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Bring back our Jos

Bring back our Jos
September 16
07:33 2021

Anybody who grew up in Jos, the plateau state capital from the 60s right up to the early 90s like me will agree that it was without doubt the most pleasant place to be in Nigeria.

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For most of us Jos brought ups we could never had loved to be anywhere else in Nigeria. The weather was ever so ambient; the scenic beauty sublime; farm produce fresh, in abundance and very affordable; cost of living was easily and generally pocket friendly.

But the best selling point of Jos was its cosmopolitan nature and diversity. As a result of the discovery of Tin and columbite in commercial quantities early on in the last century, Jos and its environs became a boomtown attracting tin mining companies and their workers from all parts of northern Nigeria to join with the indigenous ethnic groups in the area. This inevitably drew Nigerians from other parts of the country and even non Nigerians who made Jos their home.

Growing up as a kid I had friends of Yoruba, Igbo, Bini, Esan, Afenmai, Urhobo, Itsekiri, Ijaw, Efik, Ibibio, Ghananian, Sierra Leonian, Gambian, White European and American backgrounds. The place and street names in Jos like Rwang Pam, Azi, Ali Kazaure, Vanderpuye, Grays, Stirret, Eyamba, Adebayo, Emenike etc all reflected this.

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The Jos person was a hybrid of all these backgrounds. It was only in Jos that you will come across a person that bears the name Sam Garba Okoye, Fatai Garba etc.

Excellence in sports and entertainment was the forte of Jos. Long before the tiki taka style of football associated with Barcelona football club in Spain, the Mighty Jets of Jos was the well-known exponent of this brand of football. In those days it used to be known as scientific football and while Rangers of Enugu were known for their muscular, ugly kick and dash style and WNDC later known as IICC and subsequently 3SC were the experts in ‘’juju” football, Jets ably led by the legendary Sam Garba Okoye, will humiliate opposing teams with a carousel of passes in a masterful exhibition of possession football. So good was Jets that when a visiting Scottish team the Dundee United came to Nigeria and beat all our leading teams, in Jets they more than met their match whom they forced to a draw. Long before Nigeria employed a Brazilian coach, Jets had already blazed the trail. Indeed very few people knew that Mighty Jets was the first team to win the first Nigerian league in 1973 in a round robin contest played in Lagos. The Jets prevailed over the likes of Rangers, WNDC, Stationary Stores, Benin Vipers (later Bendel Insurance) etc.

The composition of the Mighty Jets reflected the essence of Jos. Names like Bayo Adenuga, Babatunde Babalola, Sule Kekere, Layi Olagbenro, Ali Lime, Lawandi, Batande Nakande, Ismaila Mabo and the Atuegbu brothers Nicholas, Mathew, Andrew and Alloysiuos made up the team. Over the years many of Nigeria’s legendary footballers like ‘’Thunder’’ Teslim Balogun, Tony Igwe, Peter Anieke, Kelechi Emetiole, George Hassan, Baba Otu Mohammed, Segun Odegbami started their footballing careers in Jos.

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As it was in Football, so also in Basketball. The Plateau Peaks led by Habibu Obandaki, Lemmy Harry, Bala Garsama, Garboa Gargea, Wingo were a delight to watch. When late General Joe Garba led his Lagos Scorpions an all army team to play the Peaks in Jos, they were soundly roasted. Indeed, the petite Bala Garsama so humiliated the hulking seven foot plus General who was so impressed that he instantly invited him to join the army as an officer.

In the entertainment field today, many of the top Nollywood and Kannywood stars, as well as biggest names in Nigerian music like Tu face, Pernam Percy Paul cut their teeth in the ambient, cosmopolitan atmosphere of Jos.

But today Jos which was deservedly known as the home of peace and tourism no longer answers to that reference. The famed beauty of the town has now been replaced by an ugly, mean disposition alien to it. Where once people of different backgrounds lived next door to each other in complete trust and respect, people now live in clusters of their own ethnicity and religious beliefs. Where once there were nothing like no go areas, now one dares not be seen outside ‘’safe areas’’. Interactions in the city of Jos if necessary are restricted to neutral areas like Terminus or Ahmadu Bello way in the centre of town.

When stories of sectarian crises in other parts of the north were making the rounds we used to say it will never get to Jos. The level of peaceful coexistence and harmony that existed in Jos then was such that we felt confident to say that Jos will never experience such. My late Dad used to say with some caution that it may well be so, but that once that was breached and somehow Jos became engulfed in similar incidents, then things will really be ugly. His argument was that because of the fused nature of habitation and interaction in the city once that state of being was broken, then neighbour will turn against neighbour and the circle of violence will be horrendous.

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I am not happy to say that unfortunately this prediction of my father has been vindicated. The only consolation for him though if I could call it that, was that he left us before this could become a reality. The Jos that he and we all so loved which used to be the model for tolerance and every other area of life and living has unfortunately sunk to the Hobbesian state of nasty, brutish and short.

I would not want to delve into apportioning blames on any particular person or groups for what Jos has become today. My passionate appeal to all parties in Jos who are engulfed in this ugliness that has become the fate of our city is to pause and ask the pertinent question ‘’what do I gain from all this?’’

I would also direct my appeal to all those whom Jos had a hand in moulding to become what they are today, not to turn their backs on the city that made us. In this regard I have the number one citizen of Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari who himself is connected to Jos where he lived and served as GOC of the third armoured division of the Nigerian army, and the Minister of Sports Sunday Dare who was born and raised there. Let us all join hands and work together with the Plateau state government to restore our Jos to its glory.

Iliyasu Gadu
08035355706 (sms only)

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