By Donu Kogbara
Yet again, Nigeria is being highlighted in international media outlets for negative reasons. While we were struggling to cope with the humiliating global coverage of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallabâ€™s attempted suicide bombing in America and endless embarrassing news items about President Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s prolonged absence in Saudi Arabia, religious riots erupted in Jos and are further damaging the countryâ€™s image.
Earlier on this week, I received extremely disturbing reports from Norma, a lady who supplies me with vegetables from Zamani Farms, an agricultural concern she runs in Kuru Jenta, a village on the outskirts of Jos.Â Here are some excerpts from the desperate, chilling emails she sent to me and other Zamani Farms customers:
â€œâ€¦The Muslims in the village, including our workers, some of whom are Muslims, have been surrounded and fear they are about to be executed. We have tried unsuccessfully to reach army and police authorities in Jos. Please, if any of you (customers) in Abuja have access to any authorities who can help stop this situation, we would very much appreciate itâ€¦â€
A few hours later, Norma (who has been under siege in her home since last weekend) provided the following update:
â€œâ€¦I have not yet been able to go to the farm to see for myselfâ€¦but have been in touch with some individuals by phone.
According to reports, all of the Muslim houses in Kuru were burnt, and most of the Muslims were killedâ€¦
â€œâ€¦Only a few Muslims are still alive. Although the person I spoke to (one of our farm staff) was naturally upset and a bit confused, he told me that he believed that except for himself, the other Muslim members of staff of the farm were all killed, along with many other inhabitants of the villageâ€¦.
â€œâ€¦He along with his wife and children were injured but managed to escape, and at that point, he was attempting to walk through the bush to get to the Police Staff College, which he felt was the nearest place of refuge where they could be safeâ€¦
â€œAt Kuruâ€¦Muslim inhabitants were rounded up and shot or burnt in their housesâ€¦I received the same report from both Muslim and Christian staff and have no reason to doubt its veracityâ€¦I cannot see myself living and working in a community where injustices like this can be perpetrated without culprits being brought to book, as has usually been the case in the past. So in the near future, we will have to take a decision about either relocating the farm or closing it down altogetherâ€¦â€
The Vice-President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, is trying his best to stem this vicious tide of violence and has ordered the deployment of troops to the troubled areas. But isnâ€™t it so terribly tragic that military action was required in the first place?
I hear that the Christians who are inflicting this unholy terror on Plateau State see themselves as Avengers and are insisting that they are merely retaliating against equally homicidal Muslims who have inflicted similar levels of savagery on the Christian community in the near or distant past. But Iâ€™m not remotely interested in such disgustingly cruel, psychopathic and amoral self-justifications.
Normaâ€™s Zamani Farms Muslim workers didnâ€™t harm anyone. They were just simple, decent, hard-working rural folks who were going about their day-to-day duties without looking for anyoneâ€™s trouble; and they, like the innocent Christians who have also been brutally slain, did not deserve to be butchered in cold blood.
How dare anyone use their alleged adherence to the Bible or Koran as an excuse for such appalling conduct? I condemn and disown the so-called Christians in Jos who think that it is OK to behave like animals and extinguish the existences of their fellow human beings in the name of religion. And I know many Muslims who share my views and are thoroughly ashamed of murderous Islamic elements.
Freedom of speech
Hannatu Musawa, who writes for Leadership newspaper, has received all manner of crude and frightening threats from people who strongly object to an article she wrote about Hajiya Turai Yarâ€™Adua, the Presidentâ€™s wife and First Lady of Nigeria.
Hannatuâ€™s article boldly accused Hajiya Turai of being avaricious and power-hungry.
I donâ€™t know Hajiya Turai from Adam and cannot prove that she is not a modest, unmaterialistic paragon of virtue. But countless rumours about her alleged acquisitiveness and megalomania have been doing the rounds in Abuja since her husband took over from Obasanjo in 2007.
And please note that many of these unflattering tales come from seemingly credible sources. So, even if they are totally or partially false, nobody can be blamed for taking them seriously.
I donâ€™t know Hannatu from Adam either but feel that she has every right to believe and comment on the less-than-savoury stories that Abuja residents constantly hear about Hajiya Turai. Most journalists have avoided the Turai Issue because they fear repercussions. And I wholeheartedly support Hannatuâ€™s courage.
This is a democracy in which Free Speech is an entitlement. If Hannatu has been unfair to Hajiya, libel action is a more appropriate response than bush menaces.
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