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.
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 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 attempts to force an unjust solution on Jos will open the doors to similar agitations in other parts of the country.