An Exmpale of an Unbalanced Report

Joseph Awari Izang is a computer technician, Davou Rwang is an architect and Thomas de Douhet is the director of a school in Jos. He is a Frenchman, who has lived in Nigeria for the last 15 years, and he provided a lot of the historical background and corrections as the others were speaking.

Joseph: Jos used to be the place where everyone wanted to live in. It was clean, quiet and peaceful. Because of the ease of life here, people were laid back. Everyone knew and trusted each other. Back when I was a kid, you could leave your house open and come back the next day to meet everything intact.

All that changed in 1999/2000 when Sharia law was declared in the far north. A lot of people ran away from the Sharia government there and found refuge here. Droves of people came. Gloria Gomwalk told me in 2000 that, “they are taking our Jos away from us”. A little over a year later, we had our first crisis.

Davou: You know Jos is predominantly Christian. The original name was Gwosh, but the missionaries could not pronounce the name, so they called it Jos and said that it meant ‘Jesus our saviour’.

Joseph: When the migrations began, a lot of Muslims who couldn’t live under Sharia law started moving down here and there was a clash of cultures. You see, up until 2001 we had never had Muslims here who kept their beards or wore ankle high trousers. My best friend Kasim is a Muslim, and like all the Muslims who lived here then, is very sociable. The new immigrants that came in 1999/2000 had a lot of extremists among them.

There are a lot of stories about how the fighting started in 2001. However, what I witnessed was that on Friday, 7 September, a Christian girl walked in front of some Muslims during their Jumat, and she was not dressed decently. This upset them and they attacked. First her, then shops belonging to Christians there on Bauchi road.

At the time, most of us were shocked and did not believe that our neighbours could do this to us. A lot of us were attacked and killed on that first day. By the next day, however, we began to retaliate.

I had friends who came into Jos from Sokoto when it happened. However, they could not come into town because of the crisis. Gabriel and Kabiru (those are their names), had to walk 50km to safety, from Mr. Ali to State Low Cost. Kabiru is a Muslim from Edo State and Gabriel is a Christian. During the walk, Gabriel saved Kabiru’s life. When they set off, they exchanged bags. On the way into Jos, they were stopped by Christian militia.

Their ‘accosters’ asked Gabriel to quote three popular Bible verses which he did, so they let him go. For Kabiru, they asked him his name. He replied John, so they took the bag with him and searched it. It happened to be Gabriel’s bag and inside, there was a Bible. That was what saved his life. For some days afterwards he was in shock and could not even speak. When he eventually spoke, he said that those people were quite ready to kill him because of his beard, and that the weapons on them were very mean-looking. Both Gabriel and Kabiru stayed with me for two weeks after that incident until it was safe to travel. They are both alive now.

Thomas: That particular crisis of 2001 did not last too long. It started on a Friday and by Sunday it had lulled. On Monday, all was quiet. However, on Tuesday a Muslim group tried to start a fight. The soldiers who had by then taken over the town dealt with them mercilessly. They killed a good number of them, so the crisis ended there and then.

The next time it erupted was in 2004 in Wase, Langtang and Shendam.

The LGA elections were a part of the cause in 2004; added to that, Fulani herdsmen were letting their cows loose into people’s farms. Then again, the Wase people are mainly Muslim, while Langtang people are mainly Christian. To add to this mix, the Langtangs tend to be short-tempered, so it was a brutal mix. That particular crisis ended because Obasanjo had a very serious clampdown put in place. That was when Dariye was removed as governor and Chris Alli made sole administrator.

Joseph: In all honesty, Alli made no difference because law and order was maintained directly by the federal government. A lot of the local government chairmen were removed. There was peace between 2004 and 2007 when the elections took place everywhere but in Jos North. The elections there were postponed until November 2008, and then held.

Davou: The general belief is that the current governor, Jang, wanted to install his own man there, so they tried to rig the elections and the migrants did not stand for that. They call themselves Jasawa and they stay mainly in Jos North. They felt that if someone had to be LGA chairman, it had to be one of them.

Joseph: The consensus is that these people started the trouble back in 2001. The feeling is that Jang tried to address the issue by imposing an indigene on the Jasawa people. Since 2001, almost all the Muslims that used to live in other parts of Jos have moved to Jos North. The original indigenes of Jos North are the Naraguta people. However, they are very timid, and the Jasawa people are now in the majority there.

Thomas: When the British first came, it was only Birom, Jarawa and Naraguta people that lived in what has become Jos. Because of mining, other people began to come here. The Naraguta and Jarawa area is now Jos North. The Biroms occupied what is now Rayfield and Bukuru. Maybe a solution to this problem is to create an all encompassing Jos LGA. Take out the borders, because before all this division, we did not have indigenes and settlers. Everyone was from Jos.


Copyright: Next Newspaper.


Editor’s note: This report written by Cheta Nwanze was published in the March 21, 2010 edition of Next newspaper on the Jos Crisis. It is easy to recognize how one-sided and sectarian this report is which purports to tell the human stories behind the crisis that engulfed Plateau state. Although there were two sides and two people involved in the crisis, this reporter chose to select stories from one side of the divide and presented it as ‘in their words’. In our letter to the author we asked him if he could not find people from the other side to interview or he simply considered their stories not to be news-worthy. It is equally amazing that this blatant contravention of good and professional journalism escaped the eyes of the Next editors.


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