Cry, my beloved Plateau
“Viewpoint” by Chollom Gyang / 2003
“How are the mighty fallen! Tell it not in Gath, publish it not In the streets of Ashkelon; Lest the daughters of the Philistine rejoice, Lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.” (2 Samuel 1:19-20 KJV)
She lies in desolation and in an abject state of ruination. Her streets are unkempt and littered with human and animal wastes, with her urban services and utilities in a perpetual state of disrepair and decay. Social life and inter-personal ties have virtually collapsed inexorably. In their place is a sustained culture of mutual misunderstanding, mistrust and suspicion.
The above rough sketch is supposed to near-correctly convey a picture of the sorry state of Plateau State, where today nothing good seems to work. This is one place where the commonest commodity, readily available, is easy violence, courtesy of the anarchy that has gripped the state, holding it hostage. For the state, it can’t be any worse, while for the yuppie Governor and his co-travelers; it can’t be any the better. At worse, it is business as unusual.
Caves long abandoned are being vigorously repaired for war-time habitation, as deities long rejected in deference to Christian ethics, are being exhumed and reactivated. Composing war-songs is done with relative ease, compared with the apparent mendacity of government’s sermons on ‘peaceful co-existence’ on the Plateau.
In reality, the Plateau situation is certainly worse than what picture is being painted here. What then, is really going on in Plateau State? How can the glory of a stoic, boisterous, brave people and their state, so eclipse and be forgotten in a twinkle of an eye? Indeed, how are the mighty fallen?
Appropriate answers to the above posers may not be readily available, but suffice it to say that a matrix of both external and internal factors explains a lot on developments in the state. On the external dimension is the northern agenda of the Hausa-Fulani aristocracy. This agenda is for Plateau and indeed the entire Middle-Belt in general. This is why all Middle-Belters must be interested in happenings on the Plateau.
At the balkanization of the giant north into 12 states in 1961, Benue-Plateau was, unrepentantly, the “enfante terrible,” with the guts to stir the hornets’ nest. It set up its own television station, newspaper, marketing board and university, etc. This was construed up north as a coup of some sorts.
The north has been bidding for time to teach Plateau a lesson of its life, and by implication sound a warning to the Middle-Belt sub-region. The north appears not to be in a position to put with a resurgence of the Tarkas, Dokotris, Lots, etc., of yesterday, in its present weakened state.
Given the strategic role Plateau played in all these struggles, it needs no stating the fact that whatever that happened here has a tendency to resonate throughout the entire sub-region. This made the need to curb the influence of Jos a compelling task.
Inside Plateau State, a subtle deceptive approach of divide-and-rule was employed by the north, using some of the state indigenes. This approach picked on an ethnic group and subjected it to a damaging propaganda against other ethnic groups. The present anti-Berom sentiment has its origins and roots here.
Before long more and more indigenes were unwittingly and unknowingly making themselves a readily available tool for the realization of the northern agenda in Plateau.
A typical example here is the insulting move by the Solomon Lar government in 1982 to ascertain the ownership of Jos. While Government thought of the short-term goal of humiliating the Berom, the long-term effects were unfortunately ignored. This same period witnessed the sharpening of ethnic edges and frontiers in an unseen display of ethnic realignment in the state. Animosities that evolved in this period have worsened with time.
This period on the other hand, marked a major victory for the north, considering that the task of ‘fighting’ the Berom in Jos, as well as making the state (and by implication the entire sub region) a cesspool of ethnic rivalry was now handled by the indigenes. While local rival indigenes engaged one another in a misplaced competition, the Hausa settlers were busy amassing wealth and consolidating their business establishments.
Unfortunately, the church (the C.O.C.I.N. church), which was expected to show the light, became deeply involved. Career-opportunists, ethnic warlords and chieftains turned to the churches as a platform to prosecute their ethnic agenda.
That is why the state has wantonly failed to come up with a collective stand in response to Dariye’s sponsored terrorism on the state. If anything, when mercenaries began hitting targets in Beromland, it was a case of silent rejoicing and thanksgiving in other parts of the state, a case of “to your tents, oh Israel!”
Unlike the Plateau of old, a conspiracy of silence fell in place in the face of the chilling display of bestialities on the land. In fairness, therefore, to Chief Joshua Dariye, the problem of Plateau State, protracted, deep rooted and complex as it is, actually preceded the tenure of his lack-lustre rule.
On the eve of the Dariye regime, Plateau was virtually a divided territory, devastated ruthlessly in its self-inflicted battles of ethnic attrition. Worst still, is the absence of an “elder” echelon to speak in the midst of the ravaging socio-political crisis. What can pass for elders here is a galaxy of committed worshippers at the altar of filthy lucre.
The effect of all these is the inevitable collapse of social and moral values. Anything goes, as each is on his own and God for us all. This was the self-conquered territory Joshua Dariye inherited in 1999. He however, had the option of turning it around or deepening the crisis. He chose the latter, thereby completing the northern agenda.
In the year 2000, immediately after the Sharia war in Kaduna, during which Middle-Belters (among others) were used for “Yankan Rago” by Hausa murderers. Joshua Dariye personally came to Kaduna to condole his counterpart, Ahmed Markafi.
After living to his Father Christmas status, by splashing huge sums of money on Federal Media houses, in Kaduna town, Chief Dariye promised to use his last drop of blood to defend the interest of the north. He equally condemned the Middle-Belt issue as a ‘matter of disgruntled minds.’ Four years of misrule on the Plateau have revealed clearly what it means to defend the interest of the north in the Middle-Belt.
Culled from Our VISION magazine, Vol.4 No.6 & 7, 2003