Mr. Gyang Jatau Doji, 59, recently came in the news for saving 13 Muslim youths from being lynched in his community, Lyoh-Gyel, a predominantly Christian community in Jos, the capital of Plateau State, often considered a “no-go” area for Muslims.
Violence brokeout in the early hours of Monday, October 20, 2020 in the city following weeks of protests by youths demanding the dissolution of the Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The violence which started as a counter protest to the EndSARS protests soon assumed a religious dimension, with at least three killed, and two worship centres burnt.
In Gyel, an epicenters of the violence where one of the worship centers was burnt, Christians and Muslim settlements are segregated – Christians to the West and Muslims to the East, separated by a federal road. Anyone caught on either side faced judgment, based on their faith.
The 13 rescued youths were among many, nearly ambushed on the demarcating road and isolated for execution, but spared through the firm intervention of Mr. Doji, who is the community leader of Lyoh-Gyel.
“Some of them were passing on the road and blocked, some were transacting businesses here and some just strayed into the community while fleeing the violence in other places. I rescued many of them and crossed them over to the Muslim side where they were safer. Some I took home on my car but for those thirteen, who happened to be right inside the community, it was too risky to move them out while the violence was still hot,” said the community leader.
“I and a few other members of my Community agreed to shield them in our houses until tensions were down,” added Mr. Doji. The rescued youths were moved out in batches the next day and handed over to leaders of the Muslim Communities, he said.
Mr. Doji has more Muslim friends than Christians, it is learnt. Before becoming a Village Head, he learned mechanical engineering under a Muslim, and later worked for another Muslim as commercial driver. Years later, when he bought his own taxi car, he related a lot with Muslims, sometimes spending nights in their homes and eating from the same plate with them.
In 2008, after he was installed as Chief in 1999, Doji was offered a ticket to go for Christian pilgrimage in Israel, by a Muslim friend and former boss. “I got a call from the then Chairman of the Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board who told me his friend, Alhaji Sani who happened to be my boss in the past made a reservation for me and I should go and fill the form,” Doji recalled.
However, his decision to spare life is beyond his relationship with Muslims. Doji was raised a Christian. Though poor, he was rich in compassion and fear of God from childhood.
“I only attended Primary school but I know what the Bible teaches – love for others. I also know how God abhors murder. Why then should I let anyone take a life before me? I would rather die than watch such a disgustful act,” he said.
Doji has for long been upset about frequent violence in Jos and other places over religion. He has in the past saved dozens of Muslims during hot religious conflicts. He and his senior Chief, along with other members of the Jos South Traditional Council have repeatedly sent recommendations to government and other stakeholders on how to end violent conflicts in the city. They have also held meetings with Muslim community leaders toward engendering peace. But sometimes the rivalry is beyond them.
“We as humans sometimes do things that even animals don’t do. An animal would protect its own kind from an aggressor but we would rather harm one another. It is sickening even in the sight of God whom we claim to fight for. In the end, He will condemn us all for failing to carry out his instructions to live in peace and love with one another. Pagans who do not know him do this, but we don’t and I wonder why,” he said.
A Muslim Cleric who saved over 200 Christians during herdmen attacks in Plateau in 2018 holds similar views. Perhaps, some unsung heroes who saved some Christians in Angwan Rogo, a predominantly Muslim community that has been “no-go” area for Christians since 2001, during past religious violence likewise. Doji, like many advocates of peace, wants youths to focus on their salvation rather than the choose faith of others, as well as the positive growth of their country rather than the destruction of lives and properties, which he said deepens poverty.
He also wants Government to end poverty and unemployment which are causing frustration among youths, forcing them to indulge in drug abuse and violence. But will the government do this and still maintain loyalty? Maybe not until wealth creation is seen as a tool to free Government from overdependence by citizens.
Currently, over 80 million Nigerians are said to be extremely poor, with unemployment and inflation rising on a daily basis. A few Government policies have attempted to solve this problem but impunity and nepotism among government officials has hindered suceeds over the years.