“It takes six people to lift up a coffin. Imagine how great life would be if six of us can lift each other up every day.” – Unknown.
I was taking a nice nap on the couch on a breezy sunny afternoon when gunshots rang out in my street. It turns out the sound was some Muslim and Christian gun-stars and gangsters clashing again.
I was still basking under the influence of the opiate when I heard doleful wails from across the street – of voices mostly women and children, and security operatives drooling with their usual sirens, ”wow wow wow wow wow!”.
I’ve been home-tie with conjunctivitis of the eye. *I wingled off the couch to get a glance of the disturbing event on the street. I was ruptured by the bullet-ridden bodies lying around. So much that I couldn’t control my emotions and had to roll down tears.
Then something shocking happened. A crying Muslim man with snotty nose entered the circle of the sorrowful and rageful Christians. Thick beads of tears pigtailed down his face. His howl was so loud and touching that every other wailer paused and stared at him.
A septuagenarian asked why he was so livid with so much rage.
He introduced himself as a Yoruba Muslim and tearfully narrated how his wife and six children were burnt to death with his house by Hausa-Fulani Muslim mob while he was away at work. This made many people among the crowd to wonder whether the violence was more than just a religious crisis.
This was in March 2010 when hundreds of residents were massacred in a religious violence between Christians and Muslims in the cool city of Jos, Plateau State-Nigeria.
Before then, in January 2010, properties worth billions of naira including houses, churches, mosques and vehicles were destroyed, during a sanguinary upheaval that lasted for at least four days. Possibly more than a thousand people were killed with some bodies dumped into wells.
In 2008, over 700 people were killed, and earlier in 2001, some one thousand people were killed in religious riots. It didn’t even start there.
The history of the Plateau genocides is almost as old as the history of modern Jos.
So much of an irony for a city-state that pride itself as “The Home of Peace And Tourism”. More like “Home of Pieces And Terrorism” now.
The irony of slogan didn’t stop at just the state’s strapline but also extend to the hypocrisy of the de facto slogans of the two predominant and warring religions viz Islam which acclaimed itself as “Religion of Peace”, and Christians who pride themselves as “Children of the Prince of Peace”.
But Jos was not always the “theatre of war” that it has become.
Our elders used to regale us with tales of the good old days when Jos and peace were inseparable as Ibiza and beach lovers. When religious tolerance held sway. When Terminus market was an African pride. When Bukuru was an industrial haven. When Rayfield was a jewel on the plateau.
There was a time when Jos was a miniature Nigeria where Igbo, Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba, Niger Deltans, and other Middle Beltans, lived peacefully and harmoniously with the native Beroms, Angas etc, regardless of tribal and religious differences. When there was no “Christian areas” where Muslims are persona non grata and vice versa.
But sadly, Jos has become a pale shadow of its former self!
The most recent in the timeline of the perennial ethnoreligious crisis is the 14th August 2021 attack on some travelers at Rukuba Road where twenty commuters were ambushed and killed.
Media report had it that the victims were travelling from Bauchi to Ikare in Ondo State when they met their untimely death in Jos. Forty of them were still missing.”
The attack is totally condemnable. The relevant authorities should rise up to their duties and proffer a lasting solution to the escalating tribal militancy and insecurities ravaging the country now that the badly scorched snake is yet to be decapitated.
And to the purveyors of violence parading as newspapers; carrying malicious and sentimental war-triggered headlines for clannish and selfish reasons, remember, when heaven fall, non is safe.
This is not the first, but we can make it the last.
An Essayist & Media Consultant can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org)