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Jos as a metaphor for terrorism

The spontaneity of the crisis and the depth of its impact show nothing but premeditation by those who perpetrated it. Underlying wolves are crying more…

The spontaneity of the crisis and the depth of its impact show nothing but premeditation by those who perpetrated it. Underlying wolves are crying more than the bereaved in a strident effort to cover their tracks. Their own children are safely tucked into schools, offices and jobs abroad but having used the ready army of the disenfranchised hoi-polloi, they raise their own voices to deflect attention away from their guilt. They have no conscience. In their trail jaundiced minds and hack writers are bringing up passionate but equally jaundiced opinions and interpreting events from prisms which show in most instances their lack of the basic understanding of events. Of course there is the quest for deliberate distortion of facts and history, all in an effort to score cheap political and other mundane points. But Jos is a metaphor for terrorism. It is a crisis of condescension.

There is no celestial excuse for what has happened except if one is a megalomaniac. There is no religious justification for premeditated murder. Except in the annals of barbarity and the height of paganism when humans were sacrificed to lesser gods, there can be no justification for mass murder or pogrom. We denigrate the concept of God when we kill in His name. If our God cannot fight for himself, then he is no God but god. Our plurality as a nation, as a race, as a people is our beauty. In his omnipotence God could have made the entire world of one religion; make the human race one specie; make the weather of one clime and language, but he made us a web of beauty. Any attempt to unilaterally re-order the status quo would be recourse to boring monotony.

This is what I always ponder whenever I hear that people are killing in the name of the Lord. But perhaps, the Jos Crisis is more than a religious killing field. It has political undertones, and the politics is more than partisan. It is the crisis of identity in Nigeria, a situation where the constitution determines who is a Nigerian but states determine who ‘indigenes’ are. We have argued time without number that Nigeria is a federation, our constitution says so and everything else in the letters of the law and the norms agree, but in practice it is nothing but farce. We need to work on this; no Nigerian should be made to feel less than a citizen in any part of this country. No religious group should think or act as if its predominance in one area is a licence for hegemony.

This anomaly goes beyond Jos in many ways. Across this country, we are religious but not godly. States deny people the right to practice their religion with impunity. In Gombe, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) honoured Danjuma Goje for being tolerant and giving land for church growth. It was and still is a bizarre irony. He is governor of all including pagans even where he can prove empirically that he was elected 100 per cent by Muslims. He does not deserve any special honour any more than a cleaner deserves honour for doing his job or a driver for driving. The award itself is an indictment, either of the intolerance of the people before him, or the people of the state or his brother governors. This is the underlying crisis of religious and ethnic identity in Nigeria. It is the crisis that distinguishes sabon-gari or new town from the ancient city. It is the crisis of ethnic and religious exclusion instead of national cohesion. It is a plague that Nigeria must fight at all levels.

Rebranding must take cognisance of these issues, debate it and resolve it. If we must shake off the tag of terrorists, we must place more value on human life and accept the truth that we all owe each other. That no ethnic group or religious group can fully develop on its own any more than we can live only on what we produce. It is a message we must imbibe and ingest. But how to do that with all that we have done to ourselves in the past twelve years of rudderlessness beats my imagination. How do you get a child who grew up to see his father maul down his neighbour because he is one religion or one ethnic group to grow, live with and respect people of other groups?

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