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Plateau Crises for Beginners (2) –  by Aminu Alhassan Kuba

The Day After…

The deployment of the military of and feeble life and death resistance offered by the Fulani at Luggere Shau prevented what could have become a total annihilation of a ten of thousands of people of every age of a population that only a week earlier had been an organic part of the people that gave plateau its erstwhile slogan ” Home of Peace and Tourism”.

Without the benefit of mobile communication, it also gave people the opportunity to move around in order to assess the damage, search for survivors, missing ones, bury the decomposing dead and understand what had hit them. With the role that some members of the Nigerian police force had played in aiding and abetting the massacres in places like Riyom, Tim-Tim, K-Vom, Heipang, Inding, Nafan, Wereng etc, survivors’ hostilities forced authorities to withdraw them while soldiers helped in the evacuation of the injured, mass burial of dead and gathering of what remained of livestock. They also assisted in helping secure the way for those that wanted to leave plateau state. Many, majority, left and never returned.

If you are familiar with the road between Jos and Bauchi, that was how places like Sabon Garin Narabi, Tilden Fulani, Miya Berkete, Magama Gumau, Kogga, Rimin Zayan,…..etc became towns. God bless the day Alhaji Ahmed Adamu Muazu was born. As executive Governor of Bauchi state then, he did everything to provide succour to victims the well planned and premeditated mass murder. From building homes, providing food, land for resettlement to psychological care to medicare, he did everything for the thousands displaced.

Back to Plateau state, the state government under the leadership of chief Joshua Chibi Dariye and affiliated LGAs provided not even a grain of food nor a sheet of roofing material nor a tablet of paracetamol to relief the pains of injury nor even a word of consolation to the memories of the murdered or the emotions of the disoriented living. What survivors heard in broadcast over their transistor radios weren’t words of consolation or regret or even sadness, but speech after speech of things that emboldened the mass murderers and blamed the victims. He called the Fulani settlers that should relocate to wherever their great grand fathers may have come from. It was as hopeless and humiliating as anything could ever be, and in my opinion, that reaction to the immediate aftermath of the violence by persons in authority gave impetus to the events that could eventually, turn the story of the Jos plateau to what it has become today.

The story wasn’t totally about betrayal, murder and evil though. For instance, my relatives, the Bakori family trapped in Forom for days, were saved from guaranteed annihilation by their Birom neighbours. They were later freed without anyone getting killed or any of their livestock missing or killed I’m sure there are others like them whom story am not aware of.

For survivors left on the plateau, the period between late September 2001 and March 2002 was time for sober reflection. Unlike those that left for safety at the heat of moment, they stayed back to watch the victors and new lords of the land rule their world. What they saw, forced them to quickly decide on two options only; FIGHT or FLEE. Many decided to fight.

Two major things in my opinion, shaped the stories that were to be told later; one, the reaction of the victors (in this case the Birom) and two, the fate of cattle of those Fulani herders that left for neighbouring states.

In summary, while state officials behaved like the government of the pharaoh towards the Fulani, the Birom, obviously didn’t have a word called magnanimity in victory in their dictionary. Plateau state because of its unique geography, has (or had) numerous cattle routes traversing it linking the South and North of Nigeria. Nomadic cattle herders would normally cross the state twice each year; in the summer (May-July) and the winter heralding the dry season (November to January). Nomads would leave States like Niger, FCT, Kogi, Benue, Nassaraw and Southern Kaduna at the beginning of the rainy season and move north to Bauchi, Kano, Gombe and as far as Yobe. They returned using same routes in November to January.

For those who are trying to rewrite history that local tribes are only starting to block high ways to kill innocent commuters, this should educate you. The Birom, suspecting that the Fulani were planning a return match of the violence, were suspicious more of those that fled than those still with them. While they treated those that chose to stay as a conquered people, they regularly mounted road blocks and cattle routes blocks to search, humiliate and even kill Fulani passers by. This heightened after survivors of the initial massacre in Turu near Vom launched a failed reprisal attack.

Road and cattle route blocks were mounted with increasing frequency and intensity. Many innocent Fulani passersby were murdered in cold blood at the railway crossing in Tahoss after Riyom on the way to Abuja while multitudes of innocent nomadic Fulani were murdered with their cattle confiscated on the many cattle routes traversing the state. Relations that escaped the violence to neighboring states could not visit state for fear of interrogations and possible death.

For the Fulani that escaped the pogroms with their cattle to neighboring states, they now faced a new challenged; the cows were dying in multitudes. Used to the clement weather and disease free waters of the Plateau, the cattle could not survive the infections of the tropical bushes and waters of neighboring states. Many reasoned that it was better to die from a bullet than be killed by hunger. So they decided to return and fight.

For the Fulani survivors of the initial violence that made the choice to stay and fight, these were all new allies. And with the intimate knowledge of the jungle, the will to survive and the blessed cover of the nights, they met, strategised, planned and trained for months until somewhere around August, 2002 almost a full year after the massacres.

Then the reprisals began, and the Media became aware that, apart from other Muslims affected by the massacres, there were also an ethnic group called Fulani. The killer herdsmen appellation was to be invented later.

To be continued…..

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