Amid bourgeoning hopes that Plateau State will return to its place of unity, peace, and intercultural relations and hybridity, occasionally, for the past two decades now, the question of when we would get there begs for deep reflection due to the disappointing and calumniatory insurgencies that keep occurring in villages and towns of our state.
One among the few that informed the writing of this piece is the 2023 Christmas Eve massacre of innocent, hard-working, and peaceful people of multifarious communities in Barkin Ladi and Bokkos.
Unfortunately, this dreadful massacre occurred when Plateau people and myriad Nigerians had raised hopes about the Tinubu/Shetima Administration’s ability to fight insecurity, given there has been a colossal improvement in the fight against all kinds of insurgencies in the country.
However, the Christmas Eve attacks on Bokkos and Barkin Ladi and a few more create more doubt than the short-term hope raised in people’s minds. So, the question of when we will return to our former or better days is preeminent. When would we get there? This question is necessary for several, but a few are:
Security Outlet of the Country: One of the prime concerns Plateau people at home and in the diaspora share about the Barkin Ladi and Bokkos Christmas Eve attacks relates to the response of the security agencies in these two local governments and the state.
In this age of technological advances, globalization and mobility, social media traction, and regionalism, circulating information about any activity, place, or thing is not supposed to be hard, unlike decades back. Information is circulated within the shortest time possible, with little or no secrecy. The exchange of information through social media is as liquid as water and can be as fast as the same.
Therefore, since Nigerian security agencies belong to these modern trends, they should not claim ignorance about attacks like this. Belonging to different WhatsApp forums, on December 24th, I read messages around 12 am – 2 am saying, “Pray for Bokkos,” “Bokkos under heavy attack by the militia,” “Oh Lord, have mercy.” The same messages were posted on various WhatsApp statuses of people from Plateau and their allies. Reading such posts and messages, you would expect the attacks not to last long since the incidents have been reported and circulated quickly.
Opposite to the thinking of many, as of today (one week later), over two hundred people have lost their lives, churches have been burned to the ground, businesses and farmlands have been destroyed, and hundreds of people are being forced into Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) Camps. Bandits are moving to other parts of the state to smaller communities in Mangu and Jos East to carry out similar attacks.
On the other hand, there has been no arrest of the masterminds of these vicious, brutal, and heinous activities. Is this war or genocide that the Plateau people are not aware of? When would those militias be arrested? When would we get back to the old days? We never had it this bad on the Plateau from Independence to the 2000s. Justice is taking too long for Plateau.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu: On the same concern, President Tinubu, I am calling upon you to act, step up, and ensure all the interventions are taken in Barkin Ladi and Bokkos, respectively. Relief materials and verbal condemnation of these attacks are never enough.
Verbal condemnation by government via press releases has resulted in more communities being attacked. We want you to act and bring the perpetrators of those malevolent, malicious acts of criminality and their sponsors to book. We want similar actions and steps taken in Mangu in May to be taken in Bokkos, Barkin Ladi, Jos East, and other affected LGAs of Plateau State.
Displaced people must return to their homes expediently. Mr. President, sir, you must act now. Allow no one to spoil your tenure as the president of Nigeria. You started well on security issues in May; return to that plan and work with it. Two things your administration must continue to prioritize for the common person are security and a better economy. If the country is secure, our economy will undoubtedly improve.
Plateau People and Plateau Politicians: We can only achieve the peace we want through unity and support, each to another, one ethnic group to another, and one people of faith to another. Time is not on our side anymore, and we cannot remain divided because of political interests, ethnicity, or religious and denominational beliefs.
Plateau has just one enemy, the enemy who comes in the night to butcher hundreds of people and run away. We must unite against this enemy. We must rally around the state and federal governments to resist this enemy. Whether PDP, APC, LP, Christian, Muslim, ECWA, COCIN, Catholic, or Pentecostal. United, we stand, but divided, we fall.
Politicians should not be only loud about their political ambition but should also speak against the genocide going on against our people and our land.
I call on Plateau politicians, religious leaders, and traditional rulers to act now to the best of their abilities. Teach every community on the Plateau to stand on their guard. While we pray, we must also watch. I also call on all the elder statesmen on the Plateau to step up and act quickly. Seek an audience with Mr. President and devise a lasting solution to these abrades and imbroglio.
I warn! No one should politicize insurgencies and death. Plateau was a peaceful and united state twenty years ago, and it will return to its place of traction in tourism and socio-political activities.
Finally, I call on Plateau elites, masses, and Plateau in the diaspora to never give up; we are almost there.
My sincere condolences to the families and communities who lost their loved ones, businesses, and farmlands in cold blood on the Christmas Eve attacks in Barkin Ladi and Bokkos. I pray you find comfort soon. God Bless Nigeria and God Bless our beloved Plateau State.
Happy New Year,
Sir, Kefas Lamak
University of Iowa.