STF: Building peace through football

The Special Task Force (STF), OPERATION SAFE HAVEN, has, in its bid towards peace-building and as reintegration, evolved  strategy aimed at realising its dream, one of which was the civil-military relations activities away from the use of force, which included using the game of football. MUHAMMAD TANKO SHITTU writes on the  impact of the strategy

Wining the hearts and minds of the people
All over the world one of the methods used by militaries in wining heart and minds of the people during Peace support operations (PSO) or internal security operations (ISO) is civil- military relations.

The STF under the current commander, Major General David Enetie has given serious attention to civil- military cooperation initiative. In the past five month, STF has rendered assistants to communities, such as medical attention, educational support and other basic needs. In particular, STF has rendered assistance to windows and orphans in the affected communities. In addition to the above, STF has also organised sporting activities for youths which is aimed at reintegration. Investigation revealed that security situation is improving due to cordial relationship that exists with various communities. The STF Commander commends the efforts of the communities for the support given to STF. “ Generally,  we want to thank the people  for the support and encourage them to give timely information. He also thanked the  state government , traditional rulers and all stakeholders for their support.

Getting to the heart of the people
In line with global trends and in furtherance of this robust deployment of civil-military approach in the crisis-prone areas of plateau state, the STF Commander has stepped up effort of finding lasting solution to the crisis through people-centric approach.

In this regards, the STF is building on the gains of its efforts at   restoring peace and maintaining law and other in Plateau State. Consolidation of constructive engagement with various communities and critical stakeholders across ethnic, religious divides in the state has led to adopting a very important strategy that could bring everybody on board.
This approach which was welcomed and embraced by all stakeholders especially in the crisis-prone areas of Barki Ladi, Plateau state is a football competition.

Tagged STF Peace and Unity Football Competition, the fiesta which lasted for about two months brought together those who were hitherto considered as belonging to various groups that were at loggerhead with one another. The strategy was aimed at giving the youth within the area a sense of belonging, reawakening   spirit of brotherhood, friendship which had existed in these communities.

It was also organised to bring together the youth for the duration of several weeks to play football  and to bridge communication gaps, build confidence, peace and reintegrate the people.

Major General David D. Enetie’s expressed joy at the final day of the STF Peace and Unity Football Competition, which he considered as long weeks of peace building. He said he was delighted that the Berom, Fulani, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and others have all gathered and witnessed the final match played at Shon Secondary School football field in Barkin Ladi, despite the rains.

In his speech at the end of the final match while presenting prizes to all the 24 participating teams including that of the men of the STF,the Commander of the Special Task Force (STF), Major-General David D. Enetie, tasked the people for mutual respect as well as harmonious living in Plateau State.

“Let me implore the youths, that it is honourable to respect each other, to shun violence, to live in peace and harmony,” he said.
The commander stated that peace is the only way to meaningful development.
He said: “No one will doubt that without peace, there will be no positive development.”

Enetie explained that the essence of the STF Football Competition was to bridge the gaps amongst youths of divergent tribes and religions in conflict, stressing that it is hoped that it will foster unity among all and sundry.

“Football is a unifying factor globally and has  the potentials of making people put behind them their differences.
“The game has in most cases eroded the conscious of sentiment, segregation or bias among humanity,” he preached.

According to General Enetie, players and spectators in the game, habitually put away religious and ethnic differences, further enjoined the people to sheath their swords to embrace the path of dialogue and peaceful living.
“You are ambassadors of peace,” he said. “No one is a loser in the process of peace building.”

The stakeholders speak
Some of the people that  graced  the events also spoke as they could not hide their delight over what they hoped, is the stepping stones towards realizing the desired lasting  peace in the state.  Mr. Dantong Jack, is a Berom elder who said, the competition has “helped in calming tension among the youths on both side, it has brought them together playing for weeks, forgetting their differences.”

He said it is hope that the relationship will be sustained beyond just the competition.
Malam Usman Garba,  a Hausa man who had also watched the final of the football competition,  said with what he witnessed, he was hopeful that the youths would continue to be together beyond the pitch, saying it will surely lead to the desired goal of achieving reintegration and peaceful living.
“But if that is to be achieved, the state governments must be seen, to be helping this youth, by giving them one job or the other to do,” he said. “The soldiers have a limit to what they can do. They cannot continue to live in our midst.”

Some of the players also expressed appreciation over the STF, efforts of restoring lasting peace to the communities.
According to Steven John, who said their team was eliminated at the preliminary stage of the competition, explained that it was good playing together with the Muslims youths, not necessarily for winning prizes in it, “But we are reunited, we are friends but due to the crises, we lost the friendships.”

While Yusuf Abdullahi said, they are mixed to play in the teams, saying “No team has played as purely Christians or Muslims, neither Berom, Hausa, Fulani nor Igbo. You can see that in the teams that have played in the final both sides are mixed. And if the STF can continue to do more of this work it will help reduce the problem.”

Also, in his remarks on the importance of the football fiesta,  the sector commander in whose command  the competition was held,  Lieutenant Colonel Ogbonanya Agu, said that the ecstasy that is associated with the playing or watching football is capable of “dismantling barriers that are wrongly  created.”

He expressed optimism that the competition will further strengthen an existing calmness and peace among the people.
“It is also hoped that the competition will uncovered the hidden football talents, among the youths for further engagements,” he said.
It could be recall that the Interim administrator of Barkin Ladi Local Government Council, Mr. Habila Dung has at the commencement of the competition, said it was a better way of engaging the youths for better way of promoting peace, expressing hope that it will bring speedy return of  peace in the area.

“In appreciating the gesture of the STF, I think it is the better way of engaging the youths and making them understand that they can be useful to themselves and the society rather than being used as thugs by some frustrated politicians,” he enthused.

Present at the event were other security  agencies  in the state among whom were; the garrison commander of 3 Div Jos,  Brigadier General  A.A. Mani, NSCDC Commander,  Mr. Vincent Bature, State SSS director,  Mr. Christian Ojibor, State Comptroller of immigration , Mr. Arote Jaja, representative of the Barkin Ladi Local Government Council as well as leaders of various communities.

In the final match, which  was played between Golden Boys vs Mafing FC, with the Mafing side defeating the Golden Boys with a lone goal.
General Enetie has said that the competition will also be sponsored by the STF, in other places within the State.
The STF has also been rendering other humanitarian services as part of its policy of the Civil Military relations, in the areas of education as well as health.

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