The Daily Champion says the attacks in the city of Onitsha that killed 22 people today and in Bauchi on Monday were "separate religious crises" and does not link either to the Danish cartoon controversy.Morley goes on:
"The Bauchi crisis erupted Monday over the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran by a female teacher in a public secondary school in the state," the Lagos-based news site said. "The attack in Onitsha was reportedly in response to violence against the Igbo in some parts of Northern states."
Some in the Nigerian press claim that leaders of the Nigerian Federal and State Governments wish to spin the violence as a predominantly religious conflict without reference to 3rd-term politics of President Obasanjo. Today the Daily Independent (Nigeria) posted a press release (no date, but before 2/23) from the Lagos State Government, who took it a step further to blame the specifically religious conflict on the "unscrupulous and unpatriotic elements" that were instigating it.
For the Nigerian online media, the cause of the latest outbursts is less the Danish cartoons than the legacy of Muslim-Christian tensions that began long before the European cartoonists caricatured the Prophet Muhammad.
The complexity of the Nigeria violence wasn't lost on one Reuters correspondent filing from Abuja who noted, "Cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, rumours of a Koran desecration and opposition to constitutional change provided the catalysts for four days of fighting between Muslims and Christians in predominantly Muslim northern cities. Then there were revenge attacks in one mainly Christian southern city. But in Africa's most populous country the underlying causes of sectarian clashes are often political and observers say this round of violence is no exception."
From our vantage, it looks as though the Federal Government is more than happy to let people think that it was the Cartoons that caused the violence, and not the deep-seated sectarian tension that has been brewing for a very long time.
It seems to be working. This column from The Tide Online (Nigeria, 3/7/2006) blames the violence entirely on the Cartoons, calls for the Government to find the "masterminds" behind the plot, and neglects to mention the far more violent reprisals in the Christian south.