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Nigeria Scholar Says He Is Not Surprised By Violence in Nigeria’s Plateau State

More bodies of victims of the recent clashes between Christians and Muslims in the central Nigerian city of Jos have been found. Up to 150 bodies were found, with scores stuffed in wells and sewage pits.

Several thousand people reportedly fled their homes when violence erupted last Sunday. An exact toll is not known but overall up to 300 are thought to have died.

“There is nothing surprising. Nothing at all! Whatever you hear - whether people are found in wells - I can see an ability in both sides of the conflict divide to do that,” said Dr. Shedrack Best, an Associate Professor of political science and conflict resolution at Jos University.

He described the situation as quite unfortunate. The boundaries, he said, are quite confusing sometimes; noting that “at the time it [conflict] becomes violent it is then between Christians and Muslims but the conflict does not have a religious content.”

Best said it [conflict] is significantly political because it is driven by the desire of a certain group in the conflict to take political control of Jos while meeting opposition from another group that does not want that to happen.
“When this conflict is lost at the political level and becomes violent then it becomes religious.” he said, adding “it is convenient for the protagonists in the conflict, particularly the elite, to introduce religion in order to amplify and magnify the violence.”

Dr. Best said although he doubted whether any politician wants this kind of instability, some of them may have started something that they couldn’t anticipate how violent it could turn. “Certain people, he said, had political calculations to which they had factored in Jos and as long as they cannot get Jos it is better to destabilize the place and make it ungovernable, an epitome of violence, death and destruction.”

He said the security situation has improved due to the arrival in Jos of the army. “There is military presence in almost the whole Plateau state. That is helping people to gain confidence to return to their homes.”

Dr. Best noted that this round of violence might not be the last in Jos.
There are deep political problems, he said, citing the challenges of federalism, challenges of Nigeria’s democracy, inconsistencies of the constitution, and the inability of the government to work well.