Plateau: The years the locusts have eaten

By Katdapba Yunana Gobum

Some call it the 21 years of madness on the Plateau. However you wish to call those years, one thing is certain: They are years one would never wish to be visited on any community again. Except perhaps those who wish they return are sadists, the state has had enough share of its tribulations.


For those who remember that black Friday afternoon of September 7, 2001, the day Jos went up in flames and for days, the city was engulfed in the most atrocious violence it would ever be witnessed, there is nothing so outstanding about the incident except that, it remains one of the saddest days, amongst other, in the history of Plateau State.

Taking arms against one another could be a harrowing experience on a people. Indeed it was sad, while it lasted. While it was surreptitiously planned by some crisis merchants, those who were caught off guard paid the supreme price. While it lasted, uncountable of people were wasted; thereby leaving scars on individuals, families and of the communities that make of the theater of the violence.


Today, many remember that had the crisis not taken place, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers would today have become notable in various human fields of human endeavour. They were regrettably cut short, wasted for no fault of theirs. From the Congo-Russia junction where a group of Muslim had converged for their Friday prayers; a certain Christian woman had made to pass, the argument which ensued soon became a conflagration of fire on anything was seen as the enemy’s.
Since September 2001, the metropolitan city of Jos and Bukuru became divided on religious lines. Areas that hitherto had a mixture of both adherents of the two religions, Christianity and Islam could no longer contain adherents practicing them to live together.

Several years after the Jos crisis, some may have forgiven, but there are yet others who walk with the scars and find it difficult to let it go. Some few years ago, it was Governor Simon Bako Lalong who established the Forgiveness Center in the heart of the city. It was meant to stimulate those who have been wronged to see reason why the past must be put behind in the life of the state and its people.

In fact, the attacks on the state persisted up till 2021. There are yet grievances from members of those communities that have repeatedly been attacked. They need assurances from government that they can be protected; and even when they suffer loss, some help should be extended to them by government agencies responsible for emergency management.


It was indeed sad, brothers and sisters who, before the crisis had co-existed together for decade took up arms against each other and chased their ‘enemies’ out of those communities. Sadly, as it stands all together, the city is segregated along tribal and or religious lines. Entrances to communities and neighbourhoods are not done until one was sure of his or her safety first.

This development has made business in the city difficult, as it is different from what used to obtain in the past. Life has been a hell relating to one another. Everyone is a suspect of the other; those vendors who before now went around the city unchallenged are today cautious of where to enter to sell.

Beyond the reasons that may have been advanced for the violence, it is certain that since September 7, 2001, the orgy of attacks has been sadly replicated in all local government areas of the state. That is why the number of the death harvested in the last two decades is regrettable.


Since the religious crisis in Jos took place. It was the year mistrust and hatred was brought to live with the people of the state-and even in the communities that make up the state.

Perhaps for a few weeks of the incident, no one could categorically say they knew the reasons for the crisis. The buildup was the disappearance of private parts of men at different points in the city and the hot exchange by youth who wrote threats on wall and threw caution to the wind by telling whoever wanted to know that they were ready to face each other. The security failed to act; in fact, they should have known better what was to hit the city.

It’s been two decades and nobody can tell you exactly what started the crisis and or who was arrested or prosecuted for desecrating the peace long enjoyed in the state.

Sadly for 21 years, the state has refused to move. Sadly also, the state is still walking within the perimeter of distrust, angst and cosmetic peace’. It can be observed that the slightest of provocation no matter how far it is to Jos, people take up arms against each other, thereby, venting their anger on others as if the state has become a center for revenge. Recall what happened on the University of Jos after the killings of the Ondo 22 last year.

For these longs years running, everything we ever prided ourselves of has been lost. Had but kept our peace, no state would have been our rival in tourism and commerce. The market that made many envy us was bombed in 2002. Sadly the effort to rebuild the market has become contentious. We are where we are today because we have lost sanity and cannot get out of the quagmire on account that justice and truth have been denied us.

It has been stated: ‘Nobody is a winner in a war. We lost properties, lives, businesses, opportunities, our cherished peace, and most importantly, the humanity in us was substituted with hunting human beings as games. May the state never experience those dark days again but return Plateau to our Home of Peace and Tourism’.

Sadly also, lands have been grabbed in Bassa, Bokkos, Barkin Ladi, Mangu and Riyom local government areas. It was in the course of these sad developments that some travelers who were enroute Ondo from Bauchi were attacked on Rukuba road and killed. Sad as it was, it is important to recall what may have happened before that event. While there is no justification of the killings, that took place when terrorists sustained a vicious degree of attacks on Irigwe communities of Bassa and Yelwan Zangam inhabited by the Anaguta; a sleepy community on the outskirts of Jos North local government area in 2021; after a repeated siege on Riyom, Barkin Ladi, Jos South, Mangu and Bokkos local communities.

The sustained attacks were so intense to the point that questions were asked: Do the people not deserve justice? Can the government and security find a way out of attacks? Can’t there be reprieve for these communities? Do they not deserve to be protected? All Nigerians deserve to be protected, no matter where they come from; whether they are Christians or Muslims.

We have repeatedly said that justice is the meat for all, and not for a select group. No government can function when they select to give justice to Christians and or Muslims alone. Nations survive and prosper, so long as justice is given to all.

Truth has been established: The state remains marked. The communities are targets for these actions that had been hatched in secret dark places. Regrettably, we are a country that denies justice for its people; no wonder, there is always a cry for it whenever there is an attack. The people have every reason to believe that they are treated as second class citizens-always demanding for their rights
It is even more regrettable that in the course of the years, a state of emergency was slammed on the state in 2004. It was as a result of the Yelwa-Nshar killings in May of that year that led to reprisal killings of Christians in the northern city of Kano. That led Secretary General of the Christians Association of Nigeria in the north, Saidu Dogo to question the rationale behind the imposition of the state of emergency.

He had told journalists thus: On the principle of justice, the decision to impose emergency rule in Plateau is wrong. If he had done the same in Kano it would’ve made sense. Many people were killed in Kano, and it was the governor (Ibrahim Shekarau) that went on radio to urge muslims to demonstrate’.

The state soon got round the ashes of the destruction. The decisions of the peace conference during the emergency period by General Chris Ali were far reaching. Not only did the state decide on the way forward, the peace conference established the fact that Jos belongs to: Berom, Anaguta and Jarawa people. For many, they reasoned: What could have been better than the outcome of a well coordinated peace conference meant to establish respect and togetherness in the fractured state?

The circle of violence in several other communities had followed after, claiming several hundreds of lives, displacing people from their ancestral lands in the process since September 2001. Total strangers now occupy those lands; and it does appear that nothing can be done, because when they make attempts to return to take possession they are repelled, killed and thereby compounding their problems the more. Such has repeatedly happened in BarkinLadi, Riyom and Bassa local government areas.

But for how long should this ill-treatment persist? How long can the people remain traumatized, even when promises have been made and not fulfilled? There cannot be anything sadder to be treated as shabbily when the aggressor is regarded as the victim. How it feels is only when one may have visited the displaced persons that had been scattered in different improvised facilities in different communities; or staying with relations whose living conditions is nothing to write home about.

Over the years, whether it is the Justice Niki Tobi, Justice Jotham Aribiton Fiberesima or Justice Bola Ajibola who chaired a few of the commission of inquiry into the various crises that tore the heart of the city into shreds, they have been able to establish one area of concern; sadly however, governments over the years at the level of the state have failed to act and deal with the perpetrators.

That is one aspect which the people of the state will continue to blame the government. Action has not been taken to assuage the feelings and expectations of the victims towards finding a lasting solution to the plight of communities. The question to ask concerning this is: Why have governments been reluctant about implementing the outcome of the findings? Governments can’t spend huge sums of money only to allow the outcome rot in the cabinet files of the Ministry of Justice.

There are issues which must be addressed in the case of Plateau, nay, Nigeria generally: Justice is central to peaceful living. Truth has only but a colour. No matter how it is twisted, we cannot make a head way; but until it is established only then can we sleep not thinking of any one attacking communities in the dead of the night.


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