GOVERNOR LALONG’S TEPID GIFT TO YELWA

On Wednesday, 18th May, 2022, Plateau State Governor, Simon Bako Lalong approved the creation of 268 Districts and Village Areas, as well as two chiefdoms across the 17 local government areas of the state. The approval for the chiefdoms and districts by the governor, according to a statement by his media aide, Makut Simon Macham, followed the review of the report of a Committee on the Creation of Chiefdoms, Districts and Village Areas in Plateau State, which was constituted on the 20th of October, 2020, and headed by Chief D.G. Fompun.

One of the districts created was Yelwa, in Shendam Local Government Area, where the governor hails from. Yelwa attracted global attention on 2nd May 2004 when an attack on the predominantly Muslim residents claimed some 630 lives. The ugly incident was a consequence of the prolonged hostilities between Yelwa and its neighbours, whose inhabitants are predominantly non-Muslim. Then president, Olusegun Obasanjo, swiftly removed Joshua Dariye as governor, placed an emergency rule in the state, and started a process of “healing of wounds” therefrom. Now, almost 20 years after the indescribable incident, many of Yelwa’s residents have picked their pieces and moved on. Of course, nearly half the town’s residents took sanctuaries far away, especially in neighbouring Bauchi, Nasarawa and Taraba States.

And so, the creation of Yelwa District in May was expectedly greeted with excitement by the residents. For us, it was a conscious strategic move by Lalong to deeply entrench the relative peace achieved in the area since the horrid happenings of 2004. Lalong is quite conversant with the intricacies of the disputes between Yelwa and its neighbours. He hails from a village that is less than 20 kilometres away from the town. Also, he spent most of his childhood playing football and interacting with Yelwalites, either as cousins, friends or associates.

It is most unfortunate, however, that Yelwa’s name was struck off the gazetted districts by 9th of this month when the Secretary to the Plateau State Government, Danladi Atu, published the final list. The message we got from the latest action is that Lalong’s earlier inclusion of Yelwa in the new districts was actually half-hearted.

Instructively, therefore, this exclusion disproves the earlier claim that the decision to create the districts was “part of the efforts by the Rescue Administration to increase inclusivity, unity, peace, harmony and development”. Governor Lalong’s mantra for enthroning a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere that will restore the glory of Plateau State as a home of peace has been widely acknowledged.

However, it bears repeating here that the inexplicable removal of Yelwa at the point of gazetting the 268 newly created districts clearly contradicts all the refrain. It would have been thought that, if the Lalong administration were to create only one district in its eight years, it will be Yelwa.

It seems Lalong did not reflect deeply on what this exclusion has done, or will ultimately do to his stint as governor of Plateau State. It will surely put strong doubts in the minds of many about his administration’s commitment to eliminating injustice and enthroning justice amongst the people. Presenting second and third Class Staff of Office to the Adagwom Izere Jos, Mr. Emmanuel Ajik and the Gwom Ibaas, Da Luka Pagyang Pam respectively on the 16th of December, 2019, in Jos, Lalong said: “Under my watch, nobody will be treated as a second-class citizen or superior to another. We are created equal by God and must learn to live together in peace and unity”. Now, why is the case of Yelwa different?

Danlami Bala Apama, Ungwar Galambi, Yelwa 

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