By NBF News

Why Jos will boil again…
By Uche Ezechukwu
Monday, March 15, 2010
You must pardon what can only appear as a blood-chilling prophesy when I insist the serial and incestuous blood-letting on the Plateau will happen again and soon. I know, almost without an iota of doubt that many innocent and not-so innocent people will, again and again, come under the murderous daggers of murderous wielders in Plateau State because there is absolutely nothing on ground to indicate that those who can stop its reoccurrence are willing, ready or determined to do so.

For, in spite of and amidst all the insincere vituperations, platitudinal declarations and mea culpa on both sides of the murderous divide, is the grim fact that the people who wield the machetes and pull the triggers against the very people they have lived together and interacted with for decades, are really all victims themselves. In reality, the ordinary people of Plateau State - Christian, Muslim, indigene or settler - are all victims of a tiny cabal (oh! that word again) that has been instigating them and manipulating the hapless populations whose sense of reason has been warped by extreme poverty and serial deprivations of manifold dimensions, against each other. This was the Plateau State where I served on my national service. This was the state which I had reluctantly and tearful departed as I was unsure that I could witness such peace, serenity and amity elsewhere.

I shook my head when I saw a crowd of malnourished Fulani cattle herders who had been herded into a courtroom where they are being prosecuted for their alleged roles in the massacre of the unsuspecting 109 Christians villagers and wounding several others, in Du and Barkin Ladi LGAs, early penultimate Sunday morning. Rather than hate and fury, my feeling was that of pity and anger.

Pity, because the system has once again marshalled out another set of inconsequential scapegoat to die for the sins of their mighty manipulators and paymasters. It is partly for this reason that I know that the mayhem on the Plateau will happen again because thus far, the solution had always been targeted at the branches and never at the roots of the problems. It is a well-known fact that the violence on the Plateau has been sponsored by powerful people on both sides of the religious, political and cultural divides; their names are brandished casually by most the people and yet in all the crocodile tears we have shed at the end or onset of those calamities, not even a cursory glance is ever cast in their direction. If anything, some of them are incorporated as members of the various failed reconciliatory bodies, just for effect or as if they are the people who should be placated.

Anger, because I know that like in the past, nothing will come out of either the court case or the high-fallutin posturing of the various religious, traditional and constitutional politicians, who rather than provide any solution, end up indicating through their body languages that it was just the beginning of the violence and by so doing inviting their foot soldiers to encore their performance. I am further angry that because as the elite on both sides of the fight are always insulated from the raging infernos they stoked and provided the fuel for, they always speak and postulate as if the different carnages consume only stacks of firewood and not human beings.

Notably, the reason why this will never end is that, for an unknown reason, every administration refuses to tackle the root causes by never holding the perpetrators and organisers to account. If in the past they pretended not to know, public information now has it that some of the people being held have confessed that they were sponsored. Would it be too hard to let them also say who sponsored them? And even if the government at all levels were too timid to face up to the sponsors of all the precious massacres, they can at least start with the current culprits and by so doing, end the murderous cycle of this bloodletting. Let the government start by exposing them publicly as that would isolate and stigmatize. But you and I know that neither of these will happen.

So, the Jos carnage will happen again because as it is, nobody seems courageous enough to call to order the people who stoke the raging fires from their vantage political and religious positions. While it would be unfair to accuse Governor Jonah Jang of direct culpability, it is undeniable that his handling of the post-massacre events has, rather than tone down tension, exacerbated it. It was his offhand accusation of the military commander of complicity that gave rise to the demonstration by Christian women in Jos and Abuja. To make matters worse, the demonstration was led by the deputy governor, Mrs. Pauline Tallen. One could claim that everybody has a right to demonstrate, but one can also ask: how come that the government did not also organise a demonstration after the earlier mayhem in which many suspect that the Muslims got a rawer deal?

One can imagine the dilemma of the Police which might have wanted to stop the demonstration as it would have been instantly accused of complicity and that is hardly the image the police or anybody would have wanted for itself now. If we blame the governor for what was a huge indiscretion on his part, the military leadership, no matter how it eventually managed a belated defence of its acts, definitely has a case to answer in the whole imbroglio. For, instead of coming out to explain itself to a wounded polity, the military high command opted for its usual intimidating grandstanding and characteristically talked down on everybody. Instead of refuting the dangerous accusations by the governor with ironclad defence as the GOC eventually did belatedly, the army spokesman in Abuja preferred to haul abuses at the governor with the vilest expressions in his lexicographical arsenal.

If the army had done its belated defence earlier, there would have been no need for the calls by demonstrators for the sack of the chief of army staff and the commander in Jos, and by so doing over-heating the already boiling polity. Such a disciplined organisation as the army should not have allowed itself to be angered into indiscretion by the Governor Jang's remarks, such as that the military should be withdrawn from Jos - no matter how unwarranted the military had construed them to be.

To all intents and purposes, the statement by Governor Jang was a replication of Governor Dariye's irresponsible vituperations that seemed to justify the massacre of Muslims in one of the Plateau communities in 1984. It was President Obasanjo's anger at such insensitivity that had led to his public tongue-lashing of a CAN leader as well as the proclamation of the state of emergency in 2004. One had thought that one of hallmarks of leadership is that no matter how emotionally pushed and provoked, every leader - military or civil - must keep his head and exercise restraint at all times.

In the same way, the secularity of society should not be a licence for religious leaders to enjoy unfettered latitude to incite their followers to acts that endanger all. Islamic preachers had reportedly been polluting the atmosphere with vile pronouncements which sowed the seed of discord and spread hatred across different cities and countryside in the country against those who espouse other religions. In the same way, some half-baked Christian leaders have been vomiting satanic homilies across the land.

And while one might not be an expert in religious matters, one is at least knowledgeable enough to know that the cardinal rubric of both the Bible and the Koran is the preachment for peace and love for all, as well as their insistence on the sanctity of human life. So, from which holy books did those imams and pastors get their instructions that incite their followers to slaughter their fellow creatures of the one and only God who the two religions worship and follow?

I was upset last Friday morning when I watched one Abel Damina, the chairman of the Youth Wing of PFN, declaring so ignorantly on Channels TV that 'jihad is one of the pillars of Islam'. I shuddered at what could be the effect of such a patently false and mischievous declaration on his Christian audience which would feel justified to start preparing for self-defence against an Islamic onslaught. I also pitied his ignorance when I heard him claim that Muslims call Christians 'infidels'.

Yet, such are the condiments of which the daily diet of the instructions which many of our ordinary and ill-informed people receive daily from their poorly trained imams and pastors. So, a lot can still be saved in Jos and other parts of the country if the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), the high-powered advisory committee of Christians and Muslims on religious matters, gets more proactive. They might start by organising interactive seminars for the preachers of the two religions to enable them better grasp the basis and contents of both religions.

Apart from providing us with electricity and sound electoral system, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan will write his name in gold if he, for once, decides to ferret out and deal with those who had been sponsoring violent sectarian incidents that are robed in religious toga in different parts of the country, especially in the North. But failing to do that, his name might also be written in the book of infamy as the leader under whose charge Nigeria went into a full blown religious war which will lead to an inevitable disintegration.

For, as his man, TY Danjuma once said, 'no country can survive two civil wars; none can survive one religious war.'

Jos will boil again. I am begging to be proved wrong.