NIGERIANS should pay a very close attention to the on-going mediation efforts of President Goodluck Jonathan on the Jos crisis.
He has met with the representatives of both the Afizere, Anaguta and Berom, who are recognised as the indigenes of Jos, and the non-native Hausa-Fulani community. The President personally waded into the matter ostensibly on the advice of the National Security Adviser and this unprecedented intervention has given the issue a much-needed national dimension.
The issues at stake in Jos are very fundamental to the very consensus that is responsible for peace in the country before the advent of 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 war are the non-native Hausa-Fulani community in Jos and the indigenous peoples of Jos and the region surrounding it – Afizere, Anaguta and Berom. (Although the Hausa and Fulani are two distinctive ethnic groups in Nigeria, but the two have historical antecedents that often pitch them together as one, especially within the context of politics).
Now what is the problem? Most newspapers and magazines simply describe the war as arising over the dichotomy between the indigenes and the settler Hausa-Fulani. And they stop at that. Why should a mere dichotomy cause so much hatred and bloodshed?
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 Fulani from becoming governor.
In fact, there have been members of the Hausa-Fulani community who have sat in the House of Representatives. Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki Nakande, a prominent leader of the community and a central figure in the murderous crisis, once represented the state in the federal cabinet as a minister just as there is a Hausa man who is a commissioner in the present government of Governor Jonah David Jang, a Berom.
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 political offices. 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! 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 Igbos in Lagos, the Oba of Lagos remains the chief institution of traditional rulership in Lagos and only the indigenes of Eko, 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 becoming the governor of the state, if the majority of the voters of the state want him or her.
Another area of contention is land. The Fulani, many of whom in fact are non-indigenes or even non-Nigerians, say they want grazing reserves to be created for their herdsmen. This is a demand that is not 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 these Fulani herdsmen are indigenes, including Sokoto, Kano, Jigawa, etc.
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 Beroms and other indigenous peoples of the state.
Now the President must be very careful in his on-going mediation efforts as any attempt to force an unjust solution on Jos will open the doors to similar agitations in other parts of the country.
If you can create a Fulani emirate in Jos, why should the Hausa-Fulani community in Agege (Lagos State) not agitate for one? They will tell you that they know no other home outside of Agege and they do not want to submit to the traditional rulership of the Olu of Agege because of their religious belief. And how can you prevent the Yoruba from establishing a parallel chieftaincy institution in Ilorin since most hold no allegiance to the Emir whom they regard as an impostor?
Or why should Fulani not demand for the creation of a grazing reserve in Ogun State, if you create one in Plateau? On whose land should a grazing reserve be arbitrarily created? Every land even when fallow is owned by a community in Nigeria.
Just as gari makers cannot demand that a farming reserve be created for them in Yobe so that they can plant cassava and process gari, the demand of the Fulani for grazing reserves in Plateau State should be rejected.
Behind this clamour is a suspicious attempt to create by fiat Fulani villages in the state by seizing the territories of the Afizere, Anaguta and Berom. Again an expansionist move.
In fact, the crisis, which assumed its present violent form in 1994, centres on the ownership of Jos since issue of indigeneship is connected with its ownership. In an advertorial by a so-called Coalition of Jasawa Elders published in the Daily Trust of Monday 12 January 2009, the Hausa/Fulani contended that they are founders and owners of Jos town. They claimed they founded Jos even before the advent of the British colonialists.
However, three judicial commissions of inquiry have established without any doubt that the city belongs to Afizere, Anaguta and Berom as indigenes. The Justice Aribiton Fiberesima and Niki Tobi Commissions of Inquiry set up to investigate the civil unrests of April 12, 1994 and September 7, 2001 respectively considered and resolved the ownership of Jos in favour of Afizere, Anaguta and Berom.
The Justice Aribiton Fiberesima Commissions of Inquiry said in its report: “In the light of careful thought, we concede to the claim of Berom, Anaguta and Afizere tribes and to declare that they are “indigenes” of Jos but as to the Hausa/Fulani people’s assumption, we make bold on the evidence at our disposal to advise them that they can qualify only as “Citizens” of Jos” (1994).
The Justice Bola Abdul-Jabbar Ajibola Commission of Inquiry, which sat in 2009 following the 28 November 2008 killings in the city, while reiterating the claims of the Jos indigenes even noted that it received evidence that there were other Nigerian non-indigenes, such as the Yorubas who have been living in the city since 1850, who came to Jos even before the Hausa/Fulani but are not claiming indigeneship of Jos but rather still trace their roots to their respective states of origin. And Sir Ahmadu Bello confirmed in his autobiography that the Hausa/Fulani never conquered the indigenes of Jos. In conclusion, the Jos conflict really has nothing to do with religion; please leave Islam out of it. The source of the bloodletting in Jos stems from the Hausa-Fulani expansionist design over Jos. Their aim is the chieftaincy stool; they want to appoint a Fulani Emir in Jos.
Which way out?
Nigerians must wake up from their slumber. There is no spontaneous violence in the Muslim North. Every of these murderous eruptions is a deliberate conspiratorial operation planned, organised and executed by the political and religious establishment.
The bitter truth is that some groups are simply used to using violence, mindless violence to press their political objectives and they have always got away with it and that is why they will continue to resort to it at the earliest opportunity until we say stop, no more.
Our traditional rulers and political, civil society and human rights leaders must speak out. They must tell the Fulani establishment in Northern Nigeria that enough is enough and the national consensus on indigeneship and land ownership must stand the way it is for the sake of peace!
Mr By Akeem ‘Kola Adebayo lives in Dublin, Ireland