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Tiv must help themselves, if they want to live in Taraba peacefully- Benjamin Bako



Chief Benjamin Bako is the President of Jukun Development Association of Nigeria, JDAN in this telephone interview with Taraba Truth and Facts newspaper, Bako explains why  Jukun - Tiv crisis might not end soon.
 With the current situation, what do you think can be done as a permanent solution to the crisis between the Tiv and Jukun tribe?
Infact, the escalation of that crisis is even coming to us as a surprise, because if you ask the entire leader in Southern part of Taraba State, I have been at the forefront of the renewed peace effort that we enjoined the renewed charter of peace that we enjoined in the last four to five, six years. This is because I took the leadership of the Tiv people, brought them to palace of Aku Uka where we all sat and agreed that never in the history of our people again would Junkun confront Tiv in a fight,  when the Fulani people were pursuing Tiv in Bali, Gashaka area we encourage our people to help them, give them shelter and food. Those ones that were displaced;  there is no help that we didn’t rendered them, including  humanitarian, assisting them to resettle and engaging in media propaganda to make sure we drew the attention of the world to their plight.
All of a sudden, this small altercation that happened in Kente which snowballed into full scale sticky situation we have now in hand now would have been avoided. So as this conflict rage, we begin to wonder because what we understand is that our elites (Jukun elites) and a lot of people on ground have adhered to this confrontation and dare any confrontation with Tiv community. But one thing that we’ve come to understand with this conflict according to our intelligence which we are trying to get 100% is that some criminal element has infiltrated this crisis, the criminal elements that have been controlling the kidnapping business in the axis of Takum and Kasitna-ala area. So, it is like they want to seize the opportunity of this conflict now because most of them are fugitive on the run from the law. They want seize this opportunity now to rebrand themselves as warlords for Tiv people, so now they want to metamorphosed from fugitive criminals to hero of Tiv people on the pretence that they are defending Tiv interest. Ironically, I expected that Tiv people should stand up and resist these criminal individuals that if there is any damage that have been rough in the population of Tiv people that have their history, I don’t think they have ever experience any period worst than the calamity these people have brought on them. You will not understand the gravity of what I’m talking about until you are undertaking the journey from Katsina-Ala to Takum. Those places were dotted with very vibrant, economically viable and powerful village market. You’d see trucks coming all over the country loading from katsinanla up to Torodonga and Dodongawa near Takun. Tiv commerce was at its peak and everybody was making money and people were comfortable and we are jealous of them. 
Everytime we want to talk, we will have to cite examples that look at Tiv people, they are doing this and that. All of a sudden, these people killed all the villages and villagers. As I speak now, the last time I passed there with heavy security, it was all ghost town. They are ghost villages and nobody is staying there. People have run away, the same thing with how they have killed the Tensanje market, where people come all over the nation, so who is suffering more? It is the Tiv common man, the farmers that their lives have been disrupted and now they are encouraging this war to make an already bad situation worst for them. 
Because Tiv people in Taraba, if they run to Benue State, where are they going to stay? They stay in refugee camp. If you follow Makurdi/Lafia road, you’d see a large refugee camp where Fulani have displaced them. Some have been displaced from Bali whom has camped there. 
So criminal elements have snatched this conflict from Tiv people and unfortunately, with all due respect, Tiv people have no leader in our area in Taraba state that will come and shout to others to keep quiet.
Now, what is the way forward, what will bring permanent solution to this?
The permanent solution is that the Tiv people have to help themselves before they can be helped. I understand that this conflict is affecting us, but we are used to conflict. We have never travelled to anybody’s land to go and fight them. Do you see our people board vehicle and travelled to Benue state to go and fight Tiv people there? Every time the war has been brought to our doorstep and all we do is to defend ourselves. 
Before now, I have expected that the Tiv intelligentsia and few leaders that are in government in Taraba state will come together and form themselves into a group because they don’t have a leader, and come forward with a narrative that will convince the Jukun people and the world that look this thing that is happening, we have no hand in them. But all this while, it is we that have been proposing for peace. We have not heard from the Tiv people. If we hear from them, it is only the language for war and conflict. We want a different peaceful voice that we will talk to the people and convince us that look, we are in the same page, we are going to put these criminals that wants to buy over this conflict from us and renew their image that we are going to put them into shape.
But the Jukun seems to be sounding as if they are doing the Tiv a favour. Now, so far from our discussion, what do you think the Jukun should do to maintain peace on their part?
Let me address the first question. Oh yes, we are actually doing the Tiv a favor. Number one is; if you ask me, Tiv people have their farm here; they are schooling here, their family is here.  But do you know that if a Tiv elder dies now they will carry him to Benue state? Tiv will go to Wudanisha, which is Kwararafa and put signboard there that is Benue State. So they so much believe in Benue state that they don’t want to integrate even though the government in Taraba State has appointed many of them into the system. We have indigenous Jukun community numbering millions over there in Benue state and no single one of them has been appointed into government. So there should be a reciprocal treatment. Why I said we are doing them a favor is because what they are being given here in our place we are not getting such in their place. This land they are farming, we gave them to farm on. So that is why we think we are doing them a favor. They have more to lose because no Jukun man has gone to Benue to go and farm there and be claiming Taraba.
What do you think should be done on the part of Jukun to ensure peace?
Jukun has never travelled to any Tiv village to attack them. So you people should put the narrative out there that this is the atrocity these people are committing in Jukun land and you always look at it as if whether you don’t like Jukun people and you want to paint the picture that Jukun people are trouble makers and that we are the one starting the fight. Did we travel to Benue state to go and fight anybody there?
But should you fight anywhere even if it is not Benue? 
We are not fighting anywhere. Since this entire crisis started we are only on the defensive, when they attack, we defend ourselves. Nobody is talking about that and it is disturbing and I don’t think that is the way to practice journalism. That is kindergarten journalism. You should follow the two tribes; confirm from the people why they have been attacking us? 
Do you think the government is proactive enough to nip the crisis in the bud?
I think the government has not done well in this conflict. We had expected that by now, they would have come in to Wukari where the attacks took place, visit those places and check what actually happened, the people that were killed or wounded and probably talk to the people and assure them. People want to have a sense of assurance that there is a government in place.  The one in federal, we are not hearing anything about them. 
But to their credit, I think the federal forces have been overstretched with so many conflicts around the nation. But at the same time, should we ignore that of Taraba state where people are being killed, kidnapped and maimed every day? 
Then the state government, instead of doing you’re their own part like even coming to talk to the people and make them relax, they seems not be standing up to their task and people are worried and they have started complaining.

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