History and Cultural Perspective - Plateau State | Felix Omoko Blog

Plateau State
Plateau State was formerly created on February 3, 1976 by the Murtala Mohammed Regime out of the then Benue-Plateau State with hits capital in Jos.  Jos the original name of ‘Gwosh’ was wrongly pronounced as ‘Jos’ by the Hausa who settled on the site and turned it into a trading centre.

Plateau State gets its name from the Jos Plateau, a mountainous area in the north of the state with captivating rock formations. Bare rocks are scattered across the grasslands, which cover the plateau. 

The altitude ranges from around 1,200 meters (about 4000 feet) to a peak of 1,829 metres above sea level in the Shere Hills range near Jos. Plateau State has led to a reduced incidence of some tropical diseases such as malaria. 

The Jos Plateau, makes it the source of many rivers in northern Nigeria including the Kaduna, Gongola, Hadejia and Yobe rivers.

It is located in North Central Nigeria, Plateau State occupies 30,913 square kilometres. Plateau State shares borders with Kaduna State to the North, Kaduna and Nassarawa States to the East, Benue to the South and Taraba State to the East. Plateau State is located between latitude 80°24’N and longitude 80°32′ and 100°38′ east.

Plateau State is also divided into chiefdoms and emirates, each encompassing ethnic groups who share common affinities. Leaders of the chiefdoms are elected by the people from amongst several contestants who may not be related to any past chiefdom leaders, while succession to the position of an emir is hereditary.

Plateau State has over forty ethno-linguistic groups but no single group large enough to claim majority position. Some of the indigenous tribes in the State include: Afizere, Amo, Anaguta, Angas, Aten, Berom, Bogghom, Buji, Challa, Chip, Fier, Gashish, Goemai, Irigwe, Jarawa, Jukun, Kwagalak, Kwalla, Meryang, Miango, Miship, Montol, Mushere, Mupum, Mwaghavul, Ngas, Piapung, Pyem, Ron-Kulere, Rukuba, Taletc, Taroh, Youm. 

Each ethnic group has its own distinct language, but as with the rest of the country, English is the official language in Plateau State although Hausa has gained acceptability as a medium of communication.

These people groups are predominantly farmers and have similar cultural and traditional ways of life. People from other parts of country have come to settle in Plateau State and generally coexist peacefully with the indigenes. These include the Hausa, Fulani, Igbo, Yoruba, Ijaw, and Bini. Plateau State is predominantly Christian.

Local Government Areas in Plateau State

  1. Barkin Ladi
  2. Bassa
  3. Bokkos
  4. Jos East
  5. Jos North
  6. Jos South
  7. Kanam
  8. Kanke
  9. Langtang North
  10. Langtang South
  11. Mangu
  12. Mikang
  13. Pankshin
  14. Qua'an Pan
  15. Riyom
  16. Shendam
  17. Wase

Culture of the People
Known for its heterogeneity, the state has about 40 ethnic groups, including the Vergam, Ankwei, Angas, Jawara (Jarauci), Birom, Mango, Fulani, Hausa, and Eggen.

Traditional music in Nigeria is strongly associated with its oral culture and with the subsistence agriculture typical of village communities. In larger ethnic groups such as the Hausa and Yoruba, a thriving urban culture has allowed various musical genres to make the transition to cities and to be taken up by radio and television. However, for minority ethnic groups, this division does not exist; when households migrate to towns they find it difficult to maintain their language and still more village music. 

At present, most types of rural music are still quite lively, although they are under threat. However, documentation of this type of music is very limited and much of it is likely to disappear before it is recorded or filmed. Academic interest in this music both within and outside Nigeria can be safely summarized as vanishingly low. 

In the light of this, a project has begun to document the music of the Plateau peoples using digital video. Broadly speaking, much of this music is highly endangered and the survey has regularly encountered the last performer or
group with a particular instrument or repertoire. This paper describes some of the traditional music of the peoples of the Jos Plateau and adjacent regions in the context of a recent project to document their music.

A short case study explores some of the reasons why this music is threatened and the changes that are occurring. 

The Jos Plateau is a highly multi-ethnic region, with a complex history. Apart from the intrinsic interest of the music and dance, musical practice provides an intriguing correlate of ethnic and cultural history. The indigenous populations are speakers of Plateau, East Kainji and Chadic languages, which also cover large regions of Central Nigeria.

Linguistic evidence shows that these populations have been interacting for a long time and now share many features of their languages; this is also more broadly true for the cultures and the musical types show many similarities across linguistic boundaries. 

The later history of the Plateau and the colonial era have also changed musical and social practice and the correlation between these can be establish in broad outlines. It should be emphasised, that only a very few ethic groups have been satisfactorily described and such linkages remain speculative.

Food of the People

The People of the Plateau ate a large variety of food. Though salmon was their most relied food source they also had other food sources such deer and berries.  In the spring, salmon was harvested beside rives by both the men and women. Salmon was caught using many different methods and tools such as dip nets and basket traps. 

Most of the salmon that was caught was dried and stored, and only small amount was eaten. The Salmon provided one third of their diet. The Plateau women gathered a variety of roots such as balsam root and berries such as Saskatoon berries, Raspberries, and Blue berries . Elk antlers were used as shovels for digging. Inner evergreen bark was also collected. 

After the bark was hung dry it was edible for a long time. Hunting also provided the plateau people food. Large mammals such as deer were caught with dead fall and pit traps, while small animals such as ducks were snared with nets. The Plateau people also ate a nutritious pemmican cake, which was made of salmon oil, powdered fish and Saskatoon berries.

People of the plateau usually wore clothing made of animal skin. Dear skin clothing such as the moccasins was popular, because it indicated a certain status. Skillful weavers wove reeds and fiber into baskets and packs such as baby packs. Though baskets were used for collecting things some were also used for cooking. 

Cooking with the basket was done by filling the basket with water then dropping hot stones inside to boil the water. The plateau people decorated their clothing and treasured items with beautiful designs, beads, porcupine quills and other precious items.

Marriage Culture in Plateau State

The Berom people are a tribe out of Plateau state with interesting marriage rites befitting culture in Nigeria.

According to tradition, the Berom man has a lot to show if he is interested in a Berom lady. In courtship, the man is expected to till the farmland belonging to the woman's family. The act of tilling the land is a public declaration of his intentions to the lady's parents. This, along with bearing the cost of the lady's personal needs is part of the courting commitment native to the Berom people.

After a while, the man's people approach the family of the lady. They declare their intentions as a way of wooing not only the woman, but her parents as well. This milestone on the path to marriage is (in some cases) as costly as the previous milestone. Here, the man and his family are expected to come bearing gifts for the woman and her parents.

Finally, the wedding ceremony is celebrated by family, friends and well-wishers. The bride is escorted to her new home in the company of women of the family.

According to tradition, the bride does not lay with her husband until a few weeks later. During that time, she stays and sleeps in her mother-in-law's room. When she is finally allowed access to her husband's room, it is custom for people to gather round and listen outside the couple's door.

After a while, the groom is expected to throw out animal hide carrying blood as a show of his wife's virginity.
It is a long held tradition for Berom people.