Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jonah Jang and the Jasawa: Ethno-Religious Conflict in Jos, Nigeria

Excellent analysis of the ongoing conflict in Jos here from August last year. Download the pdf here. It really gives you a detailed analysis of what has been going on in Jos in recent times. The conclusion is much the same as my own previous post - that the concept of "indigene" is inimical to Nigeria's future:

"No writer that I am aware of is making the argument for untrammelled indigene sovereignty at the local government level, and national integration be damned. All, including the scholars among the Plateau indigenes, agree that the free movement of Nigerian citizens throughout the country, and their right to do business, own property, and, most importantly, to participate in local politics, wherever they choose to reside, must be effectuated if the nation is to survive and thrive. The present extension of claimed indigene rights to political control of LGAs, by fraud or by force if necessary, should be curtailed. But this must apply all over the nation, so everyone is put on an equal footing everywhere. This implies federal legislation or perhaps even constitutional amendment, plus a determined national effort at realisation."

Anyone who wants a robust understanding of the crisis in Jos should take the time to download, print and read the article.

If any re-branding needs to be done in Nigeria, it is this: that Nigerians come to see themselves as Nigerian first, and members of a particular ethnic group second. Nigerians are in this together, not apart. It will be a long slow and still bumpy process, but legal/constitutional intervention is required sooner or later to solve the deep roots of conflict zones such as Plateau State.

Thanks to Thomas for the reference to the Philip Ostien article.


Anonymous,  5:06 am  

Born and bred in Jos, I can say that i agree with you completely on the notion that 'indigene' and 'settler' should be scrapped from the political play-book of every state for peace and tranquility to reign. The very idea that someone who has lived all his life in Jos or whose great-grandfather moved to Jos centuries ago cannot contest, hold or attain political office is ridiculous.
Bigotry, nepotism, power play, and endemic corruption masked under religion seem to be the bane of our problem. Illiteracy and ignorance of what good governance can bring to the society is also detrimental to our survival as a vibrant nation. The day we all start seeing ourselves as Nigerians first before anything else will be the day our issues will be solved!

CodLiverOil 4:29 pm  

The conduct of the authorities of Plateau is high-handed, over the top and generally unacceptable. But this is how government all over the country is.

There are a few other points I’d like to raise.
1) How is it such unworthy people are able to rise to high political office. Why do both sides elect people who fail to accommodate the other side ie hard-liners.
2) Why aren’t political candidates vetted?
3) Why have people of Plateau consistently elected terrible governors? (It’s not just Plateau state either)
4) Why are all political players untrustworthy, for example Mr Jang.
5) Mr Ostein referred to many political pundits in Nigeria saying that a new dispensation has to be worked out. I fail to see how this can be achieved when they all renege on agreements. (So how will constitutionality be followed?)
6) The ability of the authorities to avoid or dodge issues of significance.
7) The allocation of federal funds shouldn’t simply go unquestioned to whoever controls LGAs or states. It should go to revenue generating projects and schemes, not simply to who is chummy with the governor or chairman.
8) You say that the settler / indigene question has been settled in other parts of Nigeria. This is news to me. Even in cosmopolitan Lagos, you realise that the Yorubas regard themselves as the indigenes and everyone else as settlers. There are Igbos who have been in Kano etc for over 50 years, yet they are not regarded as locals, but settlers, and the same applies for non-Igbos in the South-East zone.

So you see nowhere has this concept taken root. Intellectuals can throw around all sorts of grand sounding ideas, but unless this can be agreed upon and followed to the letter. The country will be left behind as the rest of the world moves on.

I feel the country will need to get back to basics. People have to realise, politics isn’t a “winner takes all” game. An accommodation will have to be arrived at, and all parties must agree and stick to any agreement reached. Electoral malpractice shouldn’t be tolerated in any form, the electorate must be vigilant. Transparency and accountability are paramount. If others can make democracy work, why can’t Nigerians? Democracy has been proven to be successful formula that can work if the will is there.

I agree with you, in that if everyone could see beyond their own narrow interests, then things would go a whole lot better for everyone. This is such a basic truth that the political players choose to overlook.

sundaygoshit 3:05 pm  

I find your post very interesting read. The error of assumption you and probably assertion in Dr Ostien's paper (who by the way is a very good family friend) have made is to think that the problem of the Plateau can be explained by seeing Jang as a hardliner. It is totally devoid of historical context and a sweeping neglect of the marginalized minority in Nigeria. In the first place I have contested severally that exporting and practicing democracy as it is in Nigeria today is ill-conceived and the problems of the country would remain unresolved.

However get back to the issue of indigeneship, it has not surprised anyone that even in the ivory towers like Ibadan and Ife and Nsukka and ABU, indegenisation is worst. It does not justify it's practice but speaks volumes of its roots in the Nigerian society. To wish it away in Jos because the Hausas have used the political and dictatorial machines of the military under Babangida to lay siege over the city is much more unfortunate. Most of you who write and comment on the crisis on the Plateau have total disregard for the feeling of the Plateau man. You sweep his fears under the carpet and make the same man who has been a peaceful landlord a bigot.

You may ask the question, to whom is Jang untrustworthy and why? There are many questions both theoretical and practical that are not addressed by Ostien's paper.

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