It is ironic that Plateau State which prides itself as the home of peace and tourism has been literally turned into an arena of crisis with recurring ethno-religious strife making it practically impossible for tourists to visit the state.
From 2001 when Jos, the state capital and by implication, the entire state witnessed its major conflagration, ethno-religious crises in the state has remained largely obstinate.
Persons who have lived peacefully with each other for decades suddenly became sworn enemies and started attacking each other at the slightest provocation using religion and ethnic coloration as bait.
Like most of the other crises that have unfortunately continued to be the defining features of the Nigerian state, innocent citizens, women, children and other vulnerable groups have been the victims of the crisis on the Plateau.
Sadly, the needless squabble over indigene-settler differentiation has continued to exacerbate the crisis on the Plateau. As should be expected, at the heart of this squabble is the struggle for resources and perceived fears of religious domination.
We note rather worrisomely that the clash in Plateau State has transformed into a major source of protracted communal fights, which, over time, tore almost the entire state along religion, one of the most oft-abused fault lines.
The statistics of persons killed and properties destroyed by these recurring crises, are startling. Nevertheless, in the face of the seemingly intractable crisis that has continued to impede development on the Plateau, fingers are continually being pointed at the elites who, because of their voracious contestation for resources, are fueling the internecine crisis. To say it mildly, the elites on the Plateau are complicit.
Beyond the complicit nature of the elites, there is the fact that authorities have for the sake of political expediency, refused to take the necessary actions that would permanently resolve the contending issues that have continued to fuel these circles of violence.
This newspaper recalls that sometime in 2018, the member representing Wase Federal Constituency of Plateau State in the House of Representatives, Ahmed Idris Wase who is currently the Deputy Speaker of the nation’s lower chamber told his colleagues that the then state government sponsored the training of 300 persons in Israel.
Wase said those trained returned and later vanished in suspicious circumstances even as he said some “equipment”, widely suspected to be weapons, were imported into the state by an unnamed politician from the state.
Specifically, the Lawmaker said those trained are the ones who agitate and kill on the Plateau and noted that he was in possession of some classified documents.
Over three years after Wase’s nerve-racking revelations, there is nothing to suggest that the security operatives invited him for questioning to get additional details from him even though the crisis has continued to fester.
To say this revelation has placed a burden on the security operatives is an understatement more so that the conflict is a particularly vicious chapter in Nigeria’s history of ethnic and religious conflicts.
More than anything else, the scale of conflict in the state since the outbreak of the 2001 crisis represents the extreme triumph of ethnic tensions in the country.
Without doubt, the renewed killing on the Plateau is contributing to growing unemployment and its attendant consequences of poverty. These factors have the tendency to aggravate the insecurity pervading the area.
It is worrisome that in the Home of Peace and Tourism, people live in separated communities and residents live in perpetual fear and mistrust. Even though the state has enormous tourism potentials, tourists’ activities are at its lowest ebb.
Clearly, previous governments have failed to frontally confront this monster at its infancy consequent upon which we now have the full-blown menace staring many in the face.
In our considered opinion, previous administrations in the state failed to be firm on criminals and ensure punishment for all those found culpable.
This deliberate refusal to enforce relevant laws led to growing impunity and resort to self-help that have further exacerbated the crisis. Closely related to this is the lack of political will to implement various reports of judicial panels of enquiry.
Government must be prepared now, more than ever before, to do the needful by ensuring strict enforcement of laws and punishing all those found culpable. The greatest incentive to crime is the knowledge that one can evade justice.
The Governor Simon Bako Lalong administration must be ready to toe a different path by enforcing all the relevant laws regardless of whose ox is gored and, rein-in on hate preachers and all those spreading hatred. Above all, there must be an inclusive government supported by constant engagement with all stakeholders.