By Rev. Fr Alex Dung
In his quest for lasting peace on the Plateau, the Catholic Archbishop of Jos, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, utilized the occasion of his Pastoral Visit to St. Gabriel’s Parish, Jebbu Bassa on 22nd October 2017, to intercede and plead for forgiveness, reconciliation and peace between the Fulani and the Irigwe communities in Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State.
It was a colourful celebration marking the 25th anniversary of the presence in the Archdiocese of Jos of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) a missionary religious congregation. The celebration was presided over by Archbishop Kaigama, with more than two thousand in attendance and 380 candidates conferred with the Sacrament of Confirmation by the Archbishop in addition to the 76 couples wedded the previous day by the Parish Priest, Fr. Gabriel Obi(OMI).
Considering the conflicts that Bassa Local Government Area has recently witnessed, in which lives were lost, many injured, hundreds rendered homeless and property destroyed, the Archbishop invited to the pastoral celebration, the Chairman of the Local Government, Hon. Sarah Bali, Traditional leaders and representatives of both the Fulani and Irigwe communities. Present at the occasion were the Bassa Local Government Chairman, the National Secretary General of Gan Allah Fulani Development Association of Nigeria (GAFDAN)- Alhaji Saleh Bayari, accompanied by the Secretary of the same association in Plateau State, Alhaji Damina Shuaibu and Alhaji Sule Woje who is the Chairman of the association in Bassa Local Government Area. Giving the occasion the deserved historical veracity was the 98 year elder, Ardo Dodo Alle – the Ardo of Buhit Bassa; the Ati Asubagun Timothy, a retired ASP who represented the paramount chief of the Rukuba kingdom, the Utu Ugo Kiche- Ati Adamu Adiwu flanked by the District Head of Igbak, Ati Sunday Itara Ajina. These prominent leaders lent their voices to that of the Archbishop in calling on God’s mercy and forgiveness for the unfortunate atrocities in the land which have claimed many lives and property.
Speaking so eloquently on the need to live as brothers and sisters from the same Creator and children of Adam and Eve, the National Secretary General of Gan Allah Fulani Development Association of Nigeria- Alhaji Saleh Bayari, pleaded for forgiveness and reconciliation from parties concerned. He implored the affected parties to embrace peaceful co-existence and to avoid the further shedding of innocent blood. While promising and pledging calmness on the side of the Fulani youths who are involved, Alhaji Bayari challenged the Irigwe leaders (in absentia) to also talk to their youth to avoid acts of provocation and violence.
The Chairman of Bassa Local Government Area, Hon. Sarah Bali, supported the speaker, stressing that without peaceful coexistence, meaningful development cannot be achieved. Ati Asubagun Timothy, the Rukuba Chief and the 98 year elder, Ardo Dodo Alle – the Ardo of Buhit Bassa, spoke of the need to bury the hatchet, as two wrongs cannot make a right.
The occasion lasted for more than five hours, amidst cultural dances, Biblical recitations, presentations of gifts to the Archbishop. The Silver jubilee celebration of St. Gabriel’s Parish, Jebbu Bassa will remain unforgettable in the minds of some of the OMI priests who came from Cameroun and other parts of Nigeria graced the occasion. The first indigenous priest of Bassa (Fr. Peter Uchu, a lecturer with the Catholic Institute of west Africa, Port Harcourt, and some diocesan priests and female religious were also present. It was a pastoral visit with a difference, as it expressed the spiritual and the social dimensions of the mission of the Church – notably as the celebration fell on the World Mission Sunday 2017.