By NBF News

Former General Officer Commanding, GOC, 3 Armoured Division, Nigerian Army, Jos, Plateau State, Major General Saleh Maina, shortly before his transfer, assembled youths of different ethnic and religious backgrounds at the Rwang Pam Stadium to celebrate the return of peace to the state.

The celebration, tagged Half Marathon and Cultural Concert, brought together the youths lucky to survive the crises which rampaged the tin city in the past two years. Maina, who doubled as Commander, Special Task Force (STF) on Jos Crisis, has since been redployed to Army Headquarters, Abuja.

The youths drawn from secondary schools and local government areas in and around the city were handsomely rewarded for being part of the celebration. Apart from men and officers of the division, men and officers from the other armed forces, and paramilitary also graced the occasion. Plateau State Government was represented by the Commissioner for Youths and Sports, Mr. Nankin Bagudu.

The day was started at 8,00 am with the marathon race and athletics. Some people living along the roads where the marathon runners had to pass through had began to panic at the army presence along the roads. Even though the soldiers were there to ensure easy passage for the athletes, rumour making waves in town was that some Maitatsine adherents were being moved from Bauchi to the South.

At the end of the marathon race, only six ladies could return. The first was Dimetu Buba who won a cash prize of N75, 000. The first runner up was Janet Dungs who got N50, 000 and the second runner up was Rotgat Gyang who got N25, 000. Those in theĀ fourth, fifth and sixth positions went home with N5, 000 each.

Among the men, though many of them returned, 15 of them got more than handshake from the organizers. The first to the third positions were rewarded like the women participants while others, up to the 10th position went home with N10, 000. From the 11th to the 15th position also got N5, 000 each. In the 4 x 400 meters race (Female), Students of Mount Olive Secondary School came first; followed by Students of Command Secondary School who came second while the third position was clinched by youths from Jos East local government Area. In the 4 x100 meters (Female), the first position went to police Team, second position went to Plateau State.

Sport Council Team, and third position was clinched by students of Abba Memorial College. In the 4 x 400 race, (male), the police team clinched the first position, Command Secondary School, clinched the second position while Jos East youths came third. There was equally a tug of war competition between the GOC's team and that of the Commissioner of police. At the beginning, the Commissioner of Police's team looked good to carry the day, but there was a sudden change of fate and the GOC team won. The Plateau State Cultural Troup, using songs and dances from the different ethnic groups in the country, mimicked experiences from the crises and the advantages derived from living together.

Maina said he was thrilled by the development in the state and the enthusiasm of the youths in participating in the events. He was full of praises for the MTN, Multilink, UAC Foods, Zuma Steel, NASCO Foods, Plateau Sport Council and more importantly the state government who had supported and made the peace concert possible. He recalled that the task force was at first not well received by the citizens of the state because of the bad publicity it received. Eventually, there was better understanding of the role of the STF and it began to enjoy the cooperation of the people.

While thanking God and citizens of the state for the return of peace, recalled that there was a time Plateau children could not go to school, but that has become a thing of the past. The former GOC who was naturally elated that his mission in Jos was a thing of success made everybody at the stadium to stand up and say it aloud that 'never again will there be war or bloodshed in Plateau State.'

Bagudu who represented Governor Jonah Jang acknowledged the role the STF played in the return of peace to Jos and thanked the members for their efforts. He used the occasion to recall the feat the state accomplished despite her challenges in the sporting area, adding that two of the state's teams have been promoted to the Premiere League.

Souvenirs were given to all those who contributed in making the event memorable especially the likes of Mrs. Salome Bello and Hanatu Dungs.

It was a mission accomplished for Maina who came Jos as GOC on January 26, 2009.