The issues at stake in Jos are very fundamental to the very consensus that is responsible for peace in our communities across the country leaving out the ongoing Boko Haram terror campaign. What are these issues? Indigeneship and land ownership, emotive issues that can cause mayhem if not handled with care.
The two major protagonists in the Jos crisis are the non-native Hausa-Fulani community and the indigenous peoples of the city – Afizere, Anaguta and Berom. (Although the Hausa and Fulani are two distinctive ethnic groups in Nigeria, the two have historical antecedents that often pitch them together as one especially within the context of politics.)
Now what is the problem?
Most media reports simply describe the war as arising over the dichotomy between the indigenes and the non-native Hausa-Fulani. The latter say they are marginalised as non-indigenes, hence the frequent eruption of killings in the city, the latest being the recent mass murder of mourners of victims of a similar mass killing carried out by suspected Fulani herdsmen only days earlier.
The truth is that there is no constitutional discrimination against the Hausa-Fulani in Plateau State in the exercise of their civic rights. There is nothing that prevents a Fulani man from becoming a senator or governor of the state. If a popular political party today puts forward a Fulani candidate and the majority of the voters in the state freely vote for him or her, nothing will debar the candidate from becoming governor.
There are, in fact, members of the Hausa-Fulani community who have sat in the Federal House of Representatives representing the city. Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki Nakande, a prominent leader of the community and a central figure in the crisis, once represented the state as a minister just as there is an Hausa man who is a commissioner in the present government of Governor Jonah David Jang, a Berom.
Now, why then do the Hausa-Fulani feel marginalised as non-indigenes?
Indeed, the source of tension in the Jos settler/indigene relationship stems from the Hausa-Fulani claim to the indigeneship of Jos, a chieftaincy stool and entitlement to political offices that is incommensurate to their population strength in the state. Most importantly, they would like to create a chieftaincy institution in Jos which no reasonable government, under whose powers the right to appoint one rest, will agree to.
Creating a Fulani emirate in Jos will mean that there will now be two traditional rulers in a single domain since the Gbong Gwom Jos, a Berom, is recognised as the paramount traditional ruler of the city! Please note that the palace of the Chief of Jos is located in North Jos, the very area that the Hausa-Fulani are laying primary claim to.
It is precisely because of chieftaincy that there is a necessary dichotomy between the indigenes and non-indigenes which, for the sake of peace, we have to accept in Nigeria. There may be more than one million Igbo in Lagos, the Oba of Lagos, however, remains the chief institution of traditional rulership in the state and only the Eko indigenes, who may number only a few hundred thousands, have access to the royal stool. The same goes for every town and village in Nigeria.
Outside of chieftaincy, there is nothing in our constitution that prevents an Igbo man who is resident in Lagos from enjoying citizenship rights including even contesting for and becoming the governor of the state, if the majority of the voters of the state want him or her. In fact, there is currently a commissioner of Igbo origin, Ben Akabueze, in the cabinet of Governor Babatunde Fashola. To however contest the supremacy of the Oba of Lagos in the traditional rulership of the city will spell trouble.
Another area of contention between the Jos indigenes and non-natives is land. The Fulani, who are non-indigenes and some of whom are in fact not Nigerians, say they want grazing reserves to be created for their herdsmen in Jos and its surrounding villages. This is a demand that cannot be based on any law in Nigeria.
Land in Sokoto belongs to the indigenes of Sokoto. If a Yoruba man desires the land for farming or to build a house, he will have to buy it from the indigenes.
The clamour for grazing reserve as desirable as it is to avoid the constant conflict between herdsmen and farmers should not be a cause of bloodletting in Nigeria. Where have grazing reserves been created in the North? Nowhere; not even in states in which some of these Fulani herdsmen are indigenes, including Sokoto, Kano, Katsina, and Jigawa. Why then must thousands of Beroms and other indigenes and non-natives of Plateau State be killed because Fulani herdsmen want a grazing reserve?
From the foregoing, it is very clear that the objective of the Hausa-Fulani community in Jos is unjust and actually amounts to an expansionist drive to dominate the indigenous peoples of the city.
Now, the President must be very careful in his ongoing mediation efforts as any attempts to force an unjust solution on Jos will open the doors to similar agitations in other parts of the country.
- Adebayo wrote in from Dublin, Ireland, via firstname.lastname@example.org
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