Friday, March 12, 2010

A recent rash of fighting near Jos left a death toll now numbering 500 and growing. Women, children and the elderly were the main victims and according to reports, most of the dead are Christians. The governor of Plateau State (of which Jos is the capital), has laid the blame for the violence and resulting massacre on Nigeria's military, but who is really to blame?

Nigeria burnt homes 
The Jos region has been rocked with fighting for many years. As far back as 1994, the area has been wrought with violence. Although the chaos ends up being characterized as religious, the tensions in the region also stem from additional factors such as tribal distrust, poverty and political motivations. In January 2010, text messages incited rioting that left many hundreds dead. The entire state was placed under curfew and the Nigerian military descended on Jos to keep the peace. The January fighting also led to calls for Governor Jang's resignation.

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Source: 234NEXT

In the wake of this most recent massacre, Governor Jang now accuses the Nigerian government of failing to prevent the fighting. Jang asserts that he warned the military of an impending attack, less than 24 hours before it happened. He said,
"I received reports at about 9 p.m. [Saturday] that some people with arms were seen around those villages, and I reported to the commander of the army and he told me he was going to move some troops there, and because it is near where I live, I even saw a tank pass through my house and I thought it was going towards that area. Three hours or so later, I was woken by a call that they have started burning the villages and people were being hacked to death. I then tried to locate the commanders but I couldn't get any of them on the telephone."

Jang's accusations are supported by certain Christian groups such as the Plateau State Christian Elders Consultative Forum and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). CAN also alleges that it previously alerted the military to "mercenaries" entering the region and training locals to fight Christians, a claim that is strengthened by recent reports that a North African Al Qaeda group offered to train Nigerian Muslims to kill Christians. Saidu Dogo said,
"For quite some time we have alerted the government to training grounds in some part of the northern state where people are being trained to cause problems in the country... Nobody did anything about it. Many people come into Nigeria under the pretext of [being] pastoralists, they are mercenaries. They follow pastoralist routes to gain entrance, carry out their activities and then leave..." [sic]
The UN, the Organization of Islamic Conferences and other organizations have equally blamed the Nigerian government for failing to prevent the fighting. While the nation's House of Representatives is calling for a truth and reconciliation commission to stem the distrust and tension in the Jos region,  Nigeria's Senate has commended Acting President Jonathan's response - a probe - to the fighting.

The Director of Information for the Nigerian Army, Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade, responded to Jang's accusations by making some harsh comments of his own. Olukolade insisted that Jang's statement were an effort to attack the Army and smear its reputation. Olukolade also noted that for a former military officer, Jang "demonstrated an embarrassing naivety in interpreting the dynamics of land operations." He explained that security in Jos is the responsibility of not just the Army, but the Police Force, the Navy and other security operatives and also stated that Jang's comments were a blackmail attempt,
"[T]he Army is briefing appropriate authorities ... and ... appropriate response to Governor Jang’s attack on the Army is forthcoming, it is necessary to reassure Nigerians that the Army is not involved in any complicity as suggested by Governor Jang through his numerous channels for blackmail. The Army will continue to make its vital input into the ongoing joint operations of the Special Task Force as duly mandated by the Federal Government of Nigeria."
Plateau State's acting commissioner of Police, Ikechukwu Aduba, informed the public that an investigation led to at least 200 arrests and that some of those arrested confessed to not just participating in the murders, but also of being paid to carry out the violence. Aduba also made sure to clarify that the sponsors of the March 7th destruction were yet to be revealed by those arrested.

It is a shame that instead of springing to action, Nigerian officials choose to blame each other and underperform. It is an insult for Jang to suggest that because he informed the military of an impending attack, he is not equally complicit in the failure to prevent the resulting massacre. Jang is a former military man who served as governor of Benue state during the Babangida military regime. As such, he cannot feign ignorance in the measures that he had at his disposal. As he himself noted, the villages he suspected of being a source of problems were not far from him. So, the question must be asked, what prevented Jang from going there to personally meet with village leaders so as to ensure that violence would not break out? His statement that he is powerless because he does not command a security force for his state is one that has been expressed by other governors, like Lagos Governor Fashola, but that reality does not diminish his responsibility to go above and beyond in his duty to serve citizens and work tirelessly for their security, especially as his State has been a hotbed of violence far too often. Jang's recent peace tour and a Plateau State-created review panel were steps in the right direction to respond to the January fighting, but those acts and his alleged warning to the military do not absolve him of responsibility in this most recent massacre.

As for Olukolade, the army and other parts of the military, there is no doubt that Jang's accusations suggest complicity. However, to respond so callously and turn what is a serious situation of lives lost and futures ruined, into a catfight is unbecoming of a military officer and most definitely unbecoming of one sworn to serve the Federal Republic of Nigeria and her people. A simple acknowledgment that Jang's comments stemmed from a stressful situation and that more information was necessary to determine what, if any, lapses occurred would have been enough to not only get a jab in at Jang but respectfully respond to any allegations. Besides, a review of previous fighting in Jos revealed the complicity of security officials who opted for partisanship over security, so Jang's accusations are not completely baseless. That being said, there is little doubt that the Jos fighting and the many other incidents of crime, murder, and insecurity around Nigeria illustrate a failure of security forces in Nigeria to protect citizens.

The possibility that people were paid to attack and murder on March 7th, 2010 is not a surprising revelation. Nigeria has a history of politicians and other elites paying criminals to use their violent skills in an effort to thwart the efforts of opponents and perceived enemies. The only surprise in Aduba's statement is the fact that he did not use a word that has become a favorite of Nigeria's political elite when trying to blame the supposedly faceless and nameless elements that seem powerful enough to constantly make a fool of an entire government - 'cabal'. What Nigerians (this writer included) want to know is exactly who these people are and why they have chosen this moment to use Jos to satisfy their goals. It cannot be overlooked that since Nigeria entered a period of political uncertainty created by President Yar'Adua's absence, Jos has been rocked by massacres twice. Is the fighting in Jos and the resulting lack of an aggressive response by all arms of the federal government simply part of a larger plan to further destabilize Nigeria? Is this an effort to warn of future violence if the north does not retain control of the Presidency? Whatever the case may be, the deaths of so many Nigerians - both Christians and non-Christians - must not become a recurring habit and the loss of life must spur action from officials and the people themselves, such as the protests by women that have already occurred.

Nigerian officials cannot continue to move delicately in reaction to the unrest and tension that abounds in Nigeria and has erupted to create an intolerable situation in Jos. This matter has gone beyond mere probes, commissions or more meetings. The book SMS Uprising: Mobile Phone Activism in Africa tells of how Kenyan officials reacted to inciting and hateful text messages by sending messages of peace to 9 million subscribers so as to calm the situation. This example from Kenya shows that Governor Jang and the Nigerian government must be proactive in their response to unrest in Nigeria and work harder to prevent violence. Sharing messages of harmony and ensuring that images of tribal, religious and political harmony are propagated is a key step to dampening the distrust that leads to massacre.

Additionally, a push to sideline religious and political leaders that use their position to incite tensions in the region would also help in limiting a repeat of such fighting. It cannot be ignored that northern Nigeria was recently wrought by 2 extremist groups - Boko Haram and Kalo Kato - which used violence against Christians and non-Christians in furtherance of their misplaced religious ideas. In fact, after the Boko Haram violence in July 2009, Muslim leaders in the north pledged to regulate the activities of northern preachers, something that is yet to happen but must happen to prevent re-occurrences. The conclusions of a recent panel investigating Jos riots in 1994 and 2001 recommended that the activities of "overzealous demagogues" were to be monitored and such individuals were to be neutralized to prevent violence. The implementation of this particular suggestion would go a long way to improve security and calm nervous citizens worried about retaliatory attacks and a lack of adequate protection from authorities.

Furthermore, Nigeria's 'leaders' must come out and speak against such violence. Especially those that are well-respected in the north. The Sultan of Sokoto is not just a political leader but a religious leader that has the ears of the north. If there ever was a time for the Sultan who has repeatedly expressed forward thinking ideas on how the north and its leaders must transform, that time is now. Ibrahim Babangida, who was recently visited by American officials prior to this most recent outbreak, should be in Jos trying to remedy the fractious environment that that once beautiful city has become. The same goes for many other northerners that wield considerable influence. The fact that many of these individuals have been considerably silent only fuels the suspicions and wild allegations that the Northern elite has a hand in these and other outbursts of unrest.

Regardless of the above suggestions, education, jobs, and a way out of poverty will go a long way to increase peace across Nigeria. And, a key solution to this and many other of the problems Nigeria faces is accountability. Those responsible must be proven to have been complicit and they must be identified prominently, regardless of their station or connections. Nigeria cannot continue to lag along with it punishment problem - failing to deal with offenders, save for the poor ones. Accountability and its sister justice are key elements of every society and particularly the democratic ones. Until Nigerians are armed with the facts that created this situation, they will not be able to adequately respond. And if they do not have an opportunity to constructively respond, the stage will be set for bad blood and retaliation to spur a future repeat of the massacre that just happened in Jos. Only, the onslaught might not limit itself to Jos alone.

From the Archives:
- Fresh Killings in Jos
- Jos: The Power of Texts & Poverty
- Religious & Political Violence in Jos
- Boko Haram: Questions Remain
- Aftermath of Northern Islamist Attacks
- Militants In Northern Nigeria? (Boko Haram)
- Nigeria - List of Intolerant Nations
- How To Shoot Yourself In The Foot With Al-Qaeda
- Nigeria's 10MN Child Beggars

9 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Turai said...

The blame game never solved any problems.

RE - BadGalsRadio said...


Fela Say - Looka yar'adua, before anything at all him go dey shout Abba Allah, and dem do bad bad bad bad bad bad things to mohammed our lord, by the grace of almight allah.

Go Mek Dem Know and Come See Me Play It Here in Africa Shrine 2 on Internet. until further notice BadGalsRadio will be playing songs of protest against the Nigerian Military Government. General Yar A'dua and his generals again come mek we weep. Come Mek them tek all the bodies and carry dem go bury in their barracks and front yard of dem house.

One Death Is Too Many. This Is WAR Generals AMEN

Anonymous said...

It makes the heart heavy.

Could you become a leader there? Are the imperial oil-interests too powerful to just start a political groundswell? Would there be enough people to watch your back? Would they be able to keep from being infiltrated by double-agents? What would you do about the oil contracts? If you were to try to share more of Nigeria's oil wealth for the general welfare, the neoliberals in the U.K. and everywhere else would want you undermined or dead or both. Would you go the M.L.K., Gandhi, Tolstoy, Jesus route?
... See More
I'm sure you know the CIA is there and here on Facebook too and with the NSA of course. The neocons want al Qaeda blamed. They'll work every angle they can to have a pretext to invade one place after another in their Trotskyite-like world revolution.

Peace to you, Solomon, my sister.

I cry for Nigeria.

- Tom Usher from Facebook

Anonymous said...

It makes the heart heavy.

Could you become a leader there? Are the imperial oil-interests too powerful to just start a political groundswell? Would there be enough people to watch your back? Would they be able to keep from being infiltrated by double-agents? What would you do about the oil contracts? If you were to try to share more of Nigeria's oil wealth for the general welfare, the neoliberals in the U.K. and everywhere else would want you undermined or dead or both. Would you go the M.L.K., Gandhi, Tolstoy, Jesus route?
... See More
I'm sure you know the CIA is there and here on Facebook too and with the NSA of course. The neocons want al Qaeda blamed. They'll work every angle they can to have a pretext to invade one place after another in their Trotskyite-like world revolution.

Peace to you, Solomon, my sister.

I cry for Nigeria.

- Tom Usher from Facebook

sokari said...

Anonymous - what is your point. You are not telling us something we don't already know and frankly I for one could care less whether CIA or SSS or any other group of criminals are on FB or watching what I am writing.

Badgalsradio - You are absolutely right - this is yet another military government. I hope other radio stations will follow your lead and preach the language of peace and sanity. SS is right in saying lack of education is an issue but even more so in the immediate moment is access to the truth and that is one thing lacking for the majority of Nigerians in this country of secrets and lies.

Thanks for the thoughtful post SS

F said...

Blame games are the story of Nigeria's life. Nothing is ever the fault of anyone person or body- instead responsibility is like a yoyo bouncing from one place to another. The whole thing is ridiculous.

CodLiverOil said...

There are a number of points I’d like to make:
Those in authority who are blaming one another should be removed from office (Jang, Maina, Aduba, Olukolade etc, even Jonathan, he has said virtually nothing about this).

All religious bodies should come out and wholeheartedly condemn the violence and regardless of the religious/ ethnic background of the victims. As opposed to partisanship ie CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria) only say anything when Christians die and the JNI (Jama’atu Nasril Islam) only talk when Muslims die. This current state of affairs doesn’t help anyone, but only serves to re-enforce existing fault-lines.

In fact both or should I say all religious organisations should jointly dissociate themselves from this, and to show how genuine they are they should expose those amongst their ranks who are responsible and turn them over to the authorities (along with supporting evidence). At least they will regain a smattering of credibility. But this is most unlikely to happen.

How is it the ex-governor of Kaduna state Mr Makarfi, has managed to implement a lasting peaceful solution in neighbouring Kaduna state (despite the bungled introduction of Sharia there). Why can’t he be drafted into Plateau to oversee the establishment security to ensure peace? If local taxes have to be raised to pay for it, so be it.

The foot-dragging by the northern elite, to quell the violence is not a positive sign for co-operation to resolve this issue.

I like the idea of you wanting to involve the Sultan of Sokoto. But to date he hasn’t said much, only that “Islam is a religion of peace”. I suspect even he may recognise that his influence is limited. He is more ceremonial than an absolute leader. Hence his carefully timed and worded statements, to maintain the image of influence, whilst not exposing his limitations.

I’m not sure why you included Ibrahim Babangida. Granted he is

CodLiverOil said...

(2) continuation:
...wealthy, but he is no religious leader and his influence is largely confined to Niger state, and that is due to his wealth (regardless of the means he acquired it). He carries even less weight, beyond Niger state.

No one should have to call on the northern elite to step up to the plate and help others who are trying to reach out and solve this problem. Simple human decency and compassion should be enough to motivate some individuals to do something useful and tangible.

The idea of sms messages being sent to calm the situation, that I’m yet to be convinced of. But if it can save one life, then why not.

The problem with the distribution of state funds, accessibility to these funds by the general populace touches on many issues which are not unique to Plateau, but are shared by all states within the federation.

In other words the state governments and governors will have to put in place projects aimed at revenue generation and employment opportunities, not simply sitting on their hands relying on oil-revenue, and cornering that by using all means. Removal of discrimination against segments of the population is needed. This all goes back to corruption and accountability which for the past 49 years, everyone has managed to ignore (with the exception of the esteemed Nuhu Ribadu).

You only briefly touched upon the topic of ethnic distrust. People talk about removing the indigene vs settler question by stating equal rights for all. That is theoretically very good, but in practice, do you think the Berom or any other people can go to Kano and claim equal rights as the citizens there? We know full well what will happen to them before they even complete their sentence. So let us be honest about this. If the Hausas and Fulani of Plateau want to annex Jos North LGA and by stealth as much of Plateau state as they can get their hands on, what can be done to protect the rights

CodLiverOil said...

(3) continuation:
...of the indigenous “minority” peoples not just of Plateau but throughout Nigeria? If this isn’t examined and addressed these needless massacres will continue. It may even degenerate into guerrilla warfare. Mutual co-existence is one thing, annexation is quite another. So this sensitive and core issue will have to be addressed properly.

The judicial system will have to be kicked into life. The wheels of justice move too slowly. The plotters, backers and sponsors need to be hauled before the halls of justice and prosecuted and punished accordingly, along with their foot soldiers.

The press do a great job by highlighting flaws in society and the government. But instead of the government being responsive and quickly acting to rectify this situation to pacify the public. The public are largely silent and the government is indifferent to public opinion. (I’m not just referring to this administration, this is a characteristic of all governments there). That is where the link is broken. Something must be done to make governments more responsive and accountable.

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