Magazine article New African

Nigeria: Why Oh Why?

Magazine article New African

Nigeria: Why Oh Why?

Article excerpt

"Mr Chairman, you are talking absolute nonsense and don't provoke me ... What type of leader are you? And you are asking me this type of rubbish question. You are an idiot! A total idiot! And I have no apologies for that." This is President Obasanjo at his un-presidential best. Report by Pini Jason.

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Some called it Nigeria's little Rwanda. Governor Joshua Dariye of Plateau State called it a jihad to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Hausa-Fulani Muslim Jihad of 1804. In one week of bloody orgy in Plateau and Kano States, over 1,000 Nigerians were killed and more than 10,000 rendered homeless.

President Olusegun Obasanjo had to declare a state of emergency in Plateau State on 18 May, suspend Governor Dariye and the State House of Assembly and appoint Major-General Chris M. Alli, the former chief of army staff of General Sani Abacha, as Plateau's interim administrator.

Trouble started this time in the Yelwa Shendam area of Plateau State. A local militia made up of indigenous Taroks, who are mostly Christians, attacked the Muslims in Yelwa. The attack was a reprisal for an attack in February on Taroks by Muslim youths. According to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), over 600 people were killed in the February attack, 47 of them inside churches. Two weeks after the Christians revenge attack, Kano State erupted as Muslims launched a reprisal on the Christians there. In two days, over 100 people were killed and thousands displaced.

Property worth millions of naira was destroyed. Morgues were overflowing with unclaimed bodies. Thousands of non-Kano indigenes fled the town. And a security alert was mounted in nearby Bauchi and Kaduna States, another ethnic and religious tinderbox, as fear of revenge attacks spread throughout the country.

Emotions were high and easily boiled over when President Obasanjo visited Plateau State in mid May. At a stakeholders meeting in Jos, capital of Plateau State, the state chairman of CAN, Rev Yakubu Pam, asked the president why he did not deem it fit to visit when Christians were killed, implying that the president was reacting because Muslims were on the receiving end in Yelwa.

That was all that was needed to trigger off Obasanjo's legendary incendiary temper! His answer was un-presidential. "Mr Chairman of CAN", Obasanjo charged, "you are talking absolute nonsense and don't provoke me". But he was already provoked!

"What meaningful thing have you contributed to make peace in this state other than that you are chairman of CAN?" And the president was yet to spill the hot lava: "CAN my foot! …

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