Hotel Jos, Motel Nigeria: Where is home?

A Tarokh adage translates, a child lacks wisdom, and some say that what is important is that the child does not die; what kills more surely than lack of wisdom? (A foolish child is not much better than a dead child).

On a day like this, seven days had passed, several rains, many of which were heavy, 19 years ago, 0ver thousand innocent lives had been lost, the closest one could come to an understanding is to watch either Hotel Rwanda, or Something in April…ours was sometime in September 2001.

This is the concluding part of my essay which I started last week, it brought back memories for many, and has equally started a conversation around healing, understanding the need for our interdependence, the need for new narratives and a collapse of the divided nature of the once whole city and state.

Since that fateful incident, for many years to follow, thousands more have perished, whether Dogo Nawa, Yelwa Shendam, or Barkin Ladi, whether Bassa, or Riyom, or Bokkos, Kuru Karama, if not Gada Biu, Rukuba road, it is Angwa Rukuba, Rikkos, it’s almost a ritual that one would write about Jos, almost twice a year and sadly not because of any good news, but for all the wrong reasons.

Writing or telling the Jos, Plateau story is a difficult one, emotions are high, sentiments cloudy, but irrespective of all these the salient truth remains. It is that truth, which we run from, that has continually hunted and will continue haunting us on the Plateau.

There is, and never will there be a justification for the loss of lives. The story has been that of losing a friend on his way from Zaria, he was a Muslim, he was not from Jos, Plateau, and he was on transit. Killed by hoodlums who do not know Christ. We had worked on a project in Zaria. On the Bauchi road axis, I lost another friend, infact a soldier; he was on transit from Maidugiri, a Christian, killed by some thugs just after supposed prayers on Friday.

In many a villages, it’s been a war against Fulani herdsmen, bandits, gunmen, depending on which vocabulary suits; a conflict that has history dating back several decades with even some cases still in the law courts of cattle thefts and murder dating to the 70s. The conversation still remains in the realm of the aggressors and the victims, with little in terms of restorative justice or shared learning that ends in a never again song.

In the Jos city center, I am sure many do not know there are communities only inhabited by Muslims, areas where only Christians live, our own Jos, our own Palestine and our own Jerusalem. Christians and Muslims in Jos, live apart and may never live together, except we start a new narrative…

I have used the term, natives and settlers intently because it is part of the Jos problem–who owns the land? Like the western media have dissected us into Muslim North and Christian South, in Jos, apart from being second only to the rest, in terms of languages and ethnic groups have taken same road.

There are Beroms vs. Hausas, Christians vs. Muslims, Hausas vs. others, natives vs. Hausas, Beroms vs. Fulanis, we vs. them, Yoruba Muslims vs. other Muslims, others vs. Berom, this list is not exhaustive. Even the Beroms, have some Beroms, vs. the other Beroms. The dichotomies are political, religious, economic, and social, it is the Nigerian story, rich vs. poor, them vs. us, our turn versus their turn.

There is the theory that Jos is the heartland for an Islamization agenda by ‘them’. Well, it’s a theory of the naive versus the learned. In Jos, there is not only palpable tension beneath the surface; it is equally immersed in hatred, a drug problem, poverty and fight for scarce resources, a very dangerous pot.

Whichever way one viewed this land of the Generals, it is a complete study in the failure of leadership, whether CAN, PFN, JNI, JIBWIS, Army, Police and all those vested with the power to do something. Jos is beautiful, it is our land, it always will be, but how beautiful are our hearts.

All these killings will sadly continue on intervals because, there is hate, it’s there, it will continue because no one is ever punished. It will continue because no one cares, life has no value.

In case no one said it, I say it again; 19 years later, in some parts of the city, human beings are killed with no traces. In some areas the Nigerian army cannot go there, in some areas there are no churches, while others have no masjid. Christians can now wear kaftan, and Muslims can now wear jeans up and wear a T-Shirt and both listen to Whizkid and Davido yet our conflicts still persist, yet the city map long re-drawn stays the same.

In Jos today and by extension the whole country we keep dancing at the edge of asking what the basis of our mutual co-existence is. Before our forced marriage by Sir Luggard and his bosses, it did not stop the Oyos and Egbas being at war or the Jihad that ran through parts of the North and all the communal war in the east.

When we break Nigeria, are we breaking along religious or ethnic or geographical lines? We have the Christian Middle belt, the Geographical one and the political one. Will the South-South be part of Biafra, Who will dominate in Odua Republic…will the Osun man have a say in that republic where Lagos and Ogun will likely hold sway?

Ask anyone today and he/she is sure to have an answer regarding how the backward North is the problem and the truth is that the forward South is naively not any better. There is poverty in every corner, and it provides human resources for those that plan these carnages on both sides.

We hate ourselves; rather than respect each other in a negative stance we tolerate each other like the proverbial soldier ant on the scrotum. Mutual suspicion reigns supreme, are we really a nation or a collection of people. What has the North in real terms benefited from Nigeria, what has Lagos, Umuahia or Warri benefitted? When the thieves that rule us steal our money there is no religion or ethnicity.

What kind of people are we. I am not perfect; May even be naive but I know when something is not right. For us as a nation these are strange times, a new Nigeria may emerge or we may be consumed.

Jos has had about seven commissions of enquiries on the last count. No, truth and reconciliation commission, like Nigeria, we just pass, on every serious matter, we get to 11:59 and never hit 12:00. The important questions will never be answered; the issues of employment and education are not tackled, so we will always have idle hands, a devil and a workshop, and politicians, and a carefree elite, some at the hotel, others at the motel, where we all are from depends on what we want.

Revenge, retaliation, vengeance, to get even, reprisal, retribution, it’s a circle that we need to halt. If not we will get to the point we may not know which will haunt us, the dead child or the fact its alive without wisdom. Let a new generation start a new story, we have lost lives, can we start afresh, or do we continue like this—Only time will tell



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