Oct 2, 2010

In Search of Lasting Peace and Development in Plateau State

Bulus Dabit

Peace is the socio-economic condition that provides the right environment for the development of any nation, state, local government or community. It is therefore not surprising that the state government in fashioning its 10-point agenda, places peace and security as the 1st agenda

The priority given to peace and security can be better appreciated when viewed against the backdrop of disturbing the peace in the recent past (i.e. 2001—1-2004 and 2008) crisis. These sporadic violent have been over reported, and this gives Plateau State a bad name. Indeed no reporter who writes on conflicts and crises in Nigeria will avoid the few cases in the state. The over emphasis on the crises by the mass media tend to over shadow our basic character as a peaceful people and the tremendous development we are witnessing through the effort of the government at all levels.

The campaign shall therefore redirect our minds and the mass media to the positive development on the Plateau. It is against this background and the urgent need to achieve sustainable peace and security in the state that the agency in line with its statutory functions is embarking on a state wide campaign using interface sessions with stakeholders and motorized campaign in all the 17 LGAs of the state to preach the social gospel of peace and love. One of the chief means of preaching this gospel is to showcase the peace that is inherent in our culture and tradition, finding expressions in our accommodating and hospitable nature.

In this tour therefore, the state directorate will remind the Plateau people that Plateau State earned the accolade of Home of Peace and Tourism given the imperative of her peaceful and hospitable disposition. Available records and the testimonies of Nigerians leaving in Plateau State have confirmed that her people and groups are peaceful, accommodating and hospitable. This accommodating and hospitable culture needs to be sustained especially in a democratic dispensation with a government that is desperately making efforts to deliver the dividends of democracy to the electorate across the state.

As already stated, no meaningful development can take place in an atmosphere of insecurity and violence. The lack of peace and security as occasion by the sectarian crisis witnessed in the state between 2001 and 2008 did not only thwart and retard development but also reversed previous development achievements, setting the state probably 20 years backward. Ours is a classical case of how the lack of peace can erase any achievements that had been made in the past.

Our experience during this crisis shows that when one part of the state is hurting because of the crisis, the other parts of the state share in the experience. So no part of the state is safe from the adverse consequences of violent conflicts in any part of the country. Violent conflicts in the recent past have affected our tourism, commerce and industry, the provision of social infrastructures, capacity utilization, leaving us with an ugly scar that can only be removed by love and resolve for peaceful coexistence.

The governor’s ten-point agenda, the president’s 7-point agenda as well as all government policies and programmes cannot be achieved in an atmosphere of chaos. It is important to stress that peace is not what the government provide for a people. Peaceful coexistence through tolerance, love, accommodation and hospitality is the product of a social contract between the people and the government.

In this campaign, the National Orientation Agency believes that we are where we are because some people discarded our cherished virtues which made us the natural Home of Peace and Tourism. Today some of us disrespect constituted authorities, traditional institutions and break public laws at will in the process of acquiring material things and positions. Such people have become so intolerant of the perceived differences amongst us so much that they pick up arms against each other at the slightest provocation.

Indeed, peace is an essential ingredient of development, and can only be achieved and sustained through attitudinal change. Unless there is a resolve by our people to live in peace with each other and promote peace amongst them, peace will continue to elude us. This resolved is the most essential attitudinal change that would transform this state and indeed this nation into an advanced society. With increased attitudinal changes towards positive values, we can reduce poverty and hunger, illiteracy and ignorance, moral decadence and corruption, discrimination and the politics of exclusion, as well as wastes in the economy. Violent conflicts and bad attitude make us suspicious of one another. We now live in fear of one another and can no longer trust each other. The present segregation settlement pattern in our urban centres is a case in point. Violent conflicts have left many of our loved ones death. Where is our Jos Main Market? Where are our beautiful houses? It is time we rethink our attitudes and actions. It is time we learn to live together.

Peace and attitudinal change remains a panacea to development on the Plateau. We shall make more progress than we are making at the moment if and when we decide to live together. No one can progress in isolation; we have to do it together. Development after all is all about people. Development does not know religion, ethnicity, political party, social status and other primordial sentiments, politics should therefore be about developing the people, and hence it is a must that we live in peace.

Our people are as diverse as the land. With about 54 ethnic groups and varied terrain, we can tap this diversity to build our dear state. After all, diversity is instituted by God. This evidence abounds in nature. Therefore ethnicity, religion and political parties should not tear us apart in the 21st century when the world is globalizing. Homogeneity is out of place, the norm is pluralism. Let us all work towards a harmonious society. Democracy is a participatory government; everyone has a role to play. In democracy you have rights and obligation of supporting them to succeed. We must therefore learn to live, work, do business together and build the Plateau of our dream as one people under one God with one destiny.

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