Full Project – RELIGION CONFLICT IN PLATEAU STATE: ISSUES AND SOLUTIONS CONFLICTS IN JOS
1.0 Background to the Study
More than any other city in Nigeria, Jos has seen the most of religious crises arising from communication or protracted communication from both fringes of belief-systems of the people and the state machineries. It is pertinent to examine how and where the communication that leads to religious crisis develops from. The principal actors of religious crises are the certain fragments of the people who either by ethnic or religious consciousness fear the existential threat thrown to their belief or ethnic by the other worldliness (other people) or by the series of efforts which they put to resist aggression. Either way one looks at it, violence is birthed by the existential threat and the resistance to such threats.
Soyinka (2006) submits that the climate of fear in religiously diffused society springs up when one ethnic or religious group stem to ride on the other in order to attain completeness. Soyinka draws his analogy from two sides of the screen. Firstly, the Miss World experience in Nigeria and the fatwa placed on The Guardian journalist, Ijeoma Daniel by the then Zamfara State Government; and the caricaturing of one religion‟s prophet by a Danish Tabloid that generated religious violence all over the world. Here, Communication, nay, protracted communication and misreported understanding were responsible for these crises. The doing was not to deride but to express the state of things as they were using both verbal and diagrammatic expressive model. However, communication were interpreted differently, digested and re-interpreted to produce violence.
Communication is a process of “convergence”in which participants create and share information with one another in order to reach a mutual understanding. (Kincaid, 1979) “Mutual” understanding builds the foundation for mutual agreement, which in turn makes collective action possible. Effective communication begins with the audience and continues over time as a process of mutual understanding and convergence (Piotrow et al, 1997). The primary aim of communication is to promote social change and economic development through knowledge, beliefs, thoughts and information sharing. Communication is a key in social interaction responsible for peace-building, social change, national development, religious expression of beliefs and thoughts, and economic growth. Vital programmes, policies and concepts need communication to succeed. Without communication government and many inventions that humankind enjoys today would not have been. Communication helps the human population to understand and interact with one and another notwithstanding the diversity in ethnicity, religion and race. Communication is key in peace-building process and conflict resolution.
The breakdown of communication leads to anarchy and may plunge mankind into underdevelopment. Though the human being is among the class of animals that is able to coordinate its affairs and also systematically organize its activities in such a unique process for its comfort and security, communication offers man the basic means of ensuring societal organization and socio-cultural cohesion. The basic tool by which man is able to co-exist despite the diverse beliefs, ethnics, race, cultures and values is communication.
Communication is the means of passing or ability to exchange through (sounds, words, symbols or gesture) messages, ideas, information through the various media like interpersonal, print or electronic. Communication is a vital tool towards interpersonal relationship in human being. Without communication acting as a process of creating and stimulating understanding, there cannot be development. So far, it is the bedrock on which the development of the human race lies.
According to Soola (2003), the interactions amongst the early men were conflicted because of their inability to share ideas or to understand each other. Many of the tribal wars of the early 18th century, Soola affirmed, were fought because of the inability of the 18th century men to understand each other. Communicating to different groups within the social structures was difficult and violence was the readily available method to protest. This is not to state that the early man had no developed system of communication; the systems of that time were too one-directional as they could only communicate within their lingual and cultural borders. Though the early man was able to develop his own system of thoughts and his own systems of communicating these thoughts, he faced the existential problem of soliciting understanding among the larger society. The many wars and hardships the hunter-gatherer faced stem from aberrance in communication in that period. This leads Kafewo (2011) to assert that communication is naught without understanding.
Again, protracted communication can birth crises. Religion, ethnicity, peoples and society without understanding their communicated thoughts, either as groups or as individuals, clash from seemingly fear arising from the dominance of one ethnic. Lack of it in essence is the failure of the articulation of the social thoughts and beliefs among members of society. Hence, fear becomes a concern as civil disobedience invariably leads to breakdown of the set down societal laws and order; and by extension could shoot-out crisis that may question the very essence of humanity. It is worth noting that with communication human beings can better understand his reason for being by relating with other members of his community and seeking understanding. While communication can be held responsible for the development of many economies, in terms of its social relations to others, it could also be responsible for the disintegration of others. At the base of this belief is understanding. What members of the society make out of communication determines the good that communication serves.
The several crises in Jos provide this research with a reference case. It is an important reference case because both the natives and settlers have lived together for a very long time and without any crisis, or, at best, little crisis. How did the natives and settlers communicate at that time that they peacefully lived together? What could have changed? What is the communication channel like in contemporary Jos and how is communication used to build peace or conflict? All these are questions that cut across development communication and they are begging for answers.
It must be stated here that communication, as vital as it is to conflict resolution, may be used to fuel ethnic and religious crisis. The religious places of worship and traditional palaces play immense roles in this process of communicating beliefs. Religious crisis happens as a result of piousness. A largely diffused society like Jos with different ethnics, both native and settlers, and more, with mixed religious affiliations seething within one family and ethnics, is a fertile ground for crisis when communication is not properly managed.
Effective communication has not been positively engaged to sue for peace or conflict management in Jos as there seem to be no defined method or bases for agreement. Instead, the communications in religious places of worship mostly emphasize one worldliness against the other worldliness, and the supremacy of one over the other. This, Eagleton (2000), described as “us” versus “them”. Soyinka (2006), again, copiously re-emphasized Renes Descartes assertion on the causes of crisis as the belief of: “I am right; you‟re dead”. Descartes‟ “I think, therefore I am” manifest in Jos. Soyinka‟s affirmation that crisis stem from the misrecognition of the other to exist, the disrespect of the rights of other ethnics, be they natives or settlers make Jos volatile.
Again, it must be acknowledged that religious piety and ethnic bigotry are strands that cannot be removed completely from Nigeria. Thus, it is pertinent to dig into the roles communication plays in conflict resolution and deepening understanding of the communication process that fuels ethnic or religious conflict. This research sees the embers in Jos as microcosm to judging the larger parts of Africa where ethnic and religious conflicts have caused a divide among peoples of the same descent or the same cultural catchment. Today, we hear of such naming as Jos-north, Jos-south, Kaduna-north, Kaduna-south and these naming carries with them relics of either the ethnic divide in states or the very fear of cocooning amongst one‟s kindred. Thus far, this divide, or the reasoning of settling amongst one‟s kindred has not prevented crises. At the centre of this divide, communication is needed to build bridges and to amend the bias that one worldliness holds against the other.
1.1. Statement of the Research Problem
A study of twenty-four states within which conflict occurred in 2008 would show that 83.3% of these states were experiencing conflict influenced by either religious or ethnic considerations and 25% of these states had to deal with conflict involving both religious and ethnic influence (Project Ploughshares 2009). The UCDP/PRIO Armed Conflict Dataset (2009) includes six more states, but this does not significantly alter the above figures.
Even though many are unwilling to consider the conflict in Jos as a typical case of religious conflict between different beliefs of different ethnicities, the reality is that peoples who have been involved on these conflicts belong to either a religion or an ethnic group. Thus, attempts to see the crises as only ethnic has made the conflict protracted and elusive of lasting solutions, with police security (where available) almost the only barrier to conflict. Various causes of the conflict have been proposed by individuals, the media, influential government officials, and scholars alike. In all of these, the role of religion and traditional palaces has not been dwelled upon; not only because religion and the palace affects crises but because it plays major roles in communication.
1.2 Aim and Objectives
This study examines religion conflict in plateau state: Issues and solutions.
The objectives of this study include:
- To establish the pattern of communication or communication strategies of early native-settlers interaction in Jos.
- To examine the rise of ethnic and religious conflict in Jos and its implication for communication.
- To assess the role and importance of communication in conflict resolution and management.
- To examine protracted communication and its impact on conflict management and resolution.
- To establish the roles of religious and traditional institutions in conflict and conflict management.
1.3 Research Questions
To further understand communication and conflict management in Jos, the research attempts to find answers to the following research questions:
- What communication strategies or conflict resolution approaches were deployed by the early natives-settlers in Jos that they lived peacefully despite their diversity.
- What was the communication network like?
- How, when and from whence did crisis begin to arise?
- What are the factors that stir crisis in Jos?
- What are the conflict resolution methods on ground?
- What type of information or communication is shared when fear seethes within and among peoples of different socio-cultural affinity?
1.4 The Significance of the Study
This study is important because it attempts to find out the degree to which religion influenced violence among the Jos ethnics, be they native or settler and the wider manifestation of ethnicity, religion and its implication on international politics and relations.
By transforming existing grievances into ethnic or religious grievances which are too fundamental to be ignored, the prevailing protests and crises, in Africa, Eastern Europe to the Middle East are rooted on the culture of ethnicity religion, politics, rights, lands and native-settler. Communication therefore is a tool which is being used to address grievances. Presently, in Europe and parts of Africa, the narrativity or system of communication thought is undergoing change. The old narrative of communication for development is being supplanted by alternative narrative which the government of Jos (Plateau State) as well as Nigeria as a whole must begin to adopt.
It is the desire of this study to take a deep look into the situation in Jos and suggests, through the development of an alternative narrative, strategies through which communication can be meaningfully utilized in managing conflicts in Jos.
1.5 Justification of the Study
Nigeria is a state holding within its borders over 250 ethnic groups, most of which have nothing in common, and some of which were already „enemies‟ and rivals long before Nigeria was drawn out on a table in Berlin. To complicate the ethnic cleavages, foreign religions came into the country from two different ends: Islam from the North and Christianity from the South. This created a situation where ethnic and religious divides have met, and the Jos region is one area of such an occurrence. Located in the mid-belt zone of Nigeria, Jos is a typical example of an ethno religious community. The conflict which has crippled the socio-economic life of the city serves as a typical example of conflict occurring between ethnic groups of different religions.
The conflict has become enmeshed and embroiled in different factors, and the causes, escalators and solutions have all been mixed up. The multiplicity of factors involved in the Jos crisis is what makes it a worthy case to study and how the failure of developing a new narrative for communication can further fan the embers for crisis. The emergent rise of ethnic groups and fundamentalist groups, all seeking to be heard is largely hinged on protracted communication and the misunderstanding which has developed into today‟s chaos. The groups (ethnic, religious, etc) which belongs to the “demand centre” are insisting on their demands and the “supply centre” (government, institutions) are either withdrawn or demanding from the demand-centres as well. Thus, understanding is thrown out. Conflict is borne. However, communication holds the key to bridge the gaps between the Demand and the Supply Centre though its emerging trends has not been fully and hitherto examined to chart a new course for Jos as well as Nigeria. What is best available are academic papers in the departments and libraries of universities in Nigeria.
1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study
The study examines religion conflict in plateau state: Issues and solutions. The study focuses on the role of communication in human relation and how lack of it can lead to conflict as exemplified by the recurring religious crisis in Jos.
This study undertakes an examination of the crisis that has happened in Jos between the periods of 2008 to 2010. Jos has seen several crises prior to that of the period under examination. However, the selected years provide this researcher the needed data in examining the communication and the application of alternative strategy in conflict management and resolution.
1.7 Definition of Terms
For the purpose of this study, the following key terms are defined as:
Development: For the sake of this study, development is seen as the removal of barriers in human society for inhabitants to lead long and healthy lives, to be knowledgeable, to have access to the resources needed for a decent standard of living and to be able to participate in the life of the community. In other words, it is the empowerment of people to take control of their own lives, expressing their demands and finding their own solutions to their problems.
Communication: Communication is defined as the opening of dialogue, source and receiver interacting continuously, thinking constructively about the situation, identifying developmental needs and problems, deciding what is needed to improve the situation, and acting upon that.
Development Communication: Development communication or communication for development involves understanding people, their beliefs and values, the social and cultural norms that shape their lives. It involves engaging communities and listening to adults and children as they identify problems, propose solutions and act upon them. It is a two-way process for sharing ideas and knowledge using a range of communication tools and approaches that empower individuals and communities to take actions to improve their lives.
Conflict: Conflict refers to some kind of friction, disagreement or discord arising within a group when the beliefs or actions of one or more members of this group are either resisted by or unacceptable to one or more members of another group. It can occur on different groupings.
Conflict resolution: Conflict resolution is the conceptualized methods or processes involved in facilitating the peaceful ending of conflict and retribution. It thrives on communicating information about the conflicting motives or ideologies of the conflicting groups and by engaging in collective negotiation.
Conflict management: Conflict management is the process of limiting the negative aspect of conflict while increasing the positive aspect of conflict. The aim of conflict management is to enhance learning and group outcomes.
Religious: this coinage means an ethnic group of people whose members are unified by a common religious background. Religious communities define their ethnic identity neither exclusively by ancestral heritage nor simply by religious affiliation, but often by a combination of both; that is a long shared history; a cultural tradition of its own; either a common geographical origin, or descent from a small number of common ancestors; a common language, not necessarily particular to the group; a common literature particular to the group; a common religion different from that of neighbouring groups; being a minority or being oppressed or a dominant group within a larger community.
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