Like many of you, I have been deeply saddened by the events in Jos in recent days. We see, on our doorstep, how genocide can unfold. In Rwanda, the word 'cockroach' was used to describe 'the other'; in Jos, Muslim hausas were called 'malaria.' I remember seeing "Islam is a disease" plastered all over Lagos in 2003. It is with disgusting unloving words such as these from religious fundamentalists that mass murder can occur.
The violence in Jos was many things:
- Present day tension between Christian Beroms and Muslim Hausas, both of whom have been in Jos/Plateau state for over a hundred years, neither of whom actually 'originated' in Jos/Plateau state
- Struggle for political power over Jos, which has long been in the hands of the Christians (via the PDP)
- A resource war (for land) borne out of poverty. The mines have been mined..
- A complete failure of security and intelligence monitoring in the State
- Ethnic cleansing - of vulnerable Fulani-Muslim communities near the city - in the Serbian fashion
- A possible foreboding of climate change in the north (the drying up of aquifers) leading to mass migration southwards
Given that no one has been brought to book for the previous mayhem, no one can say with any certainty that there will not be another massacre in the future. Sadly, unless something changes soon, another massacre is actually likely. It is shocking to think that impunity for mass murder is perfectly possible in Nigeria. Some core marrow of revolt against injustice is stirred in all of us. We stare at the abyss of losing our humanity.
In which case, it may be that a solution has to come from within - from the people of Jos, and it needs to be an interfaith agreement held strongly by both sides. Religious leaders from both sides now need to step forward and play their part, with clarity and courage and conciliation.
This solution will be forever fragile however if the security forces and the politicians do not buy into a peace agreement. It will also be forever vulnerable if the sponsors of the violence (said to be from outside of the State and some even overseas) are not tracked down. Its possible to do these things with good (well-funded) intelligence. There was a strong degree of organisation at work in the pogroms (names and addresses were known). It should not be difficult to track the networks and the money that came in to fund the evil. In Rwanda, they made the perpetrators wear pink. Perhaps this solution should be adopted in Nigeria. You are forgiven: but you shall also be known as who and what you were.
To begin with, calling Muslim Hausas in Jos "settlers" to my British mind sounds like the most petty villager-talk. It reminds me of growing up in my village. People who had only been living in the village for 30 or 40 years were known as 'comers-in'. It was quite ridiculous. Fortunately, that attitude has disappeared completely now; all the gnarled old prejudiced farmers have died. Part of the dialogue surely has to be to advocate for the "settler/indigene" distinction to be dissolved in Plateau State law, as in other states. The origin of the violence is this distinction, which divides Nigerians from themselves needlessly. Nigerian Christians and Muslims can easily live in peace, if they (and their leaders) remain true to the DNA of their faiths and cast fundamentalism aside.