Nigeria: Understanding the Fresh Wave of Violence in Plateau

Buhari meets community leaders in Jos.

Since his assumption of office in May 29, 2015, plateau state governor Simon Lalong did not mince words about his resolve to bring an end to the incessant and mindless waste of human lives and property on the Plateau. He succeeded in the last three years as there were no major cases of crisis within the period.

The current governor who was speaker of the state's House of Assembly (PLAHA) from 2000 to 2006 during Joshua Dariye's regime is arguably the most popular with acceptance across the divides, the type of which has never been witnessed since 1999. His acceptance may not be unconnected to the fact that though a Christian, he has a very cordial professional and political relationship with Muslims in the state.

Lalong immediately swung into mending fences shattered by the lukewarm attitudes of his predecessors (Dariye and Jang) to peace, by appointing for the first time three Muslim commissioners namely Mal. Muhammad Nazif from Jos North, Alhaji Muhammad Abbas from Wase and Comr. Dayyabu Garga from Kanam LGAs to the state's executive council, several other minority Muslims into governing boards of ministries, departments and agencies, just as Jos North for the first time in thirty years began to witness government's presence.

These and a host of other decisions taken by the governor, to other Christian dominated "major" tribes, were an assault on their pledge to rid Plateau state of "settlers". As if those were not enough, the governor made and makes sure that civil servants for the first time in 16 years get their monthly salaries in full and on time as against half and quarter salaries they were used to. This fetched him a nickname from the civil servants; "governor alert".

By recognising Hausa/Fulani Muslims as indigenes and giving them appointments in his government; by attempting to let the Hausa/Fulani communities in the state smell dividends of democracy; by attempting to reconstruct the famous Jos Main Market, a Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba dominated market which was engulfed by fire in questionable circumstances when Dariye held sway, the governor invoked the wrath of "indigent" elites. Their utterances via the media, at public and political gatherings as well as their body language against the Lalong-led government gave their tribesmen the nod to revisit troublemaking with their "settler" neighbours with impunity.

Anyone conversant with Nigerian politics, especially in crises-ridden states like Plateau knows that religion has become the selling point of self-serving politicians. These politicians who now understand that governance on the Plateau is not business as usual are the ones who have been fanning the embers of hatred among citizens, harping on the already existing media platform for campaign against Fulani herdsmen.

Gingered by the careless utterances of their leaders, some irate youths believed to be of Berom extraction on Thursday 21st of this month blocked the Heipang-Barikin Ladi road, killed five Fulani men returning from Kara, Buruku cattle market and set them, their cows and pick up vehicle ablaze. That, it must be understood, preceded a series of coordinated rustling of cattle belonging to the Fulani living within the Bukuru-Riyom-Barikin Ladi axis. That was the trigger of the recent killings in Jos South, Barikin Ladi and Riyom LGAs of the state, prompting the state government to impose a dusk to dawn curfew in the areas.

Envious of his achievements, determined to scuttle the relative peace enjoyed under Simon Lalong's leadership and give his government a semblance Dariye/Jang's and bent on black painting the state, the same Berom youths blocked the same Barikin Ladi-Heipang-Mararraban Jama'a road which is the only road plied by people from Central and Southern Plateau to Jos and Forest-Riyom-Kuru-Mararraban Jama'a road plied by people from north eastern states en route to Abuja, killing, maiming passersby who speak, look or dress like Hausa/Fulani and destroying their vehicles unhindered.

In what looks like a unanimous campaign against the Fulani, no media house has reported the cause of the reprisals or the wanton killings and maiming of Muslims plying roads leading to Jos by the Berom youths, instead they are awash with reports of how Fulani herdsmen attacked Berom villages, giving casualty figures, as if it is only the Berom's lives that matter. What is the figure of innocent passersby killed by the Berom marauders?

Already both state and federal governments have taken steps to contain the wave of killings and prevent the ugly situation from escalating to other parts of the state. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has earlier on Monday visited the state to commiserate with the government and people of Plateau state over the unfortunate incidence and called for calm and vowed to bring perpetrators to book.

As 2019 elections draw nearer, political desperadoes have been ringing the ethno-religious bell, tagging the governor as Hausa/Fulani stooge, vowing never to allow a minority Goemai man rule the state for eight years and inciting their youths against the "settlers". Even president Buhari while reacting to the killings said government was aware politicians were taking advantage of the situation, saying that "we know a number of geographical and economic factors are contributing to the longstanding herdsmen/farmers clashes. But we also know that politicians are taking advantage of the situation". This, according to the president in a statement by his SSA Media and Publicity Malam Garba Shehu "is incredibly unfortunate".

Unless politicians desist from flying the kites of religious hatred against certain groups of people, unless we see and treat our fellow countrymen first as humans and unless our media organisations shun away from hate campaigns against a people whose ways of life vary from their paymasters', we are only joking about peaceful coexistence in Nigeria.

Gambo wrote this piece from Wase, Plateau State

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