Tiv/Jukun crisis: why we rejected panel of enquiry –Gov Ishaku
Asgovernor Darius Ishaku celebrates the first 100 days in office since the inception of his second tenure, he opens up on how insecurity has affected his administration and slowed down the pace of development. The governor who spoke through his Senior Special Assistant on media, Mr Bala Dan Abu also cleared the air on his alleged involvement with the notorious kidnap kingpin, Hamisu Bala Wadume and gave insight into the recent peace meeting held at the instance of the President to bring lasting solution to the problem. Daily Sun presents the excerpts.
How will you assess the first 100 Days of the governor for this second tenure?
Well, like you know, this is not his first tenure. He is a returning governor, so the issue of the first 100 days in office does not really count again. This is a continuation of the first term, so there is no celebration. We are continuing with the projects that we started in the first tenure but could not complete them for some reasons. Our main concern now is make sure that we complete the projects that we started earlier and to make sure we initiate new ones as the needs arise. For instance, just recently, we went round to ensure that several villages and communities that were without light are all connected to power. We bought and supplied so many transformers to communities, more than any other governor in the country. But like I said, we are not counting 100 days because it is not proper for second tenured administration to do so.
What are the challenges so far?
The major challenge is the crisis that we are witnessing most especially in the Southern parts of the state. You will recall that for the past one year, we have been contending with the menace of herdsmen attacks where most of our villages are attacked and the people killed or displaced. We did not quite come out of that and we started experiencing kidnapping everywhere. These are not unique to Taraba State though but they constitute a major distraction which affected us. And now we are contending with the Tiv Jukun crisis and the governor is working seriously to ensure that peace is achieved within the shortest time possible. We are not happy with the situation because the Tiv and Jukun people have lived together for long and they are brothers. And so whatever has brought about the resurgence of this crisis this time again, is very unfortunate. We want this to end and as quickly as possible and his excellency is working very hard to ensure that there is peace. In fact he is doing a lot more than the public is even aware. It is not everything he does that we can come to discuss publicly. So, insecurity has remained the bane of this journey so far.
How has this crisis affected development in the state?
Of course, it is bound to affect development in so many ways. You know the governor has always said that give me peace and I will give you development. That is to say that when there is no peace, it is difficult to make any meaningful progress. At the individual level, most of the farmers cannot go to their farms in these crisis-ridden areas because nobody can guarantee their safety in the farms. This has a chain effect. Of course, you know that once there is no farming, food crisis is inevitable and there would be more persons depending on the government for basic sustenance. That is additional burden on the government. And that is even at the individual level. Now as a government, you also know that you cannot do any project in the crisis areas. Those who are supposed to go and work on roads construction and other projects need the assurance that their lives are safe and you cannot guarantee that now. Even investors and those who would want to visit the state get scared off when they continue to hear the news of killings all the time. So, all these things are bound to affect the pace of development. That is why the governor saw it a long time ago and started saying that give me peace and I will give you development. Unfortunately, peace has not been achieved at the level that the governor would have wished. That is why we are unhappy. It certainly has affected the pace of development in the state. We cannot shy away that it has not.
The governor is variously criticised for not doing and saying enough since this crisis started in April
Those making such comments are just being unfair, either out of ignorance or they are just being mischievous just because they are looking for someone to blame. In the past one year, the governor and his Benue State counterpart have visited some of the communities in Southern part of the state more than five times. Apart from that, their deputies have also visited and held meetings with the stakeholders. Each of these meetings by the governors or their deputies was in search of peace. It was opportunity for them to meet with the stakeholders to explore the possibility of ensuring an end to the crisis. Unfortunately, the crisis has persisted despite these efforts. That is not to say that the government is not proactive. No. The government has done a lot. In fact, much more than the public is probably aware of, to ensure that there is peace. So, anybody who says that the governor has not done enough or is not proactive, I don’t know what else they want him to do. He has always ensured that the Security people are on hand to maintain peace but you know, some of these things that happened, the security people pretend that they are not aware that these things happen which it is not true. They don’t want to accept criticism. If the military and the police have been very alert, some of these attacks wouldn’t happen. But you know the governors do not control the police and the military and when they misbehave, he cannot discipline them. He can only call the attention of their bosses in Abuja and in most of the cases, they ignore him. I remember very well his excellency calling the police Authority in Abuja severally and they never even picked the call. So, these are the kind of frustration that states go through and you are aware that the state governor keeps going through that kind of frustration when you know you do not have the instrumentality of the security apparatus. So what do you do? They are killing your people and you cannot tell the police or the military to go and stop it. So, that is the kind of frustration that his excellency, the executive governor of Taraba State is going through. Of course, you don’t expect him to carry the gun and go to the battle to defend his people. He can only complain, talk about it and beg and I can assure you that he has been doing much of that, so anybody who says he is not being proactive or outspoken over the crisis is being out rightly mischievous and unfair to him.
Recently, the kidnap kingpin Hamisu Bala Wadume indicted the state governor of giving him money. Why did the governor do that?
Well, I’ve spoken about the issues before, so I will just be repeating myself. The truth is that His excellency does not know Wadume, he never met him and has not given any money to him. Even if he were to meet with Wadume now, he would not even recognize him because they have never met. Who is Wadume? Nothing ever brought the two of them together, so he never lost any money to him. And you see, Wadume is a drowning man and he wants to drag as many people as possible along with him but he cannot succeed because there is nothing that links him to his excellency or his government.
What is the level of compliance of the NFIU directive on Local government financial autonomy by Taraba state government?
I cannot put a figure to that but I assure you that whatever the government has directed about the management of local government finances, the Taraba State government will comply with it. The governor as you know is a law abiding citizen and has a lot of respect for the laws of the land, so he will not go contrary to what the law says. He will definitely do what is best in the interest of the people.
Some youths in Takum allegedly mobilised to attack the governor’s house in Takum but were timely repelled by the military. They accused the governor of not visiting Takum since the election and for saying that the Tiv are indigenes of Taraba.
No, that is not true. I have not heard of such a thing and I think there is nothing like that. There was no attack on his house anyway. He is a son of the soil that is very much loved by the people who came out in their numbers to vote for him during the election. He is first of all their governor, and then the governor of Taraba State. They love him as their own and they are ready to protect him. They will never do anything to harm him or injure his interest at all. That one, I can assure you. So, there is no such thing. However, you know that we are in a period that people enjoy rumour mongering. A time of crisis is a time you are bound to hear rumours of all kinds, so whatever you hear, it is just better to subject it to further investigation to determine its validity. So, this is one of such wild rumours and it has no foundation in truth. I have not even heard of it before but it never happened that anyone planned to attack his house.
What should the people expect from his administration this time?
This administration is committed to developing Taraba State. The governor came in with an agenda of development, to turn things around for the good of the state. A lot of that has been achieved already in the area of education, provision of water, health and so many others. He has done remarkable work in the area of road construction and provision of electricity. Many companies have been revived and many people are employed and the list continues, despite the fact that peace has not been fully achieved as the governor would have wished. But the administration has managed to do a lot in all these areas.
Key stakeholders from Benue and Taraba held a joint peace meeting with the Federal government over the lingering Tiv/Jukun crisis. What is the major take away of Taraba State government from that meeting?
The major take away from the meeting is the resolution from both sides to sincerely work for peace, (and we must emphasise the sincerity here), among Jukuns and Tivs who are in Taraba State. It was also established at the meeting that the problem is not between Benue and Taraba but between Tiv and Jukun in Taraba State, and that the government of Taraba State should be allowed to handle the issue as an internal problem, without unnecessary interference from external sources. Everybody was happy that the meeting offered the opportunity to discuss the critical issues involved and to look at possible solutions to them. So, we all left there happier that the issues have been resolved. The meeting resolved that there should be immediate ceasefire from both sides and that is a major step in the right direction. Everybody is also happy that for the first time, the Federal Government is involved in the talks and has promised to assist in the implementation of whatever agreement has been reached. To that effect, we requested that there should be immediate deployment of security Patrol to the affected areas and we are hopeful that this will be done soon too since the Federal Government has promised to do whatever we agree upon.
The Taraba State governor rejected the idea of a panel of enquiry to establish the actual reasons behind the crisis as suggested by the Benue State governor. What were the reasons for this?
That is because he is capable of handling the issues. There is no need for any special panel of enquiry. Yes. The administration in Taraba is capable of resolving the issues of less interference from Benue side of the divide. So, he is going to resolve the issue internally.
How sure are we that this peace effort will yield any result, unlike the previous ones that all failed?
You are right that there have been several attempts in the past to resolve the issues and that they didn’t stop the hostilities. I think this one has been taken to a greater level with the involvement of the Federal Government and the crisis itself has never reached the crescendo it has this time and it got everybody worried. That is even why the Federal Government got involved and with this, I am sure that the results will be better, especially if the request for effective security Patrol of the areas.
Your administration has accused security operatives severally of not being helpful in resolving threats to security in the state. How sure are you that this time they will act differently?
You are right again that we have had cause to complain about their lackluster attitude to security maintenance on Taraba State, and that is not peculiar to our state because other state governments have made the same complaints. Unfortunately, you cannot do without them because the state has no army or police of their own. So, we still need to depend on them. We are only pleading that this time around, the attitude should be better, they should be more patriotic, more honest and they should show a lot more seriousness. So, we really hope that it will work.