… “It’s not attributed to weakness.” Governor Lalong.
by Christiana Gokyo, Jos
Plateau State Government has asserted that, “Forgiveness is not an attribute of the weak, but the very character of the strong, who love God and are willing to walk in his ways.”
The state governor, Simon Lalong, disclosed this at the commemoration of Forgiveness Day in Plateau State on Monday in Jos.
He explained that, “Forgiveness, as a Godly virtue, does not erase the hurt and pains we have inflicted on one another, but a tonic that is needed to take us to the future where we shall no longer loose loved ones and valuable property over issues we can sit together and resolve.
“As government, we are fully aware that it is within the power of individuals to choose to either forgive or not to forgive, but we also realise that we have a responsibility to show society the road that will take us to a better future,” he added.
The governor further stated thus: “We can either choose to live in hate and resentment, or to forgive the wrongs done to us, in order to forge a new social compact that will guarantee a beautiful future for our children and generations unborn.
“I am happy that, as we mark this year’s Forgiveness Day, there are very positive stories of achievements in the process of healing since we came into office, in 2015.
“Having taken steps and developed mechanisms in the form of institutions that are working round-the-clock to ensure the return of peace to our dear State, many communities that were hot beds of crises are now calm and working together to forge a better condition,” he stated.
The governor, nevertheless, recalled that, some local government areas like Bokkos, Barkin Ladi, Jos South, Riyom and Jos North were hot-beds of ethno-religious crisis and violent attacks where precious human lives and property were lost.
“I am glad to say that as at today, we have restored some level of calm and peace in those areas, while work is continuing to ensure that every remaining obstacle to peace is removed,” he stressed.
According to him, “This feat could not have been possible without the role of the Plateau Peace Building Agency, the Traditional Institution, Security Agencies, Civil Society, the citizens as well as other non-state actors, who have continued to work tirelessly to rebuild the peace through trust and confidence building, dialogue, advocacy and community resilience.
“Despite the fact that we celebrate some modest achievements, we are, however, not living under the illusion that absolute peace has returned to the State.
“As a government, we are particularly mindful of the fragile nature of peace in some parts of the State, particularly Bassa LGA. We are also concerned about the activities of crises merchants, who from time to time carry out isolated attacks on soft targets in some parts of the State,” he stated.
In an optimistic mood, Lalong assured that, “Government is not resting on its oars to ensure that we explore the pathways that will lead to lasting solution to the lingering security challenges in Bassa before the expiration of the tenure of our administration.
“For the avoidance of doubt, I have, at various times, personally led series of multi-level and multi-layered meetings with leaders of both Irigwe and Fulani communities towards finding a lasting solution to the problem.
“Similarly, the Plateau State Peace Building Agency has held, and is still facilitating series of intra and inter-dialogues between the parties. The Plateau State Inter-Religious Council (IRC), made up of respected religious leaders, is also facilitating mediation and dialogues in the troubled communities,” he added.
The governor noted that, “The most recent is the intra-dialogue engagement between the IRC and Irigwe community that took place last Friday. This will be followed by another engagement between the IRC members and the Fulani community in the next few days.”
He pointed out that, “The Irigwe and Fulani Internal Peace and Security Committee set up by the two communities will complete its assignment in the following weeks, and believe the potential that the work of this committee holds is immense and will ultimately serve as a panacea to ending the protracted conflict and, maybe, serve as a good model for other communities in conflict.
“While these processes are ongoing, I have also directed the Plateau Peace Building Agency to design and implement a project that will help foster social cohesion and ensure the reintegration of our segregated communities in the State,” he said.
He said government is expected to identify and map all conflict areas and especially communities that have been sacked due to attacks. “Our administration remains committed to ensuring that displaced people return to their ancestral homes.
“That is why we signed into law the Anti-Land Grabbing Law to ensure that nobody claims the land of those, who temporarily relocated from their ancestral lands due to insecurity.
“While we work to provide security for their safe return, I call on all citizens to take advantage of the Law to report anyone, who seeks to claim their land. Government will deal with such persons according to provisions of the law, as they are the enemies of peace and the State,” Lalong emphasized.
He appealed to the political class to tow the same line of the traditional, religious and community bodies by anchoring their political messages on love, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation.
“As the race towards the 2023 election intensifies, there is every need to exercise caution and responsibility in an attempt to get votes, and let us always remember that without peace, there will not even be elections or the positions we seek to occupy,” the governor said.
He urged citizens and the media to avoid the dissemination of messages that stir anger and incite the people to violence, revenge and unforgiveness, by using the social or traditional media to spread hate speech, incitement and intolerance.
The governor stressed, thus: “We are further damaging the prospect for attaining a peaceful Plateau; we should always remember that we have a choice to think and act in a manner that will make us love one another and fight those, who seek to divide us. Plateau is ours to hold, nurture and develop; only love and not hate can make us grow as a State.”
Speaking also, Miango Chiefdom Women Leader, Mrs. Carolyn Bitrus along with Zainab Abbubakar (of the Fulani Woman) said “We are the people of peace, and we love peace; we have met and come to conclusions to make peace with each other.”
They pleaded to the governor to open a market for them, where they can meet together, sell and buy farm produce.
Also, Sambo Haruna; Sheikh Gazali Adams; former COCIN President, Pandan Yaksat, and Dr Iaje (special adviser to the governor on religious matters, representing C.A.N. chairman, Plateau State) said, “For us, forgiveness is a daily affair; we appreciate God for this day and we continue to preach forgiveness, and assure the governor.”
They also said, “Reconciliation and forgiveness is a Christian Lifestyle, not an option. If we want God to forgive us, we must forgive other people,” adding that “Reconciliation and forgiveness can bring progress and development to Plateau State.”