Tuesday, January 26, 2010

On Jos

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.


hawodi 8:37 pm  

Spot on Jeremy. I wish the politicians and faith people will read this. Well done.

Anonymous,  10:20 pm  

Your whole take on the Jos crisis lacks balance

Mike Blyth 10:45 pm  

Well said, Jeremy. I only hope that it's not too late. But who is interested in actually following through on these ideas?

Myne Whitman 10:53 pm  

Well written but I doubt the crises in Jos can be summed up so easily. The painful part is the people who should, may not even know this much.

Anonymous,  12:40 am  

So true! Both sides are killing in the name of God, when anyone who is religious knows that this is a Big sin in any religion. Is it really impossible to live as one? We should all be ashamed of ourselves for allowing this to happen.

joicee 11:49 am  

I hope as many people as possible get to read this. This puts a new twist on things because in most crisis that occur in the north of nigeria muslims have been seen to be the culprits...
Religion, just like many excesses we have in Nigeria, has has turned out to be a curse!

I AM FROM PLATEAU!!!!,  4:06 pm  

God Im soo sick of the expat take on Jos. Why dont you go to Jos and talk to the people and find out what is really happening.


And PDP isnt a christian party, its just a political one..that why people are turning stuff to religion, ur doing it too and ITS NOT HELPING!!! I KNOW MANY PEOPLE WHO HAVE LOST THEIR LIVES FROM THIS AND YOU ARE NOT HELPING...I hope you dont find your self in the middle of it as we do all the time but if you do I will see how much objectivity and finger pointing you can muster..genocide? ABEG STOP IT!!! Last I checked the oga of PDP is Muslim. We are all to blame Muslim and Christian and in this case atheist for helping paint one sided stories. Getting a message from Norma who hardly leaves her house in normally circumstances isnt good enough for you to base claims on. Whilst your entitled to your opinion you sound do it knowing that others look up to you.

BTW Im a christian from a muslim and christian family in case you were wondering..

Anonymous,  3:47 am  

I Am From The Plateau well said. The Issue is trivialized and/although easier understood if presented as christian or moslem fundamentalism warring. To bring nonsense "analogy" of your British village not accepting outsiders is an insult. The violence and matter of ethnic cleansing is one issue. No one condones that. The issue of Biroms and Hausas however is this ( I dont know where you got your bullshit argument about both tribal groups being settlers- thats like saying britain is german (or whatever because the anglo saxons came from Germany). In Nigerian History there are 7 hausa states.They were fought for and won for the Hausa kingdom/emirate by various historical hausa figures. Emirs were installed, and Hausa(In Nigeria, the traditional rulers of the predominantly Muslim northern regions are known as Emirs.Wikipedia).
One of the main issues in the Jos conflict is that after coexisting peacefully for centuries, the Hausa want to install an emir in Jos, more or less claiming the political capital as part of the (Hausa/moslem) emirate. There is only one queen of England. There can only be one queen. England is a very multicultural place but the arabs who lived there forever, cannot just wake up one day and install an emir and claim england for themselves. The argument in these days of fundamentalism on both sides (because of poverty etc) is understood by the masses as Moslems against Christians, but the political powers that be know what the real issue. To bring PDP into the whole equation just shows your understanding of the issue is probably gleaned from the dailies and not from any real deep study. PDP is neither christian party, nor is it muslim.
I condemn the violence and "ethnic cleansing" as you call it. Christian AND Moslem neighbours perpetrated unpeakable horrors toward each other. The guilty must be brought to justice.
I Am Also from Plateau.

Anonymous,  10:36 am  

Born to Rule mentality again...

Anonymous,  12:38 pm  

not quite sure about all of this.

yes, we certainly need to erase or transition away from the indigene/settler concept of citizenship in the long run, but changing those norms will take time and in the context of the jos crisis would be seen as an extremely partisan thing to do.

in the short-term, what plateau state needs and is not ready for is acceptance of and consensus about power-sharing based on the kind of zoning arrangments which are entrenched in other areas which previously suffered communal clashes, eg Kaduna.

But PSG and the small Birom/church-based elite which controls it are not ready for this. Nor are many jos N hausa leaders of thought, although perhaps this starting to change.

Then, churches and their congregations and muslim communities have legitimate security concerns which the state needs to address otherwise they wil continue to - as they already have - take their armed security into their own hands.

PSG constituency are pushing for a big win which they are not capable of achieving and which will destroy them in the process. Who will they fight next after the hausas and fulani have gone? Abuja should forcefully press leaders of both communities to begin dialogue just as OBJ did in the Tiv/Jukun crisis, from which we haven't heard much trouble since.

Plateau has witnessed the birth of a worrying phenomenon, the ethnically exclusive church (Berom Church of Christ) and a rhetoric which drags even mainstream denominations into radicalism. then there is the issue of hate in both religion and secular life, including preaching and new media.

but above all of that, the fact that someone is muslim or christian, born in a place or an incomer, is not an explanation of why they should kill each other. For that, we need to look both at the desperation, dire underdevelopment and unemployment caused by economic decline and repeated episode of conflict, and thence at the cause of that in turn, namely the bad governance and corruption and mismanagement of the dariye/botmang/jang governments of the state, which still today take enormous bribe on contracts even as most of the state's wealth goes on footing a huge bill for the necessary presence of the federal security agencies.

most worrying about the recent crisis is its spread outside the previous axes of conflict, and into even social groups much less touched by poverty whose interactions had not previously been defined by religious and ethnic divides.

CodLiverOil 3:54 pm  

A nice write up by Mr Adeleye about the neglect and mistreatment of the Birom, by other Nigerians. T


His conclusion to solving the problem though, I thought was weak, faint hearted and in short inadequate. It will take more than that to bridge the divide.

Much of what the last anonymous said, I had mentioned in a previous post on this board "Jonah Jang and the Jasawa".

Anonymous,  5:37 pm  

My heart breaks when I think of the massacre in Plateau especially the Kuru Jenta issue because I saw Norma's first frantic note trying to get help. It's a tragedy and must never happen again. The issues that created the Jos conflict is much wider than your take and any real effort to ensure it never does must view it beyond the narrow prism of your take on the conflict.

Even though your article views the conflict strictly within the Jos issue, the fact that you included the statement about Islam in Lagos in 2003 suggests it is a wider conflict and must be viewed in those terms for their to be a peaceful and permanent resolution. The first Anon says your take lacks balance and I agree. You did not acknowledge the deaths of any 'christians' e.g. Dare's brother in an earlier post. Was he the only 'christian' who died? The statement in Lagos above and the if true the calling of muslims 'malaria' is to be condemned outright but there have been allegations of inciteful sermons going on in mosques, why is it not in your article?

You also touched on the issue of the settler/indigene dichotomy and I agree with your proffered solutions but to give the impression that it is a Jos creation is disingenuous, it cuts across Nigeria and if a solution is to be found it must be applicable everywhere in Nigeria. What is the concept of ancestral lands/ownership in Nigeria? When did the 'indigenes' and the Hausas arrive in Jos? Was it as your article suggests? You should have pointed out that it is hotly contested. History seems to point in favour of the minority tribes as there was certainly a push by Usman Dan Fodio (and the Hausa/Fulani's) further south. He imposed the Hausa/Fulani as the ruling class on some minority groups and most of these ethnic groups have stories of when the Hausa came. What is the true story of Jos?

Part of the grievances from articles I've read by the Plateau people is that in Hausa dominated areas (other parts of Nigeria), 'settlers' are not accorded the same rights as the Hausas claim in Plateau.

It is also important to note that the fear and the over reaction to the Hausa/Fulani in Plateau reflects a wider (and regular) massacre of christians in the Northern states (predominantly Hausa/Fulani) for which no-one is ever brought to book. People take laws into their own hands when they feel that those who should resolve the conflict are biased against them.

So I agree with you that the Hausas who have lived for generations in Jos must be accorded full rights and there has to be a sense of kinship with their fellow ethinic groups in the Plateau. It is possible that the interference of the larger Hausa family (from the rest of the Northern region) is seen as an attempt to dominate the Plateau as the Hausas are the ruling class in Nigeria today. It would certainly be strange if the Igbos and Yorubas who have lived in Jos for as long as the Hausas bring in their fellow Igbos and Yorubas from the east and west to resolve internal issues between brethren (and they ethnic groups in Plateau including any 'settlers' must begin to see themselves as brothers having lived together so long).

Anonymous,  2:50 am  

Jeremy Cushing is a named based on the biblical name Jeremiah. Used as a name for children who are blessed with a large brain. Also used as a replacement for “perfect”.

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