The Plateau State Tourism Development Board describes Assop Water Falls as an ‘area of Guinea Savanah on the slopes and top of a mid-attitude ridge of the Jos Plateau beside the Jos-Kagoro Road, about 70 km from Jos. The Assop River, it says, which feeds the picturesque rapids and falls, drains part of the Jos Plateau. Enjoy this renowned Plateau tourism guide, John Best, in a brief chat with Vanguard Newspaper recently at the Falls:
Is Assop Falls the best destination in Plateau?
When you talk of tourism on the Plateau, it is not a mono-attraction; it is a multi-attraction. There are many. You are just seeing this one. If I take you to another location, you will say, “Woah!”. You will come to agree with me that Plateau State is naturally endowed and deliberately created for tourism.
But visitors don’t come to Plateau to enjoy these destinations as they ought
The reason is misconception. Talking about crisis, they are events that can happen in any clime, any city, at any level of development. There is crisis in America, Europe, everywhere. It is the human perception and how it is interpreted that has necessarily slowed down the growth of tourism, not only in Plateau, but globally… mostly in Nigeria, anyway. Most southerners believe that northerners are not friendly. You know I am a northerner, and I know you are a southerner. We are here together – north and south. I brought you down here because I know you don’t have in the south what you are enjoying now. You can feel the fresh air; the serenity around here. This is why we are advising Nigerians to come and purify their hearts here; to go away from the hullabaloo that takes place in Lagos, for instance.
I don’t like staying in Lagos for any reason, even if you are going to pay me. If money was my problem, with my knowledge in tourism, Jos would not have been the place for me to stay. I would have been where the money is. But I prefer this place because it makes more sense if you are talking of tourism.
People’s fears are based on the stories in the media about the insecurity in Plateau state
I like talking to journalists, because it is you people that like to garnish your stories for your papers or medium to sell. I deliberately took you out to tour Jos at night while you are here. I don’t think you saw any dead body on the street as a result of crisis. If we are to go by what your media say about the Jos Plateau, we would have been passing or meandering through dead bodies, and not meandering through hills. Here on the Plateau, we meander round rocks and rivers, not dead bodies.
Is it because the crisis has been contained?
I think when it comes to news, it depends on how much relevance you give to it. There are places that have been marked by the media as no-go areas like Angwaroko. I will choose to take you there in the dead of the night. The crisis that happened in Plateau are not different from any other crisis that happen in other places in Nigeria.
The crisis may not be permanent. The story is that people who do those killings come, operate and leave. Maybe they happened not to be here as at the time we are here.
No. If the crisis is perpetual in Plateau, the criminals would have used your coming as an opportunity to strike; you would have been opportune to see it in real life. But the fact that they are not here means crises is not domiciled on the Plateau.
Are you saying that the story we read in the newspapers and other credible media are not true?
That is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that it is not exactly as they are reported. I have lived on the Plateau all my life. Throughout the crisis period I’ve been in Jos. But by the grace of God, and this is from the bottom of my heart, I’ve not seen a dead body as a result of the crisis.
But the Gbong Gwom Jos said yesterday that Plateau has achieved ‘relative peace’.
Yes of course. You see, the news that goes out of the Plateau in itself is crisis news. What you will take out now, as a journalist, based on your visit and experiences, will be real because you are reporting from the Jos Plateau. For instance, I took a group of journalists out during the NATOP AGM and a journalist stood up and apologized that he had written over 20 stories about Jos but that it was the first time he was coming to Jos; he was only lifting the news from other sources. I have also seen dead bodies that were claimed to have come from Jos but they were not Jos’ dead bodies. There are a lot of pictures from the Rwanda genocide making rounds on the social media but some mischievous people claim they are from Plateau State.
If you agree that there had been crisis in Plateau, even though it may not be as much as the media had painted it; what do you think is really the cause of the crisis?
You see, Plateau occupies a very special position in Nigeria – its centrality. And it is also the headquarter to all the major religions in Nigeria. In the early days, Plateau was a place where politicians came to declare their political ambitions. What is happening to Plateau is like giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it.
So, it was religious
Most of the crisis was driven by religion. It may not be initiated by religion, but religious platforms were used for it.
The night you took out to have a feel of the night life in Jos, you said a lot of fascinating things about the city. Could you, in a nutshell, repeat what you said?
In a nutshell, Jos is a city that was deliberate, from creation, planned for tourism.
You also said something about Jos attracting the white people who came to colonize Nigeria.
This was their playground; their own headquarters. That was why the queen of England came to Jos in 1956. They were seeing a lot of wealth coming out of the Jos Plateau – tin, columbite, etc. So, the queen decided to make a trip to Jos to see where all those wealth were coming from.
Vanguard News Nigeria