A brand new security outfit, “Operation Rainbow,” has begun an arduous task of bringing permanent peace to beleaguered Plateau State. Set up by the state government with the support of the President, it is made up of 3,250 personnel consisting 10 youths from each of the 325 wards in the state who will serve as “neighbourhood watch men.” These watch men will not, however, carry arms at all; other members of the outfit, about 2,000 men drawn from military and paramilitary outfits, are the ones who will.
There is confidence in the government’s circles that the new arrangement will work. One hopes that it does. However, beyond keeping an eye on neighbourhoods, are there other measures being put in place to consolidate on any gains to be made by the current initiative? The Plateau saga has developed deep roots of animosity in recent years, but the main questions towards finding lasting solutions are just few.
In my piece, “Taking the Devil Out of Plateau,” which was published in my back-page column in the Leadership Weekend on January 1, 2011, I argued that the cycle of sectarian violence in this once-serene state, which has consumed hundreds if not thousands of innocent lives, was caused principally by the personal leadership style of Governor Jonah David Jang. Hitherto, most observers had referred to a nebulous “failure of leadership”. But I wrote: “A wide spectrum of opinion in and out of Plateau is agreed on one indisputable fact: Jang is part of the problem – if not THE problem – in the resolution of the Plateau conundrum. His failure to provide statesmanlike leadership in his domain, by either wilfully fanning the embers of the crisis or from sheer incompetence, has been an obstacle in the way of finding a lasting peace. Many Christian leaders who are not afraid to tell the truth believe that the governor is pitifully incapable of solving this seemingly intractable problem; instead, he has been chasing shadows – such as blaming his opponents within his own political party. This gargantuan failure is responsible for the unending calls from both sides of the divide for the imposition of a state of emergency in the state.
“In more civilised climes, Jang would have resigned from office long ago. Amazingly, he is eyeing another four-year term as governor! But it is imperative for him to quit the Rayfield Government House at the end of his first four-year tenure and not seek re-election. This is because it is easy to surmise that four more years of him as governor could mean four more years of conflict in Plateau State; four more years of hundreds or thousands killed, and four more years of the wild goose chase and failure to end the inter-ethnic and inter-religious divisions in the state...
“If Jang refuses to see the light and decides to carry on at all cost, then the good people of Plateau State must vote him out this year. In a democratic dispensation, and with the promise of free and fair polls, any recalcitrant politician must be shown the door by the electorate in a peaceful manner.”
Well, as it turned out, Jang was able to secure for himself that coveted second term, benefiting from the special status the ruling PDP conferred on Plateau. The question now is whether Jang has learned any lessons from his bloody first term vis-a-vis the security situation in his state. If he has, then, is “Operation Rainbow” a part of his plans to ensure that the murderous killings are not repeated? I sorely want my prediction of a second Jang tenure to be disproved because the killing of a single soul gives me the jitters. Plateau must never be allowed to burn again. And all depends on the manner and style the governor decides to administer the state. If he has learnt to stop blabbing about the ‘indigene’-versus-‘settler’ dichotomy imposed by politicians like him, and if he regards himself as the father of all in the state and rules fairly and justly, then things would fall in place.
Here is wishing “Operation Rainbow” good luck and praying that Plateau will live in peace forever and ever. Amen.
Published in the current issue of BLUEPRINT