By Ochereome Nnanna
HAVING examined some sociological issues that often spark off violence between the Hausa/Fulani and their host communities, I would like to discern the root cause of the Sunday March 9 tragedy in Dogo Na Hawa, near Jos in Plateau State.
The midnight surprise raid by murderous cowards which claimed the lives of (500 or was it 109 as Police sources indicated) innocent and defenceless women and children shocked the whole world as it was reminiscent of the Rwanda/Burundi genocides of 1994.
When something like this happens, reality takes the colour that the two sides to the conflict paint it. Those who are sympathetic to the Hausa/Fulani Muslim group allege that the raid was staged by some aggrieved Fulani pastoralists who were victims of the January 18, 2010 riots which started in Jos and spread to the suburbs.
They point out that some Berom militias attacked Fulani settlements and killed men, women children and their cattle. The raid of Dogo Na Hawa, they insist, was revenge by Fulani nomads who decided to take their pound of flesh because the state refused to give them justice.
The other side, the Berom/Christians, however, are of the view that Dogo Na Hawa was attacked by sponsored, well armed and well rehearsed mercenaries who were brought from outside the state by some powerful forces. Newspaper reports have it that raiders arrested by the police have â€œconfessedâ€ that they were paid for that grisly expedition.
It no longer matters very much which of these versions is correct. The truth that cannot be disputed is that hundreds of innocent and defenceless Nigerians have, once again, been dispatched to their early graves by their enemies in a manner that is sure to deepen the bitterness between the two sides and water the ground for the next round of violence.
The frightening emerging factor is that after each round of violence, the leaders sue for peace. Both sides go through the motions, shaking hands and seeming to play along but nursing burning hatred in their hearts and waiting for an opening to strike back.
It is my considered opinion that the Jos communal violence has extended to this internecine level because of the failure of governance at both the federal and state levels. Some people at the helm of affairs in the Federal Government, including ailing President Umaru Yarâ€™ Adua and the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Abdulrahman Danbazzau, openly took sides with the Hausa/Fulani Muslims, while the Governor of Plateau State, Da Jonah John Jang, a Berom, has also not risen above the sentiments commonly entertained by the indigenes.
It all started after the November 2008 riots in which hundreds also lost their lives. Perhaps due to the perception that the Hausa/Fulani were worsted in that round of fighting, the Presidency sent a delegation led by General Danbazzau to visit Jos and assess the extent of the damage. Reports had it that the Danbazzau group only visited the army and police barracks where the displaced persons were taking shelter, went to the central mosque in the city and returned to Abuja. They never visited the Governor or the Gbong Gwom Jos, Da Buba Gyang, as normal protocol demands they should.
Subsequently, the state government set up a panel of enquiry led by retired Justice Bola Ajibola. In a swift counter-measure described by the Nigeria Bar Association as unconstitutional, the Federal Government also set up a probe panel headed by retired Major General Emmanuel Abisoye. The Plateau State governor, Jang, dragged the Federal Government to the Supreme Court and wrote the Abisoye panel to refrain from sitting until the Supreme Court had delivered a verdict on the suit before it.
That was the situation before the January 2010 round of violence and the March 2010 Dogo Na Hawa reprisal raids. The clear and unholy demonstration of partiality by our supposed leaders continued when the murderers were mustering their forces and Governor Jang got wind of it. According to media reports, Jang said he called the General Officer Commanding the Third Armoured Division (GOC) of the Army in Jos and advised him to move troops to the trouble spot. He said that he actually saw some tanks move past his residence soon after, giving the impression that the right steps were being taken. Then later on, he got messages indicating that the raids were going on and when he called the GOC again, his phone lines were switched off!
However, the GOC, Major General Saleh Maina, fired back, saying that he never received any message fromÂ any official of the Plateau State Government, meaning that Governor Jang lied. Maina indicated that he received text messages about the presence of armed Fulani but in areas other than the targets that were attacked.
Between Jang and Maina, one person is lying. Happily enough, GSM handsets were used by both men. It is very easy to determine who is lying, by simply getting the network operators to make their records available to a high powered investigative panel. Whoever is found guilty must face the full weight of the law.
Happily also, we have in the saddle in Aso Villa a man who is not emotionally involved as Yarâ€™ Adua and Danbazzau were. Acting President Goodluck Jonathan is in a position to deal decisively with all the high and lowly culprits of the Jos massacres, for it is the only way that the search for peace can begin in earnest. Only the punishment of the sponsors of the violence as well as their footmen will douse considerably the deep feeling of bitterness which drives the quest for vengeance.
Goodluck Jonathan has been presented with an excellent opportunity to break the deadlock of Jos and save lives that will be lost if the problem is allowed to fester.
Is he man enough?