Africa

Why Religious Clashes persist in Jos

The Nigerian city of Jos once known for its peace and serenity has now become a scene of recurrent ethnoreligious bloodletting.  On March 7, at least 500 persons were reportedly killed in the latest out break of violence in the city. According to eye witnesses, a gang of men suspected to be islamic militants descended on there christian dominated villages, and attacked the people with matchetes. The militants shot in the air to bring people out of their houses and when they came out, they butchered and beheaded them. Most of the victims were mainly women and children. This latest killing is believed to be a reprisal attack by hausa-fulani muslims who suffered heavy casualties during the riots that broke out in January. In the past 10 years clashes between christian indigenes and muslim settlers have claimed thousands of lives. Attacks and counter attacks between christains and muslims in Jos have erupted several times in the past.Religious conflicts persist in the west African nation due to the following reasons.
Islamic Imperialism
Nigeria is divided into a christian dominated south and a muslim dominated north.
Islamists in Northern Nigeria want to exert and extend their power and influence by force if need be. Already, islamic theocrats have foisted their political agenda as codified in the sharia law on muslim majority states deepening the religious divide and the indigene-settler, muslim-christian dichotomy in the sharia states. Islamists want to extend their regime and influence to all states where muslims live or reside. And Plateau state falls within their sphere, and remains one of their targets
Lack of Political Will
The recurrent cases of religious violence in Jos and in other parts of Northern Nigeria indicate a clear lack of will to resolve this festering problem. This is because in Nigeria religion and politics mix. And in Northern Nigeria there is lack of separation of mosque and state. Islam is privileged. Anything islamic -whether good or bad- is the law or above the law. So violence perpetrated in the name of islam is not punished. Islamic militants are jihadists. And jihadists are treated as heroes, not criminals
Jos as a Scape goat
Jos and Plateau state as a whole has been made a scape goat of the misguided religious politics in Northern Nigeria. In fact the people of Plateau are suffering, bleeding and dying as a result of the terrible power play by the region’s political elite. Plateau has been made a sacrificial lamb. The islamic politics in Northern Nigeria is divisive and antagonizing. It favours and empowers muslims. It has turned non indigenes and non muslims in muslim majority states to strangers and settlers in their own country. It has caused non muslims to treat muslim minorities in other parts of the Federation with hatred, hostility and intolerance.
So the politics of indigenes versus settlers, Christians versus muslims did not start in Jos or Plateau state. It is the in thing in Northern Nigeria, and exists also in Kano, Kaduna, Gombe, Jigawa etc . In the sharia implementing states, muslim/indigene majorities have forced the settler minorities to become second class citizens. During the sharia riots, islamists openly called on non indigenes to accept sharia or leave. And many of them actually relocated, while those who stayed behind were forced to submit to Islamic rule. And the Nigerian government has refused to address these national and political anomalies.

The peculiar thing with the case of Jos is that Christians are in the majority and won’t want to be made second class citizens in their own land. So what we are experiencing in Jos is an eruption of the tension that has been simmering in the Northern states particularly since the introduction of sharia law by muslim majority states.
Intelligence Failure
The crisis in Jos could also be blamed on the deficient and inept security and intelligence system which exists in the country. But it is all deliberate and planned. And that makes it more complex. The fact is that some elements in the security agencies are working hand in hand with the militants. They are supplying them with information and intelligence as to when to strike. That is why the clashes like the latest one have always taken our security agencies by surprise. For instance many people had predicted the latest reprisal attack. So why is it that security agencies deployed to the state since January could not nip the conflict in the bud? Or intervene to minimize the casualties. It was also reported that in the course of the attack, people contacted the soldiers stationed in Jos but they did not turn up immediately. And by the time they arrived the village, the militants had gone. So there is an urgent need for the government to review its security outfit and check these deliberate security and intelligence lapses we experience when it comes to tackling religious violence in the country.

Leo Igwe is the IHEU director in West Africa

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