For a state that goes with the sobriquet "Home of Peace and Tourism," one would expect that Jos, the Plateau state capital, would be a haven of a sort. However, this is not the case on the Plateau as the state continues to reel under severe socio-political cum ethno-religious crises. In speaking with a cross section of University of Jos (UNIJOS) students for this piece, AYODELE ABIMBOLA, LIMAN DORCAS, KELECHI OLUIGBO and NANCY GBONGBON found out that where residents choose to live in Tin City is now solely determined by their ethno-religious affiliation.
Jos, Plateau state should be a favourite destination for lovers of temperate weather. Not too long ago, it was indeed the preferred abode for many Europeans and Americans who came to work in Nigeria, as they found the Jos climate a perfect blend of Africa's hot and humid tropics and Europe's harsh winter.
But the beloved Jos of yore is no more today, no thank to perennial crisis that had since laid Tin City to waste, which, it appears, erupted into a huge conflagration along ethno-political and religious lines soon after the return to civil rule in 1999.
As the hydra-headed Jos crisis, it appears, continues to defy officialdom's efforts towards slaying it once and for all times, residents who have nowhere to flee in escape have devised a most practical way to deal with the situation - by living in closed communities along ethnic and religious divides.
Before the crisis erupted, Muslims and Christian cohabited in most part of Jos metropolis, especially in Angwan Rogo, Bauchi Road, Dilimi Junction, AngwanRukuba and Yan Shanu. These areas were especially thickly populated by off campus students of the University of Jos (UNIJOS) as well as other Nigerians of diverse ethnicity and religion. Sadly, this is no longer the case today as residents now cluster in line with either their religious affiliation or ethnicity.
There are undrawn but real borderlines you dare not cross for your own safety!
How do UNIJOS students, many of whom are non-idigenes and cannot leave the city for reasons of their educational pursuits, navigate the 'landmines' across Jos? And how has the crisis situation impacted on these young Nigerian's lives?
Tolu Akande a 300 Level Microbiology student told LEADERSHIP WEEKEND how the Jos crisis has affected him: "It has extended my period of stay in school and also endangered my life as I have to go throughBauchi road, which is a no-go area for Christians, whenever I go to school."
Similarly, Oloyede Tolulope a 400-Level student of Mass Communication said the crisis has prolonged her stay in school. "It has also prevented me from staying off campus. However, I think it is safer, hence better, for Muslims and Christians to live apart in the city, at least for now," she added.
For Charles Terna Gbongbon a 400-Level Botany student who lives in Jenta Makari Police Field, which is a Christian dominated area,"it has not been easy getting transport to my area, as commercial bike riders, who are mostly Muslims, are afraid of coming here, which has been stressful to me."
To Judith Ameh, who is in her third year of study "the crisis situation in Jos has made going to church a scary venture for me, as nowhere is safe. To make matter worse for me, I don't speak or understand Hausa."
"Going to the market has also become more expensive for me because I dare not go through the Muslim dominated Bauchi Road, which is a shorter route to the Teminus market, for fear of being killed. I now go through the longer Farin Gada route, which means I spend more on transport to get to the market," she stated.
In the same vein, Vivian Odunze a final year student of Mass Communication who lives in Busa-Buji a Christian dominated area, said: "I cannot go close to Angwan Rogo; it is a death zone to Christians. I think it is better for us to leave apart in the city to avert trouble."
But Odunze's course mate, Jimoh Mojisola Atinuke, who was born and bred in Jos, said she knows her way around the state capital, "having weathered so many crises in the city with my family members."
Ayodele Abimbola, Gbongbon Nancy, Liman Dorcas, and Kelechi Oluigbo