Akinola doublespeaks

From the Church of Nigeria (Anglican):

The Primate of Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) Archbishop Peter Akinola, has urged government to fish out the perpetrators of the crisis that trailed Thursday’s local government election in Plateau State. Scores of people had been killed since violence erupted in Jos on Friday even before the election results were announced.

Speaking at the Diocese of Abuja Carnival for Christ celebration, he accused government of “playing the ostrich”, on the recurring sectarian crisis in the country.

“We know these people who are bent on destroying the nation and for goodness sake they should be brought to justice,” Akinola told journalists in Abuja.

“The problem in my opinion is that our government has never been able to bring to book the perpetrators of this evil. When it happened in Bauchi, we cried aloud, they said they would make arrests, they never did. When it happened in Kano, they never arrested anyone and when it happened in Zaria too, no-one was arrested. Even where they were arrests they were later released.

“So if government has had the courage to bring justice to those who engage in the evil, it would have served as a deterrent to others. I call on this government to stop playing the ostrich and stop being hypocritical,” he asserted.

Archbishop Akinola said that it was unfortunate that some people were still engaged in killing and aiming at a time when the nation should be counting the gains of democracy.

Archbishop Akinola himself has given provocative and enigmatic responses about what he knows of previous acts of violence by Christian gangs in the region of Yelwa, Jos, and he has not condemned vigilante reprisals.

The national government is currently headed by a Muslim president. The violence was triggered after a local election won by a Christian political party, and charges were made of election fraud.

Political divisions in Nigeria are largely along religious lines. The Daily Independent (Lagos) provides what appears to be an evenhanded report of the election, the violence between rival Muslim and Christian gangs, the death toll, and the numbers of persons displaced. The BBC highlights the role of conflict over government allocation of oil income:

Nigeria’s 140 million people are split almost equally between Muslims and Christians and the two communities generally live peacefully side by side. But Jos has seen repeated bouts of inter-communal violence, with more than 1,000 killed during riots in 2001.

The real trigger for confrontation is usually competition for resources, our correspondent says. And in Nigeria political office is perhaps the most powerful resource of all as it gives the holder access to some of country’s huge oil revenues.

The New York Times reports some religious leaders were introspective:

Christian and Muslim leaders in Jos, despite emotionally charged verbal sparring about who was more responsible for the violence, seemed to agree that the state government had done little to ease tensions between the groups.

“Our people are deeply, deeply religious,” said Ignatius Kaigama, the [Catholic] archbishop of Jos, referring to all Nigerians. “They follow their religious leaders blindly, and politicians know this. These young men were used.”

Sheik Khalid Adem, the imam of Jos, said: “There’s too much lip service and not enough action from the government. The government should be seen as a parent, looking after and caring for its children, not raising one as a legitimate son and one as a bastard.”

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