Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nigeria is home to over 250 tribes and 140 million people of various religious leanings. Over the years, sectarian violence has broken out between Muslims and Christians, especially in the northern part of the country. The last few years have been relatively free of significant violence but all that changed on Thursday, November 27th.

Dozens of bodies brought to a mosque in Jos after fighting in the Nigerian town
As the world renowned Dalai Lama gave a speech about religious tolerance in Lagos, the northern city of Jos, in Plateau State, was set ablaze with sectarian violence. The irony is that the violence and deaths began on the same day the Dalai Lama was praising Nigeria and saying,
“[b]asically here in Nigeria, I think the large number of Muslims, the large number of Christians, I think basically remain very harmoniously, this is wonderful, please keep this type of harmonious relationship.”

Fighting was initially sparked by supporters of two political parties, the ANPP and PDP, as they awaited local government election results. The chaos soon took a religious tinge resulting in the death of at least 300 citizens.

The Arewa Consultative Forum, a northern interest group, appealed to citizens to stop the violence.
"Differences in ethnicity, of faiths and in party platforms or ideology are facts of this nation's reality. What is required of every law-abiding citizen is for him/her to accept the reality of one united Nigeria in diversity: love it and make the most of the diversity's possible good,"
At the Vatican, Pope Benedict prayed about the situation on Sunday and urged the world to express "horror and disapproval" at the senseless violence.

A spokesperson for President Yar'Adua said that the President was "on top of the situation having been fully briefed on the phone by the governor." He has since summoned the governor of Plateau State

It continues to be mind boggling how politics can be used as a trigger for the violent destruction of lives and property. To imagine that this latest sectarian violence was triggered by a mere local government election illustrates the tense nature of Nigerian politics and the means by which it can become a trigger for tribal conflict.

While it is wonderful to see that Yar'Adua responded quickly and is apparently taking steps to remedy the situation, I wonder whether the political parties and the politicians on whose behalf so much destruction was wrought will take the appropriate steps to strike a note of peace, encourage the forgiveness that will be necessary for Jos to heal and take moral responsibility for the chaos.

As the world mourns with the residents and victims of the recent Mumbai terror attack, it is disheartening that in Jos, Nigerians are turning against each other instead of working together. In Mumbai, Indians demand accountability and answers from their government over the failure to prevent the carnage. I, in turn, must ask how we let this situation get out of hand so quickly. This is not the first time that such violence has been sparked by politics and in fact, it is well known that some politicians will use young men to bully citizens into voting for them or staying away form the polls all together. How is it that those who use young men to mete out violence and destruction for their personal political objectives, walk the streets without any fear of consequences? What were the political candidates, for whom blood was eventually shed, doing while the city of Jos became a center of sectarian violence? Additionally, what steps are in place to prevent a repeat of this in Jos and any other part of the country?

As calm returns to Jos and as it is now clear that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won all 17 local government elections, it must take the first step in dousing the flames that this election started. That, plus a conscious effort by all to limit and discourage political and religious tensions will be necessary for Jos, and indeed the entire nation, to prevent a repeat of such carnage.

ADDED: When the election violence broke out in Kenya, earlier thsi year, the following was my message/warning to Nigeria's politica elite. I think it is worth repeating given the recent events in Jos.

"I hope that Yardy and the other Big Boys are paying attention to how quickly corruption and mago-mago democracy (false democracy) can cause a ticking time bomb to explode. There are many reasons why Kenya is in chaos, but let us not forget that the intersection of dashed dreams, poverty, corruption, and a shoddy democratic system can cause an eruption in many a country. If that, God forbid, were to happen in Nigeria, then we would all suffer regardless of class, tribe or religion. We cannot afford that to happen. Nigeria's 'leaders' must keep this in mind and Nigerians must do all they can to prevent that possibility."

If the recent violence in Jos is not a warning to be heeded particularly for future local and national elections, don't know what is.

Please read Oz's take on the Jos violence here.

Related Articles of Interest:
- On Ticking Timebombs: Kenya, Nigeria et. al.
- Continuing Violence....
- Is Nigeria A Breeding Ground For Terrorism?
- 'Yawa Don Gas'- Potential Election Violence
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ababoypart2 said...

While I agree to an extent with Oz's take, I think this is now a bit more than economics. Economics has played a big part though, but with Nigeria effectively a failing state, more violence will rear its head in the future, and it will not be perpetuated by the usual suspects.

io said...

another fuse from the ticking time bomb just blew up. saw the report online and i became weak.

Jennifer A. said...

It is so ironic that the Dalai Lama was giving a speech on "harmony" between these two religious groups at the same time the riotings in Jos began... said...

I wonder what Yardua is actually doing to curb this violence? Again, I'm sure he is asleep at the switch...letting political partisanship and religious dichotomy destroy the fabric of our nation. If Yardua will run Nigeria into a state of paralysis; I guess it's about time someone pull the plug from his dialysis machine.
Nigerians CANNOT afford to have a failed state in our hands, but we can afford another failed 'selected' president!!!

BTW, I've updated. Great post as always!

princekay123 said...

This incident has shown again the incompetence of our leaders in managing conflict. The question is: when are we going to learn from previous experience? If not religious crises it will be political hooliganism or public assault on poor masses. We've had enough from the Yar'adua government of Poverty, Despotism and Policy instatbility (PDP).

TheAfroBeat said...

Ah, they walk the streets because they know that Nigerians suffer from PPP and will do absolutely nothing to hold them accountable for their misdeeds.

I too am hoping Yardy is paying attention but then again, that isn't really my gripe with him.

For the love of me said...

Truth is, it will only get worse if an attempt is not made to improve the lives of the poor man.
I'm not quite sure how they say that stuff but something about if you protect only a small percentage of the state, the lageunprotected percentage will ris up to destoy the protected.

The Activist said...

OMG! When are we going to learn that violence achieves nothing but tears and destruction!

Atutupoyoyo said...

Hey Solly. Great piece however it is not clear at all that the PDP won all 17 local governments. This was the main beef of the rioters. In Jos North LGA, where the fighting broke out, ANPP was the overwhelming winner.

However part of democracy, contradictorily, is to accept all official election victories even when they are blatantly rigged. Al Gore and the whole world knew that Bush did not win the 2000 US elections by any clear margin yet rather than abuse the process of democracy, he conceded.

N.I.M.M.O said...

Atutu is on point here and for a people who have been continuously disenfranchised by a thieving ruling party, resorting to violence may appear the most attractive option. But then, violence in itself achieves nothing as Standtall observed.

In a violent situation, people look for any reason to attack others, religion is just one of them. It is unfortunate.

What is more depressing is the callous decision by the Plateau Governor Jonah Jang to go ahead and inaugurate the 'elected' PDP local government officials less than 48 hours after the bloodbath which left at least 387 people dead.

N.I.M.M.O said...

In India, a Minister resigned in less than 48 hours because his ministry could not respond to terror attacks by suspected foreign nationals on Mumbai - a city under his watch. 179 people died.

In Nigeria, a whole city of Jos visited violence on itself. 387 people died. The Governor, the Chief Security officer of the State, decides to hold an inauguration 48 hours after.

It would have been funny were it not so tragic.

Anonymous said...

Those responsible for managing and monitoring elections plus the political parties involved must first win the confidence of the people. The country has never held even nearly honest elections. ON the contrary rigging has become the norm just like its sister corruption and as long as that remains the norm and is compounded by increasing poverty (amidst increasing wealth) decreasing resources, religious and ethnic tensions - then we will continue to have outbreaks of violence such as in Jos.

Anonymous said...

sad story...
"I wonder whether the political parties and the politicians on whose behalf so much destruction was wrought will take the appropriate steps to strike a note of peace, encourage the forgiveness that will be necessary for Jos to heal and take moral responsibility for the chaos."

I wonder the same...

Sherri said...

wasn't that the same election that was declared free, fair and peaceful?
i tire!

princekay123 said...

When will top securities be sacked?

Anonymous said...

@ Blacklooks Those responsible for managing and monitoring elections plus the political parties involved must first win the confidence of the people. How do we manage expectations very quickly after Yardy rigged his way in? Do people really have a choice? We all want things to change but who are those faceless political organisers that fanned this flame? SSS, here is a real job rather than chasing trash publishers. But is anyone listening? Those who are only do it for their selfish reasons. Prove us wrong and chop off a few heads!

Yewande Atanda said...

It's high time we started holding security operatives and police responsible to crimes like this as Princekay123 suggested.

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