Kuru Karama cannot be wished away
A popular columnist with an Abuja-based, northern-owned newspaper told me that when he wrote his column on the Jos crisis last week, specifically on the genocide at Kuru Karama, his editor, for the first time ever, decided to edit the title of his article.
The columnist then went on to express deep shock and sorrow at the tone and character of the text messages he was receiving in reaction to the article he wrote. And what did my friend say in the article that some people found so intolerably offensive? That let there be justice; let the guilty party in the Jos crisis, whoever they are, be fished out; that let them be punished severely regardless of tribe, religion and social status.
When he was done, I then showed him my own collection of hate text messages and emails that I got in response to the article that was published here last week. That article entitled “Plateau: It will happen again Unless…” was actually a reprint, having been published in 2008 in the wake of the fourth sectarian crisis in the State.
It is significant that among the people that sent terse, and in some cases insulting text messages and emails to me were my professional colleagues, some them editors, and all of whom are Christians. This is quite worrying; but it is also understandable. I don't know how many of the people that sent me text messages or emails are Beroms; or how many of them are residents of Jos. In all probability most of them are genuinely and sincerely concerned that their Christian brethren are been murdered and that whatever violence they unleash in turn has always been in self-defense.
Their position is in turn probably informed by what version of the cause of the crisis they have access to, the media being so dangerously partisan in this crisis; or which version they prefer to believe. The editor that decided to tamper with the title of my friend's article for example, is not Berom, and he probably meant no harm; but neither was the title of my friend's
article harmful in any way.
What this amounts to is that the Plateau crisis is not only eroding reason and making honest assessment impossible, it is also gradually but determinedly inching towards similar crisis in Africa and in some parts of the world. Rwanda and Bosnia easily come to mind. But unlike Rwanda which had ethnicity as major determinant, the Jos crisis has an additional and more dangerous complication: Religion. Thus it is reasonable to predict that the logical, indeed the only likely consequence of the Jos crisis, if left unchecked, would be an all-out ethno-religious war spread throughout the country. Worse of all, just as the latest Jos violence appeared to have started out of nothing, an all-out religious-cum ethnic war could start spontaneously and explode before the authorities realize it has begun.
If that happens, and may God forbid that it should happen, then that would be the end of Nigeria as we know it.
Therefore let all those who opt to take sides in this very dangerous situation be fully conscious of the fact that what is at stake in the Jos crisis is not the interest of any particular tribe or religious group: it is a matter of life and death for anyone that has no other country other than Nigeria.
I appreciate the feelings of those of my colleagues and others that sent angry text messages to me; but I expect that whoever has an opinion to express on this matter must be mindful of the feelings of others as well. As things are, the issues in Jos are already being reduced to propaganda and counter propaganda between the contending parties and their respective sympathizers.
This is unfortunate and if the authorities allow themselves to be deluded that this latest Jos crisis would fizzle out like others before it, then we are in an even bigger trouble than we thought.
The Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan said that “This would be the last Jos carnage”. It is tempting to be encouraged by what the VP said, but it is necessary to point out to the VP that unless his desire—because for now we have to treat his statement as an expression of what he desires should happen' and not a policy statement—is backed by a strong resolve, he may find himself eating his words sooner than later. So what resolve do we as Nigerians, whether we are Muslims or Christians expect from the authorities in dealing with this crisis that has the potential to consume us all?
First of all we must try to be honest with ourselves; and be guided by what happened, rather than what we think happened. That is we consider facts, at the expense of every other considerations. Fact number one: this is the second very deadly violence under the watch of the present governor of Plateau State Mr. Jonah Jang. We don't need any further evidence as proof that the man has failed woefully to discharge his most fundamental duty: that of guaranteeing the safety of lives and property in the state. This is no fiction, this is no sentiment; this is a fact. So we have to decide what we want to do with this fact. Fact number two have to do with the contending issues at the core of the crisis. There is the very complex matter of the settler/indigene conflict. The Beroms, who are the native population in Plateau want the Hausa people that have been living in Jos for over 200 years (a former Emir of Jos was a Hausa man ) to leave Jos. The Hausa say they would not leave.
What does our constitution say about this? Eminent and not so eminent Nigerians have been demanding that in the case of President Yar'adu's prolonged illness, the provision of the Nigerian constitution should be followed. That is commendable, even if a little belated; well then here is a more urgent case involving human life requiring similar resolution.
It is interesting that among the eminent persons that as recently as last Thursday emphatically called for the recourse to the spirit and letter of the constitution in dealing with the Yar'adua illness, were former head of state Gen. Yakubu Gowon (an indigene of Plateau state); former president Shehu Shagari ; former head of state Chief Earnest Shonekan and a former governor of Plateau state (no less ) Chief Solomon Lar, among others.
Is it too much to ask that such a powerful group should also consider the Jos crisis as critical enough to attract their attention? Should they not pay another visit to the Villa and demand that in dealing with the Plateau crisis the provision of the constitution should also be adhered to? Is there no provision in our constitution that deals with this very basic issue?
Fact number three has to do with precedent. It is very unlikely that both parties in the Jos conflict would simultaneously accept the findings of the existing panels/commissions or whatever of enquiry that are currently in place. So what do we do? We do what Europe did when the Serbs threatened its very existence in much the same way that the perpetrators—whoever they are—of the Jos crisis are threatening our existence.
We invite an Independent Investigator under the auspices of the United Nations (UN). Already there are a few investigations conducted by independent bodies; one of such was the Human Rights Watch which conducted its investigations and released its findings with respect to the November 2008 crisis in Jos. Foreign TV stations also have documented evidence of what happened in Jos and its outskirts such as Kuru Karama in the latest crisis that happened three weeks ago.
These are not speculations; these are verifiable facts. What did the 2008 HRW Report say? The world saw what happened in that little village called Kuru Karama; at least 150 bodies were stuffed in wells and pit latrines. Who did the killings? And why? Anything short of a very honest desire to uncover the truth; and deal decisively with the culprits would signal a catastrophe the volume of which would be beyond any tribe , big or small; or any religion and its adherents.
Meanwhile the local media is free to be as partisan as they wish; the so called civil society groups may decide to continue playing deaf and dumb; when the shit hits the fan, there would be no hiding place even for the ostrich. The matter is that simple. And that critical.