JOS CRISIS: FINDING A LASTING SOLUTION
JOS CRISIS: FINDING A LASTING SOLUTION
By Olatunji Olamide
Jos, Plateau State, North-Central Nigeria, once regarded as the home of peace and the haven of tourists (mostly Europeans) has become the epicenter of sectarian crisis. On January 23, 2011, men dressed in military uniform invaded Farin Lamba Village, near K-vom in Jos-south Local Council and killed many villagers. The Guardian newspaper of Monday 31st January reported another killing. This has been the trend for many years running. The crisis assumed a new dimension in December 2010 when on Christmas Eve, multiple bombs exploded in the city, killing several people including a popular burukutu (locally brewed beer) joint. These are some of the most recent of waves of violence and killings which have almost become the permanent features of the city in the last few years.
However, it is pertinent to note that this kind of ethno-religious and political violent killings and violence are by no means restricted to Jos alone. In fact, it is estimated that more than 30,000 Nigerians have lost their lives through ethno-religious conflict or similar violence between the inception of civil rule in 1999 and now. Violent killings have occurred in different parts of the country (both North and South). There have been ethno-religious killings and violence which claimed tens of thousands of lives in Kaduna, Kano, Bauchi, Maiduguri, Benue, Taraba, amongst other states in the North. Also, similar killings have also taken place in Warri in Delta State, Sagamu in Ogun State, Amuleri/Aguleri in the Ibo part of the country and also Ife/Modakeke in Osun State in the western part of the country.
The reasons for all these upheavals witnessed across the country are both political and economic. However, one needs to understand the historical basis of these clashes. The British had laid the foundation for the present ethno-religious crisis by their amalgamation policy. Upon arriving, the British simply adapted their rule to the existing hegemonies in the north, east and west, thereby putting different ethnic and religious people together without any consultations with the various indigenous communities and ethnic groups which they met on ground on how best to co-exist and manage human and material resources This accounts for present situation whereby people who have lived for more than 100 years in some places are still being referred to as “settlers”. In fact, one of the reasons for the recent spate of killings was the victory of one Hausa-Fulani in a local government chairmanship election. There are many in Plateau, particularly the Berom people, who hold the view that the Hausa Fulani who control the political space in the north since the amalgamation should not exercise the same dominance in Plateau,
However, there is more than sufficient anger against the Hausa-Fulani in Plateau because, though regarded as “settlers”, they actually enjoy a very large political patronage in terms of political appointments and other benefits, because of the dominance of the Hausa hegemony in national politics. Of course the vast majority of Hausa-Fulani workers, farmers and poor do not really benefit from the grip of the Hausa-Fulani elite, the north is generally the poorest part of the country. But in a classic “divide and rule” tactic the Hausa-Fulani elite sometimes throws a few crumbs to the Hausa-Fulani poor in an attempt to win favour and, more important, maintain distrust between different ethnic, tribal and religious groupings so as to prevent a united challenge to the elite.
As the normal trend for governments in the capitalist world, when faced with crisis of like manner, they maintain a fraudulent attitude of so much motion without movement, screaming blue murder and promising to arrest the situation and make the perpetrators to be brought to book. In fact, panel of enquiries have been set up by both the Plateau government and the federal government and yet nothing came out it.
After the dust settled in a few days, all the matters are put to rest until another round of crisis breaks out and more people are killed, more properties destroyed, then the circle of official grandstanding will repeat itself again like the famous water circle. This is vividly clear because of the government’s repeated boast of being in control while the mayhem repeatedly continues. Ironically, attacks occur for hours without any official response until the attackers have wrecked havoc and disappeared into thin air.
The situation becomes more worrisome when one considers the fact that up till today, despite the frequency and magnitude of the Jos crisis, nobody has been arrested or prosecuted for the numerous and various killings and carnage, unlike the case in the Niger Delta where known groups launch attacks and claim responsibilities for attacks. The government within its present capitalist limitations cannot confront the problem from its roots.
All attempted solutions in the past have not worked. During this present crisis, many efforts have been made. There has been heavy deployment of armed security forces in the city and this has not worked as attacks still continue in spite of the presence of armed personnel. A state of emergency has also been mooted, but also the experience of such option has shown that this cannot work either, it would only result in wanton disregard of human rights and attacks on innocent citizens by the security forces. Many in the past have also accused the soldiers deployed of taking sides in the conflict; they are accused of turning a blind eye when attacked by men putting on military uniform and with sophisticated weapons.
The frequency and ferocity of ethno-religious/political killings and violence in Nigeria have become very alarming. These have raised serious fears locally and internationally of a possible violent break-up of the country with consequences and repercussions greater in scale and size than the ethno-religious tragedy, violence and wars which engulfed Rwanda, Sierra-Leone, Liberia, etc. or the millions who died in Nigeria’s own civil war of 1967-1970.
Since the attacks has taken an almost guerrilla form and with mistrust of the security forces as being biased and incapable of dealing with the crisis, it is extremely difficult for the police and military to handle the matter without the people in a united fashion democratically form action committees to take charge of security. The government does not want the people to take up the security of their lives and property because it is an avenue for them to take initiatives and also challenge the authority of the government that has failed in all ramifications.
THE WAY FORWARD
Both in the long run and the immediate period, it is only the working class alternative has become a way out of this perennial ethno-religious and political violence that has claimed tens of thousands of lives in the past 12 years alone. Truly, within the framework of capitalism and based on the self-serving calculations of the country’s capitalist elements, there is no solution or hope of one in sight. Consequently, to talk of seriously addressing the political and social factors promoting and deepening the present incessant ethno-religious violence in Plateau State and Nigeria as a whole, the prevailing unjust capitalist system and looters masquerading as leaders must be brought to an end.
In the Guardian of Thursday February 10, 2011, it was reported that the indigenes of Irigwe, the Hausa and Fulani communities in a fresh attempt to restore normalcy to the area, signed a peace pact to end the incessant clashes in the area. However, no amount of peace pacts can restore normalcy to the area on a lasting basis in the absence of workers and peasants of different ethnic and religious groups forming a united front to defend all minorities, struggle to improve living standards and, most importantly, work to replace capitalism with a democratically run society on a socialist policies and programs. The continual cycle of clashes shows the blind alley of capitalism, a lasting solution can only come when a genuine government of the working people that is prepared to use the country’s resources to meet the aspirations of all Nigerians and not just a few capitalist elements comes to power. It is a working class government that can truly organize a sovereign conference peopled by elected representative of workers, traders, professionals, ethnic groups etc., to discuss and determine how best to protect the interest of the vast majority and guarantee all persons the right to attain their fullest potential
The recent mass protest of women largely from both Christian and Muslim groups demanding an end to violence is an indication of possibility of united front against sectarian violence. We advocate the immediate formation of democratically organized and run community defense committees that include representatives of different tribes, religion, workers, youths, traders, farmers and artisans to deal with sectarian violence. However, to achieve a lasting peace it would be imperative for labour and pro-masses organizations to form a working people political alternative, armed with socialist method and programme, that could facilitate formation of such different committees across the state and serve as the political platform to defeat the thieving capitalist ruling elites and their self-serving policies and politics which aggravate the sectarian violence in Jos and elsewhere in the country.