Senator Gyang Dantong was to attend a fundraiser for his own church the very Sunday (July 8) he died, but changed his mind suddenly and went for the mass burial in Matse.
If Senator Gyang Dantong had chosen to attend a ceremony to raise more funds to complete a community church that he had built halfway in Bachit (his village), instead of skipping it for the funeral in Matse last Sunday, his fate would clearly have been different today, Dantong’s younger brother, Rwang Dantong, told Daily Trust in Jos yesterday.
“We met with my brother in the evening of Saturday (July 7). There was a programme on ground: a launching in our church, COCCIN LCC, Bachit in Riyom local government area, where we come from. Suddenly in the morning of Sunday, he was reliably informed of the mass burial at Gashish, Kuzen and Matse that morning. When he learnt of the mass burial, he said the church launching could wait. He went for the burial of his people who were massacred”, he said.
The half-finished church, according to him, was his personal project for his community. “You see, the fundraiser was to raise more money to complete the building of the church, a process he initiated and started work on from his own purse; the launching was to be done that same Sunday, but he refused to go but instead went for the mass burial.”
The younger Dantong spoke in the background of crowds that were still thronging to the Jos home of the late senator. The crowds, which had been an unceasing feature since Senator Rwang Dantong died on Sunday, did not seem to have thinned by yesterday. The street, which branches off a major road by the St Finbarr’s Parish made famous by a bomb blast in March, was still a busy one as cars and pedestrian visitors streamed to and from his two-story mansion a few minutes’ walk from the now renovated St Finbarr’s Church.
The house itself was still crowded, from the gate to the large foregrounds and right into the two sitting rooms on the ground floor of the house. Relations still come wailing, prompting fresh outbursts of tears from among many who had come in earlier in the same manner.
Rwang said the incessant killings in Plateau should stop, saying “What has happened to my brother has happened and I am learning to accept it; but these killings should stop”.
Incidentally, his elder brother (Senator Gyang Dantong) died seeking a stop to the killings. He had been speaking of ‘how to end night attacks’ just days before he slumped to the sounds of the gunshots of attackers and never got up alive.
Senator Dantong recalled in an interview on July 3, five days before his death, that persistent attacks on rural communities around villages in Barkin Ladi and Riyom local government areas could only be stopped if security officers raided settlements believed to have stockpiled arms.
The late senator was quoted as saying, “The victims of the attacks have always claimed that they know the attackers and believe that they are from some nearby villages. They also believe that the attackers have stockpiled arms which they use for the attacks. We feel that the security agencies should investigate such claims by the villages to ascertain the truth”. The late politician spoke not long after the burial of John Daring, Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Sharubutu ward, his own ward in Riyom local government area, killed by unknown gunmen the previous weekend along with his wife and son.
As a senior political office holder in the Barkin-Ladi/Riyom axis of the Plateau North Senatorial District, late Senator Gyang Dantong knew about every attack and attended the funeral of most of those who died from such attacks. Having seen several dead kit and kin and heard many disheartening stories from those who survived, the widely acclaimed soft-hearted senator must have been considerably weakened psychologically, which may explain why he would succumb apparently so easily to death at the sounds of gunshots that did not hit him.