Apr 1, 2015

Plateau’s Forgotten Campaign Issue

Image source: www.taraturner.com
Until the conflict era in the history of Plateau State (starting from the 2001 till date), the Christians and Muslims raised children along the same streets and educated them in the same classrooms. Back then, there were, also, common markets for followers of both faiths. Today, all these good indicators of peaceful living are non-existent as a result of the prolonged period of conflict between the two sides.

Those of us who grew up playing football with colleagues from across religious divides cherish feelings of brotherhood that had grown between us. It is the reason why we look forward to reunions, and is it, also, why we talk to each other with caution, ensuring we do not destroy a friendship that is important to us. Our experience has, thus, made us seers, who say, with certainty, that unless something is done the prevailing peace would remain fragile with the capacity to collapse on the slightest test.

In 2010 when fighting broke out in the town of Bukuru, two Muslim siblings called me to find out where I was. When I picked the phone they warned me to move with caution as fighting had broken out in the town of Bukuru.

Early this March, a Muslim man and an elderly woman made me deeply emotional. They were driving to Jos from Abuja and picked me up at Vom, as a passenger. The two appeared to be living in Jos, but the man asked too much questions about the rehabilitated roads he saw as we drove. I was prompted to ask, exactly, where he came from. It turned out that he and I were born in the same town. When I mentioned who my dad was, it was then the elderly woman, who happened to be the driver’s mom, screamed in surprise. In that town, our houses were just a couple of blocks apart. When they dropped me somewhere around Grand Cereal and Oil Mills, the woman looked at me and said: “you are just a carbon copy of your dad.” She was aging, but her memories remained very strong. When I offered my fare for the trip, the man looked at it as if it was a piece of evidence that would incriminate him. He declined to accept it, shaking his head.

I thought of the fighting in Plateau State. It has separated the people so far apart that it seemed there could never be love between them. But, my experience with members of the Manu family made me felt the strong bond that can grow among diverse people by the mere fact that they lived along the same street.

Nigeria remains a single united nation. This is, also, the general wish of a bulk of the Nigerian population. It is, however, a paradox to be a single nation but live across borders.  The worst and the most dangerous face of it is the notion of “we and them” that grows in the minds of kids living across these borders. When children grow up without interaction, they do not understand each other and become easy victims of people whose continued wish is to see that community members remain hateful of one another. This living situation will continue to undermine peace and security in the state, as a result.

While I monitored the Plateau Gubernatorial Debate on radio sometimes in February, the issue of the divided people and the need for their integration never came up. We feel that if the state must remain peaceful for long, there is the need for the succeeding government to consider the issue of integration seriously. Governance is not a bed of roses. Issues like the challenge of integrating the people makes governance a bed of thorns. The incoming government needs to understand this.

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