Hausas and the Cost of Fighting in Jos
The Hausas often consider themselves a unique extraction given that they often rise to lead events in foreign lands of minority tribes within and around them.
Uniqueness when viewed critically in this context is a metaphor for numeral advantage and explains their rise to leadership prominence in the lands of minority tribes with whom they co-exist as neighbors.
Nigeria’s ethnic population stands at over two hundred fifty. Of this number, the Hausas, Ibos and the Yoruba found in the north, southeast and southwest respectively constitute the majority tribes. All the others constitute minority tribes.
Plateau state marks the boundary between the largely Muslim Hausas in the north and the Christian half in the southern region. Thus Plateau State in Central Nigeria is a land of minority tribes around the Hausas. There are over thirty distinct ethnic groups in Plateau State. “Distinct” here means that the boundaries among minority tribes are so accentuated that it poses as a barrier to communication. There then arises the need for a common language with which the people can communicate among themselves. In view of the fact that the large population of Hausas swallows the minority tribes around them, Hausa language spontaneously became the solution, bridging the communication gap by serving as a lingua franca within the region. To the minorities in the region, your fluency in Hausa is a measure of how remote you are from the obscurity of the roots of yours ancestors. Hausa language is so rooted among the minorities that the early Christian Missionaries had to translate the Holy Bible to Hausa in order to spread the Gospel faster among the minorities who refused to accept Islam despite the early arrival of the faith. In addition to the numerical advantage of the Hausas, their long interaction with the Arabs from North Africa through the Trans-Saharan trade worked to bring modernity to the Hausas earlier. These factors worked to make the Hausa man a prototypical model. The combination of circumstances thus gave the Hausas the edge needed to become the pace setters in the region.
The conflict in Jos between the Hausas and the minorities in Plateau State which started in 2001 seems to mark a watershed for a series of conflicts that will change the course of history by compelling the minorities to see the need to liberate themselves from the leadership of the Hausas which they have previously accepted. This, to the Hausa man would be the cost of waging a ferocious conflict against the minority tribes in Plateau State.
The Berom, Ngas, Tarok, Mwaghavul, Irigwes, etc in Plateau State are by tradition farmers who by virtue of this had to live on their farms and practiced nothing else until the coming of western civilization. On the other hand, the Trans-Saharan trade opened the eyes of the Hausas to commerce. When they came to Plateau State their settlements became the markets. The town of Bukuru in Jos South in the heart of Beromland is one such settlement where the Hausas controlled commercial activities. During the match 2010 crisis, all other traders ran away leaving behind their shops as they did in the previous crises. This time around, they weren’t lucky as their businesses were not only looted but subsequently burnt down. To avoid starting their lives all over again, especially given the lack of assurance that peace will come back permanently, these minority tribes decided to start a parallel market in a safe location away from Bukuru leading to the loss of the control of business opportunities by the Hausas.
New settlements don’t develop in the heart of towns where there is no space. Such expansions take place in the outskirts or suburbs of the cities. Sadly the land owners are the primary enemy, the Berom. As a result the prospect of younger generations of Hausas building their own houses is diminishing. As a matter of fact, Hausas in the periphery or isolated parts of town ran away, leaving behind landed properties in places where they had lived with the Berom as neighbors for decades. Smaller Hausa towns such as Sabon Gidan Kanar, Gero, Bisichi, etc have become ghost towns with their inhabitants fleeing out of fear of the repeat of the horrifying events of Kuru Karama where the Hausas were almost wiped off in 2010.
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Besides the Hausas who had lived in Plateau State for decades, there are Hausa farmers who come to Plateau State in the dry season to use Berom farms for irrigation. The recurrent fighting has destroyed the prospect of this happening anymore. The Hausas no longer feel safe anywhere outside the main towns of Jos and Bukuru. With mounting pressure for politicians to do more to alleviate poverty, some have resorted to the purchase of water pumps for irrigation by their people, resulting in the use of these farms by the Berom all year round.
Even the making of roasted meat better known as suya, a traditional trade of the Hausas in Nigeria, is under threat. The Hausa suya makers in vulnerable locations of Plateau State have fled as a result of recurrent fighting. Difficult economic times have pushed the natives into filling these economic voids by erecting suya stands right where the fleeing Hausas once sold the delight.
The practice of fishing formerly undertaken by the Hausas in the numerous mining lakes across Plateau State are been taken over by the youths that have fought them.
As far back as the 2001 episode of fighting in Jos when Hausas saw how they suffered in the hands of Christians, they considered it wise to withdraw their children from public schools in the outer suburbs of town where they are defenseless. Thus fighting in Jos has reduced the opportunities that Hausas have to public education in the state. The Hausas are now comfortable only in public schools in the hearts of their own quarters of town such as Government Secondary School Gangare, Government Secondary School Bukuru, etc.
The line of division between the Hausas and the Fulani cattle herdsmen has become indistinct over the centuries as a result of a common religious affiliation and intermarriages. The Fulani in the country side have often acted in sympathy to their urban kin. It is the reason why the country side has become unsafe for the nomads. Like everybody that has been involved in the conflict, they have also lost lives and possessions. The greatest possession of a Fulani man is his herd. It is often said that he values this possession more than his own life and when it is lost, peace becomes abhorrent. This explains the persistent night attacks in the country side which will only work to bring additional loses of lives and possessions.
Before the decade long fighting in Plateau State, the people on both sides have perceived themselves as one and in addition to the use of a common lingua franca, the traditional dressing style had largely been the same with traditional rulers wearing their turbans and the people wearing their ayalas and kaftans. Plateau State is considered the seat of power for a bigger collection of minority tribes in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria. Traditional rulers within the region are quickly given away the turbans and there are constant calls for fashion designers to come up with something unique for the folks of the Middle Belt. The more the fighting continues, the more distinct the differences between the people become and the more the minorities try to move away from the single community of the region with the Hausas losing their leadership opportunity.