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Sincerity: Panacea for bloodbath on the Plateau
The bloodbath in Plateau has reached a level that should compel our leaders to wake up from their slumber and state of helplessness and find a lasting solution to the crisis, that could be resolved through dialogue between the warring factions. The lingering bloodbath in the region portends a danger to the corporate existence of the Nigerian Nation. Asides from the fact that shedding of human blood is a great sin before the Almighty, and which can invoke the wrath of the Supreme being on the nation, our leaders have been short of pragmatic approach to finding lasting solution to the pogrom, maybe because they are deriving political benefits from the situation in plateau, or they are just simply waiting for one of the factions in the conflict to annihilate the other, like Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda in the early 1990s. If not, I don’t think the crisis should have been allowed to continue for this long.
There is no doubt about the fact that the causes of the conflict were multidimensional. Economic motive has been adduced as being the remote cause of the conflict between the indigenes and the non-indigenes. The indigenes are farmers, while the settlers are mostly herdsmen who graze land to survive. Others attach political motive as the basis of the crisis. To this class, one of the factions in the conflict has precluded the other faction from calling the shots on political issues being settlers in the area. This could be the root of the political crisis in Jos North over the chairmanship election between the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), and the All Nigerian Peoples Party(ANPP), whereby, the latter presented a non-indigene while the former presented an indigene. This happened a few years back and the crisis that emanated over the election engulfed the whole Jos city.
There are other probable factors for the crisis that space would not allow for elaboration. However, the writer’s position, as one who lived in Jos for a whole year, doing the compulsory one year national service and being a historian, is that the solution to the crisis in Jos is not farfetched if our leaders are sincere and ready to tell both sides of the truth.
One undeniable fact is that Plateau State as a whole at a time belonged to some ethnic groups like Birom, Miango, Challa, etc. These were the aborigines of Plateau State. Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbos were settlers in the area. Among all the settlers, Hausa/Fulani could be said to be the first to arrive in the plateau due to the nature of their jobs as pastoralists, and the proximity of the area to Hausaland. The other tribes particularly Yoruba and Ibos could not be said to predate Hausa/Fulani in the area because of the distance between their places of origin and the Plateau. The coming of the Yoruba and Ibo could be said to have been facilitated more by the establishment of railways in Nigeria by the British in 1901. As a matter of fact, it is on record that the presence of Ogbomoso people had been felt in Jos since early 1900. The fact of early presence of Hausa/Fulani on the Plateau is typified by being one of the factions in the Plateau imbroglio.
From my experience in Plateau State particularly Jos North, Hausa/Fulani have strong influence culturally, linguistically and economically and their presence was felt more than any other ethnic group in Jos. I cannot say categorically that Hausa/Fulani were the first to arrive in the area known as Jos North today, but certain facts buttress this assertion.
For example, Hausa is more or less the lingua franca of the area. Secondly, Hausa language is given to certain landmarks, areas, markets etc more than any other language. For example, you hear of Dogon Dutse, High Rock, Dutse ukwu- Three rocks; Kasua Kaje-Chicken Market, Katako -Plank Market, Dogo-Agogo-Tall Clock, Ferin Gada, Gada Biu-, Gada Zogele, etc. Other areas like Terminus, Ahmadu Bello Way, Bauchi Road, Tina Junction, Congo Junction, Rikos, Rayfield, British America, Zaria Crescent are newly developed areas and later development. Other facts to support the above is the population of the Hausa/Fulani and strategic places where they domicile in the city.
Time factor did not permit me to visit other parts of the Plateau State, but there is no doubt that what happening in Jos as far as inter-group relations is concerned might be the case in other areas.
As a matter of fact, the inter-group relations on the Plateau, particularly Jos, was peculiar because in some other instances in history, the common features was for the settlers to wrestle power from the indigenes and impose their authority, culture, custom etc on the indigenes, particularly where the settlers had better civilization. Hausaland, Ilorin, Ibadan are few examples. The peculiarity of the inter group relations on Plateau is even buttressed by the fact of peaceful co-existence among the groups close to a century before the outbreak of the war of attrition.
I have no doubt that the excesses of one of the groups in the conflict could be the cause of the lingering crisis. Indeed, this has been the case in history when overbearing influence of settlers over indigenes had led to xenophobia and even war. My position is that it is only dialogue that can end this crisis. The earlier our leaders accept this fact the better. Fear of domination, resentment, and hatred which resulted from the age-long, inter-ethnic suspicion are responsible for the crisis. Equally, politics and the present democratic rule is another crucial factor. As an example, from time immemorial all ethnic groups were attending the same market, even there were evidences of inter-marriages among the groups. But with the inception of politics, there is tendency for the dominant group to introduce indigenes/settlers dichotomy in order to assert their dominance. Since politics is a business in Nigeria, the settlers could have invested in it and expected huge dividends in return. And other such situation, conflicts would ensue. The belligerents, that is, the indigenes and the Hausa/Fulani had lived together for centuries and have made the Plateau their homes. To debase one of the group may be highly impossible. Therefore, solution to the conflicts deserves statesmanship spirit on the part of the arbitrators and the belligerents.
Federal government has to select statesmen composing academia particularly, historians, political scientists, religionists and other eminent personalities from different fields and traditional rulers, to form a committee to settle the crisis.
The committee should be given enough time and resources to be able to do thorough job. The committee should be informed of the Truth and Reconciliationc Commission but should be saddled with researching into the dynamics of intergroup relations of the Plateau, over the years and what, when and how the relations went sour. This would guide the committee in its assignment. The reports and recommendations should form the basis of dialogue by the committee or the government. One important fact that should be considered in selecting the committee is that religious extremists should be excluded. They are found in the two dominant religions in Nigeria.