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Plateau Crises for Beginners (1) –  by Aminu Alhassan Kuba

Where is the Plateau State ?
Jos plateau is located in North central Nigeria in addition to Benue, Nassarawa, Niger, Kogi and Kwara States. It’s the northernmost state of the states in the geopolitical zone. It’s located almost in the middle of Nigeria dividing the country into almost two equal parts. It has the unique position of bordering both the north east and north west geopolitical zones. To the west and north, it shares a long border with Kaduna state’s LGAs of Sanga, Jama’a, Kaura, Kauru and Lere in that order. To the east it is bordered by Bauchi while Taraba and Nassarawa completes its borders to the south.

Who is fighting who, Now?

Majorly, the fight is between the Birom (the majority ethnic group for the state and of Riyom, Barkin Ladi, Jos South and some parts of Jos East and Jos North LGAs) and Fulani cattle rearers spread across all the LGAs of the the state but in minority numbers.

HOW IT ALL STARTED

On Friday September 7th, 2001, violence erupted between Muslims and Christians at Congo Russia Jumaat Mosque in central Jos between MUSLIMS and CHRISTIANS. This followed about a week long protests and recriminations by the so called indigenous communities over the appointment of Alhaji Muktar Muhammad, a HAUSA man by the then Obasanjo regime as state coordinator of the then newly established National Poverty Alleviation program. The so called indigenes were not happy that a SETTLER was appointed to a position in the federal government to represent Plateau state.

By the time soldiers were deployed two days later, over 1000 people had been killed on both sides. Up until this time, the Fulani were not involved as a group except for those caught up in the melee in Jos, Bukuru or environs like Tim-Tim, Dilimi, Mai’adiko etc.

Prior to this period, there was never a recorded case of serious ethnic or religious violence in Jos or its environs involving the Fulani.

Then came Monday September 10th, 2001. With the full strength of the military deployed and patrolling the streets of Jos, Bukuru and surrounding areas, local Birom leaders and some in Pankshin, Lantang North and South and Kanke LGAs organized a so-called peace meetings to which they invited every notable Fulani and Hausa leader ostensibly to find ways and means to prevent the spillover of the crisis from Jos to rural plateau.

Unknown to the Fulani and Hausa communities, the locals had planned in advance to eliminate them all before heading to what remained of their families in their various communities.

The scheme succeeded to various degrees depending on location and in some cases, information leaked by some of the locals to good neighbours. Notable victims of such scheme included the Fathers to two prominent Islamic scholars that people can relate to; Sheikh Yahya Haifan who was then the Imam of the central Mosque in Heipang (the airport village). He was caught, tied, brought to the mosque and slaughtered in front of the frightened Muslim community that had gathered in the mosque and dumped in the mosque well. The same fate befell all others that took refuge in that mosque. It was the first recorded case of mass murder of the crisis. The next example is the father of yet another notable Islamic scholar, the Imam and proprietor of Almanar Mosque and schools respectively all in Kaduna, Mallam Adam Tukur Almanar. His father was also murdered in similar circumstance of ‘Community Meeting’ by children of his own neighbours and childhood friends while they watched pretending that the youth had overpowered them. Luckily, my father escaped a similar fate in a similar meeting.

This betrayal was replicated across (at least all the Birom dominated) LGAs affected by the crisis (or natives’ uprising to put it in proper context).

 Cannibalist birom

Done with the leadership of the Hausa and Fulani communities, the Birom then organized themselves into groups of dozens of men armed with any and every weapon they could lay their hands on and spread into Fulani and Hausa communities. By the time they were done two days later, virtually every Fulani hamlet in Jos South, Riyom, Barkin Ladi, parts of Jos East and North, parts of Bassa, Pankshin, etc had been totally cleansed of anything Fulani or cattle. In communities like Kaduna Vom, Vwang etc entire families wiped out.

Those that survived the pogroms by using the cover of night to run made it to safety in neighboring states like Bauchi, Kaduna and Nassarawa states. What remained of the Fulani resistance made a desperate last stand at Luggere Shau (now popularly called Mahanga).

Most of those that lost their lives died from bleeding from their injuries sustained without treatment. Others from Snake bites in the jungles between plateau and Kaduna and Nassarawa States. Many children drowned from the fast flowing rivers of the Jos plateau. After about a week of sustained, mostly unreplied violence, finally, the soldiers were deployed to the hills and valleys of rural plateau. They were supposed to rescue the Fulani, but only a handful of distraught, disorganized, disoriented souls remained. Even the Birom were surprised with the ease with which they accomplished their self assigned task. The Fulani that once had a ‘Buteru’ in every hamlet in those LGAs have now been reduced to less than 5% of the land they labored for generations to buy, build and develop.

It was a total victory without a fight. My Mom’s elder brother and beloved uncle’s bones were only to be buried months later after being feasted upon by vultures. His younger brother drifted in and out of consciousness from his injuries for 5 days on the back of a kind neighbour that refused to abandon him before help finally came and he was rushed to the hospital. He miraculously survived and still alive.

To be continued….

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