By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
Jang is Demystified
They saw it coming. They heard about it over twelve months ago. So they were prepared. They have fought many battles before in various parts of the country, winning all and losing only the one with El-Rufa’i. However, this one is against a powerful and arrogant state governor who enjoys unleashing hardship and crisis among the poor particularly among the Hausa and Fulani ethnic groups. His policies of cleansing the Plateau of non-indigenes has cost many lives and caused misery to thousands of families. He has what it takes to unleash terror: the authority to command resources in pursuit of his ethnic ambitions, the money to bribe the police and the judiciary, an ever-ready gang of students and unemployed youths from his ethnic group ready to be recruited for a token to unleash mayhem, and, finally, the support of some powerful traditional rulers.
The strength and ruthlessness of Governor Jang were not underestimated by the commercial motorcyclists, commonly called ‘Yan Achaba, when they decided to resist the recently enacted law banning their activities in the crisis-ridden capital of Plateau State, Jos, and its environs. Because of this, they knew they had to be resolute and ready to sacrifice anything they had, including their lives. And when the battle started few days ago, they proved their mettle. They indeed put their own lives on line and some got killed; some were seriously injured; and many were arrested and imprisoned. Yet, on every occasion they forced the Police to retreat, abandoning all their duty posts in the entire city and going into hiding while the ‘motorcyclists resumed their duty in full gear in broad daylight unfettered. Jang is demystified.
That is the result of crude application of power. The former military governor does not know that the power of a leader in a civilized society, especially in a democracy and very much unlike in the military, lies more in consultation and responsiveness of his administration than in the crude force at his command. Nowhere is this fundamental principle of public administration required than in governing the states whose governors have no authority over the forces of coercion, which can only be mobilized at the approval of the federal government. And Jang, the powerful Berom emperor, is at loggerheads with the Federal government. Now he needs its forces to kill and they are increasingly becoming reluctant to yield to his vagaries, which put their lives at risk and erode the confidence they enjoy among the people. To succeed, the governor should learn some lessons in administration of civilized nations, something the commercial motorcyclists are busy teaching him these days.
However, I do not think the action of the governor regarding the motorcyclists was born out of ignorance of the principles of good governance as it was driven by his ethnic cleansing agenda. Jang would tell security personnel in plain language that unless non-indigenes leave the State he would not introduce any alternative to the ban. In Jang’s philosophy, the cart is placed before the horse. He is not even ready to allow full restoration of peace before implementing the law. Not a single tricycle has yet arrived. He is in a rush to expel the non-indigenes before his tenure ends next May.
Instead of waiting for the conducive atmosphere, Jang thought he can mobilize the same police that he has been castigating since last January to achieve his goals. It was easy to get the House of Assembly to pass the law banning the use of motorcycles for commercial transport. A wide consultation with the stakeholders, including the motorcyclists themselves, would have followed before applying the law. No. He got the police to attempt to enforce the law. On the first day, Monday, 8 June 2010, the police attempted to enforce it but it ended up in the killing of five motorcyclists and the entire capital city took to its heels. People started dashing to their homes for safety. A fragile peace is about to be lost. It was not the issue of motorcycles anymore, but that of peace.
On Tuesday the police were absent from the streets of Jos and the motorcyclists continued with their normal business. Jang summoned the security personnel of the state and arrogantly accused them of complicity. The following day, Wednesday, the police came out early in the morning and fired some canisters of teargas in some neighbourhoods and killed four innocent youths with live ammunitions. The bodies were arraigned at the Central Mosque for prayer. The motorcyclists came out in full force. They barricaded roads in the centre of the city and searched for police in every passing vehicle. The police disappeared again. The government announced that obedient motorcyclists who abandon their job and register their names with the authorities would be the ones entitled to government tricycles when they arrive. The motorcyclists ignored the ruse and resumed their work on Thursday unabated as no policeman, once more, could be seen on the street throughout the city. I think the police by now must be foolish to take on the motorcyclists again. It is clear who won the battle on the streets. Today, Friday, residents of the old city of Jos have staged a sit-at-home protest for most part of the day in solidarity with the motorcyclists. Banks followed suite and closed at 11.00am.
By now Jang must have learnt his limitations. He is likely to leave Rayfield next May without fulfilling his ambitions and the promise he made to his ethnic group. The Hausa and Fulani will still be in Jos then. The motorcyclists will that day celebrate along with the new governor by removing the mufflers of their motorcycles to taunt Jang. Jang will thereafter live forever unhappy. He is likely to see the state governed by a hand that is more competent, more accommodating and more civilized, someone who is ready to live in peace with other Nigerians. The motorcyclists, the good people of Plateau State and the entire Nation cannot wait to see that day. Then, a chapter that attests to the indomitability of human spirit over tyranny will be closed after being written in the ink of the dead victim and the suffering of the surviving.
11 June 2010