Between Jang and Yar’ Adua, Whose Interest Is Jos?
by Luca Ibrahim
President Yar’Adua’s problems with Governor Jonah Jang’s administration in Plateau state did not just begin with the recent outbreak of religious crisis in the state. Critics say the problem actually seem to have started shortly after he was sworn in on 29 May, 2007, when the governor led millions of Plateau residents to organise a Christian thanksgiving ceremony in Jos City to mark his victory at the polls.
The event took place at the Jos stadium with a historic crowd. The thanksgiving ceremony cut the edges of the Christian and Muslim relationship. Many argue that as Governor of the state, he ought to distance himself from activities that tend to touch on the sensibilities of both Christians and Muslims being a Governor for both, especially when the state is a peculiar one.
Those who point fingers at President Yar’Adua’s strict Islamic sentiments say he has found it difficult to forget or forgive Jang for putting up that kind of show in Jos, where the Hausa-Fulanis constitute 20% of the population.
Plateau state is strategic for many reasons. It’s the gateway from the Northern axis into Middle-belt. What comes of Plateau state affects invariably all the Middle-belt region which also includes Nasarawa, Kogi, Niger, Benue and Kwara.
Since the controversial thanksgiving ceremony, hardly have President Yar’Adua’s actions and inactions in the state not been given religious colouration. His decision to appoint two Ministers from Plateau state was interpreted as move to specifically spite the Governor while pleasing the Hausa-Fulani community.
As some have argued, his appointment of Alhaji Dansuki Ibrahim Nakande as the second Minister from Plateau state is deliberate and strategic to check the Governor. The appointment caused ripples between the President and the Governor especially as the later complained that he was never consulted on the choice nor informed. Nakande is ANPP stalwart in Plateau state and he is not considered a Plateau indigene but a Hausa-Fulani settler.
When the religious crisis broke out last November over the local government council election that saw PDP sweeping the state, many Plateau residents were not surprised. Rather that turn out to be a reaction or revolt by an opposition party which lost out, it came out to be the Hausa-Fulanis protesting the victory of PDP at the polls.
The crisis if for nothing else has cast great aspersion on the real owners of Plateau state. Ours is not to go into the history of Jos but to examine the effects. An Igbo association based in the state have come out with claim that the Igbos actually lived in the controversial Jos North before the Hausa-Fulani found their way there.
According to them, it was during the Nigeria-Biafra war when the Igbos fled the entire North that the Hausa-Fulanis came to occupy the area and took possession of their belongings including houses in the Jos North area. Many of the houses which the Igbos left behind, the group said were mainly located along Bauchi road which today has a high density of Hausa-Fulani settlers.
This theory and fresh claims of occupation in Jos will soon open another chapter in the history of the state.
The arrest of 26 mercenaries, armed with fake military identity cards is already sending jitters in the Middle-belt. The connection between the story of alleged mercenaries and the counter reports of being members of vigilante in Okene, Kogi state brings to mind the Middle-belt regional nexus of Jos.
The arrest of the mercenaries-turned-vigilante may have disturbed both the President and the Governor a lot but the Nigerian public is more worrisome because of the fear of unseen hands in what ordinarily looked like a spontaneous reaction.
The questions being asked are numerous. Who are these militants now branded vigilantes? What is was their mission in Jos city with arms during the crisis? What of the Bauchi state government documents found on them? Did they have right to be in the Jos City at a time there was curfew?
Why is the Okene council Chairman and the youths protesting the arrest and detention of the alleged 26 vigilantes in far away Jos? To what extent is the Chairman of Okene council aware and connected to their mission in far away Jos at a time the state was burning? What is Federal Government saying about this strange development?
Nigerians and the international community are very anxious to hear more about the arrest especially now that the police headquarters have taken over the case in Abuja.
The police have also impounded a truck loaded with arms and ammunitions around Rekkos area in Jos. The arrest and discovery of the truck load of arms sends signals that some persons are behind the crisis in Jos and only God knows what they stand to benefit. With a hopeful democracy in place, Nigerians are expecting to hear more about the crisis going on in Jos but pray the case of the arrested militants Jos will not end up like one of those cases that end up evaporating into thin air.
Luca Ibrahim writes from Plot 322 Ibrahim Babaginda Way, Central Area, Abuja.