By Emmanuel Pwajok
There were flashes of violence in Plateau State around in the year 2001. But the crisis which had undercurrents of ethnic dominance, indigene -ship rights and denial of political representation were effectively managed. The then state actors applied dispassionate palliatives which calmed frayed nerves among feuding groups. The result: Plateau managed to retain its pride as a charming and peaceful abode for all.
However, he misstep of the state appeared to be the unforeseeable mistake of crowning Sen. Jonah David Jang, thr governor of this North Central state in 2007. A Berom by ancestry, Jang, from the outset, never made pretensions about prosecuting an ethnic agenda in the potentially explosive crisis. By 2008, the crisis within Jos metropolis alone exacerbated unimaginably, leading to hundreds of deaths and terrifying magnitude of destructions to properties. The tempo aggravated in the subsequent years, as the conflicts intensified and expended tentacles to different parts of the state intractably.
Throughout the years of the Jang governorship, ethnic tensions, mistrust and segregations became major features on the Plateau. As a leader, blinded by ethnic sentiments, Jang supervised the crisis into a pig-headed monstrous cancer on the Plateau. It was strange the excitement Jang derived from lighting the conflagrations on the Plateau. But nevertheless, he lubricated the conflict until he served out his two tenures as Governor. At his departure in 2015, Sen. Jang had left a thoroughly fractured, ruined and dismembered state, with horrible relics of warfare.
However, fate smiled on the people of Plateau when they opted for “change” in 2015 by electing Simon Bako Lalong as governor. As a leader thoroughly conversant with the problem of violence and insecurity on the Plateau, Lalong took immediate steps by initiating policies and actions to engender peace and security in the state. He adopted a non-discriminatory state policy and banned segregation of all kinds entrenched in the system by his predecessor. This restored confidence, mutual trust and cordiality in the multi-plural state.
Plateau once again, reclaimed its lost glory and cherished portrait as home of peace and tourism, which was savoured for more than two years, until recently. The latest onslaught and killings in Barkin Ladi and other places on the Plateau are the sad reminders of how violence has been sneaked into Plateau.
But a keen observer of recent happenings in the state would have noticed things which suggest Sen. Jang may have a hand in the resurgence of violence on the Plateau. It is not entirely lost that Jang struggled frantically in 2015 to plant a protégée as his successor to continue with the propagation of his ethnic cleansing agenda or nourish his posture of the total destruction of Plateau state irrecoverably . But the electorate were wiser as they saw through his evil plans and rejected his anointed successor at the polls. It is obvious, the sadistic Sen. Jang is pained with the reversal of the violence, vanished ethnic supremacy struggles and destructions on the Plateau by Gov. Lalong.
Statements credited to Sen. Jang, an opposition member, reportedly quoted him as vowing to make the state ungovernable for Gov. Lalong . And some useful clues were recently offered by protesters under the auspices of Middle Belt Peace Network, led by its national co-ordinator Jayeola Mohammed while on a protest to the Force Headquarters in Abuja in the aftermath of the recent killings on the Plateau, who called for Jang’s arrest and interrogation. He alleged that “It is common knowledge on the streets of the towns in Plateau State that the former governor had used the assigned resources to procure arms and ammunitions for hired thugs in the state. The ranks of these thugs were further swollen with the importation of mercenaries to carry out the recent attacks.”
The Presidency has lamented loudly about disgruntled politicians in the country instigating the violence and killings in parts of Nigeria. And when Sen. Jang was remanded in Jos Prisons over the alleged embezzlement of N6.3 billion from state coffers, it was curious that the visitd of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and other notable PDP chieftains to him in prison became a subject of denials. Nigerian laws do not forbid anyone from visiting someone under lawful incarceration. So why the denial of Atiku Abubakar’s visit to Sen. Jang and the eventual retraction of the earlier statement from prison authorities which indicated Atiku was in the team? And consider that the latest violent siege on the Plateau where scores of Nigerians lost lives and property occurred barely weeks after Justice Daniel Longji of a Plateau High Court, Jos, granted bail to Sen. Jang who is standing trial over a 12-count charge of corrupt acts levelled against him by the EFCC. All these strings of developments strongly point to very persuasive complicity of the Sen. Jang in the massacres on the Plateau whichj cannot be ignored.
Whether Jang is guilty or innocent of the allegations, only the courts are lawfully empowered to adjudicate to determine his innocence or culpability. Why would Jang prefer not to be tried by courts in the land, but rather seek crude means to intimidate and frustrate the courts from making legal inquest into the allegations against him? It is a subtle attempt to rubbish the anti-corruption crusade of the President Muhammedu Buhari administration by engagement of youths on a desperate and contemptuous search for meaningless jargons to pre-empt the court, even before the trial and final verdict.
These realities and manifestations present a complex scenario and suspicions about the personality and actions of Jang both when he served as Governor and now, a serving Senator. Therefore, there is a sense in the statement credited to Gov. Lalong that he was not prepared to shield any person who embezzled state funds. It is an appeal to the judiciary to do its job diligently, cleanly and expeditiously, despite the distractions created by the accused, Sen. Jang and his acolytes in overt attempts to derail the course of justice. This is imperative because the whole world is watching how it prosecutes the case, much as Plateau people are also interested in knowing its outcomes.
Pwajok, a retired civil servant, wrote in from Jos, Plateau State.