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Tom's Take

March 11th, 2010
04:55 AM ET

Sr. Writer for Amanpour, Tom Evans, works on scripts with Christiane

Sr. Writer for Amanpour, Tom Evans, works on scripts with Christiane

On AMANPOUR. today, we looked at this week’s ethnic violence in Nigeria, which has only served to highlight the issues facing the country at a time when it is suffering on many other fronts as well - from problems such as corruption and unemployment. Today, protests took place in the capital, Abuja. The demonstrations are set against the ongoing power vacuum after the return to Nigeria of the ailing President Umaru Yar ‘Adua, after medical treatment in Saudi Arabia.

Tom Evans
Sr. Writer, AMANPOUR.

(CNN) – Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo today declared that this week’s explosion of violence near the central city of Jos that claimed at least 200 lives is not driven by religious tensions between Christians and Muslims - but by ethnic, social, and economic problems.

In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Obasanjo said, “If you have one group or a community that has land that’s been encroached upon by another community or even by itinerant cattle farmers, then the people who lay claim to the land will fight back.”

“If there are job opportunities in an area, and persons believe they are indigenous to that area, and not getting enough out of the jobs that are available, they will fight those who are getting the jobs.”

Obasanjo said he’s convinced the conflict in the oil-rich nation does not have religious roots, because Nigerian religious leaders have come together and deliberated on the problems in Jos, which lies on the fault-line between Muslim dominated northern Nigeria and the mainly Christian south.

The former president also said it will be very dangerous if the acting President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, fails to implement reforms quickly because the country, Africa’s most populous, is full of expectations for change.

Thousands of Nigerians today protested in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, demanding urgent action from the government on a host of issues ranging from corruption to unemployment.

CNN’s Christiane Purefoy, reporting from the scene, said there was a lot of tension between police and the protesters, who believe that local governors are trying to get away with as much as they can because there’s no-one in charge at the top.

Acting President Jonathan continues to hold the reins of power, even though ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua has returned to Nigeria after three months treatment for an unspecified medical condition in Saudi Arabia.

Purefoy reported that Jonathan hardly ever makes any public appearances, and seems to be acting president in name only, without exercising real power.

Obasanjo said the whole episode with President Yar’Adua is weird. “I think … the way it was handled by his handlers and the way it’s been couched in secrecy and shrouded in mystery is strange. Somebody said it can only happen in ‘wonderland’ Nigeria.”

Nigerian Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka told Amanpour the Nigerian people are demanding a sovereign national conference to empower the right people to restructure and reform the country.

He said next year’s general election will be crucial to the future of the nation. “Right now we’re running a constitution that has been imposed on the people themselves”, he added.

Soyinka said the political system in Nigeria has been handed down first by the colonial past, and then by what he called “the internal colonial past”, which is the military.

Amanpour also spoke with another Nobel Prize laureate on the program, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who has always preached reconciliation over the urge for revenge.

Tutu has written a new book “Made for Goodness” with his daughter, the Reverend Mpho Tutu. The book says that people are inherently good and there is inherent goodness on the earth.

Archbishop Tutu said, “All of history has demonstrated the truth that evil people, evil systems, don’t last forever. They bite the dust.”

“The fact of the matter is that evil is really an aberration. After God creates, God says, it is not just good, it’s very good… and God rubs both hands and says ‘ha, ha’.”

Archbishop Tutu was chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa that tried to heal the wounds in the country after decades of apartheid.

Reports from Nigeria today say lawmakers in the parliament there are proposing their own Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to end the distrust that has fueled the violence in the center of the country.

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soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Austin jang

    Our true democracy can only be realised if only the spade is called a spade. The crisis Nigeria is facing today is caused by Nigerians and not an accident. If you like , you can ask me why.

    March 11, 2010 at 11:51 am | Reply
  2. Gab

    Some scholars of Islam tell us that Islam is wholistic – an economic, political, ethnic interest could easily translate to religious. I think the issues of the violent conflict in Jos should be seen from this point of view.

    Conflict is inevitable in human society but violent conflct must be abhorred. It is unfortunate that records of the violent conflict in Jos-Plateau (and in some States in Northern Nigeria), show the Hausa ethnic group (who are predominantly moslems) as the aggressors. And regardless of what the triggers are, they are always quickly turned into attacks against christians and churches destroyed.

    Culture and tradition in Africa are still strong, and may be so in the next 100 years. Land or territorial indigeneship cannot be erased by wishful thinking or even legislation. Even in Abuja, the Federal Capital of Nigeria, native names of areas have been retained for history in acknowledgement of the patriotism of the natives/tribes in those areas who gave up part of their ancestral habitat.

    Check the records in other parts of Nigeria, the States where the Hausas advocated the kind of control they are fighting for in Jos, the natives of those areas not only vehemently resisted but fought back to the point of shedding blood! The Hausa-fulani moslems cannot try it in the Eastern, Western or Southern parts of Nigeria because they will contend with the major tribes. The tribes in central Nigeria are minority tribes, few in number, so they seem conquerable. But I assure you that God will fight for the minorities, if that is all they are left with.

    March 13, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Reply

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