Seeking the “Berom Christian Terrorists”
General Idris Alkali, a retired military officer and a Muslim was killed, presumably, on his way from Abuja to Bauchi, in a-not-too-clear circumstance except the fact that the Nigerian army said his cell phone’s last point of transmission was around the predominantly Christian Du District in Jos, Plateau State, Central Nigeria, and that ‘credible intelligence’ led them to the a pond where his vehicle was later found after an unpalatable interface with women from the community. This murder opened a can of worms of atrocities committed in the 10 year old Jos religious crises.
As a result of the incident, the protracted venomous conflict between Christians and Muslim in Nigeria started spewing out. The blanket accusation of “glaring evidences of mass murder.” on these ”indigenes” of Plateau state, who are predominantly Christian comes repeatedly from Muslim groups like Jama’atul Nasril Islam, JNI, and the tagging of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) as “an irresponsible opposition political party,” showed that some Muslims and Islamic religious groups have already pitched their camps.
All these verbal attacks ans intimidation of villages in Du district by the Army, following the detestable murder of Alkali brings the ghostly image of the 1976 saga of the assassination of General Murtala Mohammed in the minds of some senior citizen of Plateau with the sweeping repercussions of the mass trials and executions of the ‘traitors’ after a military tribunal swooped down and cleansed the military of the predominantly minority Christian tribal ‘coup plotters.’
It will seem that Nigerian’s blame game between Muslims and Christians, refereed by religious groups; Muslim and Christian clerics, has become a national sport. The major players still remain voices from the Caliphate in stereotype accusation of “the Plateau where the bodies of intentionally murdered Nigerians that are either Muslims or Hausa-Fulanis, are wickedly dumped by the Berom Christian Terrorist,” with the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) joining in the screaming contest by challenging the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, to the contest.
The Christian leadership, on the other hand, has accused Muslims of an “Islamic agenda” and using the instruments of government to “Islamize Nigeria” Pointing out that President Muhammadu Buhari is backing his kinsmen, the Islamic Fulani cattle herdsmen to kill christians and “grab their lands” in the Middle Belt region of the country.
Christian ex-military officers like General T. Y. Danjuma and Jonah David Jang who had called on to Christian communities to “rise and defend yourselves” in the face of the thousands of mostly christians killed by Islamist Fulani herdsmen Militia, have been challenged for spewing ‘hate speech’ to use the slang introduced by United States politicians.
The social media is not left out in the commentary box of all sorts of insults and accusations.
Equating an entire Berom tribe as “Christian terrorist” and comparing them with the Boko Haram jihadists who have killed over 200,000 and displaced over 14 million people takes the game to another level.
Observers have noted that to demonise the Christian Berom tribe is simply a deliberate strategy to castigate and ostracise them socially and politically. The divide and rule strategy seems to be working currently in Jos.
Respectable and supposedly educated religious leader who claim their ‘religions preach peace and love’ ironically seem desperate for ‘eye for an eye’ punishment on the other ‘demonic religion’. This not to say that criminality should be condoned, that is beside the point. The absurdity that all Beroms are “Christians terrorists” killing Muslims is a desperate diversionary attempt to change the narrative.
Now here is the crux of the matter. What we have alway called a ‘united Nigeria’ has probably simply been a national delusion. Some tribes and religions have always been more equal than others. Justice is for those who have ‘someone in government’ and if you are not a muslim in northern Nigeria you are a second class citizen as much as the predominantly southern tribes see Muslims as power drunken enemies of the south, making the civil war of the 60s a reference point.
While it is a hard pill for many “patriotic Nigerians” to swallow, especially those who have fervently believed “the labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain” keep a “one Nigeria” and those who have given their lives to this vision, it becomes evident that this ‘unity’ still remains an elusive ‘Nigerian dream’.
The error of the British colonial administration of Lord Lugard to think that his indirect rule had created a structure to build the nation the British amalgamated in in1914 and thought that by 1959 the northern Nigeria’s administrative structure would hold and build a nation and the British handed power in 1960 was passing on a illusive hope. This was proven by the fact that three years after independence, the political arrangement collapsed and six years later the country was plunged in a deadly civil war that claimed almost a million lives. Nigeria has never recovered from the Biafra war. The country is as divided along religious and tribal lines as it had ever been.
The scramble for regional domination and political power in the flawed unitary government Nigeria now runs, has not helped either. The error of thinking the Odudua and the Benin kingdoms will somehow merge with the Usman Dan fodio Caliphate and set aside deep cultural political structures and merge into a Western British styled democracy still remains a mirage.
In this absurd theatre of religious massacres clothed in socio-political greed, those that bear the brunt are the poor harassed and continuously exploited Nigerians.
The army’s mafiasso styled approach in “carrying out its investigations” based on “military intelligence” has reportedly arbitrarily arrested people within a radius of the death ponds near Rayfield community in Jos. The story of the disappearance of a pregnant woman, Noroh Dung Moses, who was reported arrested with her old injured mother-in-law, and the army’s denial of taking her into custody but then later releasing her, has generated a lot of concern. The arrest of Friday Alukor, in the same swoop by the army in Jos is now a legal issue before a court.
The dastardly killing of General Idris was not the only incident in Jos, and in fact not the only one within the same month. The killing of the former Principal of Baptist High School, Abraham Frama, reportedly within a Muslim community in Jos, like many other killings, has been over shadowed by the federal spotlight on Late Idris. It is true that in Nigeria some people are ‘more equal than others’ and the cases of hundreds of thousand murders in both Muslim communities from Bauchi Road to Angwan Rogo to Kwanan Shagari all the way to the Christian communities in Dadin Kowa to Bukuru and Du may never be addressed but the call for sanity by educated and respectable nigerian must be made.
It is however heart warming to note the voices muslims expressing their support for, and standing with the Beroms christians as many Nigerians call for caution in public speeches, outright condemnation of Christians and Muslims over attacks in communities.
Nigeria’s unity has been called to question severally and many think restructuring may be its salvation even if some statements by religious groups seem to be calling for a divorce in the British marriage of the regions. Politicians on the other hand are still deciding where to pitch their camps as the 2019 elections draw near.
Over all if there is one lesson the Islamic terror group Boko Haram has taught the country is that Nigeria is and can be very vulnerable. Any group can possibly set the country into crises and on a path to disunity and possible disintegration.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.