There we go again. Barely two months after the 4th edition of what is now known as the Jos crises we have what could be seen as the 5th edition. We wake up to news of hundreds dead, the govt imposes a curfew…oh wait there is already a curfew from the last time, the President orders more troops to arrest the situation and the uproar on Facebook is as immense. The BBC and co interview a number of random guys on the scene and we see pictures in the newspapers of people being buried. A panel is set up to investigate the issue and that is usually the end of it.
So what exactly is the problem in Jos? A casual glance at some of the popular social networking sites and even some newspapers seem to echo a familiar theme, “Ah those Hausa people again”, or if you are on the other side of the equation, “Ah those Plateau people again”, or those Northerners or those Nigerians. But what is really the issue here? Is it man’s inhumanity to man? Surely that can’t be the problem. The people in Jos do not have a monopoly on violence. I sincerely doubt that the men or women who crushed their fellow humans to death on that expressway were Hausa or Plateau. Neither was the guy who shot a bunch of people at the mall or the guy who ran over his countrymen with an armoured tank. Human beings have the tendency to be violent and commit dastardly acts and this happens all the time. Whereas I am not trying to give any kind of justification for such acts it is important to put emotions aside and analyze issues based on the facts. The fact is that in Jos, and Kano and Awka and virtually the entire country there are two classes of citizens. the indigen and the non-indigen. In most cases non-indigenes are treated far worse than indigenes and this is especially true but not unique to Jos. So what is so special about Jos?The creation of Jos north LGA in the 90’s created an almost unique situation in which the community had no obvious majority group. The Hausa community is just as large as any other group in Jos north. Throw in the fact that the two major groups are divided along religious and party lines and it is no surprise that violence has followed. I’m not trying to lay blame on any particular group though. Both the Hausa and Plateau community in Jos have committed heinous acts. The issue is not that they are wicked or that they are somehow different from every other tribe but that one group is treated differently from the other. One group has rights and the other doesn’t. The fact is this is a nationwide problem and yes it is Hausa vs Plateau today but it is just as likely to be igbo vs ikwerre tomorrow, or ijaw vs itsekiri or tiv vs idoma or any of the 100 or so other ethnic groups. So what is the solution. It obviously does not involve splitting Nigeria into two. No point cutting off your leg if you have malaria. The solution to the problem involves addressing the fact that in every society in Nigeria there are two classes of people, the indigen and the non-indigen. Is this issue going to be addressed? Probably not.
However it is probably naive to dream of a utopian society where everybody lives in peace and harmony. There will always be disagreements, arguments and grievances. History has shown that communities who don’t have anywhere to take their grievances often turn to violence. And like the saying goes, violence begets more violence. The justice system in Nigeria is non-existent to regular Nigerians so it comes as no surprise that communities and groups have turned to violence. We have figured out that there is actually no security apparatus. Yes there are some guys in abuja who claim to be the federal police and there are even more guys who are the secret federal police. When it comes down to the facts however we have learned that in Nigeria you can get away with slaughtering a hundred people, running over people with a bus and even rejecting all things modern (hands up if you believe Yusuf Mohammed was the mastermind behind Boko haram). Random violence is more common in the north because it takes a lot of brain-power to institutionalize kidnapping and it takes a lot of money to fund an uprising. Lets face it, the rank and file of the north have neither the funds nor the level of education. Random violence is a cheap and an easy way to show frustrations.
I can probably go on and list a bunch of other reasons that could have led to the escalation of this crisis but i guess I’ll leave that for another day. Creating solutions one problem at a time is the only way to go. That is what development is all about isn’t it. I hope this crisis serves as one more reason to try to change the way some things are done in Nigeria. But hey you are not a senator or a governor or any of those important politicians out there so how can you be expected to make a change. Well you can make sure that come elections in 2011 you pay attention and vote for somebody who is able, and of course healthy enough, to make that change. And make sure your vote counts.