The president of Nigeria, Mr. Umaru Yar’Adua, was shown no appreciation or regard during his visit to Jos, the capital of Plateau state, where his convoy became the target of stones, sticks and bottles from an angry crowd.
The president was in the religiously contested city yesterday to attend a burial ceremony of a traditional chief and was flanged by the Plateau state governor, Jonah Jang, when a group of unidentified youths attacked his convoy.
The drivers in the convoy are reported to have swerved left and right, attempting to avoid being hit by the flying weapons hurled randomly from the miscreants who stood by the side of the road. Some of the vehicles in the convoy were damaged along with an accompanying ambulance while some security personnel on duty are reported to have sustained injuries and were rushed to a hospital in the city for medical attention after the president’s convoy had gone pass.
The act of violence was carried out by youths who are yet to be identified.
Although Nigeria is a melting pot of ethno-religious beliefs, with the country split almost equally between Christians and Muslims, the city of Jos has often seen bouts of inter-communal violence between the two religious groups.
The city of Jos, described as lying on the fault-line of Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north and mainly Christian south — making it the epicentre of religious tensions — is also said to be symptomatic of a deeper systemic dilemma. According to Knox Chitiyo, “competition for resources and endemic poverty in ‘fault-line’ areas such as the Plateau state in general and Jos in particular have provided rich pickings for militant groups on both sides to fan the flames of violence.”
Jos’ central geographical positioning makes it particularly influential in propagating its tensions and riots to other parts of the country. In 2001, over 1,000 people died in protracted riots in the city.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Hausa Community in Jos and former Minister of State for Information and Communication, Alhaji Ibrahim Salisu Nakande has been quick to distance his Muslim people from the incident. “If it is true, it must have been the handiwork of some miscreants trying to create trouble, but they definitely couldn’t have been our people,” he said. There have been no comments from the leaders of the Jos Christian community so far.
The state government has described the incident as unfortunate. “Plateau State Government will investigate and get to the root of it to determine perpetrators of the act,” said the adviser to the state governor on Media and Public Affairs.
The experience was however not a new one to the Nigerian president as he had suffered a similar fate in 2007, while on a campaign tour in the same Plateau state, when his convoy was stoned under similar circumstances.
For now, Nigeria’s rich history of ethno-religious amity, which has — until recently — contributed to a relatively smooth governance in what concerns the co-habitation of two monotheist and mutually hostile groups, is at stake.