The Jos peace conference and the indigene/settler question in Nigerian politics

Type Working Paper - unpublished paper
Title The Jos peace conference and the indigene/settler question in Nigerian politics
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2006
Nigeria is a very highly complex, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and
multi-religious polity, with a diversity of cultural groups, having some 395 ethnic groups.
However, three quarters of these groups are from the Middle-Belt of Nigeria, thus
making it a polyglot region, exhibiting almost unparallel diversities in culture and social
organisations. Fifty-four of these are from Plateau State, where Bantu and Kwa subfamilies
of the Benue-Congo and the Chadic-sub group of the Nilo-Saharan or Afroasiatic
family (to which Hausa belongs) meet.1
Rather than nurture harmony and unity, these complex diversities tend to give birth to
crises, such that conflicts have become commonplace in Nigeria’s fledging civil rule that
it borders on the miraculous that the country has not plunged into civil war or returned to
military rule.2
The vicious cycle of violence continues to oscillate between various ethnic
groups involving minority and dominant groups. At other times, the religious card is
flashed, as is characteristic of Muslim/Christian conflicts throughout most of the north,
which is usually about anything (politics, economic control and competition after scarce
resources, ethnicity) aside from religion.
In fact in a recent survey, Ellsworth discovered that ethnicity and religious affiliation
are the two highest ranked identity makers for a vast majority of Nigerians than other
indices such as state, national, ECOWAS and African identity. Though the research
results revealed that northerners (people in the defunct northern region) are more
tenaciously inclined towards religious identification, and southerners (people in the
defunct Western, Mid-Western and Eastern regions) were more likely to rank ethnicity
first, ethnicity was discovered to be the second highest ranked identity country-wide after
religion, with state and national identity coming third and fourth, respectively.3
It must be stated that this is currently exhibited in Nigeria, in the growing tendency
for crisis to emerge between those who are perceived as so called “indigenes” and those
who are regarded as “settlers” and are therefore considered “outsiders”. This presentation
raises such pertinent questions as: Who or what makes for a “settler” and who or what
constitutes an indigene? Which Nigerian is an indigene and which Nigerian is not? What
factors make for indigeneship/indigeneity and which ones make for citizenship? When
will a “settler” become a “native”? These questions are paused in terms of distinction between “indigenes” and “settlers”, thus taking us back to the labels provided at the
beginning of this paper. However, before we proceed with the examination of these
concepts and how they became topics for discussion at the Jos Peace Conference, some
basic information should be gleaned about the Jos Plateau and the crises that gave birth to
the Peace Conference.

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