30 April 2009

Nigeria: Jos Riots - Politricking With Fire (1)


Past and present Nigerian governments exhibit a tragicomic propensity for setting-up probe panels, investigative ad hoc committees and judicial commissions of inquiry to examine everything under the sun. It is the shortest cut to buying time and abdicating responsibility.

The biggest advantage of these panels is that they deceive the unwary into believing that the affected administration is a responsive 'action government.'

But since the intention ab initio was just to appear to be "doing something," the reports are usually dumped in one dark archive gathering cobwebs and dust. Through indecisiveness and insincerity, molehills grow into mountains and a local matter that would have been nipped in the bud at little or no cost becomes an intricate and intractable knot that threatens the security and stability of the entire nation from time to time.

The Jos riots are no exception. There have been not less than three probe panels on this on-and-off crisis in the last decade alone. When the riots erupted again late last year, various arms and tiers of government as usual found it very convenient to establish their own panels in order to give their particular spin to the crisis.

The Plateau State government established a commission of enquiry headed by Prince Bola Ajibola (a Muslim) and the Federal Government countered with one headed by retired Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Abisoye (a Christian). The immediate effect was that many people felt the state government wanted its panel to reflect Christians in good light while the federal government intended its panel to pinpoint Muslims as the victims. The panels are already compromised - no disrespect intended for tested men of integrity like Prince Ajibola and Gen. Abisoye - and truth be told neither government is in a position to implement the recommendations of its probe panel unless they both find a way to work together.

When the House of Representatives decided to set-up its own probe panel, not a few people breathed a huge sigh of relief in the hope that it would be devoid of the finger-pointing and name-calling associated with the panels set up by different governments.

Their findings, it was generally believed, would be more credible and acceptable. On this note, many Nigerians upbraided the Plateau State Government for going to court to challenge the legality of the House of Reps' action. With the benefit of hindsight it is obvious that the Gov. Jang administration knew many things the rest of us were not privy to. Why? Because the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on the Jos Riots (AHCJR) discarded any pretence of doing an impartial assignment by deciding to fight a proxy war for the Hausa/Fulani in Jos and 'get' Gov. Jang in the process.

The AHCJR's blurred vision culminated in several missteps, miscues, misrepresentation of facts, misleading inferences, fallacious conclusions and monstrous recommendations. The only deserving place for the committee's report is the waste-paper basket!

In the first place, I don't subscribe to the popular opinion that the Jos fracas is between the Hausa/Fulani - generally speaking - and the indigenous tribes. Let me explain. Though many among the thriving Hausa/Fulani communities in Aba, Ibadan, Lagos, Shagamu, Warri, etc were born and raised in their current places of domicile and may not know or remember when their ancestors first moved to these places, and though they have made significant contributions to their places of domicile, they still do not consider themselves as indigenes but as citizens or settlers.

Hence the head of each community is turbaned Sarkin Hausawa (Hausa leader) who, to a large extent, serves at the pleasure of the traditional ruler of the indigenous tribe. The same thing holds for the Igbo (Eze Ndigbo), among others.

The only reason why the Jos North situation is peculiar is because of the relatively large Hausa/Fulani population spread over a wide contiguous land area. The Hausa/Fulani can have their own Sarkin Hausawa like their kith and kin in other areas of Nigeria but to insist that the Jos Sarkin Hausawa is independent or that he owes allegiance to or is posted by an emir outside Plateau State (when Jos was never at any time conquered by the Jihadists) is to engage in destabilising falsehood.

To place my point in proper perspective, let me draw readers' attention to a recent development in Lagos. A delegation of Southeast Traditional Rulers led by its chairman, Eze Cletus Ikechukwu, visited the Oba of Lagos, Rilwanu Akiolu, to request that the Eze Ndigbo of Lagos title be banned for perceived lapses and the Lagos State Government promptly approved the ban.

Note that the delegation observed due protocols by going to the Oba of Lagos in recognition of the fact that he holds sway over all chieftaincy matters in Lagos City and that they made a request not a demand. If this were to happen in Jos - and the Plateau State Government had acted on a similar advice by the Gbong Gwom Jos - all hell would break loose but this ought not to be so because the city isn't a no-man's land.

The AHCJR also amazingly concluded - in 21st Century Nigeria - that "by fielding two Christians for the chairmanship and vice-chairmanship positions, the PDP and Jang toyed with the religious sensibilities of the area." Even if we accept such a spurious argument, doesn't it also imply that Speaker Dimeji Bankole equally toyed with the sensibilities of large sections of Nigeria by ensuring that five members of the Hon. Isa Umaru-led 8-man panel are Muslims?

The AHCJR's conclusion also constitutes a big slap on the faces of Southern and Northern Christians for playing along with the Muslim/Muslim administration of Generals Buhari and Idiagbon in the 80s and for voting massively in 1993 for the Muslim/Muslim presidential ticket of MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe. When would Muslims be prepared to make the sacrifice twice made by Christians for this nation to move forward? Rather than build on the exemplary epochal foundation to crystallise a unified nation where creed, tongue and tribe are insignificant variables, a bunch of irredeemable ethno-religious jingoists in the National Assembly are bent on dragging us back to our vomit.

Why are the legislators running their mouths as if PDP is the only political party existing in Jos? If the PDP was 'insensitive' enough to field two Christians for a council election why didn't the other parties (such as AC and ANPP) field 'balanced' tickets and then let the voters decide?

To even suggest that the Hausa/Fulani in Jos North went on a rampage just to protest the action of one political party does a great disservice to an ethnic nationality whose leaders have proved time and again that they are masters of the game of politics.

This week's award goes to ex-Obasanjo loyalist, PDP chieftain and BOT member, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, who has characteristically been campaigning for an automatic return ticket for the new Pharaoh, Alhaji Umaru Yar'Adua. Now that the intended beneficiary of another juicy project has banned all PDP members, including those like Chief Iwuanyanwu calling for his second term in office, to stop the campaign for 2011, perhaps our highly decorated chief would seek another more productive vocation.

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