400 dead: "All violence in Nigeria is driven by economics"

Image posted on citizen journalism portal Sahara Reporters.

Riots sparked by local elections have left around 400 people dead in the city of Jos, central Nigeria. While Western media blame the conflict on a rift between Christians and Muslims, one of our Nigerian Observers says it all boils down to economics.

Nigeria is broadly divided between a Muslim north and a Christian south, but suffers little conflict between the two religions. The violence that broke out on Friday morning is said to have been sparked after the Hausa ethnic group heard that their ANPP (All Nigeria People's Party) candidate had lost the local government chairmanship race to the ruling PDP (People's Democratic Party). The ANPP is a largely conservative party with a Muslim support base from the north, while the current party in power is more liberal and supported broadly by Christians, based in the south. When the Hausa group, who are considered settlers in the Jos area, heard of their defeat, they began burning tyres, which resulted in retaliation from Christian gangs. Two days of violence ensued before the Nigerian army managed to gain control over the city and impose a strict curfew. It's not the first time Jos has erupted into violence - so why the sporadic outbursts?  

Contributors

"Once this unrest passes, these groups will go about their business and worship like nothing happened"

Our Observer Osize Omoluabi is a Nigerian economist currently living in New York.

The violence started as random acts by some disgruntled individuals who were not satisfied with the conduct of local elections, but it quickly evolved into a religious and an all out riot and burning of houses of worship. Like every conflict in Nigeria, all parties involved cannot seem to agree on the nature of the conflict. Some believe it is just a bunch of mean spirited thugs being used by a few godfathers to achieve political goals. Others claim it is an all out religious /ethnic violence. I will stick to what a wise old man told me ten years ago, he said, 'when it comes to sectarian violence in Nigeria, in the end, all violence in Nigeria is driven by economics'.

In my opinion, Nigerians are largely peace loving and enjoy the good life. The quickest and most efficient route to reducing violence in Nigeria is by increasing the average living standards. In addition to this, ‘time' is Nigeria's friend. As the older generation of Nigerians who got a bit too comfortable with military rule get past their prime, and the younger Nigerians who have known liberty, freedom and democratic rule all their lives start to take the reins, Nigeria promises to be a better place.  

As the unrest in Jos unfolds it is especially useful to keep in mind that Christians and Muslims live side by side in Jos and this arrangement has remained this way since these religions were introduced to the region. It is even more interesting that once this unrest passes, life will return to normal and these groups will go about their business and worship like nothing happened. 

As the parties involved kick-off their propaganda machine in the media to explain away this fracas. It is noteworthy that if all parties involved, providing infrastructure for the government, building community and developing grass root ties for the different religious organizations, the city of Jos would not have been in its present state. Why can't we all get along? Because there isn't enough to go around." 

Comments

Re: Nigeria Violence/Economics

It's not a problem of lack of money. There's plenty of money. The problem is structural: whoever's in power gets ALL the money. So everyone's willing to KILL to be in power. Change the system. Make the leaders be accountable. Force transparency. Stop bringing lawsuits against corporations and start bringing them against Nigerian government entities. Stop protesting company headquarters and start protesting state houses. Locals can't do it; they'll be killed. Internationals could do it, but prefer the comfort of their homes. Just like America in the 1950s, when white and black northerners went to the south to help blacks fight for their rights there, risking death in the process, progress will not be achieved without similar risk takers. Where are today's freedom fighters? Fighting the wrong causes, I believe. Or maybe afraid of the risks. The world's gone complacent, so nothing changes in Africa.

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