By Emmanuel Pwajok
Though, there were flashes of revolting violence in Plateau state, around the year 2001. But the crisis which had shadows of ethnic dominance, indigeneship rights and denial of political representation were effectively managed.
The then state actors applied dispassionate palliatives which calmed down frayed nerves among feuding groups. And Plateau still retained its pride as a charming and peaceful abode for all.
But the misstep of Plateau state appeared to be the unforeseeable mistake of crowning Sen. Jonah David Jang, Governor of this North Central state in 2007. A Berom by ancestry, Jonah Jang from the outset never made pretensions about prosecuting an ethnic agenda in the potentially explosive crisis.
As Governor and 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.
And throughout the years of the Jonah Jang Governorship of the state, ethnic tensions, mistrust and segregations became major features on the Plateau. As a leader, blinded by ethnic sentiments, Jang supervised the crises 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 voting the ebullient, de-tribalised and amiable Rt. Hon. 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 the 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 is assailed with clues, which suggest the strong involvement of Sen. Jang in the resurgence of violence on the Plateau. It is not entirely lost that Sen. Jang struggled frantically in 2015 to plant a protégée as successor, who would continue with the propagation of his ethnic cleansing agenda or nourish his posture of the total destruction of Plateau state irrecoverably.
But the electorates were wiser as they sighted and discerned 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.
And statements credited to Sen. Jang, an opposition member, reportedly quoted him as vowing to make the state ungovernable for Gov. Lalong. Some useful clues were recently offered by protesters under the auspices of Middle Belt Peace Network led by its national Co-ordinator, Mr. Jayeola Mohammed while on a protest to the Force Headquarters in Abuja in the aftermath of the recent killings on the Plateau, who called on Jang’s arrest and interrogation.
Mohammed 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 ammunition 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 visit of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and other notable PDP chieftains’ visit 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 among 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 leveled against him by the EFCC. All these strings of developments strongly point to the very persuasive complicity of Sen. Jang in the massacres on the Plateau which cannot be ignored.
So, is Sen. Jang a blessing or a curse on the Plateau? Again, looking at the charges leveled against him by the EFCC, the former Governor is accused of sapping the State Government of the huge sum of N6.3 billion spread across a 12-count charge of embezzlement, misappropriation and money laundering, perpetrated a month before his exit from office in 2015.
The alleged embezzled funds by Sen. Jang were special funds released to the state in 2015 by the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN) for disbursement to small and medium enterprises in the state under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Funds, (MSMEDF). Now, youth unemployment fuels restiveness and prepares a large reservoir of idle and willing recruits into violence.
Only a heartless leader, bent on evil would allegedly divert or loot the funds offered by the Federal Government to assist the unemployed in his state, as the panacea to the widespread youth restiveness and violence.
But inquisitively again, while Sen. Jang was arraigned in court for trial on the alleged corruption, he rented a crowd of protesters who besieged the court premises, chanting that the trial was “jungle justice,” and witch-hunt to frustrate his 2019 presidential aspiration.
But whether Sen. Jang is guilty or innocent of the allegations, only the courts are lawfully empowered to adjudicate to determine his innocence or culpability. Why would Sen. 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 Muhammadu 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 by Gov. Lalong who drummed during the last APC Local Government Congresses that he is 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 to Plateau people. 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.
But suffice it to say, the pesky actions or inactions of Sen. Jang have dislocated and shattered the coherence of an average Berom man through divisive politics and hate campaigns. His numerous alleged acts of either moral or financial corruption have cast the average Plateau man as a shameless thief and untrustworthy in the eyes of Nigerians.
It reinforces the necessity of the courts to speedily dispense of the case standing against Sen. Jang. Plateau people deserve peace and freedom from these grandeur strangulations.
Pwajok, a retired civil servant wrote from Jos, Plateau State.