Rt. Hon Simon Bako Lalong is not only the governor of Plateau State; he is also the Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum. The recurring slaughter of defenceless citizens and destruction of communities, including ransacking of towns and villages on the Plateau, did not start with him; it preexisted his administration.
Under democracy, the tourism potentials of the state that once attracted the world have been turned into a depressing cynosure of barbaric murders and unprovoked attacks that are commonly associated with a barbarian society. The city that was once famed for its mining activities now crawls under the shadows of terror as residents now sleep with one eye open and one of their legs standing in readiness to flee the terror of unknown gunmen.
Life on the Plateau has become short and brutish as there is no assurance of security for citizens who are constantly in fear of some gunmen on the prowl. The scintillating beauty of the Plateau has been soaked in the blood of the innocent and those who should act and speak up to end the human butchery have found solace in silence.
The present is certainly not good times for Plateau and the entire North. The deep holes of mining activities have become potholes of bloodshed. Unlike in the past when peace pervaded every nook and cranny of the state, the dusk brings grim possibility of an attack unleashed by evil men. While Governor Lalong’s predecessors had in the past put up spirited efforts against foreign criminals and extremists that are making life an impossible curve to live in, fiendish monsters of bloodbath were confronted headlong in order to save citizens.
There is no doubt that past administrations on the Plateau left no stone unturned in confronting the nightmare of insecurity. However, the present dilemma of recurring bloodbath and devastation have led to displacements of many communities in the state. It is a fact that the current killings in Plateau and other states have been politicised. The incapacity of national and state leadership to deal with perpetrators of violence has lend credibility to the narrative of a hidden agenda anchored on a deliberate ploy by forces to enthrone ethnic and religious supremacy.
Since the advent of this unbroken democracy in May 1999, Jos and other parts of the state have been turned into slaughter slabs of indescribable brutalities. That the killings have not stopped despite several interventions is a reflection of state failure to deal with the matter. Over six years plus since he emerged as governor of Plateau, Lalong has yet to demonstrate undying commitment in tackling the perpetrators of human butcheries in the state.
Unlike his predecessors who confronted the enemies of the state headlong, Governor Lalong has allowed politics to define his weakening resolve in dealing with those causing destruction in the state. In 2018 or so, I toured various parts of the state as a media consultant to Nigeria’s Interfaith Dialogue Forum For Peace (IDFP); an organisation established by the Vienna-based International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) to promote peaceful coexistence and dialogue across religious and ethnic divides. The essence of the visit was to obtain firsthand information on the true situation of the crisis and how best to tackle the problem.
The visit was an eye-opener for me as I came face-to-face with victims of these horrendous attacks. The highpoint of the visit revealed that the perplexing crisis ripping across the states was under-reported by the media. The presence of Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps all scattered in various parts of the state was not only horrific, they also posed a crippling humanitarian crisis as IDPs narrated tales of catastrophes foisted on them by a silent war.
Those aspiring for leadership must have the capacity to empathize with the distraught who have now become pawns in the hands of politicians who are not willing to rock the boat to jeopardise future political aspirations. It is as clear as the day to even the undiscerning that the leadership deficits on the Plateau account for the fiasco in arresting and bringing to book perpetrators of the Plateau human slaughter.
The seeming helplessness by the Plateau State government in extinguishing the firepower of these extremists and foreign invaders is hinged on the double standards Governor Lalong deploys whenever he is confronted with the evil machinations of these terror gangs working hard to destroy the state.
When justice is partially served and a section of the people are left to feel the pains of alienation, the incapacity of the state to ensure a reversal of past injustices promotes a sense of estrangement. Those who think resolving the Plateau conundrum without deploying a holistic approach in resolving the matter are definitely involved in a wild goose chase.
The recurring killings and violence on the Plateau have remained unresolved because political leaders have chosen to look the other way round for fear of losing the next election. It is for this that political actors find it expedient to relegate truth and reality on the altar of selfish interests.
If Lalong, who is the Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum, can’t find solutions to the security challenges bedeviling his state, how can he rally critical stakeholders to end the intractable human slaughter wrecking the North? In a modern world characterized by global best practices dedicated to the promotion of basic human rights, allowing butchery of citizens without any consequences on perpetrators makes the government a willing accomplice.
As it stands, Plateau State remains one of the hotspots of grisly killings and reflects the barbarity of the human mind which further illustrates how humans can stoop so low to unleash violence in the most despicable manner.
Nigeria’s democracy is being gradually turned into a weapon to kill and maim. Since the advent of recurring murders and conquest of many Plateau communities, the governor is yet to demonstrate any form of resilience to checkmate the wicked adventures of these murderers that have found comfort in the lackluster disposition of political leadership to deal with forces threatening the existential prospects of citizens.
The culture of deaths and alarming uncertainties trailing various parts of Plateau State and the entire North by extension is a mirror image of how long the ineffectiveness of Governor Lalong has cast long shadows in the promotion of bloodshed in not only Plateau but also the entire North. Political leaders always get it wrong when the government succumbs to the erroneous narrative that the Plateau human carnage can only be explained on the basis of ethnicity and religion. If not, how can one explain the governor’s quick reaction at the August 14, 2021 killings of travellers and his silence over the destruction of several Irigwe communities and the murder of nearly 100 Irigwe people within four days? The real threat against peace is not those committing crimes but the refusal by political leaders to rein in the activities of criminals.
When crimes are left unresolved and perpetrators not brought to book, the tendency is for other criminals to take advantage of the situation and harm society. Lalong should act as an effective governor by rising up in defence of both Christians and Muslims, Fulani and non-Fulani. Those invaders that have displaced communities and now physically occupying towns and villages should be dislodged to allow for the safe return of displaced communities to their ancestral lands. The footprints of Governor Lalong on the Plateau bear the marks of a failure in protecting citizens and serving justice for all. For Governor Lalong to show himself worthy of being the Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum, he should show capacity in serving justice to all manner of people across their religious and ethnic inclinations. Those who have continued to embrace silence must speak up now. As one of the founding fathers of the United States of America, Benjamin Franklin, once noted, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
We all must continue to speak up for our common humanity without regards to ethnic and religious membership. Those who kill and destroy should not be allowed to escape from the long arm of the law.