Politics, Economy in Jos Crisis: Analysts

By Rafiu Oriyomi
OnIslam Correspondent

Jos politics
Political rivalry and limited economic opportunities are seen as behind the lingering crisis in the central Nigerian city of Jos. (Reuters)
Jos, politics

LAGOS – Political rivalry and limited economic opportunities, not religious extremism, are the root causes of the lingering crisis in the central Nigerian city of Jos, experts believe.

“The government knows the direction to look at if they want to get to the roots of the crisis,” Titus Mann, President of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), told OnIslam.net on Monday, December 27.

“We have always said that the Jos violence is political and should resolved using political settlements.”

Deadly clashes erupted between armed Christian and Muslim groups in Jos on Sunday, a day after 32 people were killed in a series of attacks on Christmas Eve.

Observers blame the violence on politicians who latch on the ethno-religious differences and widespread poverty to incite violence and settle political scores.

“The latest bombings brought the crisis to another dimension,” said Mann.

“The two political camps have been issuing threats in the recent time and this is the outcome of their threats.

“They should be held responsible for the latest round of violence.”

Incumbent Governor Jonah Jang, a Christian from the ethnic Berom, is at loggerheads with his deputy Pauline Talen, who hails from the Plateau Central and shares close rapport with Hausa-Fulani tribe of northern Jos.

Talen, who wants to be a governor despite Jang’s plans to seek re-election, is backed by Senator Ibrahim Mantu and other key politicians from northern Jos, which is a predominantly-Muslim region.

The unrest also come amid growing tension in Nigeria over a controversial bid by incumbent President Jonathan Goodluck, a Christian, to seek re-election.

Since the return of democracy in 1999, there has been an agreement in Nigeria to rotate power between the Muslim North and the Christian South every two terms.

Jonathan, who is from the Niger Delta in the south, inherited the presidency when late president Umaru Yar'Adua, a northerner, died this year during his first term.

Supporters argue that since Jonathan was on a joint ticket with Yar'Adua, he can seek to serve out at least that second term, a claim rejected by the northerners.

“Unless they show sincerity and promote peace, the crisis in Jos will continue and may spread elsewhere,” Joseph Hayab, spokesman for the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), said.

“Politicians are hiding under politics to divide the people. This must stop.”

In November 2008, hundreds were killed in two days of fighting in Jos triggered by a rumor that a mainly Muslim party had lost a local election to a Christian-dominated party.

Nigeria is a multi-religious society with 50 percent of the population Muslims and 40 percent Christians.

Economy, Not Religion

Analysts believe that the limited economic opportunities also add to fuel the Jos crisis.

“Because the people are different already on religious and cultural matters, the struggle for limited economic opportunities worsen the situation in Jos,” said Abiodun Aremu, secretary of the Labor and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO).

“Politicians feed fat on this to achieve their political end. That is why nobody is being prosecuted.”

Christians, Muslims and animists from a patchwork of ethnic groups live peacefully side by side in most Nigerian cities.

But hundreds of people died in religious and ethnic clashes at the start of the year in the central Middle Belt and there are fears politicians could try to stoke such rivalries as the elections approach.

The tensions are rooted in decades of resentment between indigenous groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying for control of fertile farmlands and for economic and political power with mostly Muslim migrants and settlers from the north.

“We all know that it is not religious,” Abubakar Muhammad Sa’ad, Sultan of Sokoto and President of Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), told OnIslam.net.

“When anything happens where Christians and Muslims are involved people say it is religious, No. it is not religious.

“Why is not happening in Sokoto, why is not happening in other places it is not religious?” the Sultan asked.

NSCIA is planning to hold a joint press conference with CAN on Tuesday to address the crisis.

“The leaders should find related problems plaguing the society,” Abubakar said.

“We the religious leaders are doing our best.” 

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