Plateau Of Crises And Death

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Dr.-Dakuku-Peterside

•By Dakuku Peterside
Plateau state is named Plateau for a reason. It is approximately the Centre of
Nigeria and the midpoint between Christian and Muslim civilizations in Nigeria,
convergence between settlers and indigenous people, battleground between
farmers and herders, and a clash point between indigenous culture and
foreign civilisation. For this and other reasons, it occupies a special place in
geography classes. Those who journey through the Plateau and its enclave
leave the place with great memories of its unique scenery, wild sanctuaries,
meandering hills, notable waterfalls, and striking rocks. These landmark
features earned her the sobriquet “the home of peace and tourism”. I know
about its status as the home of tourism as a fact, but I cannot say so of its
peaceful disposition since the advent of the current democratic era in 1999.
Peace has eluded the State that I once enjoyed going for a vacation to my
late uncle, Gally Brown- Peterside (SAN) home.
Plateau’s internecine conflict is a particularly vicious chapter in Nigeria’s
history of ethnic and religious conflicts. The scale of conflict in the State since
1999/2000 represents the most extreme triumph of ethnic tension, religious
fundamentalism, and sentimentalism. Plateau is not alone; the entire middle
belt of the country has that unenviable record for similar reasons. The past
and recent conflict in the Plateau links to three main reasons. The first is
agricultural land; the second is the attempt to establish political authority by
those referred to as settlers and resistance by the indigenous population; the
third reason is religion and particularly the conflict between Hausa-Fulani
Muslim jihadist and Christian militancy.
We need a bit of context at this point. To understand the problems in Plateau
State, one must go back to history and see how Plateau was once a melting
pot for the nation and how it attracted people from all over the world. Indeed, it
was a hub for economic activities during the pre-colonial and colonial periods
because of mining. Thus, we had people that peacefully dwelt in Plateau State
and made it their home. Indeed, the hospitality of the indigenous people of
Plateau State is evident in how they accepted and lived with their visiting
guests. This openness to visitors explains why many villages and towns in
Plateau State which had indigenous names took other names, mainly in
Hausa. Examples include Barkin Ladi, Dadin- Kowa, Tudun Wada, Mararaban

Jama’a, Gangare, and Maikatako. Gradually, the situation began to take a
new turn when those
described as “settlers” began to assert and demand political power based on
being “Indigenes” because of their extended stay in the State. This action
began to awaken the consciousness of the indigenous people who decided to
resist such narratives. With the advent of democracy in 1999, politicians
exacerbated these arguments to exploit religion and ethnicity to gain public
sympathy. Some of them quickly drew the lines of “we (indigenes) versus
them( settlers)”. Unfortunately, this narrative built up and created mistrust
between people that had lived together for many years did business, inter-
married, and even converted to each other’s faith in some cases.
To worsen this situation, other interests from outside the State, including State
forces compounded the problem by interfering in ways the two segments felt
were unfair. For instance, some people saw the creation of the Jos North
Local Government by the Babangida regime as a ploy to cede the commercial
capital to the “Hausa/Fulani Settlers”, a perception that exists to date and
remains strong.
Such passions fuelled the outbreak of violence in 2001, which found fertile
grounds in people’s minds and led to the crises that have remained to date.
Along the line, criminality took over, and people began to attack their
perceived enemies and create segregated communities. Each side of the
divide raised its own “militia” to defend its people and interest. The government
at federal and state levels did not take a decisive stand.
This interregnum compounded with the current “herdsmen and bandits”
Challenge rampaging various parts of the country.
The current attacks in the plateau have raised the national red flags to follow the
same trajectory of attacks and reprisals. This pattern was evident in Bassa,
Riyom, Jos North, Barkin Ladi, and other places. The real identities of the
attackers and sponsors remain unknown despite the plethora of security
agencies. On both sides of the divide, the issue is centered around
agricultural land and this explains why the situation is elevated during the farming
season.
The consequence is that as violence recurs, spatial divisions and
discrimination highlight social and political divisions; people become more
conscious of their sub-national solidarity and allegiances and are more
forthcoming about expressing them.
The ongoing ethnic-religious crisis in Jos and other areas in Plateau and the
The Benue States is another pointer to how divisiveness is widening in the land. It
highlights the deepening intolerance amongst Nigerians of diverse religious
beliefs and ethnicity. The plateau crisis depicts a country perpetually at a
precipice of one form of disaster to the other; a nation that sits on a tinderbox
with the subsequent problem just around the corner. The recent events in Jos
show that we are now living in a dysfunctional society and ordinary Nigerians’
lives are not worth much.

The ‘Merchants of violence’ in Plateau allegedly fuel this crisis. They include
politicians, ethnic and religious leaders who feed on the poverty, illiteracy and
most importantly sentiments of their followers to instigate them to violence to
achieve popularity, acceptance, and economic gains.
The allegation of religious/ethnic cleansing finds credence in the pattern of
attacks and perceived attackers. Some critics assume that the attacks by
suspected terrorists in Plateau State is religiously motivated and an attempt to
wipe out indigenous Christians. Other critics feel there may be a plan by
militant Christain groups to wipe out the Fulani/Hausa Muslims because of
their religious and ethnic backgrounds. However, the situation is always blown
out of proportion and exploited for economic and political gains.
The consequences of renewed killing in the Plateau are glaring for all to see.
These crises can potentially spread to other Middle Belt states and might
inadvertently become the default model for dealing with farmers/herders,
indigenes/ settlers conflict. It is leading to growing unemployment and
consequential poverty which will aggravate the insecurity pervading the area.
People live in segregated communities, and residents live in perpetual fear
and mistrust, which stalls development. Tourism that hitherto was the mainstay

of the State’s economy is almost dead because people are afraid of
coming into the State despite its beauty and serenity.
There have been failures in the past in tackling this mayhem. The state
government has failed to be firm on criminals and ensure punishment for the
guilty. This lack of law enforcement led to growing impunity and resort to self-
help. There has been poor security architecture and human resources to
respond to the attacks and a lack of political will to implement various judicial
Panels of inquiry reports. There is a gross inability to rein hate preachers and
other ethnic bigots spreading hatred in a community with pervasive poverty,
drug abuse, and religious bigotry. Many locals have accused the federal
government in charge of security agencies of failing to secure the lives and
property of the people. Some accuse the security agents of complicity in the
conflict.
The unending crisis in Jos North LGA and plateau state is an offshoot of the
‘indigene/ settlers principle problem. This archaic concept, which has largely
disappeared in many modern societies, means that some indigenous groups
control power and resources in a particular
place like a state or local government while excluding migrants. This kind of
situation naturally gives rise to protests, unhealthy rivalry, and competition for
political space, resulting in acrimony and violence. The crisis requires both
local and national solutions. We should take a second look at our
constitutional provisions regarding the concept of ‘indigene’. This term is
ambiguous. We can replace it with ‘residency’, whereby living in a particular
place for a specific period automatically confers absolute residency rights to
an individual, as it is obtainable in most modern societies.
Nigerian history is replete with indigene-settler conflicts. However, the country
is currently experiencing widespread intercommunal strife in a way that has

never been seen before in our chequered history. Ethnic champions and
religious extremists have stolen the limelight and are currently in control of the
conversation. These divisions are predominant in the North Central
Geopolitical zone of the country as it is home to several minority groups and
no religion is dominant. It is a region that serves as a bridge between the
mainly Muslim northern section of the country and the majority Christian
south.
The Jos crisis mirrors the situation in the country. The area is a microcosm of
today’s Nigeria, where mutual distrust fuelled by ethnic jingoism and religious
bigotry lay bare our sectional fault lines. It seems that no value is placed on
human life anywhere in the country at the moment, and we have become a
nation beyond shock.
All levels of government must rise to their responsibilities in times of crisis.
Incendiary speeches are the last thing we need from religious and political
leaders. ‘Politically correct’ public speeches are not enough. Tangible political
action against instigators and perpetrators of violence and wanton killings is
needed. There are no records of subsequent prosecution in rare cases where
we see pictures of people arrested for instigating or perpetrating violence. This
anomaly gives room for impunity, which continues to feed the violence.
The Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, from conversations I had with
people in Jos seems to have been deft and proactive in handling the tension
in the state. Starting from running an inclusive government to continuous
engagement with all stakeholders. The government under Lalong has
established a peace-building agency, a standing inter-religious council, and
other institutions to facilitate peace. An early warning system established with
the support of France and the USA is in place . The state government has given
massive support to security agencies with a Commissioner of Police, CP
Edward Egbuka has shown courage and leadership. A good number of
legislative frameworks have also been put in place such as the law on land
grabbing, anti-kidnapping law, the bill on ranching amongst others. While some
Stakeholders accuses him of serving only indigenous communities, another
more vocal section depicts him as if he is in cahoots with the so-called ‘Fulani
Oligarchy’. His support for the Anti-Open Grazing Law passed by the state
House of Assembly is interpreted by some as a sign of hostility towards the
Fulani people. On a final note, Plateau state is strategic in our national
cohesion. It is a melting pot of ethnic, religious, political, economic, and cultural
forces at play in the nation. To that extent, the management of the frequent
crises and eruptions in the state requires the full deployment of the instruments
of the federal and state powers.
First is a requirement of economic amelioration through negotiating the
farmer/herder relations through inter-ethnic conciliation.
Second is the establishment of an interfaith mechanism for early resolution of
frictions.
Third would be the stationing of security and law enforcement units along the
critical flashpoints.

The state government needs to adopt better diversity management strategies
to reassure all residents of their safety irrespective of ethnicity, faith, or
origination. We hope to see a return to a plateau that is home of peace

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