The holiday season violence in Nigeria has been traced to local politicians seeking to make the most of communal tensions for their gain. Religious authorities in Nigeria believe the beliefs and weaknesses of the people are being exploited ahead of national and local elections in April 2011.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, head of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Ayo Oritsejafor, and spiritual leader of the Nigerian Muslims, Sultan Mohammadu Sa’ad Abubakar made a joint statement criticizing politicians.
“Some politicians know the weaknesses of the people. They know how to manipulate their beliefs and they know the parts of the country where people react very easily. Some of them are creating these kinds of problems to make Nigeria ungovernable,” Mr. Oritsejafor was quoted as saying.
Nigeria’s emergency management agency (Nema) said at least 80 people had died and more than 190 had been injured in the holiday season violence.
“There is a failure of leadership by our politicians. If the government in that area [Jos] is purposeful enough, they will find answers to these problems,” Sa’ad Abubakar said.
Earlier many believed the attacks had been engineered by extreme Muslim sect Boko Haram who had claimed on their website that it launched the attacks to “start avenging the atrocities committed against Muslims”.
However, religious authorities believe the series of violence are the making of shrewd politicians.
“Anybody can post anything on the internet,” Police Chief Abdulrahman Akano told the AFP news agency casting doubt on the Boko Haram website claims, saying it was not Boko Haram’s usual method.
Nigeria suffered about four bomb blasts in several areas of Jos on Christmas Eve, and Christian and Muslim youths clashed two days later.
While the violence often pits Muslims against Christians, analysts say the underlying issues are political and economic.
The volatile Jos region is made up of Hausa-speaking Muslims who are still considered as settlers in Jos and therefore find it difficult to stand for election.
The Christian and Muslim areas are divided along political party lines.
Nigerians are due to hold national and local elections in April.