There is an adage that says, “If an abominable behavior continues uncondemned, it gradually becomes a tradition”. The saying is a typical reflection of plateau state and what is currently unraveling in Jos. On my leaving secondary school, my first port of call outside the now South-east zone was Jos. That was 1980. In fact, It was one of the cities in the country that once held the Nigerian promise; tin mining and allied industries were at their peak. I had planned to settle down, take an interim job while waiting for my results.
The social environment was good, so much so that within a short period of my arrival, I made acquaintances both in the local business community and the city’s university campus. Naraguta country club and Nenman Nite club were some of the joints to visit if you are a night bird. However, while my stay lasted, I began to see the other side of my new abode. In the midst of the apparent job openings, It was difficult to secure one. In some instances the interviewers would not hesitate to bluntly tell anyone who cares to go back to his state. This was a common experience among many job applicants of southern origin.
Plateau state, then, ( I don’t know about now), had a strict, albeit unconstitutional policy of “indigeneship” which ensured that non natives were denied job placements. This equally extended to admissions into non-university tertiary institutions in the state. While it went on, skeletal attention, if any, was paid to the entry qualification of candidates of plateau state origin. They only needed to show interest.
It got to a point that foreign nationals and southerners who taught in some of the institutions were gradually relieved of their positions, and replaced with plateau state natives, who in some cases were not qualified.
On the other hand, the discrimination of southerners and the unwillingness to adhere to the entry qualifications of these institutions, gave rise to the abuse of the system and its unique privileges by the natives. Given that attractive monthly stipends were selectively paid to students of plateau state origin, Hausa-fulani students included, it exacerbated the malpractice in which a student would simultaneously enroll in about four tertiary institutions with the sole intention of collecting stipends here and there.
A friend who attended the School of Health Technology Jos, once told me how the school authorities treated students of southern origin while they were in Port Harcourt on internship in the mid eighties. A trip that was officially meant to be fully sponsored by the school authorities. But according to him, on their arrival in Port-Harcourt, the school guides quietly called all the students of southern origin to inform them that the school would not be able to foot the bill of their feeding and accommodation. The news, according to him, threw confusion within the camp, to the extent that some of the southern students contemplated returning to jos. Nevertheless, he narrated how the financial contribution of fellow students from the North contributed immensely in sustaining them through out the period of the hands-on programme in Port-Harcourt.
Any southerner who had lived long enough in Jos would tell you that the reference of the Hausa Fulani in plateau state as “settlers” is a recent phenomenon. I came into jos to see that the Hausa Fulani were given a special status by the Berom, Angas, Afizere et al to the detriment of the Igbo, Yoruba and others.
Religion apart, It is not difficult to see the harmonious nature and acceptance of the other part of the Hausa culture, i.e. language in Plateau state. From the towns and villages of Mai-don-toro to Gadabiu, Dogo na Hawa, Dogon-karfe, Barkin-ladi, Nassarawa-gwom, Kaswa nama, kaswa kaji, Rukuba to Bukuru, Hausa-Fulani existence and acceptance were not hidden. These towns and villages, like so many of them, are linguistically frozen in Hausa.
Thus, in the present context, one would question the relevance of Gen. Yakubu Gowon’s status as a former head of state and a son of the Angas tribe of plateau state. Many former heads of governments are known to have taken up causes relating to peace and conflict resolution. Here we are talking of a protracted pathological human carnage in Gen Gowon’s homestead, and yet, it’s just now that the former head of state is waking up to the reality of the situation.
The Biafra war ended 40 years ago, but Gen. Gowon was yet to let go. At the slightest pretext, the general will talk about his “good intentions” to save Ndigbo by having executed what resembled the present carnage in Jos. Granted, but, had the general used all that time to unite the seriously fractured groups in his home state, there might not have been these horrible pictures streaming out of the Plateau. Ironically, what is happening in his home state capital and environ is capable of unleashing an unexpected end to the geographical expression he said he once fought to keep together.
Of course, Gen. Gowon may not be so keen in delving deeply into the matter for fear of offending certain powerful sections of the country along the line. But, a time comes when a real man must take a stand on a serious issue. In this regard, many would agree with me that his pussy-footing and senile approach since the plateau crisis began, are some of the personal qualities that differentiates him from his contemporary, Chief Chukuwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
The word “indigene” became popular in the wake of his leadership of Nigeria. So, what ever the objective was, there is now a clear evidence that “indigene” and “settler” have both become an obstacle to what Nigeria needed in order to remain one.
He should, while he prays for Nigeria, articulately lead the struggle to re-orient the mentality of the citizens of the country to what it was in the era of Zik, Balewa and Gen. Ironsi. An era when Nigerians knew less of tongue or tribe. An era, in the words of Prof. Utomi, Alhaji Altine, a Fulani, won the Mayoral seat of Enugu, Zik won elections in the west and Mr. Felix Okonkwo was a member of Northern Nigeria house of chiefs. There is a nation wide nostalgia for that era.
The current situation need to be treated with a sense of urgency. The present carnage in jos is certainly a harbinger of things to come in the future. I might sound like a doomsday prophet, but some of the nations’ cities such as Lagos might face a similar fate as Jos if a serious review was not given to the relevant sections of the nation’s constitution now, not tomorrow.