September 7, 2001, a Friday, was a turning point in the history of Jos and, indeed, the entire Plateau landscape. The peace that was hitherto the lot of the cosmopolitan city of Jos was shattered by the outbreak of a crisis of monumental consequence. Many theories were expounded about the remote causes of the crisis depending on which side of the divide the person narating it came from.
What, however, is important is the fact that the crisis had simmered over a long period of time and just needed a trigger for it to boil over. The events of that Friday provided the opportunity for that to happen. And this has affected relationship in the once tranquil city that was Jos.
Relationships have been affected. Modes of settlements have changed and even businesses have suffered in manners never envisaged before. The once magnificent edifice that was the hub of business, the Jos Main Market which took so many years to build came crumbling down like a pack of cards. As a result, loss in revenue became the order as businesses no longer had the venue to thrive.
Nineteen years after, Jos city is yet to find its groove and recover from the devastating blow that was unleased on it by those who did not mean well for the city. The city that was renowned for entertainment became a ghost of its former self. The streets were littered with corpses and blood flowed in the gutters that were supposed to carry dirty water and waste. Both divides were lost in an orgy that they were both to later regret.
But have we learnt any lessons? It seems we have not. Christians now live in a particular part of town while muslims do same. Hitherto neighbours and friends became sworn enemies and everyone lived in fear. “An fara” became the norm where people start running without reason except for the fear of one another.
Though not palatable, the crisis that started in the city showly found its ways to various communities in the state. First it was the Yelwa/Shendam crisis that broke and other communities followed suit. The farmer/herder crisis which had hitherto not been as emphatic now became the new normal. Cattle rusting took on an entirely new dimension.
But all hopes have not been lost. Governments both at the Federal,State and local levels have become more conscious of the stratified nature of our society and have worked at enforcing peace in the various communities. As a matter of fact, Non Governmental Organizations have sprung up and have helped in ensuring peace returns to the communities. They have stood in the gap where governments have not been able to get results. They have shown uncommon resolve to ensure the citizenry put behind them the gory incident of September 7 and open a new vista in their lives.
It was as a response to the peace building efforts of the State that the Peace Building Agency, that has become a model in the country was created. The Agency has worked with other stakeholders to bring back those good old days. Though a work in progress, it has achieved a lot in its short lifespan. It however, needs to be adequately funded to enable it expand its activities.
The University of Jos has also picked up the gauntlet by establishing a Centre For Conflict Management and Peace Studies. This has added value and helped in resolving some of the lingering issues. Where government is not trusted, peace practitioners from the University have been able to fill the gap and brought some succour to the people. A lot of work is still to be done so that our society can return to its old self.
We, as a people therefore, need to consciously work at reparing our broken relationships. We must all accept that we are first humans before being adherents of any religion. Humanity before anything else should be our slogan henceforth.