Nigeria election riots: How leaders stoke Muslim-Christian violence
Scores have been killed in Muslim-Christian violence after this weekend's relatively clean presidential election, highlighting that the age of 'do-or-die' politics and 'thugs-for-hire' networks is not dead in Nigeria.
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Over the past year plus, since several massacres – of Muslims by Christians and of Christians by Muslims – killed hundreds in January and March 2010, whole communities in Jos have displaced themselves out of fear of further violence.Skip to next paragraph
Fanning the flames
Despite the divergences in the various accounts of how Jos came to be an epicenter of horrific violence over the past decade, many residents pinpoint an issue that drives the conflict: the "'indigene" concept, which has become a discriminatory, state government-enforced policy.
The Muslim community, which makes up the majority of the population in the northern part of the city, accuses the state government of consistently denying the Muslim community their basic rights as citizens on the basis that they are "settlers" in the state, and therefore not so-called indigenes privy to citizen rights.
Mohamed Lawal Ishaq, a lawyer and a member of a Muslim affairs council, says that – like all Muslim residents in Jos – his children are unable to enroll in public schools because they lack indigene certificates, despite the fact that they were born in Jos, as were there parents.
Like many other Muslims – and moderate Christians – Mr. Ishaq holds Plateau State Gov. Jonah David Jang responsible for such discriminatory polices and says that the governor is fanning the flames of the trouble.
"You expect a leader, during a crisis, to calm a situation," said Ishaq. "But the governor provokes, worsens, and take sides."
'Delivering' the Muslim vote?
Ishaq's council seems to be playing a political game of its own, however. He said his council is currently "in negotiations" with several opposition gubernatorial candidates, suggesting that the council is capable of delivering the Muslim vote in the state governor race on April 26.
Although Ishaq says imams in Jos are continuing to call for the community's youth to remain peaceful during the tense elections period and its aftermath, the fact that the Muslim council is clearly using its religious authority to play politics indicates the ease of religious mobilization for political gain in the polarized society.
Governor Jang told the Monitor in an interview that he is "very conscious of the fact that all of the citizens " in his state are his responsibility. Jang then gave his take on the Constitution, suggesting that his state's so-called settlers are, in effect, second-class citizens who should respect, even adopt, the culture, traditions, and religion of the "indigenous" population.
The governor, an evangelical Christian who received a divinity degree from a Nigerian theological college after he retired from the Air Force in the early 1990s, is unequivocal about defending Christianity as the religion of his state. "As a result of the failure of the Muslim jihad here [in the 1800s], they still think they can get [Plateau state] back to Islamicize," he told the Monitor.