Security operatives are battling to maintain the fragile peace in Shendam as some residents, mostly young people, have kicked against the addition of the name Yelwa to the creation of Nshar district out of the Shendam council area, Plateau State.
The Goemai Youth Movement (GYM), at the end of a meeting held in Shendam recently, had warned that there was nothing like Yelwa Nshar when they got wind that some people were agitating for the creation of an additional district in Shendam.
This sparked high tension which resulted in the pelting of some government buildings last week when they realized that indeed the government had included “Yelwa” to the name of the proposed district instead of Nshar which is the original name of the place of which the Goemai are the ancestral owners.
An impeccable source close to the ministry in charge of traditional institutions told DAILY POST that “it was not the government but the settler community that were trying to manipulate the government not to identify the place with the original name and the Goemai through their youths are saying no to that word Yelwa.
“The settlers are the ones clamouring for the creation of the district and the District Head, which the government is planning to give to them, but we will not let that happen because remember that the so-called Yelwa is the biggest market in the whole of Shendam council area.”
Shendam council area is dominantly a traditional Gomei territory with a mixture of Muslim settlers who have been living with them for years when issues of religion was never a big deal until settlers’ claim to land became a dicey one which caused a big crisis in 2004.
“As it is today, there are among them grand children of Goemai, whose mother’s are Goemai but their fathers are not Goemai but they are Muslims instead of Christians which is why beneath all this tension is the issue of religion which may not be too obvious because the Muslims now dominate Yelwa.
“However, there are Jarawa from Bauchi who settled in Nshar too all of mixed religions. Taroks, Mwaghavul, Jukuns, Angas and several other ethnic groups, including the Hausa.
“The fear of domination by non-Goemeis is usually the case and that was also the crux of the last crisis in 2004 in which over 1000 souls perished. However, there is no dispute about ownership of the land because there are official documents that confirm the ownership of the place by the Goemai. Equally, the report of the 2004 Plateau Peace Conference ‘Plateau Resolves ‘ confirms that,” the source added.
The tension of last week was learnt to have been so palpable that the Long Goemai, Miskoom Martin Sheldas “was whisked out through the back door and brought to Jos for security reasons”.
“This was because the youths came out in their large numbers after their meeting held on August 6 and marched to meet the Paramount ruler Sheldas to present their resolutions to him as stated in their communique.
“He is the paramount ruler now and it is expected that he will do the coronation when the district is finally approved if the government acedes to the demand of the residents.
“This desperate move to create a Yelwa-Nshar district may not be unconnected with the ambition of the Governor who may be pushing for this whole thing to manifest as part of his campaign promises to please a group against his senatorial ambitious despite persuasions by the Long Goemai to restrain him from going ahead based on superior intelligence,” the source added.
Issues bothering on land and chieftaincy are very intricate to the Goemai people because they are warriors like the Jukuns who never give up on their traditional lineages be it land, religion or any sociological aspect not related to their beliefs.
DAILY POST learnt that even when the Europeans came they did not tamper with the Goemai like the Jukuns of Wukari.
The Goemai people have held onto their traditional worship and other practices despite the advent of Christianity which penetrated through the Catholic faith.
Reaction from the Plateau peace building agency
The Plateau Peace Building Agency, (PPBA) in a reaction to the development expressed worries about the sudden twist of events in Yelwa-Shendam council area of the state.
In a release signed by its Director-General, Joseph Lengmang, over the weekend, it noted that they are particularly worried that the issue of the selection of a traditional leader that will fill the vacant stool in that area, that ordinarily should be a peaceful exercise, is causing unwarranted uproar and restiveness amongst the people.
It went on “We should not be in a hurry to forget the ugly events of the recent past in Yelwa-Shendam where scores of precious human lives and property worth many millions of Naira were destroyed through mindless and needless violence that served no one any good.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the protest in Shendam yesterday was for the name “Yelwa” to be expunged from the newly-created Yelwa-Nshar District with the Shinbu automatically assuming the position of District Head and; not against the installation of an Emir as being bandied around by some curious individuals and groups.
“We therefore sue for calm, with the understanding that the issues in contention can be amicably resolved without a recourse to violence.
“We cannot afford to allow the horrific incident of the past to rear its ugly head once again. And therefore , we must rise up and say no to any attempt by unscrupulous elements who are determined to turn the hand of the clock backwards.
“We call on all religious, traditional and other community leaders to rein in their followers and supporters by exploring peaceful means of finding an amicable solution to the impasse.
“Similarly, we call on those social media enthusiasts who are mischievously peddling all sorts of unverified and fake news about Yelwa-Shendam to desist henceforth.
“This ill-wind you are blowing will not spare you when the situation degenerates to a point of no gravitation.
“We must also commend the local authority in Shendam and the various security agencies for the prompt response to what would have been another disastrous chapter in our history.
“We call on those communities to continue to cooperate with security agencies to prevent Yelwa-Shendam and Plateau State from sliding back into the abyss of violence that has once been the persistent plight of our people.
“We must guard this hard-earned Peace with all sense of responsibility and duty to both God and humanity.”
No plans to install an Emir in Shendam says Commissioner of information
Equally responding to the tension in the area, the Commissioner of Information, Dan Manjang noted that the attention of the Plateau State Government has been drawn to fake news circulating in some conventional and social media platforms alleging that there are plans to establish an emirate council or install an Emir in Yelwa, Shendam Local Government Area.
And this is leading to tension mounting in the area and culminating in criminal elements pelting some prime buildings in Shendam town including the Palace of the Long Gamai and looting some shops.
They went on to say that such stories are unfounded and should be disregarded while at the same time condemning such behaviours in its entirety.
“The Government wishes to put on record that there has never been any time that such an idea was contemplated or even discussed. To say the least, this is the imagination and machination of mischief makers aimed at throwing the State into the dark old days thereby drawing the hands of the clock backwards and making nonsense of the peace we have achieved since the coming of the rescue administration.
“In the light of the foregoing therefore, Government hereby warns such mischief makers to desist from their evil intentions as it will not take it kindly with anyone found to mastermind such retrogressive tendencies,” he said.
Manjang noted that Governor Simon Bako Lalong has already directed security agencies to go after those mischief makers by ensuring that there is no escalation of the breakdown of law and order in the area, Shendam council area and Plateau State as a whole.
“Government hereby beckons on the general public particularly residents of Shendam council area to be circumspect and go about their normal duties by disregarding such dangerous rumours and providing timely information to security agencies to enable them to act swiftly.
“Government hereby advises the public to always cross check their facts from constituted authority and seek for dialogue rather than taking the laws into their own hands,” he noted.