Taraba Governor Darius Ishaku has broken his long silence over the “settler” status ascribed to the Tiv ethnic group dwelling in Taraba State by his kinsmen – the Jukuns.
“Tiv are indigenes in Taraba State,” he clearly stated at the weekend during his meeting with Tiv opinion leaders on the ongoing crisis between Jukun and Tiv in southern Taraba.
The meeting, which sought to find a lasting solution to the Jukun/Tiv communal feud, held in the Government House, Jalingo.
The Nation gathered that the major cause of the Jukun/Tiv conflict is the claim by Jukuns that the Tiv are “settlers,” not indigenes, in Taraba, and ipso facto, have no ownership right to the land they occupy.
The Tiv, on the other hand, use the longevity of their stay in Taraba to repel their settler status to claim land ownership, traditional and political rights in the state.
These seeming claims, passed on to Jukun/Tiv offsprings, generate bloody scenes.
The Tiv/Jukun crisis is one of the protracted inter-ethnic feuds in Nigeria, reverberating in intervals of 10 and 20 years.
The conflict first erupted in 1959. It reoccurred in 1980, 1990, 2001 and 2019.
The ongoing resurgence, which began on April 1, has become a source of worry to the government.
Many had thought Tiv and Jukun will enjoy the best of their interaction these days, owing to the fact that Ishaku, a Jukun, is married to Tiv. But the two closely tied ethnic groups are reportedly having the worst of hostilities.
Many have criticised Governors Darius Ishaku and his Benue state counterpart, Samuel Ortom, for not doing practically enough to stop the crisis.
“They (Ishaku and Ortom) have not visited the scenes of slaughter since the crisis began over five months ago.
“Both Jukun and Tiv want the two governors, hand in hand, to be visiting the affected homes and affected persons, seeking truce. They have not done that,” one analyst posted on his Facebook wall.
Mike Msuaam, who led the protest by the Tiv Youth Council Worldwide (TYCW) in Abuja, had accused Governor Ishaku and former Defence Minister Theophilus Danjuma, of orchestrating the crisis for their prolonged silence over the attacks and killings in the state.
It was gathered that the Jukun/Tiv crisis, with cases of kidnapping and other insecurity issues in Taraba state, is gradually obscuring the landmark achievements of Darius Ishaku.
Hundreds of lives have been lost and properties, including economic trees and food stuff, estimated in billions of naira destroyed.
The Federal University Wukari is shutdown as killings spilled to the varsity.
Several homes have been razed, plundered and reduced to rubble. The scenes of destruction are gory and scary.
Jukun and Tiv have raised militia groups who are responsible for the hostilities.
The axis is on a powder keg, as armed criminal elements hack into the feud.
The consequences are so much that Jukuns no longer travel to the east or south through Katsina Ala-Makurdi Road.
They follow the Ibi-Nasarawa route.
Similarly, Tivs going to Jalingo, from Makurdi, are passing through Jos.
Those who were unlucky were fetched from vehicles on the highway and massacred.
Concerned Tiv and Jukun persons who have borne the brunt of the crisis want it to end.
But profiteers of the conflict are stocking the fires of war.
It was gathered that Governor Ishaku who is at a crossroad between his inlaws and kinsmen also want the crisis to stop.
Ishaku had on Saturday, through the House of Assembly member from Wukari II Constituency, Josiah Aji, invited the Tiv community for peace talks.
The lawmaker, it was learnt, met with former Commissioner for Environment, Rebecca Manasseh, who came up with a list whose composition was purely civil servants in the state, as directed by the governor.
The Governor’s wife, Anna Ishaku, also selected some “Tiv sons from the villages” who joined in the meeting with the governor.
Tiv stakeholders at the meeting included: Dennis Orkuma Nev, David Mtuem, Rebecca Manasseh, Jime Yongo, Stephen Ikyaa, Emmanuel Orabunde and Goodman Dahida. Also in attendance were Josiah Aji -the House of Assembly member from Wukari II Constituency, and Douglas Ndatse, representing Donga in the State Assembly.
The selected Tiv delegation had cut across Ibi, Wukari, Donga and Tukum local government areas, where Tivs have high population density.
In the meeting, Tiv presented their grievances to the governor.
“Our Jukun brothers do not want the Tiv people to be identified as bonafide indigenes of Taraba, in spite of the long history of our existence, numerical strength, sociopolitical and economic contribution to the development of the state.
“The refusal to issue to Tiv persons the Certificate of State Origin since the beginning of the conflict (in 1959) and the renaming of Tiv villages, as well as the non- recognition of our traditional institution in the state are the problems.
“The way forward: there should be an attitudinal change on the ‘settler’ status by our Jukun brothers.
“Jukun should have confidence in us, recognise and accept us as their own brothers,” they said, while pledging to be committed to Ishaku’s Rescue Mission, with his slogan: “Give me Peace and I will Give You Development.”
The governor thanked his guests for “being frank” on what borders them. He stated that the Tiv were indigenes in Taraba.
“Tiv have been in Taraba for long. They are indigenes. That is why I appointed them as commissioner, Special Advisers and Senior Aides in my cabinet,” he said.
He added: “Tiv are indigenes in Taraba State, that is why they have been able to rise in the ranks and files to become permanent secretaries in the state’s civil service.”
On why he did not appoint Tiv among the traditional rulers of Taraba, Ishaku said the Tiv community has no documentary records of traditional rulership in the state.
“Nevertheless, I will look into the matter, following the due process,” he promised.
The governor, who had earlier spoken to his kinsmen, urged Tiv to sheathe swords for peace to reign.
The pronouncement by Ishaku that Tiv are indigenes in Taraba is believed to end and settle the century ‘settler’ question and cause of conflict for the two ethnic groups to cohabit in the State without suspicion.
It was also gathered that the governor might have consulted his godfather, Theophilus Danjuma, before making the pronouncement, which is going to be legally gazetted that Tiv are indeed indigenes in Taraba State.
The Tiv urged the governor to fast-track the process that will enable displaced persons to return to their ancestral homes “unconditionally.”