History of Plateau State: From Pre-Colonial Times to Present Day

Plateau State is a Nigerian state located in the central region of the country. It is the twelfth largest state in Nigeria and has a population of over three million people. The state is known for its diverse ethnic groups, beautiful landscapes, and rich history.

The history of Plateau State dates back to pre-colonial times when the area was inhabited by various ethnic groups. The state was created on February 3, 1976, out of the then Benue-Plateau State by the Murtala Mohammed regime. The state’s capital is Jos, which was originally called “Gwosh” and later pronounced “Jos” by the Hausa people who settled in the area and turned it into a trading center.

Plateau State has a rich history that spans several centuries. The state has been the site of various conflicts and struggles, including the Jos crisis, which resulted in the loss of many lives and properties. Despite these challenges, the people of Plateau State have continued to thrive and preserve their unique culture and traditions.

 

Geographical Formation

Plateau State is located in the central region of Nigeria and is known for its unique geographical features. The state is situated on the Jos Plateau, which is a large area of elevated land that rises sharply above the surrounding area on at least one side.

Natural Features

The Jos Plateau is a volcanic plateau with an average elevation of about 1,200 meters (3,900 feet) above sea level. It is composed of igneous rocks, such as basalt and rhyolite, which were formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago. The plateau is characterized by a series of hills, valleys, and flat-topped mountains that are separated by deep gorges and canyons.

One of the most prominent features of the plateau is the Jos Plateau Indigo Bird, which is a small bird that is found only in this region. The bird is known for its distinctive blue plumage and is considered a symbol of the state.

Climate and Vegetation

Plateau State has a tropical climate with two distinct seasons: a rainy season that lasts from May to October and a dry season that lasts from November to April. The average annual rainfall in the state is about 1,400 millimeters (55 inches), which is higher than the national average.

The vegetation in Plateau State is dominated by savanna grasslands, which are characterized by tall grasses and scattered trees. The state is also home to a variety of wildlife, including antelopes, baboons, and hyenas.

In conclusion, the geographical formation of Plateau State is unique and has contributed to the state’s rich history and culture. The state’s natural features and climate have played a significant role in shaping its vegetation and wildlife, making it a must-visit destination for tourists and nature lovers alike.

 

Ethnic Composition and Languages

Plateau State has over forty ethnic groups, each with its unique language and culture. The major ethnic groups in Plateau State include the Berom, Tarok, Afizere, Anaguta, and Pyem. Other ethnic groups include the Ron, Mushere, Chip, and Jukun. Each ethnic group has its unique customs, beliefs, and traditions, which have been passed down from generation to generation.

The Plateau State is home to many languages, and the forty or so Plateau languages are a tentative group of Benue-Congo languages spoken by 15 million people on the Jos Plateau, Southern Kaduna, Nasarawa State, and in adjacent areas in central Nigeria. Berom and Eggon have the most speakers. Most Plateau languages are threatened and have around 2,000-10,000 speakers. Defining features of the Plateau family have only been identified recently, and research is still ongoing to understand the relationship between the various languages.

The diversity of languages in Plateau State is a reflection of the state’s rich cultural heritage. The state government recognizes the importance of preserving the state’s diverse cultures and has taken steps to promote the use of indigenous languages in schools and other public institutions. The Plateau State government has also established cultural centers across the state to promote the state’s cultural heritage and to provide a platform for the preservation and promotion of indigenous languages.

In conclusion, the ethnic composition and languages of Plateau State are an essential part of the state’s cultural heritage. The state’s diverse cultures and languages are a reflection of its rich history and provide a unique opportunity for tourists and visitors to experience the state’s cultural diversity. The state government’s efforts to promote the use of indigenous languages and to preserve the state’s cultural heritage are commendable and should be supported.

 

Colonial Era and State Creation

Plateau State, located in the North Central Zone of Nigeria, has a rich history that dates back to the colonial era. The British began to exert colonial control over Nigeria in the early 20th century, and by 1926, Jos and Pankshin Divisions were formed to comprise Plateau Province, which was carved out of Bauchi.

During the colonial era, the border of Plateau Province was altered multiple times as the government worked to avoid dividing ethnic communities. The region was known for its mining activities, particularly tin mining, which attracted a diverse population. The British also established administrative centers in the region, including Jos, which became the capital of Plateau Province.

Following Nigeria’s independence from British colonial rule in 1960, the country was divided into twelve states. However, following the civil war, Benue-Plateau State was one of several large states that were further split up following pressure on the Federal Government. In 1976, Plateau State was established, covering an area of 26,899 square kilometers and with an estimated population of three million residents.

Plateau State has over forty ethnolinguistic groups, making it a diverse and culturally rich region. The state has experienced political and socioeconomic dynamics throughout its history, including conflicts over land and resources. However, Plateau State remains an important region in Nigeria, with a strong agricultural sector and a growing tourism industry.

 

Post-Independence Developments

Political Landscape

After Nigeria gained independence in 1960, Plateau State was initially part of the Northern Region. However, in 1967, the region was split into several states, including Plateau State. The state has had its share of political turbulence, including the 2001 Jos riots which led to the deaths of over 1000 people. In recent years, the state has made efforts to promote peace and stability, with the establishment of the Plateau State Peace Building Agency.

Economic Growth

Plateau State has experienced significant economic growth since independence. The state is rich in minerals such as tin, columbite, and iron ore, which have contributed to the development of the mining industry. The state is also a major agricultural hub, with crops such as potatoes, maize, and yams being grown in large quantities. The state government has made efforts to promote tourism, with the establishment of tourist sites such as the Jos Wildlife Park and the Riyom Rock Formation.

Social and Cultural Evolution

The state is home to over 40 ethnic groups, each with its own unique culture and traditions. The state has a rich cultural heritage, with festivals such as the Nzem Berom and the Ndin festivals being celebrated annually. In recent years, the state has made efforts to promote inter-ethnic harmony, with the establishment of the Plateau State Inter-Religious Council. The state has also made efforts to promote education, with the establishment of several tertiary institutions such as the University of Jos and the Plateau State Polytechnic.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Who was responsible for the creation of Plateau State in Nigeria?

Plateau State was created on February 3, 1976, by the Murtala Mohammed Regime. The state was carved out of the then Benue-Plateau State.

What are the major towns and administrative divisions within Plateau State?

The major towns in Plateau State include Jos, Pankshin, Langtang, Shendam, and Mangu. The state is divided into 17 local government areas (LGAs).

Can you list the predominant ethnic groups found in Plateau State?

The predominant ethnic groups found in Plateau State are the Berom, Afizere, Anaguta, Birom, Buji, Irigwe, Jarawa, and Tarok.

Which local government area is considered the largest in Plateau State?

The largest local government area in Plateau State is Kanam LGA, which covers an area of about 3,400 square kilometers.

What is the historical significance of Jos within Plateau State?

Jos is the capital city of Plateau State and has a rich history. It was a major center for tin mining in Nigeria and was also an important trading center during the colonial era. Today, Jos is known for its beautiful weather, tourism attractions, and cultural diversity.

What are the primary religious beliefs practiced in Plateau State?

The primary religious beliefs practiced in Plateau State are Christianity and Islam. However, there are also followers of traditional African religions and other minority religions. The state is known for its religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence among different religious groups.

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