It is obvious that Plateau State is desirous of ensuring that peace is kept on the front burner and sustained. While other states may be waiting for the traditional day of observing the International World Day of Peace on September 21, 2019, the state through the Joseph Lengman-led Plateau Peace Building Agency (PPBA) last Monday unveiled the 2019 logo and the investiture of Media Peace Ambassadors. KATDAPBA Y. GOBUM examines the profile of what the agency has continued to do, and its import on the state and Nigeria.
The United Nations General Assembly declared, in a resolution sponsored by the United Kingdom and Costa Rica for each year to be observed as the International Day of Peace around the world on September 21, 1981 but was first observed in 1982. The General Assembly declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples of the world.
Since the World Peace Day celebration came into being some 38 years ago, the event has not gained the expected mileage in Plateau State than this year’s. No other state may have prepared for the event than Plateau. The unveiling of the logo and investiture of the Media Peace Ambassadors are indications that the celebrations are not just ceremonial. The theme for this year’s is Climate Action for Peace, however given our circumstances, it was adjusted to: Climate Action for Peace: Promoting Healing, Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Plateau State.
In the last four years of the existence of the PPBA, deliberately created by the state to pursue and celebrate the ideals of the sustenance of peace, it has been committed to its course realizing from the onset that in any society; there is no alternative to it. For the sake of peace, the people of the state must make sacrifices, more so, that we have gone through a lot; and even learnt a lot from those things that have taken place here.
The creation of the Agency by the Lalong administration, the first of its kind in Nigeria; and which has been replicated in Adamawa and Kaduna States is to avoid the oft reactive pursuit of the resolution of crisis. If anything, the PPBA has continued to galvanize and motivate communities for peace and above all transform those conditions that promote peace.
We have a long history from where we are coming from and indeed the journey that we have embarked upon is about all for all. Taking a cue from the history, the Agency during the September 10, 2019 event, reeled out a number programmes it intends to carry out. The week-long activities will include: Media advocacy, peace walk, community engagement, unity and peace discussions, climate action for peace and planting trees for peace.
But of particular importance is the fact that visits would be made to troubled areas where a strategic conflict and peace management meeting will be facilitated with the people that were affected in the various crises in the state. It will be held from September 16 to 21.
The Lalong administration is interested in leaving a peace legacy that involves all. The new Secretary to the Government of the State, Prof DanladiAtu during the event challenged all to be involved as our collective engagement would enable the world to know where the state is heading to. No wonder, PPBA, is involving all; and even those we have always thought don’t matter in the process. Indeed even the points at which during the Peace Walk stops are going to be made are instructive of the state’s resolve to change the state’s landscape of all negative tendencies in pursuit of peace.
Let’s consider the following reasons: For this Reporter and many more, the establishment of the Plateau Peace Building Agency (PPBA) was an idea, which time had come for the state. The consistency with which the Agency has undertaken to pursue its mandate has not left anyone in doubt of the fact that peace cannot be exchanged for anything else.
The idea for the establishment of an agency was primarily an idea which received the backing of the government and people of the state like no other. It is reason why its activities have not only impacted Plateau State alone; other states have realized that they need its structures and services to be replicated in their communities. They are the better for it.
With the different activities over time that the Agency has undertaken and brought communities and peoples of the state to the realization that Plateau State, and indeed Nigeria cannot survive with constant crisis. The spades of acrimonious relationship between the various communities brought about by murderous attacks over the years indeed propelled the Agency to working extra mile to establishing peace and understanding in the hearts of members of the various communities.
Secondly, to encourage the culture of forgiveness by all irrespective of the person’s faith and persuasion, the inauguration of the Forgiveness Garden near OLA Hospital on February 17, 2019 was in many respects the right thing to be done. Peace without forgiveness between peoples and communities appears beautiful, but it may just be momentary. The fact that people are able to forgive and forget the past, after visiting the various allegations, only then can we expect that the aftermath will be appreciated by all.
To be fair to the state and indeed the people that populate communities where there have been continuous and sustained attacks, it is right to conclude that everyone would be happy as measures are taken to stem the tide of the attacks and make them to sleep in peace. There are communities that have not slept for a day, even as we know that a number of them had to move to Internally Displaced Peoples’ camps that are scattered in about seven local government areas of the state.
Given this scenario therefore, it is expected that the government would continue to search without end for solutions to the security challenges that have bedeviled the state. One of the areas the state devoted its energies is the establishment of the PlateauPeace Building Agency. The agency and other critical stakeholders have been up and down proffering solutions in the areas which have brought misunderstanding, which led to crises in some of the local government areas.
There have been regular dialogues between the government and the stakeholders. It is only in doing so that the way out could be arrived at. Even though the participants at the meetings may not always be truthful to one another, at least, there is the understanding that some people are aggrieved with the way and manner things are done. If we understand our differences, we can live in peace with one another.
One of the reasons why we need to believe some of the steps taken to ensure communities live in peace with one another is the fact that the state government took the gauntlet to ensure that the welfare of the people is able to minimize conflict in the polity. It (state government) believes that no amount is too much to spend to guarantee the safety of lives and properties of citizens, that much was further reiterated by Prof DanladiAtu during the investiture of the Media Peace Ambassador and the unveiling of the logo.
What we cannot understand is the recurring decimal of attacks on hitherto peaceful communities that were never known to have a history of insecurity. What we have failed to comprehend is the fact that the gunmen have continued to invade these communities with reckless abandon. It is sad, no doubt. What we need to put into account is that our communities are not without elements of criminality. We have no need to deny that some of these criminals have been arrested severally and handed for prosecution.
But we have maintained over time without been hypocritical about the assertion that we are a peaceful state; that we have accommodated all shades of Nigerians without thinking of the price. This in itself has never driven us to show the world that we are in a world different from others.
Much needs to be done on the state of Plateau’s security. The fact that some personnel have been moved out of the state does not mean our security would be seen to have been compromised. The fact still remains that much can be done through the Plateau State Government, Operation Safe Haven, Peace Building Agency, and the communities.
It must be stated that we cannot continue to be in this state; peace is needed in all our communities. We do not have space for internally displaced persons, just as we are aware that having our children out of school for a long period should not be contemplated.
Above all, as an agrarian state, our communities are desirous of being in a stable condition; families need to return in full to their ancestral homes. Several of these communities have had to go to their farms with fear of being attacked, even as we know that these days, we all sleep with one eye opened.
No wonder, this year’s theme ‘draws attention to the importance of combatting climate change as a way to protect and promote peace throughout the world.
Climate change causes clear threats to international peace and security. Natural disasters displace three times as many people as conflicts, forcing millions to leave their homes and seek safety elsewhere. The salinization of water and crops is endangering food security, and the impact on public health is escalating. The growing tensions over resources and mass movements of people are affecting every country on every continent’.
Indeed, no one should be left out; the journey to peace has started for all. You cannot be left out of initiative #PeaceDay and #ClimateAction.