the state: the SSS, the Police, the Civil defense and others are watching. They must wake up to the fundamental duty of giving accurate intelligence on all that is happening. Already common intelligence on the issue is available on the streets. Danger is looming. People have taken positions as can be read on the social media, group discussions, media interviews, etc .If the security fails to give accurate intelligence on what is happening, it will be unfair to the state and the nation because, all is not well. They must be bold enough to caution government on the need to take precaution in doing what will create crisis. The state has lived without the market for years and it will only make sense if a sound decision is taken to reasonably satisfy everyone and cover for the past loses than to add salt to injury. Government must not seek to show power or authority without a corresponding responsibility. If the government wants to forcefully go ahead with the project, it should count the cost first. If the government is doing this for the people, then it must not rush to create injuries but must engage in more and better constructive consultations. This is not an Apc project but a Plateau project, so let the voice of the people count. It is my humble suggestion that the project be put on hold until all disagreements are sorted out. Governor Lalong should have a one stop shop joint session with the CAN,JNI,PIDAN,PLHA, traditional rulers and carefully select elders to further open up the issues for deeper reflections .