1 November 2001

Nigeria: Jos Crises: Government Should Be Cautious


The September 7 Jos crises has come and gone. The issues arising thereafter are still cropping up in manifold. Some are practicable and necessary. Some are incredible and unnecessary. It is no longer news that the Plateau State government in an effort to have full grasp of the situation had announced certain measures in a statewide broadcast by the state chief executive, Chief Joshua Chibi Dariye on September 23, 2001. Some of the measures sank well with all the citizens in the state, while most of the measures could not find such favours especially with the Muslim population who regard these measures as directly meant against them. The Muslims immediately kicked against some of the measures and ride on an edvertorial placed in the Daily Trust of October 1, 2001 and it was repeated in the Weekly Trust of 5-11 October as well as Thisday of October 5, 2001.

The crux of the Muslims' complaint against the Plateau State governor's broadcast is the banning of blockage of streets or public roads during Friday prayers. This, the Muslims see as unrealistic as the state government seem to be implementing the state Christian agenda CAN which has been intolerably kicking against the practice by the Muslims. After the broadcast by the governor, the Plateau chapter of CAN made this announcement on the state-owned radio, and I quote: "We the Christian Association of Nigeria are grateful and appreciative with the Dariye administration for the security measures taken to stop any future disturbance in Plateau State. We want to tell the governor that all our members will abide by this measures and call on others to do the same". Who are the others, of course Muslims. If the governor is not implementing their agenda what is their business with the call for others to do the same. Why can't they tolerate and see what the governor and security agencies can do about these measures.

The Muslims contend further that it is a known fact that all over the world, Muslims do say their Friday prayers on streets surrounding their various Friday mosques as no single mosque could contain the large number of Muslims that attend such Friday prayers. More so that the prayers last only 15 to 20 minutes and only once in a week. This excuse sounds plausible truth.

However what the Plateau State government did to "solve" that problem enumerated by the Muslims succeeded not only in ridiculing the state government and its principal officers, but also confirm the Muslim fears that the measures announced by the state government were not well intended.

For instance state deputy governor, Chief Michael Botmang in the company of the Plateau State police commissioner and some Muslim leaders were reported to have staged up to about 11 pm in the street of Jos on Thursday October 4, 2001. Their mission primarily was to "draw a borderline or demarcation of the areas where the Muslims are not to encroach beyond while observing the Friday prayers the next day, i.e. Friday October 5, 2001. They also did the same in the streets leading to some of the major Christian churches in the state capital such as the Good News Church along Ahmadu Bello Way Jos. The hard and incontrovertible fact which the Plateau State government failed to consider either deliberately or due to sheer ignorance is, while such will easily work for the Christians due to the simple reason that they hardly fill all their churches on Sundays, they have no reason whatsoever to come to the main surrounding roads. Such measure is simply impossibly impracticable with the Muslims.

This is because no matter how large a Friday prayer mosque is, every Friday is always far beyond the capacity. The Muslim do come out on the streets not by their own choice or to create unnecessary obstruction to other road users, but out of necessity. This fact is obtainable all over the world. It is therefore not surprising that on Friday, October 5, 2001, when the Muslims approached their Friday prayers, their reactions were mixed on seeing the apparent and total ignorance of the state government. While some were enraged by what they see as unlawful restrictions on their right to, others were merely amused and laughed over it as an act of unserious government officials. By 1.30 pm the areas demarcated and "reserved" for the Muslims were already filled with worshippers. The security agents attached to the various mosques to ensure obedience with the "executive" (un)wise orders were witnesses to the foolish and laughable decision of the state government.

After seeing the reality of the situation on ground, the security agents allowed almost one quarter of the worshippers who could not find space within the demarcated areas to pray outside it. The prayers were observe peacefully.

The lessons derivable from this are twofold. One, there is need for the followers of the two major religions in the country to learn about the different values of each other and to learn to respect and tolerate such values. Secondly there is the need for our policy makers to always consult the people to be affected by any given policy before making policies. Laws and orders should be made to be obeyed, not to be made to satisfy the whims and caprices of a few. The Plateau State government should take note please.

We need peace in Plateau, Nigeria and the whole world.

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