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Sponsored Report: Jukun/Tiv Crisis: Paving way for peace to reign.*

At last, the Jukun and Tiv ethnic groups of southern Taraba have agreed to a ceasefire. Fresh moves stakeholders to resolve the crisis seem to bear fruits. 

At the end of a two-day peace talks held at the Government House, Jalingo, a 30-man committee, set up by Governor Darius Ishaku, succeeded in making the warring communities sign a new peace deal and called for suspension of hostilities.

They have directed that all road-blocks in the affected communities should be dismantled and local markets in the areas reopened.

During the meeting, which was held at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, Benue state governor Samuel Ortom proposed that the federal government should set up a commission of enquiry into the crisis. But Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, strongly objected to the idea of bringing ‘strangers’ into the matter. He suggested that “the problem is ours; it’s an internal problem; we shall look into it and resolve it.”

Upon his return to the state, Ishaku set up the new committee and gave the warring groups a seven-day ultimatum to sheathe their swords for the committee to work effectively.

The new peace committee, which has been hailed by all as likely to succeed, is to examine and bring to an end all issues underlying persistent violent clashes between Jukun and Tiv ethnic groups. The committee has 15 representatives each from Tiv and Jukun communities, drawn from the affected areas which include Wukari, Donga and Takum.

The committee held a peace dialogue in the Executive Chamber of Government House, Jalingo – the Taraba state capital. In their midst were the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Anthony Jellason, representatives of the police, army, Civil Defence Corps and the Department of State Services (DSS).
Others in attendance included representatives of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and and Muslim Council  as well as representatives of the Jukun and Tiv communities from the affected local government areas. All the attending groups made their presentations.

The meeting was chaired by the Taraba state deputy governor, Haruna Manu, who, together with the SSG on behalf of the state government, signed the communiqué that was issued at the end of the meeting. Danjuma Adamu, Markus Ikitsombika and John Mamman signed the communiqué for the Jukun community while Jime Yongo, Kurason Kura and Isaac Waakaa signed for the Tiv community.

The committee advised the Jukun and Tiv communities to be wary of rumours that are capable of inciting them and destabilising the peace process.
One of the signatories of the communiqué, 

Danjuma Adamu (Jukun) revealed that during the peace meeting, the committee split into Team Tiv and Team Jukun to sketch their submissions.
“We in the Team Jukun were just clapping as the Tiv made their presentation. The issues they raised were exactly the same with ours, as if they spied or copied from us.
“So, it was not difficult marrying or harmonising the two submissions. We just adopted them.
“That was victory number one. It means the problem is an internal one, and we know it. It means we can solve the problem by ourselves.
“In doing this, we must be sincere to ourselves. Any criminal element among us must be fished out, punished and treated as a criminal. With this, the committee shall succeed,” he said.

What really happened?
It was gathered that the Tiv, Jukun crisis is an offshoot of a protracted feud based on a claim by the Jukun that the Tiv are “settlers,” in Taraba state, and therefore, have no ownership rights to the land they occupy. The conflict, reverberating in intervals of 10 and 20 years, first erupted in 1959. It reoccurred in 1980, 1990, 2001 and 2019, according to records.

The Tiv, on the other hand, use the longevity of their stay in Taraba to repel their settler status by claiming both land ownership and political rights in the area. These seeming claims, passed on to Jukun/Tiv offsprings, generate bloody scenes, as both groups try to prove they are no weaklings.

Thus, this year, like a discarded cigarette’s fire that burns down an entire forest, a misunderstanding between two Tiv and Jukun youth in Kente – a rustic village in Wukari, spiraled into full blown violence.

On March 31, a Tiv young man went to a local market in Wukari Local government area and drove away the Tiv women who displayed fish for sale. His grievance was that Tiv people were denied administrative posts in the said Market. He was caught and handed over to the police in Kente, to ensure his action did not incite the people. In retaliation, Tiv youth in Gbeji, Benue state, held 14 Jukun women and a man hostage. The ransome was to trade the Tiv guy in police custody with the Jukuns in their custody. With the intervention of the divisional police officer (DPO) in Gbeji and an Army captain in Kente, the Jukun traders and the Tiv lad were all released. 
On April 1, the chairman of Wukari (Taraba) and his counterpart in Ukum (Benue) local government areas held a peace dialogue, but the meeting ended in fracas, rebirthing the century feud.
Beneath the misunderstanding in Kente that snowballed into bloodbath, like Luka Agbu, a former President of Jukun Youths of Vision in Wukari has observed, there has been an age-long suspicion between Jukun and Tiv.
“Why should two peasant farming tribes, struggling for survival, take up arms against each other? 

There has been an age-long suspicion in the heart of a Tiv man against his Jukun brother and vice versa. This must be addressed.
“We are told that the stalemate had been in existence before some of us were born, but the elders had always prevailed. The killing of Tiv people by Jukun and the killing of Jukun people by Tiv is uncalled for, unwarranted and disgraceful to both ethnic groups, who have intermarried and lived together as a family for over a century,” a worried Agbu queried.

Agitation for Tiv chiefdom in Taraba

The Tiv ethnic group wants a 10-point agenda implemented, which include the creation of chiefdoms for Tiv in Taraba state, particularly in Wukari. But Jukun have asked that, if chiefdom is created in Wukari and a Tiv person is coronated as a third class or second class chief, will he be answerable to the Aku-Uka in Taraba or the Tor Tiv in Benue, who is the paramount ruler of every Tiv person in the world? Again, all chieftaincy stools the world over are hereditary, except in Tiv where ascension to a traditional throne is through rotational democracy. Will the Tiv in Taraba change this pattern, to fit into the hereditary style? Of course, these require proper interpretation and legal procedures. 

Nevertheless, Governor Ishaku has promised to “look into the matter,” since it requires a legislative process through the state Assembly.

What is good for the goose is also good for the gander

The Jukun in Abinse have also cried foul in the scheming of sociopolitical matters in Benue state. They said they have always been neglected when it comes to political appointments and promotions in the state’s civil service. If this is true, then the Benue Jukun have a case that must be looked into.

The Benue state government should also upgrade the stool of the chief of Jukun in Abinse to a higher status. It was gathered that the Jukun chiefdom in Abinse, which had existed since the 17th century and was recognised by colonial masters as a third-class chieftaincy stool in 1917, has today been relegated, instead of being elevated to an impressive status of first class. It had existed before the Tiv traditional council was established in 1946, which threw up Makir Dzakpe as the first Tor Tiv in 1947. 

In Taraba, there are six first class chiefs – the Aku Uka in Wukari, Chief of Mambilla in Sardauna, the Kpanti in Zing, Lamdo Gashaka in Serti, Emir of Muri in Jalingo and the Gara in Donga. There are also more than 50 traditional rulers of second class and third class statuses, as well as village heads. The Aku Uka is the chairman of the traditional council. Benue should upgrade the Jukun chieftaincy stool in Abinse, including those of the Etulo Jukun (Katsina Ala chiefdom) which was stopped in 1985 by former governor, Rev. Fr. Moses Adasu, and other minority tribes, with the Tor Tiv as chairman of the traditional council, to give a sense of belonging to all. This will also help in the fight against insecurity, while addressing neglect complaints by some minority tribes in Benue state. It is the Law of Equity. “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” says the scripture.

Tiv’s unsung hero Darius Dickson Ishaku 

Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba is an ebullient leader who wants to work and leave behind a legacy. He is a workaholic. But insecurity and crisis are his enemies. In his first term, clashes between herdsmen and farmers were his major challenge. There was bloodbath on the Mambilla Plateau, as there were killings in the lowlands of the state, because of cows, grasses and farm-crops. 

Against all odds, Ishaku tackled the herders’ menace through the instrumentality of the law, prohibiting open grazing. The law also prohibits cattle rustling. Herders now have to restrict the movement of their cattle so that they don’t stray into farms and munch on crops. He has brought a template of peace, bringing the warring cattle herders and crop farmers together to nurture a symbiotic relationship.

After the herdsmen, farmers’ challenge comes a resurgence of the lingering conflict between Jukun and Tiv. The crisis between Jukun and Tiv is uncalled for, coming at a time when the governor is Jukun, but married to a Tiv woman -when the two ethnic groups are supposed to be enjoying the best of their interaction which predates colonialism.

Governor Ishaku has been working round the clock to end the crisis, which has been a source of worry to him. He has solved one aspect of the impasse, by declaring that Tiv in Taraba are indigenes, not settlers. 

This justifies why the governor, in his first term, appointed many Tiv as advisers and senior aides. He named Rebecca Manasseh, a Tiv woman, as commissioner for environment, in defiance to the stand of his kinsmen. 

There are over 80 ethnic groups in Taraba state, so having one Tiv person in the executive cabinet means a lot. It means having an ear and eyes in the State’s developmental agenda. 

There is no good or evil discussed that will not be known. Note that it is the prerogative of the governor to choose who should work with him. In spite of all these kind gestures, the Tiv have not shown gratefulness to the detribalised governor; hence they have often spuriously accused him of either having a hand in the Jukun, Tiv crisis or not doing enough to end it. Ishaku was right when he stated during the dialogue in Abuja that there is a “conspiracy of silence” on the good things he has done for the Tiv ethnic group in Taraba State. 

There is no gainsaying that the Tiv elites in Taraba have refused to enlighten their brothers, at home and in the diaspora, on the tremendous role Ishaku has played in their lives in Taraba state since 2015 when he assumed the mantle of power.
For those who do not know, Darius Ishaku’s wife, Anna, hails from Vandeikya local government area of Benue state. Ishaku’s children are naturally Jukun and naturally Tiv. They have a compound blood of Jukun-Tiv in their veins and arteries. If you hate a tribe, you will not marry from them. Ishaku wouldn’t have married Anna, if he so hates Tiv. It is worthy of note that the governor’s wife, on her part, has done a lot in trying to broker peace between Jukun and Tiv.

In 2014, the Tiv in Taraba state were displaced from their ancestral homes by herdsmen marauders. When Ishaku came on board, he made sure the displaced were all brought back to their homes and rehabilitated. The governor, a peace maker, with his popular “Give me Peace, I will Give you Developments” slogan, went a step further, to suspend 10 traditional rulers accused of tempering with lands belonging to Tiv people. Ishaku became the ‘messiah’ and cynosure of praise by Tiv. But that was then. Today, the Tiv are calling him names and blaming him over a communal crisis that had been in existence since 1959 when he was only five years old. Don’t also forget that the crisis has a political side.
In his Rescue Mission in education during his first term, Ishaku rehabilitated schools and provided furniture and writing materials. To deliver quality education, he recruited 3000 teachers which were trained to update and enhance capacity. Out of the 3000 employed teachers, Tiv alone got 400 slots. How many Tiv people outside Taraba know this? How many, among those who know, have said thank you Mr. Governor?
Before the crisis erupted, 

Ishaku and his Benue counterpart, Samuel Ortom, had met several times in Wukari, Logo and other border areas to seek peaceful coexistence between Jukun and Tiv. The two governors inherited the border delineation template from their predecessors, late Danbaba Suntai and Senator Gabriel Suswam.
Ishaku deserves some honour from the Tiv people, for all that he has done (and still doing) for them. I do not think former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has done half of what Ishaku has done. But he was bestowed the Zege Mule u Tiv -the highest chieftaincy title in Tivland, which means Great Shelter (protector) of the Tiv race. Atiku got the title because he politically groomed his young associates in Benue state. He did not do anything during the invasion, attacks and killing of our farmers by armed herdsmen.
Former Governor Jolly Nyame was honoured as the Zege Huror u Tiv, meaning: Great Friend of Tiv people. The honour was well deserved because, during Nyame’s administration, a Tiv man was posted to the Government House as permanent secretary. He served and was retained by Nyame’s successor, Danbaba Suntai. Nyame also appointed many Tiv as advisers, and embraced Tiv guys as his personal allies. But Ishaku has done much more than that. As I stated earlier, Ishaku has rescued Tiv from killer-herdsmen and returned them to their hitherto destroyed homes. He appointed them as commissioners, advisers and senior special assistants (SSAs).

He employed 400 of them as teachers, out of 3, 000 chances for the entire state. He has brokered peace between Tiv and his Jukun kinsmen, and is looking forward to resolving the aged-long conflict to ensure there is lasting peace. He has been disturbed by the crisis so much that he did not celebrate his birthday on Tuesday, July 30, when he clocked 65 years. “How can I celebrate when there is bloodletting of people in my state?” he had asked when one of his aides approached him with a memo proposing to organise the event big. He loves Tiv people so much that he has married from Tiv land. This big in-law deserves to be honoured and bestowed a Tiv chieftaincy title. 

Governor Samuel Ortom and the Tor Tiv, HRH James Ayatse, should do this to encourage the governor and cement the good relationship he has with the Tiv. An unsung hero is a person who has achieved great things or made a lot of sacrifice, yet is not celebrated or recognised. Darius Ishaku is our unsung hero. Gratitude, they say, turns what we have into enough. Why can’t we rise and be thankful to God and grateful to Ishaku so that we can have more? Kudos to Governor Darius Ishaku.

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