August 16, 2021 is a day the recurring conflict in Jos Plateau reached one of its high points as the once peaceful city is sadly becoming a theatre of blood-letting. For Muhammad Ibrahim (name of an actual survivor) it was a day he will never forget as long as he lives. It was a day he literally stared death in the face but survived. However many of his friends weren’t as lucky. Many of them also stared death in the face, but death didn’t allow them live to tell the tale.
After celebrating the Islamic New Year with family and friends in Bauchi state, their unfortunate meeting with the cold hands of death began when they embarked on a return journey to their base in Ondo state. Muhammad Ibrahim recalls bidding farewell to his family and along with his best friend Musa (not his real name) as well as about 88 other Muslim faithful hopped into five vehicles. Unbeknownst to them, the about 855 kilometer journey will turn out to be a nightmare.
After over an hour into the journey and upon getting to Rukuba road on the outskirts of Jos, their vehicles were suddenly attacked. At first, Muhammad thought the attackers were probably bandits who wanted to kidnap them for ransom. On closer look however, he noticed they were youths like themselves but wielding machetes and knives and throwing stones at their vehicles. They placed barriers blocking their path and stopping their vehicles.
Muhammad and some others were able to escape from their attackers. However his best friend, Musa, and a few others weren’t so lucky. By the time the dust had settled, about 25 of them had been killed and a lot more injured. Muhammad inquired more about their attackers and discovered they were attacked by Irigwe militias. He didn’t know who they were and why they attacked them. He had never been a resident of Jos; always a passerby so to speak. It was not until much later that he found out why their vehicles were attacked…
One can only reminisce about the beautiful city of Jos, popularly called J-Town, which used to be a haven for expatriates due to its cold climatic conditions and having a heritage of hospitality. NASCO group was a prominent structure in the central city. Jos wildlife Park, the Museum and stadium are all structures that draw awe from Nigerians visiting the city. The Riyom Rocks, a dramatic and photogenic pile of rocks balanced precariously on top of one another, is a natural phenomenon and a sight to behold that Plateau inhabits.
For some years now however, Jos the Plateau state capital has been a flashpoint for ethno-religious conflicts, often pitting Christian and Muslim youths against each other. This has scared tourists from within and outside the country. The conflict has also become infamous over time so much so that it has received both local and international attention. In September 2001, the conflict reached a climax when clashes between Christians and Muslims around Jos left almost a thousand people dead. It is very sad to note that 20 years after the sad event, Plateau state is still in the throngs of conflict and still searching for peace.
As a discerning observer of the conflicts in the state, the ethno-religious rivalry that is abound there seems to have been heated up overtime by the high visibility of mobilized, politicized and ethicized armed ethnic groups, which along with Plateau state, is also found in many states across the country that are multi-ethnic and religious. This political undertone given to this conflict apparently has made it highly impossible for both the federal and state governments to find lasting solutions to the crisis.
It is also sad to note that one of the factors making the conflict more complex to manage is the ethnic and religious dimension it has taken. People have chosen to align with their own (tribe or religion) even when they are the architects of recurrent incidents that have caused the lives of countless people and rendered millions homeless. The conflicts seems never ending as the insecurity and violence have led many populations within the state to create self-defence forces as well as ethnic and tribal militias that have engaged in further violence.
The seemingly never ending ethno-religious inspired conflicts in states like Plateau, Kaduna, Benue as well as Taraba states have proven beyond any reasonable doubt that conflict entrepreneurs have no respect for the different tribes or religions during the execution of their evils. It means that in most cases, these conflicts continue to occur because of deep hatred and cajoling. The profiteers of course operate in the shadows, never on the front line and most often walk home with their largesse post conflict.
As a people however, we must identify and resist such people and come together and put a stop to the unnecessary violence/conflict being perpetuated under the guise of ethno-religious sentiments.
It really is time for us, as a nation, to face the reality and stop treating these acts of criminality with kid gloves and say in a single voice, “enough of this bloodshed,” that keeps repeating itself. The safety of lives and property must be assured because without peace and security, there would be a loss of confidence in the government. And when criminals profit from their criminality, crime will increase.
To the ethno-religious extremist out there that wear the toga of tribe and religion and perpetuate violence on others, “have your actions changed the hardships we all as ordinary Nigerians are facing?” Instead they are contributing to the hardship because farmers can no longer go to the farms safely. Goods can no longer be transported from one part of the country to the other safely. Traders can no longer travel from one part of the country or even move about within a state without looking above their shoulders.
To the ethno-religious extremists, “have you gone to the market lately and presented your Muslim or Christian “identity card” in order to buy food items or goods at a cheaper rate?”
“Has your electricity rate reduced just because you belong to a particular tribe or religion?”
“Have you bought cooking gas at a lower rate just because of your religion or tribe?”
“Have your fuel tank been filled for free just because of your tribe of religious affiliation?”
One can categorically state that the answer to these questions is a resounding “NO.”
…For Muhammad Ibrahim, the death of his best friend and other innocent travelers on that faithful day is an act he will never understand. Many of those slain on that day were simply innocent people going back to their base. This has also been the case with many people who have met their deaths as a result of ethno-religious inspired conflicts. The numbers of internally displaced people have also been fuelled by such senseless conflicts. In addition, rage and revenge have been fuelling reprisal attacks, which have enabled these conflicts to become an unending circle.
At this stage, after so much bloodletting, with so many innocent lives being lost… enough has got to be enough.