The end- lyrics of the Nigerian national anthem reads; “one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity” but the clashes that erupted in Morocco area of Bauchi have threatened the accuracy of this ethos.

Rampaging youths in Bauchi over the weekend invaded churches, mosques and residential properties leaving in their wake, wide spread destruction and mayhem. At the first imposition of a curfew by the state Governor, Yisa Yuguda, at least 4 people were reported dead and several more wounded. Most of the displaced had taken refuge in military outposts.

At the barracks tales of woe were endemic; in makeshift camps the displaced tried to come to terms with what had hit them. In groups, family members huddled together making meals and tending to the wounded that had been fortunate to escape the swords of the marauders.

Unlike the Jos crisis where accusing fingers hovered over politics and religion, the Bauchi crisis was fomented solely by religion. Trouble had started following a disagreement between some youths over the observance of the weekly Juma’at prayers. Like little drops of water the spat soon snowballed into a large scale urban religious warfare as jobless youths in the metropolis unsheathed their swords. The biggest casualties in this fiasco have been the Christians; Bauchi is predominantly Muslim.

The state’s Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) chairman, Bishop Musa Tula, advised all Christians in the state “to remain calm and continue to pray to God to avert future occurrences.” The state governor, who initially tried to play down the extent of the clash nearly 48 hours after, tightened an existing curfew. Yuguda warned that “anyone caught to have a hand in the crisis will be dealt with accordingly in line with the laws of the country”.

However the most interesting comments have emanated from the Moslem Ummah, the Chief Imam of ATBU, Juma’at Mosque, Idris Aliyu Ibrahim Pantami warned Moslems against “rumour mongering”. Rumours have been the fuel that has sparked religious riots in Nigeria for over 2 decades, spanning from Kaduna to Sokoto and several thousand deaths. The Kaduna and Abuja riots in 2001 were sparked off after a journalist had suggested Prophet Mohammed would have fancied one of the Miss World contestants, leading to over 200 deaths in 1 day- the story had been published more than 3 weeks before the riots- unfortunately an Islamic leader had only revived the story a day before the pageant with a sinister twist. Jos where nearly 400 people died last month in religious riots was also the site of mayhem leading to over a thousand deaths five years ago.

Ensuring peace and unity in Nigeria is a herculean task especially with a multi ethnic and religious profile as Nigeria. The onus lies not only with the government in providing adequate security and employment. But also on religious leaders in spreading the love message rather than hate, malice and reprisal attacks, religion should not be a consuming fire.



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