It has been widely reported that the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami claimed that President Muhammadu Buhari could not eat after learning that some travelers were killed in Jos, the Plateau State Capital. In strong terms, the callous act is condemnable. No life must be taken on any account. Our hearts go to the families of the victims. We look forward to the arrest and prosecution of those who carried out the dastardly act. While that is said, it is crucial for all stakeholders on the Plateau and indeed, Nigeria to return to the crime scene. In Africa, an elder does not sit and watch a goat deliver with a rope on its neck. In philosophy, the law of cause and effect helps people to arrive at root causes. A brief historical analysis of where and how it all began is crucial to this discussion.
The question is, how and why is Plateau on the world map as a city in constant crisis? Experts attribute these crises to the lack of organised religious and cultural traditions before and during the Jihad of Usman dan Fodio (1804). Apparently, this made Jos, the Plateau State capital a center of attraction. The central location, good weather, arable land (green vegetation), mountainous scenery, rich stable food and heartwarming nature of the people made the city a central point for proselytisation and establishment of new religious creeds. For instance, Muslim reformers like the Izala arrived Jos in 1978 with Salafist religious ideology which promotes an orthodox form of Islam that emphasizes the Sunna and denounces the heterodox practices of the Sufis. The outcome was intolerance for divergent views, indoctrinating followers and hate-preaching.
Although Muslims have always had a strong presence in Jos city, it took an orientation towards Christianity. Christian missionaries who were equally attracted to Jos established their missionary enterprise hence the huge Christian population. Within this time, the city maintained a cosmopolitan nature. A culture of tolerance and social cohesion between adherents of Islam and Christianity was in place. Scholars opine that things soon changed due to religious competition, fundamentalism and assertiveness. It is instructive to note that crises have persisted in Jos city since 2001. By 2002, 2008 and 2010, crises reverberated outside the capital to rural areas. From 2001 to 2002 and 2010, hundreds of people mostly peasant farmers lost their lives in various villages while cultivating crops or rearing cattle. To be fair to government, between 1997 and 2014, various Commissions of Inquiry (COI) have been set up at the state and federal levels to mitigate the crises.
Notable among them are The Gen. Emmanuel Abisoye Presidential Panel (2009), The Justice Bola Ajibola Commission (2009), The Justice Aribiton Fiberesma COI (1994) and The Justice Niki Tobi COI (2001). Instead of the outcome of these COI to calm the situation of insecurity, they seemed counter-productive. Although the state was enjoying relative peace before the recent incidence, the situation can best be described as “disputed peace” since crises can erupt anytime. The question is, what are the drivers of crises on the Plateau? A recent study titled, “The Press Sectarian Crisis And Violence Against Women in Plateau State Nigeria A Critical Evaluation”, which the writer co-authored with Moven and Dapoet (2021) disclosed land tussle between Indigenes (Farmers) and settlers (Herders), fears of religious, cultural and political domination, complicity in handling the conflict, retaliatory/reprisal attacks and hangover of military rule are responsible for these crises in the state.
Truth be told, herders have continued to attack about 54 villages in Bokkos, Riyom, Barkin Ladi, Bassa, Jos South and Jos North Local Government Areas. In most cases, they sack rural communities, occupy the lands and rename those villages without being challenged. While members of these communities who have lost loved ones are wallowing in Internally Displaced Persons’ camps, these “unknown gunmen” are busy cultivating in their lands and in some cases, living in their houses. As such, putting an end to these crises demands reparation and resettlement of victims to their homestead. By the same token, government needs to demonstrate genuine concern for affected persons by carrying out an onthe-spot assessment through personal visits of the scenes by the Governor. Government must also remain proactive in ensuring the security of lives and property. It behooves on government and other spirited individuals like Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOS) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to provide “Remove Justice, and what are Kingdoms but Gangs of Criminals on a Large Scale” -St. Augustine (354-430) relief materials to those affected by the crisis.
The families of those killed should be compensated with the assurance that such would not occur in the future. This would boost the confidence of the people. Security agencies and vigilante groups must be on top of their game. All citizens must refrain from politicizing peace and security issues. Academics and researchers are encouraged to conduct field research on the remote and immediate causes of the crises with robust recommendations and submit same to government for onward implementation. Peace can only thrive in an atmosphere of justice and equity. Justice for both parties – perpetrators and victims shows that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. President Buhari should extend his appetite for good governance and security of lives and livelihoods to all. It was St. Augustine of Hippo (354- 430) who said “Remove justice, and what are kingdoms but gangs of criminals on a large scale? What are criminal gangs but petty kingdoms? A gang is a group of men under the command of a leader, bound by a compact of association, in which the plunder is divided according to an agreed convention.
” Created out of the defunct Benue-Plateau State on February 3, 1976 by the Murtala Mohammed regime, Plateau State has 17 Local Government Areas. It was originally called “Gwosh” but was purportedly wrongly pronounced “Jos” by Hausa settlers and traders. The name Jos-Plateau was given due to its mountainous rock formations. Jos is the source of many rivers in northern Nigeria like the Kaduna, Gongola, Hadejia and Yobe rivers. It is known for tin mining activities which started in 1902 under the British colonialists which still persists till date. Plateau state has over 30 indigenous people who coexist peacefully with other tribes such as Hausa, Fulani, Igbo, Yoruba, Ijaw and Bini amongst others. Located in North Central Nigeria, Jos and the entire Plateau State has “Home of Peace and Tourism” as its motto. Residents must not allow escalating conflicts to ruin “Plateau the Beautiful.” God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
• Fr. Dyikuk is a Lecturer of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Editor – Caritas Newspaper and Convener, Media Team Network Initiative (MTNI), Nigeria.