Jos Carnage: Synopsis, Leadership And Gen. Gowon

by Ossie Ezeaku

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.

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Okey May 13, 2010 - 12:59 am

Masterful analysis.

The Tiv’s and other middle-belters seem to be telling the Hausa Fulani that they are settlers, isnt that a backhanded way to finally reject the notion of a “one Nigeria”… Gowon’s singular claim to fame?…I must add for which he fought so bravely but misguidedly.

Shall we remain in denial?

Is one Nigerianness a God ordained mandate or a Lugardian myth?

Is there another way for Africans? another organizational methodology to incorporate disparate groupings of peoples?

Can we finally de-construct and analyze the notion of One Nigerianness and intellectually and pragmatically contemplate its feasibility in a context of our own making instead of Lugards?

Or must we hobble along like the mindless angry uncivilized savages we’re often labelled, always at perpetual daggers drawn against one another, …while chanting “One Nigeria”?

This question is ever more urgent that each generation of Nigerian address it, otherwise we risk a mutually assured anihilation of one another via these so-called communal outbreaks of genocidal and bloodlustful orgies of bestial carnage which no amount of denial and revisionisms by Nigerian historians seem capable of stopping.

Pam March 22, 2010 - 5:49 pm

We know who all know where exam malpractice originated from in Nigeria, and we also know those who experts at forgery and using family members’ certificates! A beg go sidon, flouting academic rules my left foot! We have very brilliant and successful professionals not only from plateau but the whole of central Nigeria/middle belt and we can stand our own any time. Alusie, please find another argument. And I am not going to respond to you anymore ‘cos it is a waste of time.

Alusi March 21, 2010 - 8:57 am

Mr. Ram Pam,

Yours shows the incurable ethnic phobia that is affecting some you northern minorities. Even under the on-going hot matchete of the Hausa Fulani, you still had the temerity to spew the in-born ethnic hatred on other Nigerians. As I previously said about the Igbos’ dexterity in trade and commerce, if Mr. Pam come, wanting to study in Igboland, he’ll be welcomed. But, It means, Mr. Pam will longer enjoy the flouting of academic rules as obtained in his plateau state.

If the Igbo “impunity” means settling anywhere in one’s own country, striving very hard, and making best use of the available opportunities, so be it! No time to drink Burukutu and Rock Beer!

Yeye de smell!

Pam March 19, 2010 - 6:12 pm

Kay, how many non Ibos get admitted to Alvan Ikoku College of Education or any institution in Ibo land for that matter. Please quit complaining. The Ibos are the most tribalistic of all the groups in Nigeria. They come to your home and want to take over with impunity! Abeg make una go sidon.

KAY March 19, 2010 - 1:08 pm

Tokunbo thank God you are in America. In Nigeria, you can live in state for 100 years yet you are not an indigen of that state. Let me give an instance, my sister was denied admission into FUTMINNA because she’s from Abia State. She merited it, got good score in both her jamb and post jamb exams but the school gave a directive that no body from Abia should be given admission. So you will understand what we are saying. You only have right in your state of Origin in Nigeria, period.

Tokunbo March 15, 2010 - 10:14 pm

As a Nigerian-born American, It is with much disappointment I read your article. What is the value of a Nigerian citizenship if it carries less weight outside your state of origin? What happens to children of Yoruba or Ibo parents born and bred in the Hausa land? For them to succeed would they have to move back to their parent’s state of origin? They might not even have familiarity with their parent’s state of origin’s ways and cultures. It appears that as Nigerians we have taken the use of State of origin too seriously, States should be used for administration of geographical designated areas and management of resources for that designated area only. It should not be required on applications for entry into schools or jobs because your state of origin should not matter as we are all Nigerians, The concept of nation first should be emphasized and only when this happens will we begin to solve our problem. God bless Nigeria.

Alusi March 13, 2010 - 2:23 pm

Mr. Pam, the name suggests your from Plateau. That’s good! What people are saying, and I believe the author, is that discrimination of fellow Nigerians should end.

The major activity in Iboland is trade and commerce, which is what the Nigerian state made it to be. If you come looking for a chance to compete with your wares, you’d be welcomed. The author’s experience in Jos was in the 80s. The jobs weren’t there in the east beccause the Nigerian military and their plateau allies made sure Iboland was denied federal projects that would have created jobs for the people. If we should continue with one Nigeria, nigerians should be indigenes of every part of Nigeria. There must be Anambra state indigenes of plateau ancestry, Sokoto state indigenes of Birom ancestry vice versa. Is these not what your uncle, Gowon fought for?

Pam March 12, 2010 - 8:05 pm

Your article is so one sided in that you have failed to acknowledge how impossible it is for non Ibos to get admission or employment in Iboland. How many non Ibos have stores in Ariaria market or Ochanja market? The argument has always been that it is not enough for the Ibos! Ibos have enjoyed the hospitality of other nigerians in both the north and west , and even in the rest of the southeast states but the same is yet to be returned by the Ibos to other nigerians in Iboland. So quit complaining and be thankful.


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