The chairman of the Make Jos Great Again Forum, a social group that came into existence when friends and associates across different ethnic and religious creeds, who once lived in Jos, came together to consolidate on peace process following the crisis that engulfed the ancient city since 2001. In this interview, Chief Danko Makama revealed how the group intended to make Jos great again.
What informed your decision to establish the Make Jos Great Again Forum?
Following the crisis that engulfed Jos since 2001, those of us who have been here for a very long time started asking ourselves what we could do to bring the city back to its former peaceful position. As you know, Jos was very attractive in so many ways: the weather, scenery etc. The peaceful nature of the city also attracted tourists. It was so attractive that even Europeans used to come here for vacation. That was why the Hill Station Hotel was built.
We started talking about how to bring back the lost glory of Jos. Some of us were born and raised here, some came to live in Jos, and some, like me, have been in the city from the early 60s and 70s. When we were young we interacted socially, held parties and picnics, and during festivals like Christmas and Sallah, we used to exchange gifts, food and visit one another. It was wonderful. Many of us were bachelors, so we used to hold night parties; and we were all from different ethnic divides, as well as Muslims and Christians.
After the crisis, wherever we met as individuals or groups, we used to reminisce about the past. Jos used to be so peaceful that you could move freely, day and night. You could go for a party and come back at 3am. Unfortunately, with the crisis, places like Bauchi road, Rikkos, Anguwan Rogo, Rock Heaven, Tudun Wada, Kabong and others became no-go-areas. You would only go to a place depending on your ethnic or religious identity. Jos became compartmentalised, and many of us felt unhappy about it.
We decided to start by meeting. We formed a small group to see how we could contribute to the sustenance of peace in Jos. We saw that one of the best ways to achieve this was to form a social group, which we named Make Jos Great Again. That was how we came about the name. We will collaborate with other like-minds to sustain peace and recreate a friendly environment, which Jos was known for.
Apart from peace, is there any other thing your group wants to achieve?
Some of the areas such as the Wildlife Park, the Jos Museum and Suzie Garden, and others need some improvement. It is our intention to help in refurbishing these places of attraction so that their green scenery can be maintained.
We intend to first sensitise people to key into our objectives. We have also decided to set up a microfinance bank to help small scale entrepreneurs access credit. For example, a housewife who is engaged in petty trade may need only a small capital to start a business. We also intend to assist widows and internally displaced persons. We have plans to renovate some schools in Jos North and South, beginning with the primary schools because most of our members come from there. We want to also set up a foundation to be known as the Josian Foundation. Once established, this foundation can assist indigent students with scholarships. We will also engage in other areas such as health care delivery, access to portable water etc. But these are medium term objectives. However, we want to move as fast as possible, and if we are able to make it a short term, that will be good.
These projects are capital intensive; how do you intend to source for funds?
On July 15, we inaugurated about four committees. The Finance and General Purpose Committee is headed by Senator Jack Tilley-Gyado, the Planning and Strategy Committee is chaired by Colonel Lawal Gwadabe, the Peace Committee is headed by Lilian Kachalong Rwang while the Public Affairs Committee is headed by Hon. Ibrahim Dasuki Nakande.
The Finance Committee has made recommendations to the forum on the ways of raising funds. We are raising fund by ourselves. Once the Finance and General Purpose Committee presents a comprehensive report of all the projects we are going to undertake and the ways and means of raising the funds, we will go ahead.
We are developing short term, medium term and long term plans. The short term plan will run from two to three years, the medium plan will run for three to five years and the long term will run for about five years and above. So we will prepare within our plan for those projects. We will implement progressively and source funds within the forum through voluntary contributions from our members and public-spirited individuals and entities that may want to key into our plans.
Given the calibre of people in the forum, how do you intend to fight any external political influence that may want to use you to achieve a particular purpose?
The Make Jos Great Again Forum is not a political pressure group, neither is it a political action group. Our membership cuts across the political divide. A former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is a member of this group, and I am in the All Progressives Congress (APC). Many of our members belong to different political parties. We are a non-political, non-ethnic and non-religious group. Our members have been warned to refrain from making political statements in whatever guise, and anybody who does so would be doing that on his/her own and not on behalf of the forum. In any case, anybody who flaunts our rules and regulations in this regard will be sanctioned. He or she could be suspended or expelled.
Our group is not here to champion the cause of any individual, group or community. We shall not involve ourselves in anything political, or anything that has to do with land matters or the traditional institution; that is left for the entities and authorities concerned. This is so because if we dabble into some of these areas, they would become the easiest ways to bring politics into the group and destroy it. Although we welcome people to join us, it is not a place for those who want to advance their political career or personal ambitions.