I spent last weekend in Plateau state, reminiscing and catching up with people who grew up there, ‘Jos boys’ as they like to call themselves.
In the 80s, Jos “The Centre of Peace and Tourism” attracted a lot of foreigners with its high altitude and temperate climate. It was the only place I knew in Nigeria where you could get locally grown apples.
In talking to the people who grew up there, I realised a connection I hadn’t made before. Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001, but four days earlier, Jos had erupted in the first of many outbreaks of violence.
So on that day as many people watched the WTC collapse with the feeling that the world was changing, teenage Jos Boys were returning home after another night of vigilante patrolling. A night rich in fear, filled with bullets and lost family members.
In the decade that has passed, the US has tightened security at airports. The loopholes the terrorists used have been all but sealed up. Osama and Saddam are dead, the public is alert and appropriately paranoid.
In Jos, the violence has flared up intermittently, the problem has not gone away. We drive around now and they point out places to me and tell me the memories associated with them.
The Bukuru market is destroyed. It was set on fire twice, rebuilt both times. The third time, a bomb went off close to the central support beams causing the building to collapse and now everyone has given up on it. The traders’ stalls surround the abandoned building, extending from the edge of the blackened crumbled structure into the street.
The Hausa mud settlement where a group of men were ringed with tires and set on fire.
The church that now stockpiles guns and ammunition and trains its members on how to use them.
We pass military checkpoints that were introduced after the crises, checkpoints that have now become permanent structures.
This neighbourhood is always safe, and that one never is. No one goes to that other one after sunset.
All of these exist alongside clubs and bars. This lounge has live music, that one a wide selection of drinks and television screens if you want to watch football matches. This one has a younger crowd, pretty university girls if that is what you are into.
The Jos Boys have divided up their city with clear unseen lines and they have grown to live comfortably within these boundaries as their lives have failed to return to normal
Today, the new World Trade Center plaza is on track to reopen on the 10th year anniversary of the attack and Jos is unstable again.
The patterns from our past indicate that we won’t solve our terrorist suicide bomber problem. We will just adapt and get used to it.
Our leaders will talk, the people will complain. Then slowly, we will draw lines and adjust our lives to live with the problems. We will focus on other things to distract us and get comfortable again.