Central Nigerian Officials say the 7th of February designated as “Plateau State Forgiveness Day” is for citizens to reflect on the ruins caused by decades of religious violence in the State for “healing and reconstruction”.
An estimated 1000 people were reportedly killed in the sectarian violence in the State capital on September 7, 2001. Series of other skirmishes have been recorded since then, including unprovoked attacks.
The “Forgiveness Day” initiated in 2019 aims to inspire hope and peace, not to force citizens to forget their experiences, Mr. Joseph Lengmang, the Director General, Plateau State Peace Building Agency said, Saturday.
“The day is an opportunity for us to start by appreciating the wrongs we have done to each other, by appreciating the evil deeds that have taken place not with a view to forgetting.
“The idea of forgiving and forgetting is just a misconception if not a mirage. We would remember so that never again are we going to tow on this path again. The idea of forgiveness is crucial to our wellbeing and the well-being of our community,” Lengmang said in a chat with Journalists in Jos.
The day, the Peace agency official added, “Was set aside for us to think, take a deep introspection, and begin to repair broken relationships, and heal because if people do not heal from the hurts of yesterday, there is no how we can say reconstruction, reintegration or peace building process is successful. People need to heal. And people need to talk to one another in order to heal completely.”
According to him, the key drivers of conflict in the State are structural, historical and economic issues that have not been resolved for years.
Religion and ethnicity were only conscripted into the conflicts for sympathy and relevance, mostly by parties with vested interests, he said.
“Some of the issues could be related to land, imbalances and perceived deprivations or marginalization, and some are deep-rooted historical grievances.
The State today enjoys “relative peace,” but the potential of a return to violence, Lengmang said is still eminent due to the existence of those unresolved issues.
“We have evolved and are far from where we were 15 years ago. But even though we enjoy some relative calm, the issues at the heart of most of the crisis have not completely been resolved,” he said.
Government, the official said is working to find lasting solutions through constant stakeholder engagements by the Peace agency and inclusive governance.
“This is where most people misunderstand the concept of inclusivity that the Governor is trying to introduce. They perceive him to be weak in handling the issues but there cannot be peace without giving everyone a sense of belonging,” he said.
According to Lengmang, the quest for forgiveness is not to deny trampled citizens justice.
In is words, “In most cases, you hear people say we cannot heal as long as we don’t find justice. We equate peace and stability to the question of justice. Yes it is, but partially. We have ignored a very important component of the post peace building process.
“We focus so much on the legal framework without having to pay attention to the restorative aspect of justice. Justice and peace itself is a constant struggle. What we are trying to do is to see how we can look at this agenda for people to relate to it.
“Both the legal and restorative aspects of justice can be pursued simultaneously for the sake of stability, our healing and our future. This is what the forgiveness day is all about,” he said.