by Christiana Gokyo, Jos
The Plateau State Governor, Simon Bako Lalong, has promised support for the rebuilding of communities destroyed in Irigweland of Bassa LGA as a result of attacks and violence that bedeviled the area in recent past.
While speaking at the Otu Rigwe Cultural Festival held at the Rwang Pam Township Stadium, Jos, the governor said “The event, which encapsulates the celebration of the culture and traditions of the Irigwe nation, brings to fore the resilience, hard work and peaceful nature of the Irigwe people.
“My happiness is that, by holding this event today, it is clearly being demonstrated that efforts of the Rescue Administration and the sacrifices of the Irigwe nation are yielding fruits that everyone can see,” he stated.
“From the array of cultural displays here and the excitement on the faces of the people, it is evident that there is no alternative to peace,” Lalong added, and congratulate the Brra Ngwe Irigwe, Rev. Ronku Aka (Rtd) for his doggedness towards pursuing the path of peace and reconciliation, despite the enormous pressure and setbacks his people have passed through.
“Similarly,” he stressed, “I wish to appreciate the President and leaders of the Irigwe Development Association for also sustaining the search for peace and encouraging the people to look forward to a greater future, despite the turbulence and losses of the past.”
The governor said for him, the event was a vindication of his commitment to ensuring that the people of Irigweland get back to their life, which is reputed for harmony, peace, love and productivity, adding that, “It is also an affirmation of the significance of the signing of symbolic Expression of Commitment to Peace between the Irigwe and Fulani, which took place on 13th July this year.
“Today’s event, which also features Fund Raising for the rebuilding of ravaged communities, is yet another right step towards consolidating the peace that is gradually returning to Irigwe nation,” he noted.
Lalong assured the community that, apart from the government playing its role, it will work with other non-governmental institutions and donor agencies to ensure that the restoration of livelihoods and healing of past challenges is accelerated.
“No development can take place in an atmosphere of violence, acrimony, mistrust and agitation; that is why development, which had been stalled for a long time, started returning to Irigwe nation when we laid the foundation for a massive Housing Estate for workers in Irigweland sometime this year.
“We are optimistic of continuing in this direction and also ensuring that, government projects, which were stalled because of insecurity, resume without delay,” he assured.
Chairman of the occasion and former Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Martin Luther Agwai, said the Otu Irigwe Cultural Festival provides a “window of hope” for the people to put behind the agony they have gone through in recent years of attacks and violence.
He commended them for embracing peace and cooperating with the governor to find solutions to the lingering crises. He also said their efforts to rebuild destroyed communities through community efforts is worthy of emulation and sustainace.
President of Irigwe Development Association, Prince Robert Ashi, said the Otu Irigwe Cultural Festival could not hold over some years because of the level of insecurity in Irigweland.
However, the efforts of the governor of Plateau State have brought back substantial peace to the area, leading to the (re)organisation of the event.
He said the funds to be raised will be used to assist displaced persons whose houses, farmlands and other means of livelihood were destroyed by terrorists. Orphans, widows, and other displaced persons, he explained, will be taken care of from the proceeds of the fund raising.
The Brra Ngwe Rigwe, Rev Ronku Aka, expressed gratitude to Governor Lalong for his personal commitment and passion for the restoration of peace in Irigweland, which led to the signing of a peace agreement between the Irigwe and Fulani.
He said without the personal commitment and resilience of the governor and security agencies, the attainment of substantial peace in Irigweland that has began to attract development to the area could not have been feasible.
In appreciation of the governor’s efforts, the Brra Ngwe Irigwe bestowed the title of Neche Srarina Rigwe (Ambassador of Peace) on Governor Lalong.
The GOC 3rd Armoured Division and Commander Operation Safe Haven, Maj-Gen. Ali, equally received an award of recognition for his determination to tackle insecurity and for being impartial to all citizens, irrespective of tribe, religion and other considerations.