Jos Crises: Political or Religious Motivated; Is It justifiable? Though Religious, Still Has Political Undernote.
The incessant spate of sectarian violence in Jos, the middle belt of Nigeria calls for urgent intervention before it spreads to the other parts of the country. The question any right thinking person will ask is, why are all these carnages unleashed on innocent citizens of Nigeria without an active step to stop its reoccurrence?
As people all over the world were ushered into the year 2010, with hopes and aspirations of a brighter future, the Jos people in Nigeria woke up in January to meet a gory history that has left an indelible mark on those who were lucky to survive to tell the story. As if the massacre in January was not enough, a second attack was launched on the same people of Jos in March, this time leaving hundreds dead and buried in mass graves. Why did this have to repeat? What did the state and federal government do in the first occurrence to stop a reoccurrence?
Amidst concerns from concerned individuals, organizations and foreign bodies over the persistent crises in Jos, more threats are being issued to further stiffen the hostilities between the warring parties. It’s generally believed that the cause of the fracas is religious (between Moslems and Christians), but if that is the case why can’t the authorities that be take a decisive step to proffer a permanent solution? Some schools of thought believe that the crises are a result of political manipulation by some big wits to create a disorganized atmosphere so as to move in to actualize their political ambitions.
The city called Jos:
The City of Jos in the Middle Belt of Nigeria is the capital of Plateau State and located near the center of the Jos Plateau. The Plateau is about 1250 to 1300 meters on the sea level above the Delimi River and an average monthly temperature of between 21 and 25 degree centigrade and an average rainfall of about 1300mm (about 50 in); that makes Jos considerably cooler than other parts of the country. The Headwaters of Rivers feeding the Rivers Niger, Benue and the Lake Chad radiates from this Plateau.
History of Jos:
Archaeological findings in the Jos Plateau indicate that the Nok people lived in the area from 900 BC to AD 200. Iron implements, cast-bronze burial artifacts and other archeological evidences of the Nok culture confirm earliest evidence of the Iron Age in West Africa.
The Usuman Dan Fodio led Fulani Jihad of the 19th century’s incursion into the Jos area sent some of the inhabitants of the area to the plateau to escape the Jihadist’s Horsemen who were annexing territories to their Kingdom. They settled there till early 20th century when Tin and Columbite was discovered on the plateau; mining and smelting began.
The British came in to establish in Jos in the early 1900s. They built and developed Geash, one of the central villages in Jos Plateau and began Tin mining in 1907. With the completion of the Railroad from Port Harcourt to Jos, the influx of visitor increased principally because of their cool weather and the prosperous Tin mining business. That was how Jos became an important town and centre for business and tourism in the Middle Belt of Nigeria.
The agony of the people of Jos:
Jos is a historically Christian City which lies on the border between Nigeria’s Moslem majority North and the Christian majority South. The Moslems from the North came to settle along side the Christians of Jos and consequently, sectarianism became the order of the day. Over the years, the question of who is an indigene and who is a settler has been a vital weapon for politics in the state and Politicians has hidden under this ideology to insinuate so many crises.
The City of Jos has experienced disastrous crises several times; 1994, 2001, 2008 and the latest riots that happened in January and March of 2010. The crisis of March is believed to have started in reprisal for the destruction that took place in January where hundreds of innocent people mostly women and children were butchered.
On March 8, 2010 the latest brutal carnage was unleashed on the people of Jos, this time around, it was very destructive. Many sources have placed the death toll in hundreds but a government source placed the toll at an unserious figure of 55 when recognized Media outfits with proven record of authenticity like the BBC and Al-Jazeera has both placed the casualties at more than 500. The issue of facts has always posed a problem in all the Jos crises because of the quick burial of the dead which does not allow time to collate. In some instances many dead bodies were found in the Wells, Pits and Bushes numbering into hundreds and there was no record before then that such people were missing during the crises. The Elites Tv report put the complication in enumerating the casualties of Jos crises this way, “Death tolls have been highly politicised in previous outbreaks of unrest in central Nigeria, with various factions accused of either exaggerating the figures for political ends or downplaying them to try to douse the risk of reprisals.”
Who are responsible for these crises?
Generally, the crises are believed to be the extension of the persistent hostilities between the Moslems and the Christians in Nigeria. There have been unremitting bloody crises in different parts of Nigeria, especially the Northern part between the Moslems and Christians with devastating effects. Other schools of thought are also providing evidences to confirm that it is political but clothed with religion. But whichever is the case, what the people are asking is, why should the innocent citizens bear the brunt?
Recently we heard that twenty suspects were arraigned at the Federal High Court in Jos over their alleged involvement in the killing of more than 500 villagers in Dogo-Nahawa, Zot and Raeeat in March but it is glaringly clear that the twenty people cannot be the only brain behind this detestable operation. We also learnt that the government has since called for the arrest of Alhaji Saleh Bayeri, former executive secretary, Muslim Welfare Board and State Secretary of Miyetti Allah Cattle Rearers Association, accusing him of "issuing threats and inciting Fulani people against the Berom People. The question is how many has been punished to use as an example to others? None.
The role of the government:
Every responsible government’s role is to protect its citizens from carnage and unlawful molestations but the case with Nigeria is quite different. These crises have continued repeatedly and many lives lost each time yet the government has practically done nothing to solve whatever problem that lies behind these crises. Read the bellow conversation culled from the internet about the conversation between the Governor of Plateau State and his security operatives:
“ A reliable government source told Daily Champion yesterday on phone that the attackers invaded the villages in the wee hours of the morning. The source said that rumour of the attack filtered in at about 11pm and Jang took steps to nip it in the bud by informing the sectoral commander of the military joint patrol team in the area.
He said leader of the patrol team, an army captain identified as Goke, was reached on telephone and informed of the impending attack.
He however said that when the attack actually started, the joint patrol team could no longer be reached on telephone as every effort made by the state governor to speak to him failed.
He said Goke who led the team allegedly switched off his telephone forcing the governor to make alternative arrangement.
He said: "Rumours of the impending attack started coming in at about 11pm. When the governor heard it, he called the joint patrol team that is in the area. The team comprising the army and air force was being led by Goke who is the sectoral commander. He was briefed about the security situation and asked to mobilize from his location to the village.
"But some time after midnight, about 1am, people started calling from there that their village had been attacked and when the governor called the army captain to know where they were, his telephone was switched of. He could not be reached.
"The governor had to make an alternative arrangement and called another team from another location.
"But because this was happening in a village on the border with Bauchi State, before the team could actually find the place it was too late. We kept on calling and giving them direction until they got there. And when they got there they could only see burnt houses and dead people," the source told Daily Champion.” - http://allafrica.com/stories/201003080021.html
In other reports, the Police was also indicted for fueling the crises. One reporter described the Police role in this way: “The role of police in the Kuru Karama massacre has intensified allegations that security operatives aided in committing crimes against humanity. A witness said at least one policeman participated in the killings while others reported that the police in the locality abandoned their posts shortly before the killings began. Witnesses said the killings lasted the whole day without police intervention, according to the HRW reported.”
With all these reports, what can one say? There are so many things to consider when talking about the Jos crises. The religious aspect is foundational, no doubt; the political imputes can not be underrated as Politicians will always want to seize every opportunity in any crises to foster their clandestine objectives; but what need a thorough analysis and understanding is the role of the government.
Godwill A. Paul is a Clergy and Authour based in Lagos.