When my lecturer, Dr. Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed, of the Political Science Department, ABU Zaria, wrote ‘The Role of Chief Bola Ige in the Destabilisation of Nigeria’, few took him serious; others like Femi Awomiyi accused him of misrepresenting history. But in actual sense what happened in Nigeria in the last ten to fifteen years reflects what Doctor wrote in that essay. The person in question, the late Bola Ige compared Fulanis with the Rwandan Tutsis. As quoted by Dr. Sadiq, Bola Ige, provocatively proclaimed that the Fulani of Nigeria are likely to end up sharing the same bloody fate with the Tutsis of Rwanda! Nothing is farther from the truth. These incisive essays, like the one written by Bola Ige, and other ethnic chauvinists like him, gained momentum in the Lagos/Ibadan axis press throughout the independence years, to military dictatorships. That paved way for ethnic minorities, whether in the South or North, to see the Hausa/Fulani as foreigners and enemies and easy target for killing, who according to sponsors of that evil agenda, for centuries exploited their grandparents and now the children of those oppressors are ensuring the continuation of the hegemony.
From the Kafanchan crisis, Zangon Kataf, Tafawa Balewa, Shagamu, Aba to Taraba crisis in the late 80s to early 90s, and the recent bloody mayhem in Kaduna and Jos, it is very easy to say that the University don is right for making the assertion. Like Fulanis the Tutsis - traditionally herdsmen - from northern Africa lived with their neighbours the Hutus. For 600 years the two groups shared the business of farming, essential for survival, between them. They have also shared their language, their culture, and their nationality. There have been many intermarriages between the two groups also.
Today, just like the built-up to the Rwandan genocide, the signs are glaring that there is agenda by some elements within the minority groups in Northern Nigeria, especially the so-called Middle Belt to exterminate the Hausa/Fulani in their midst. Some might liking me to prophet of doom, but if a simple local council election, could lead to the wanton killing of innocent people and destruction of property, then I can’t imagine where the country is heading to. Jos, until September 2001, had always been viewed as a peaceful city. To many Nigerians, the Plateau State motto of "Home of Peace and Tourism" was more than an empty slogan. Indeed, many people fleeing conflicts in their own areas had sought protection and safety in Jos; some had even settled there. But this rather peaceful city is taken over by hoodlums, gangs of terrorists, who believe that the country Nigeria belongs to them alone.
I can’t imagine after living in a town for more than 100 years, where even your great grandfather was born, having no other town than it just for someone, whose identity is even questionable, to tell you that you are a settler, in century where a son of black Kenyan is elected as the President of the most powerful country in the world. Whether these spate of ethnic cleansing were planned or not, one thing is quite clear, all these crisis are masterminded by leaders of the various ethnic groups, who find pleasure in killing their fellow human beings. As many writers said, the Jos crisis is as a result of failure of leadership which the Northern country suffered after the death of our great leaders in the 1966 bloody coup. Worst affected by this syndrome are the Middle Belters, who for years are being exploited by their leaders.
One person needs to be commended; this person is no other but General Ibrahim Babangida. Apart from Sardauna, no any other leader in Northern Nigeria empowered the people of this area like Babangida. He made their sons and daughters governors, ministers, advisers, and ambassadors. Unfortunately these people misused the opportunity given to them, for them now to come back and start blaming Hausa/Fulani or Muslims for their woes. They left their people wretched, with no basic amenities, no education or social services. Therefore, the people became very easy to mobilize in slightest provocation.
Of all the Generals, former ministers, Ambassadors, and top government functionaries the region had, little could be shown to tell that the region produced these set of people. But one thing I want to assure the Jos ‘indigenes’ is that even if all Hausa/Fulani eventually decide to go back to their roots in Katsina, Zaria, Kano and elsewhere, the poverty of the region or their condition will change. The problem they face today whether in Mangu, Langtan or Quanpan, is a general problem all over the country. There is no different between a poor man in Jesu, Balanga LGA Gombe State with that of Jengre of Plateau state or those leaving in remote areas of the South-west or South-east or the Niger-Delta. Therefore, instead of directing our anger to our fellow countrymen, why can’t we go directly to the root of the problem?
On the part of the government, enough is enough! The government has to take drastic measures to address the indigene/settler issue once and for all. The constitution is categorical about that, so is left for the government to implement it. One other issue is how to avoid the repetition of what happened. Here I think we need the input of people like the former Governor of Kaduna state, Senator Ahmad Muhammad Makarfi, Former Governor of Taraba State, Rev. Jolly Nyame, and Kano State Governor, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau. The Federal Government and the Government of Plateau State need the assistance of these people to address this issue once and for all. Makarfi was able to bring peace to hitherto the most volatile state in the whole of the federation, likewise Rev. Nyame. On the other hand Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau was able to contained Kano which is well known for the wave of reprisal killings.
I think with the involvement of these experienced people, the security agents and well meaning Nigerians something tangible might come up. But I have to emphasize that unless people like Jonah Jang express willingness to involve everybody in his government, ba’a rabu da Bukar ba. Religious and traditional rulers have to be seriously warned that anyone found to be involved in any ethnic or religious riot should be executed. That worked in Kaduna and I think if that method is adapted in Jos or Plateau State in the next one year you will not hear any problem.