THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT AND OPINION LEADERS (RURAL AREA) IN MANAGING COMMUNITY CONFLICT: (FROM-2001-2008) A CASE STUDY OF THE JOS, PLATEAU STATE CONFLICT

THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT AND OPINION LEADERS (RURAL AREA) IN MANAGING COMMUNITY CONFLICT: (FROM-2001-2008) A CASE STUDY OF THE JOS, PLATEAU STATE CONFLICT

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background of the study

Violent identity based inter communal conflicts are no longer new to Nigeria. Since the eighties Nigeria has witnessed an upsurge in the occurrences of such conflicts. Most of them have traditionally occurred in the north of Nigeria. From the early nineties, these outbursts also began to take place in the south of the Country. Jos, a city in the north central region of Nigeria (also sometimes known as the middle Belt region) previously known for its peace and tranquility, joined the growing list of locations with violent conflicts from the early nineties, with the biggest crisis occurring in 2001. What was new when violence broke out in Jos in 1994, and again in 2001, was that Jos, which had before then prided itself as having been shielded from the conflicts that affected her neighbors to the north, had this record of peace shattered.

Plateau State has selected to be known and referred to as the Home of peace and Tourism. The application of this dictum found acceptance not only among the residents and indigenes of the state, but also all over the Nigerian federation, and indeed internationally,


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based on the relative peace that had characterized the relationship between the diverse ethnic, cultural & religious communities who had lived in the state. Thus, when some of the communal and religious crises began to get too frequent in northern cities like Kaduna, Kafanchan, Zaria, Bauchi, Katsina, Kano e.t.c. Some Nigerians searching for peace found Jos to be a safe haven. Similarly, the introduction of criminal code of Islamic sharia law in some far northern states after the return of Nigerian to democratic rule in May 1999, created another wave of migration to Jos in the hope that safety, peace and tranquility would be found there. These migrants were probably disappointed when violent conflict finally caught up with them even in Jos.

Plateau State is one of the thirty-six states that make up the Nigerian federation. It has seventeen local governments distributed among the three senatorial districts of north, south and central. Plateau North senatorial District is made up of Jos North, South, Jos East, Bassa, Riyom and Barkin ladi local government areas. The local government areas in the Plateau central senatorial zone include mangu, Pankshin, Bokkos, kanke and Kanam, while in the southern


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senatorial zone are wase, langtang North, langtang south, mikang, Qu’ an Pan and shendam local government areas.

In the 2001 to 2008 conflicts, which have plagued Plateau state the central senatorial zone has been relatively less turbulent, albeit not completely without its own latent and often manifest conflicts. The northern and southern zones have experienced extremely violent conflict situations, adding to tens of thousands of internally displaced persons, deaths, injuries, maiming and the destruction of property etc.

The name Plateau is derived from the nature and character of the bulk of the landmass of the state. The land in most of Plateau north and plateau central is flat, and resembles a calabash turned upside down. It constitutes the area sometimes called the central Nigerian Highlands with a picturesque landscape formed by a massif table land ranging everywhere from 1200 to 1800 metres above sea level (Plateau State government, 2001). It is interspersed by huge rocks, hills, plains and valleys. Many Nigerian rivers derive their headwaters from the Plateau. The High Plateau is traditionally referred to as the Jos Plateau because of its flat landscape and relatively cool weather. There is also the lower part of the state, the


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bulk of which is in the southern senatorial District. This area has warmer weather than the upland.

Plateau State has one of the largest concentrations of ethnic minorities in the Nigerian federation, with over 58 relatively small ethnic communities spread across its seventeen local government areas (LGAs). These ethnic groups are broadly categorized into the Chadic language group and the Benue Congo language group. The ethnic groups that populate the state believe they migrated from somewhere else centuries back, and settled where they are at the moment. Some of them, especially those from the Chadic group, were most likely ejected from their earlier northern locations by the turbulence that characterized the rise and fall of states in Hausa land and the ancient Kanem Borno empire region to the north. Diverse as these groups are, they have lived relatively peacefully with each other.

1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEMS

Conflict has taken over the peaceful nature of plateau state (Jos) after many years of peace among the different ethnic groups, spreading from one local government to the other. There was a


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conflict in 1994, another followed in 2001 which was worse than the previous one. In 2002 the Jos ultra modern market was destroyed.

A state of Emergency was declared in plateau state from May 18 to November 18, 2004. In 2008, another conflict hit Plateau State. There is a need to look seriously into these crises and find lasting solution to these problem, also to be looked at are how our opinion leaders and the government can help in fostering peace amongst the people. Also to handle the possibility of the masses airing their grievances without being confrontational or having a conflict with opposing parties. Also to be looked at is the possibility to create the awareness that lasting peace can be achieved if the conflict is well handled.

1.3    OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The responsibility of making sure that peace and oneness is fostered in our environment, state and the nation as a whole is not that of the opinion leaders and government alone, but it is the responsibility of everyone.

Suffice us to say that in as much as it is everybody’s responsibility, not everyone is interested in peace or making sure that there is no conflict around them due to their own selfish interest.


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Be that as it may, the objectives of this study are both numerous and challenging. The main objective of the study is to critically understudy the role of government and opinion leaders in managing community conflict. The specific objectives are as follows:

a)               To determine the roles of government and opinion leaders in managing community conflict.

b)              To evaluate the possibility of the masses to air their grievances without being confrontational or have a conflict with opposing parties.

c)                To create the awareness that lasting peace can be achieved if the conflict is well handled.

1.4 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES

Hypothesis helps in the formation of probable postulations and assumption for further investigation thus hypothesis can be seen as a tentative statement that can be capable of proof or disproof. For the purpose of this work, the following hypothesis shall be considere:

Ho:   Government and opinion leaders don’t have roles to play in managing community conflict.

Hi:  Government and opinion leaders have roles to play in managing community conflict.


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Ho:  The masses cannot air their grievances without having to be

confrontational or have a conflict with an opposing party.

Hi:  The masses can air their grievances without having to be confrontational or have a conflict with an opposing party.


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