Nigeria Matters

Jos Riot And ‘The Dead Man’s footsteps’

I coined the title of this article from Peter James‘s novel, “THE DEAD MAN’S FOOTSTEPS”, which was first published in 2008. I’d just bought the novel but yet to read it, so, the content of this write-up is not, in anyway, a review of the novel. The title however seems to capture the conclusion to reflections of my thoughts on a recurring national dilemma: violent rioting. This phenomenon has become a fun house in Nigeria and is often callously executed with deep-seated hatred, crammed with religious, tribal, ethnic and regional colourations. It is therefore paramount to put it in its proper historical perspective for further deductions to be made, and perhaps analysed by other writers. For now, let me deal with the facts.

Jos, my beautiful JOS, is one city I would have loved to settle if and when I’d finally decided to return home to die in peace, but for these distractions called riots. With its serene and seemingly subtle English weather, excellent rocky topography, overly nice indigenes and a good tourist attraction, it ought not to be a city of violence. But on the 28th of November 2008, an orgy of violence erupted which did not come to some of us who schooled in that environment as a surprise. What gave me goose pimples was the inability of the various security agencies to nip the riot in the bud bearing in mind the antecedents of the locale.

However, the riot has given one an opportunity to do a historical analysis of this ugly side of Nigeria, starting with our vantage Kano city, which looks like a citadel of suspended destruct of sort and literally, a ‘Ph.D holder’ in clinical slaughter, ethnic cleansing, mayhem and spread of sorrowfulness. Apart from the Jos riot of 1945 by the Beroms and the Hausas, which was a wake up call against almagamation and southerners domination of Jos and its environs; in 1953, the North had witnessed a riot and a massacre which was planned and coordinated by Mallam Inua Wada of the Northern People’s Congress {N.P.C} – a political party that evolved from the Native Authority Administration. That riot was caused by the anticipated visit of Chief S. L. Akintola, a member of the Action Group party, a bitter rival of the N.P.C, to Kano. In the report of Justice G.C.M Onyiuke Tribunal of Inquiry, titled MASSACRE OF NDI-IGBO IN 1966, Mallam Inua Wada, a member of Nigeria’s ruling ‘political intelligentsia’ was quoted to have said inter alia :

“Having abused us in the South, these very Southerners have decided to come over to the North to abuse us, but we are determined to retaliate treatment given to us in the South. We have therefore organised about 1000 men ready in the city to meet force with force. We are determined to show Akintola and his group what we can do in our land when they come… The N.P.C has declared a strike in all Native Administration offices for Saturday, 16 May 1953… We shall post sufficient number of men at the entrance of every office and business place… We are prepared to face anything that comes out of this business”.

In this quote, Mallam Wada made reference to abuse of Northerners in the South. What was this abuse that was enough to call for a retaliation? Here, Mallam Inua Wada, a former Federal Minister and an honourable man, recalls: “It was the booing and jeering experienced by the Northern members of parliament at the hands of Lagos crowds in Lagos”. So, on Saturday, 16th May 1953, despite the fact that Chief Akintola team’s did not even turn up, red-eyed organised mobs and hoodlums went into action and killed innocent citizens from the South, especially those from the Eastern part of the country. One glaring point to note here says the Justice Onyiuke’s report, is, the use of government machinery to perpetuate and escalate the dastardly act. The Native Authority agents, who were supposed to protect the people, became agents of death.

In the early sixties, the Northern Peoples Congress {NPC‘s} desperation to make sure no Southern political party was able to make in-roads into the North was in top gear. The middle belt people, through the able leadership of late J. S Tarka, chose, out of their own free will, to align forces with Chief Awo’s Action Group party. In mature democracies, that would have been read and seen as a deft political move but not in Nigeria. The NPC, which was then the ruling government with Zik’s party, deemed Tarka’s action as sacrilegious and a political hara-kiri. All attempts by the NPC to appease and harangue the Middle Belt people failed. The party then decided to unleash mayhem in the area by planting seeds of discord and confusion. The Tiv riots of those early sixties were as a result of NPC‘s disregard for the rule of law and observance of respect for a people’s right to choice. Again, the use of state machinery to escalate the crisis, rather than curtail and contain it, was made manifest: the Army and police were used to suppress those riots and brutalized the people, leaving deaths and wanton destruction in its trail.

Then came the riots of 1965 and “wetie” in the ‘wild, wild’ West. That riot again was as a result of a flawed election in which Akintola’s NNDP won to the consternation of the favoured ACTION GROUP party of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. That Akintola’s NNDP was fully backed and used by the N.P.C Federal might to forcibly impose their wimp and cause confusion in the Western region was never in question: it was an established fact. Again, in that programmed mayhem, which was achingly well plotted, deaths and sorrowfulness were harvested.

The riot of all riots however came after the failure of 15th January 1966 coup led by Major Nzeogwu. The counter-coup of 29th July 1966, otherwise aptly tagged the “revenge coup”, which was planned and executed by Northern officers, created anomie. The counter-coup was horror personified. Soldiers and civilians of Northern extraction took Igbo civilians resident in the Northern region, to the cleaners. There were no hiding places. There was a maximum infliction of emotional torture on the Igbo civilians. The civil service jobs and businesses, which had attracted Igbos and others to the region, became their albatross-cum-graveyard.

In the May, September and October 1966 riots, apart from the slaughter of more than 122 Igbo military officers {read Ademoyega 1983 and Uwechue 1969}, a total of, says Onyuike report, “between 45,000 and 50,000 civilians of former Eastern Nigeria were killed in Northern Nigeria and other parts of Nigeria …….”. What was supposed to be a military affair became a horror, the brunt of which was borne by Igbo civilians. It was a kind of “escape from Sobibo” – a true movie depicting the massacre of the Jews in the town of Sobibo in Austria during the 2nd world war.

Those riots then led to the massive exodus of Easterners back to their own Region. That, snowballed into a genocide which ended in 1971. The rest of what happened is now history. Again, in those animalistic riots, butchery and bestiality, one thing was distinct: the use of the state machinery: the police, Army and other apparatuses of governments were effortlessly used to commit those heinous actrocities against innocent Igbo civilians in the North.

In 1980, Nigerians witnessed the Maitatsine Religious disturbances in Kano, which later spread to Kaduna, Jimeta, Yola, Gombe and Maiduguri. A careful reading of Nigeria’s history of riots and religious disturbances clearly shows that KANO, has become a no-go area for Southerners and Christians alike, especially the Igbos. In fact, even if you are a Southern Moslem and you a

re more pious and holier than Fodio’s descendants, you are not welcomed to Kano. The people of Kano are a “superior” people, the real legitimate Hausa! The rest Nigerians are infidels. The same people come to Lagos and trade freely without harassment. The justice Anthony Aniagolu Commission of inquiry report into those disturbances, is a detailed enough reference material.

In 1983, we were witnesses to the NPN inspired Omoboriowo riots in Ondo state. Chief Omoboriowo was deputy to Chief Michael Ajasin who was the elected Governor of Ondo state. Omoboriowo later left the UPN to join the NPN and was automatically slotted in as the party’s flag bearer for the state. Of cause, Omoboriowo was popular among the people of Ondo state but his impatience and sheer desperation to take over from Chief Ajasin became his undoing. In the race for the governorship, the NPN which was then the reinvented NPC of old, mustered its muscles, rigged as usual and announced Omoboriowo as the winner. Hell was let loose. Death and wanton destruction visited households. It was in that riot that a well known industrialist and publisher, Chief Fagbemiro, was killed – in fact burnt to almost ashes.

Nigerians has so far, writes Prof. Sonni Tyoden,{ a Middle Beltan} in his book titled: THE MIDDLE BELT IN NIGERIAN POLITICS {1993}, witnessed the “Kafanchan, Kaduna and Zaria communal explosions and /or religious fracases; the Chieftaincy squabbles in Lere, kaduna State in 1987; the Tafawa Balewa and Bauchi hostilities in 1990; Zagon Kataf ” in 1992. In 1991, the Tafawa Balewa local government in Bauchi state exploded. This writer was among those resident in Jos who saw the fleeing and influx of Southerners into Jos.

Again, what was the immediate cause of that riot? It was, writes Prof. Tyoden, “ as a result of the reluctance of the Bauchi State government to excise and create the Tafawa Balewa Chiefdom from the Bauchi Emirate in line with the recommendations of the Justice Babalakin Commission of Inquiry” that looked into previous disturbances there. The Safawas in Tafawa Balewa are mostly Christians and traditional people who cherished their culture and do not want to be associated even thinly with the Emirate institution. They were refused that chiefdom by the Hausas. Only God knows whether it has now been created.

In 2006, a far away Danish cartoon which purportedly made a caricature of Prophet Mohammed caused another bloody riot in Maiduguri. In a one-hour documentary focussed on that riot in Nigeria, shown a week to the 2008 Xmas on UK Sky God’s TV channel, it was revealed that 56 churches were burnt down and Christians and Southerners mostly Igbos had their shops and goods destroyed or burnt while some were caught and slaughtered in their numbers. As confessed by Bornu state Christian indigenes, Yorubas and Igbos, it was confirmed ones more that the state folded its arms and watched as those perpetuating those crimes were freely moving from place to place unchallenged by our law enforcement agencies.

The Jos riots of 2001, 2004 and 2008 were most, linked to the Hausa/Fulani hegemonic tendency. The 2008 riots which killed about 200 Yorubas and destroyed about 5 billion naira worth of property of the Igbos, among their dead, has now made it clear that Southerners are not safe at all in Northern Nigeria. Did the state government act quickly to nip the Jos riot in the bud? No! That the riot was as a result of a political clash between the indigenes and the Hausa/Fulani settlers – which seemingly had no bearing on the resident Southerners because of our practice of fake federalism – shows that, it is time for a concrete action on the part of the South. In elementary or “ordinary level economics” by Lawal, most of us were taught in “factors affecting the location of industry,” and by extension enterprise and small scale businesses, that if there is the presence of insecurity in a place of economic interest, what to do is simple: flee!

Apart from the scale of the 1966 massacre, the quantum of destruction and lost of human lives in the Zagon Kataf {1992} and the Tafawa Balewa {1991} disturbances were scary. The carnage was unimaginable. And in those two, writes Prof. Sonni Tyoden, “the Hausa/Fulani were at the receiving end”. Those, would have been enough to make the Hausas sit back and critically reflect on their role in this funny amalgam called Nigeria, but had they? No.

The Sagamu riots of 1999 between the Hausas and the Yorubas, was as a result of the intransigence of Hausas to obey a simple cultural ritual observance of the Yorubas: the Oro festival. The Ketu – Mile 12 riot of the same 1999, between the Yoruba and the Hausa was also a case of the Hausa /Fulani trying to play the landlord in another man’s territory. A thing which is a taboo for Southerners living in Kano, Sokoto, Katsina, Zamfara and Daura.

Even the Bodija/ Ibadan market riot of 23 June 1999, was caused when a Yoruba man was knocked down by a cow among a herd of cattle. An argument which had erupted over the incident snowballed into fisticuffs. An Oodua mob later formed and a bloody riot started. That, left 10 people stone dead and 130 shops burnt.

When Alhaji Aliko Dangote decided to use his trailers to evacuate the victims of the Ketu-Mile 12 riots back to our riot prone Kano. The returnees recounted their ordeal to their Kano brethren. Within seconds, an Arewa mob had formed and had unleashed horror and retaliated on the Yorubas resident in Kano. Such is the doomsday lifestyle of Nigerians. The act of revenge has evolved into part of our value system! It is this “an eye for an eye” philosophy, says Ghandhi, that has made “ the world blind”. So, with the exception of Aguleri / Umuleri, Ife / Modakeke and Junkuns/Tiv communal clashes whose scales are scary but limited in spread, most others in the North come with intense deathliness to southerners.

Based on these, it is pertinent to make the following practical submission and recommendation to Southerners resident in the North: one, it is noted that the state plays no effective role in helping to check the spread of those carnages but rather tend to cunningly aid and abet them. It had not arrested, and even if it did, had not prosecuted and dealt with those arrested, which would have acted as deterrent to other hoodlums. Government commissions of inquiry into most of them and the reports and white paper thereof, rarely see the light of day. Two, depending on the type of riot, Southerners, resident in the far north, should learn to come together at the shortest notice, to mobilize, organize and fight back when attacked. Forgiveness in Christianity does not connote cowardice. Most Christians love life “so tay” – Nigerian pidgin English – they don’t want to die for Christ and yet they want to go to heaven.

Even where the good lord has admonished that “if you lose your life for my sake, you will save it” and if you save your life for the sake of the world, you will lose it, most still fear death. You have to learn to fight to protect your family and property. You don’t sit back and watch while a group of hoodlums rip open the womb of your pregnant wife, bring out the unborn child and slit its throat. Learn to organise, mobilize and fight back. NIGERIA MUST BE ONE, abi! So, let it be one by all means!

Albeit, the modest option left, for mostly Southerners, is to take a firm but conditional resolution, and that is, to leave for good the following Northern cities and towns, namely, Kano, Sokoto, Katsina, Daura, Nguru, Bauchi, Maiduguri, Yola and Jimeta until such a time they are guaranteed, genuine and sincere security. Southerners should stop endangering their lives in these places.

The riots in these cities, anytime they incubate, ripen and burst, have some common attributes and the response of governments to them is suspect. They should therefore pack their bag and baggage and leave. Whatever economic ventures they are involved in, can be found in other peaceful and tolerant states. They should migrate to such. Thus opines the Justice Onyiuke’s report: “The foundation of Nigeria contains the seeds of its own destruction”. Since our leaders have become allergic to good governance, may the dead continue to leave their trodden footpaths for us to tread on, and may the souls of all those who died in those riots continue to rest in perfect peace. AMEN! I rest my case!

Further references:
WHY WE STRUCK : The Story of the First Nigerian Coup{1981} by the late Major Adewale Ademoyega
THE KADUNA MAFIA, {1987}By Dr. Bala Takaya and Dr. Sonni GwanleTyoden: UNIJOS PRESS
REFLECTIONS ON NIGERIAN CIVIL WAR (1969) by Chief Ralph Uwechue

4 Comments

  1. As far as I am concerned, these carnages should stop. Else, every southerner/Christian should retaliate in her cities whenever the Hausa/Fulani idiots begin rioting. An eye for an eye should be the answer as we too can fight and kill the Hausa/Fulani like animals. And there should be no Govt. enquiries!

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  2. A very good write-up. Just a few comments.

    The Jos Riots of 1945 was not one against amalgamation, which had already taken place in 1914 and was not fought by the Beroms and the hausas against the southerners as the author indicated. It was a free-for-all fight between only the Igbos and the Hausas, the dominant trading ethnic groups in the Jos tin mine regions over market dominance.

    While the indigenes, who had been forced into hard labor on their seized farmlands (with a colonial law that restricts them from any clerical or office employment, such appointments given only to the southerners, and foreigners such as Ghanaians, etc while the hausas were handed administrative privileges in a land they NEVER conquered during the jihad and did not settle ab initio) were starving because their lands had been confiscated and devastated for tin; and food was being rationed in the tin mine camps (in the early 50s, the colonial administration, after massive devastation of the land declared Jos an agricultural-land scarce area and started land reclamation with the sole aim of returning the lands to the indigenes at “agriculturally productive” conditions. They therefore filled in some of the gaping mine holes, imported Eucalyptus trees from Australia to stabilize the soils and introduced Irish potatoes as a short term measure to ease starvation and hunger in the tin mines. The succeeding Nigerian govt abandoned all efforts after independence), the Hausas and the Igbos were fighting over the spoils – dominance over cut-throat trade in Jos. The riots also started as an argument between two traders in the woodshed market – a Hausa and an Igbo and snowballed into several days of knifing, arrows and stone missile warfare with several wounded, burnt properties and two reported dead. It was an all Igbo-Hausa combat over minespoil trade, with no indigenous/native ethnic group involved. But Jos had lost its innocence, no thanks greed.

    Today Jos reaps violence and the natives reap death from a colonial hang-over. There are over one thousand perennial tin mine ponds on the Jos Plateau from tin mining activities. The ponds are not good as water sources, for fisheries or even irrigation because tin is a heavy metal. It will need millions of dollars to rehabilitate the land or make the ponds more useful; the Hausas have refused to acknowledge the natives as owners of Jos in line with both traditional and Constitutional requirements of Nigeria (mind you, there are many Southern families that came to the Plateau as early as any Hausa family and have remained in Jos , without break, till now but do not claim indigeneship of Jos and neither would Southerners claim ownership of Jos merely because fellow southerners were in Jos while most of it was still farmland and hunting grounds for the small native population groups that inhabited the area.

    It is either we are ALL indigenes (as separate from citizens, pls) in EVERY part of Nigeria or we are only owners of the ancestral lands our foreparents had carved for themselves on our behalf before colonialism and imperialism. Nigeria needs to pick one and stick with it or lose!

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  3. This article is brilliantly written as if the writer witnessed the event. Jos riot caused my family and I to migrate to USA leaving the city and state where I was born and raised fron little child to adulthood to become an alien to another country as alien. The govenemnt still could not do any thing to the perpetrators of that riot. What a country – Nigeria we hail thee!

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  4. Excellent piece ones more. Please keep it up. I cannot understand that country to this very day. One step forward and 10 steps backward.

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