Jos: Conflicts and search for a new beginning
Before our very eyes, the old Jos slipped away. And the nostalgia haunts so strongly due to so much good that went with it. That Jos was known for its calmness and serenity, peace and tranquility, tolerance and accommodation. That Jos was welcoming to strangers, to individuals from different regions and ethnic groups. That Jos was a place where people slept at night with their eyes closed. In fact, that Jos, where people of all faiths and none lived freely and peacefully together is no more.
But the old Jos did not merely disappear. Certain changes caused its demise. The changes that led to its implosion included shifts in the perceptions and representations of the other – the other person, the other religion, the other ethnic group. These processes had fear, hatred, and violence as their markers and drivers. And now the task of social repair, a search for a new beginning, one that allows for healing, reconstruction, rehabilitation, and reconciliation has become urgent; the most promising path to a better future. But will this opportunity be seized?
In fact, how do we confront and manage the changes that have taken place so that a new Jos nay a new Plateau State, one that is better than the old could emerge? More importantly, how can humanism be a resource in this project of recreation and reinvention?
To this end, the central role of human beings in the making and the unmaking of the crisis must be emphasized. No matter how we try to present the protagonists: herdsmen, farmers, Boko Haram militants, ethnic or religious militia, Hausa or Tarok vigilante groups, name them. Those behind the killings and attacks in Jos and its neighbourhood are humans, not super humans; they are co-travellers in this mortal journey, co-partakers in the project of life, terrestrials not extraterrestrials. So it is within the power and ambiance of the earthly, the human, to tackle and overwhelm these perpetrators of evil. It is in our power to create a new Jos, a Plateau State that is truly a home of peace. And all must rise to this challenge, this responsibility and realisation, or rue it.
The human potentials must be tapped and mobilised to counter and defeat these mortal forces of destruction and craft a society that embodies humanity’s best hopes and aspirations. Rallying the human power to overcome the inhuman involves understanding these attackers and their mission. We need to identify those who are equipping these merchants of death, anarchy, and anomie. We have to understand those incentivizing the killings and bloodshed and for what purpose.
To know those who are benefitting from the crisis in this region is crucial because those who are gaining from a problem would not want that problem to go away. They would want the conflict to linger, to persist and spread.
But we shall not allow that. All people of conscience in Jos and beyond must fight back. They must resist these murderers, using all civilized means. They have to tackle the enemies of open Jos society both physically and ideologically. Religious and ethnic bloodletters should not be allowed to decide the fate of this city.
The forces of hate and harm will not be permitted to determine the destiny of the state and of this nation. Killer herdsmen, Boko militants must be asked to quit Jos, Plateau State, and Nigeria now. They should be compelled to disable their killing machines and abandon their morally wretched and bankrupt ideologies that breed only suspicion, mistrust and destruction.
Their narratives of domination, oppression, and conquest have to be critically analyzed to expose their deficits in reason and thoughtfulness. Their twisted ideologies must be subjected to a reality check or better, a humanity check. Humanly beneficent principles the respect for human rights, scientific and critical thinking have to be spelled out and nurtured. These values should form the foundation on which a tolerant Jos and a tolerant Northern Nigeria could stand. These ideals are the bedrocks of a new society, where Muslims, Christians, traditionalists, and nonbelievers can freely and peacefully live side by side. That is the humanist vision for Jos, for Plateau State and for Nigeria. It is important to mention that tolerance does not foreclose debate and critical examination of beliefs and doctrines. A vibrant intellectual culture of critiquing ideas – both religious and secular – constitutes part of this undertaking.
So, in this new dispensation, the distinction between indigenes and strangers, owners of the land and visitors as the defining parameters of social participation will not apply because all persons are – and will be deemed equal before the law. The interests of farmers and herdsmen will not be a zero-sum game where people value cows/crops more than human lives. And whatever caused the twist in moral thinking and social reasoning that is at the root of the current crisis in the region will be exposed and expunged.
This process of reinvention warrants a new disposition towards diversity including an understanding that there is strength in differences. That whatever makes a person different makes the person human, enriches not impoverishes and therefore should be treasured and preserved, not destroyed. That the fates and destinies of all persons, of Muslims and Christians, traditionalists and nonbelievers, herdsmen and farmers, the rich and poor are inextricably linked. And that, the preservation of this bond, the human tie, is a social minimum that should not be violated or dispensed under any religious or ethnic pretext.
Now, before our very eyes, the old Jos slipped away. It broke up and fragmented. The old Jos fell apart due to the cracks that fear, ignorance, apathy, and fanaticism created. It is now up to the present generation to recouple and rebuild it. Before our very eyes, a new Jos could emerge; a new sense of community could be forged. Armed with humanist values and principles, a new Plateau State can be constructed. Indeed, a new Nigeria that is socially immune to the current crisis that rages across the region can be enthroned. So, let’s get to work.
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