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Same city but changed mindset

By Okonta Jude   |   06 October 2016   |   3:44 am
Jos Plateau State.

Riyom Rock Formation in Plateau State

I was in Jos last week on official assignment. I interacted with a lot of people and visited many places. Before my journey, I thought of the various things that people had said about Jos, the capital of Plateau State. It is true I left that city, May 2001, and the last time l visited was in December 2007, just for four days.

Well, since 2001, l have always concerned myself with any news from this central state. After all, l was born and bred in Jos north. I lived there for over 20 years. So, it will be impossible to shove aside any news from Jos. So, when my childhood friend informed me about the changes in Jos because of the religious crisis of almost 15 years ago, I felt bad. I desired to be there once again, to appraise situations for myself.

At last the opportunity came – official assignment to last for three days. I was thrilled, despite the disappointment of having to fly to Abuja and make my way straight to Jos on road. The prospect though daunting, but the joy of seeing my birth place swallowed the disgust. I was picked up by a colleague at 6:40 p.m. and straight to my hotel.

While in my room, I regaled myself with thought about Jos, the home of Peace and Tourism. The love we all shared with friends and well-wishers. We had no enemies, no religious barrier and no tribal sentiments. We only had our “harmattan” and peace in common.  We lived like relations closely knit together. There were moments when politics and even some politically inclined human beings would want to upset the apple cart with issues to make our environment tensed up, yet we have always brushed that aside. Because the bond of peace was esteemed, too sacred to be toyed with by unnecessary sentiments from parochial minds.

I remember how my friend Sam would leave his shop for Muslims to pray in it, to accommodate worshippers who would throng the mosque to pray every Friday.  Rev Paul Gindiri’s programme, then attracted many worshippers such that roads would be blocked, but we never had problems. I won’t forget how programmes like Rana bata kariya on PRTV, every Tuesday would bring all of us together, for a good laugh.

Jos was indeed “Home of Peace and Tourism.” How we loved Jos and everything around it. As l talked to friends last year about Jos, the picture they painted was a gloomy one.

Much as I was angry, the hot button of my curiosity was pressed to visit Jos yet again, to see things for myself. And I did!
But guess what? Jos is still the same! Yes, our Jos is still the same!

Apart from some new structures, tarred roads and institutions, everything is still the same. The rocks are still there. The major streets are ever present. Jos Main Market is still there. Yes, Jos University Teaching Hospital has moved to its permanent site. Everything was just right. What then has changed? Not structures, not institution, not the tribal marks, and not even the schools. Instead, the numbers have even increased. The only change I noticed in Jos was that of trust. The line of demarcation was just so obvious. People are no longer together like before. The trust factor has been destroyed. Everyone seeking to align with his/her own people. No one wants to be caught unawares in a web of crisis. I felt so bad. No change, yet human beings have changed.

Well, there is peace now. The wounds have been healed, but the scar just hung out like a huge keloid, refusing to go away. I wish we could have psychologist who can tame the human mind to reason without considering religious violence as an option. I wish we could adopt town hall meetings as the major way to resolve political and religious disputes. I wish we could revert to those days when children can visit friends on the side of the street without fear of being “caught up.”   The world we live-in hardly changes. We are the ones who will either make the change positive or negative for ourselves. For me, Jos is still the same!

  • Rexmond

    Beautiful and emotional piece, Jude. That’s the Jos, indeed the Nigeria, we knew, fell in love with, and of whom we were so proud. Don’t know what else to say other than to keep up the spirit of hope and optimism.

  • Tanko Maihula

    Jude, unfortunately it’s not only jos but in the whole country. THE TRUST FACTOR HAS BEEN DESTROYED, after all what do you expect in a society that celebrate people whose only TRADE is to amplify our differences.

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