In search of solution to Jukun/Tiv unending crisis

As the Jukun/Tiv crisis continues to linger with devastating consequences on the socio-economic and political lives of the people of the two ethnic groups in Taraba State, stakeholders examine the politics aspect of the crisis and advance ways to ending the problem, JUSTIN TYOPUUSU writes
Historically, the Tiv and the Jukun, who are said to have migrated to what is today called the Benue Valley before the 18th century, had a cordial relationship dating back to centuries.
The two groups intermarried and shared many things in common. Their cordial relationship, however, became sour along the line, leading to a crisis between the two groups in 1959, the 1980s, 1991/92 and 2001.
The nation and leaders of the two tribes were about celebrating 18 years of  infrequent peace when on April 1, 2019, the age-long feud started again at Kente in the Wukari Local Government Area of Taraba State, leading to the death of many people while properties worth millions of naira were destroyed.
Many watchers of the Jukun/Tiv crisis in Taraba believe that the solution to the crisis lies with the political leadership of the state. Specifically, it is generally believed that Governor Darius Ishaku who is a Jukun man married to a Tiv lady, has the solution to the problem in his hands.
A Kaduna based lawyer, Barr. Abdulazeez Tanko, an indigene of Bali in Taraba State believe Ishaku has all it takes to end the crisis, but warned that the governor must detach himself from being Jukun and take the position of a leader to address issues in the crisis on their merits.
Tanko described the governor as a man of peace who would always want merit to prevail over mediocrity but noted that the governor was in a tight corner as his kinsmen would not want him to give the Tiv people any breathing space.
The lawyer said, “Governor Ishaku was under fire when he appointed a Tiv woman, Mrs. Rebbeca Manasseh from the Takum Local Government a Commissioner in his cabinet in the first term.
“I want to believe that the fear of his kinsmen who see him as a leader that should finally deal with the Tiv factor in Taraba is delaying his formation of the cabinet.
“Look, we have a good number of Tiv people in Taraba. I think apart from the Mumuye, the Tiv are the second largest single ethnic group in Taraba spread across seven to eight local government areas in the southern and central Taraba, but the marginalisation against them is just too much.
“In terms of voting, any person the Tiv people in Taraba support in block wins elections and for me I will advise them to use their numerical strength to end the decades old injustice by their Jukun neighbours in the State.”
Other analysts also believe that the Taraba State governor is handicapped and cannot do anything without the input of a prominent indigene of the state and former Minister of Defence, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd.), who has been accused of maintaining a golden silence amid the lingering crisis between his kinsmen and the Tiv in Taraba.
The Tiv Youth Council and the Tiv Youth Organisation have at various times accused the retired general of sponsoring his kinsmen to eliminate the Tiv in Taraba, an allegation the Taraba State government has consistently dismissed.
In August this year, the Tiv Youth Council accused Danjuma and Ishaku of orchestrating the Jukun/Tiv crisis which has left dozens dead and thousands displaced.
The former minister of defence was allegedly accused of inciting the Jukun militia who for months attacked and killed the Tiv people, sacking them from their ancestral land and making them refugees.
“Enough is Enough, the Tiv Nation cannot continue being cannon fodder for the unity of this country” the President, TYC, Mike Chivir-Msuaan, declared during a press conference.
He added, “The Tiv Youth Council like all concerned patriots has watched with patriotic pain and disenchantment the persistent wars between the Tivs and the Jukuns in Taraba State which have intensified lately.
“Principally, Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State has remained silent, this has provided cover for the Jukun militia, while also playing the ostrich, instead of addressing the matter as the chief security officer of the state.
“The Jukun militia has remained irrepressibly resurgent, consistently coming up with sophisticated weapons, dreaded attack techniques and in several instances kitted as men of the Nigerian Army.”
This allegation was, however, dismissed by the governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Bala Dan-Abu, who said the governor and Danjuma had done their best to resolve the Tiv/Jukun crisis.
Dan-Abu in his reaction said the group was out to tarnish the image of his principal and that of Danjuma who are both Jukun.
He said, “The allegation is completely false and deserves no better treatment other than to be thrown into the dustbin. It is completely hollow as it contains nothing to support the grave and wicked allegations made against these eminent Jukun personalities.
“The intention of the group, clearly, is to seek public sympathy by falsely accusing these patriots of complicity in the crisis for no reason other than that they are Jukun. It is blackmail. This attitude is unhelpful to the crisis. Gov Ishaku has always been in the forefront of all the efforts to end the crisis. And so is General Danjuma who has always condemned crises and killings in the state and openly supported efforts of government to ensure peace.”
Unfortunately, Ishaku has insisted that he is not in control of security apparatus in the state and that resolving the crisis will be difficult.
Ishaku, while interacting with journalists in Jalingo recently said, “Few days ago, we went for a meeting with the Tiv people in Katsina-Ala and we pleaded with them to join hands with us to find peace. We are trusting God that we will have peace.
“Back home too, I am pleading for peace, because there is little I can do as governor. I don’t have control over the police and the army. If you give them order they will not obey, but do what they want to do.
“For instance, you tell the police and army that people are attacking a community, instead of going after the attackers they will turn and be killing innocent people and arresting others in the town. Is that the work of soldiers? Police and the army are not taking orders from governors. They are taking orders from Abuja, but God will help us.”
The governor’s ostensible posture on the crisis has got many people wondering if it will end any time soon.
Although attacks from both sides have reduced even before the commencement of the Nigerian Army’s Operation Ayem Akpatuma II, it is difficult to tell whether the crisis will end after the army’s operation.
As its stand now, both the Jukuns and the Tivs are holding onto issues which need to be addressed. Round table engagement between government and stakeholders from both sides might help in the resolution of the crisis which has claimed so many lives including that of a priest, Rev. Fr. DavidTanko.
Issues arising
The Legal Adviser to the Aku-Uka of Wukari, Mr Danjuma Adamu, recently at a peace meeting held at the Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja told the gathering that historically, the Tiv people were the last to arrive in Nigeria and were accommodated by the Jukun who had settled in the area centuries back.
Adamu blamed the current crisis between the Jukun and the Tiv in southern Taraba on criminality on the border between Benue and Taraba states.
He accused the Tiv people of laying siege to southern Taraba, kidnapping and attacking Jukun communities, and called for peace to return to the area.
Another Jukun leader, Mr Sam Adda, said the issue of chieftaincy by the Tiv in Taraba was another factor causing the crisis. He said the Tiv in Taraba had no history of chieftaincy in the state and that compelling the Jukun to allow the Tiv hold chieftaincy as being canvassed in some quarters would amount to interference in the internal affairs of the state.
But a former member representing Donga Constituency in the Taraba State House of Assembly, Mr Dooga Gbashi, disputed this claim, describing it as diversionary.
According to him, the key issue in the crisis is the denial of the Jukun that Tiv are indigenes of Taraba State. Gbashi said the solution to the crisis was with the Jukun.
He said, “The moment the Jukun accept the fact that the Tiv are not settlers in Taraba and begin to accord us all the benefits and privileges due to the Tiv people, then permanent peace will be restored.
Gbashi, who hails from the Donga Local Government Area of the state, told our correspondent that the Tiv were not settlers in Taraba State, adding that the late former Gara of Donga, MS Garbosa, in his book titled, ‘The Chamba People and their Neighbours,’ documented that the Chamba people came in contact with the Tiv people in what is today Donga Local Government Area of Taraba State as far back as 1830.
He said this implied that the Tiv had been in the area long before the coming of the colonial masters.
He argued that what is today known as southern Taraba, where the bulk of the Tiv and Jukun coexist, was known as the Wukari Federation in the colonial days.
The federation comprised three districts, namely Wukari, Takum and Donga. The dominant ethnic groups in the area before the British colonial administration were the Tiv, Kuteb, Jukun, Chamba and Ichen.
Gbashi said, “Let me tell you, even though there was no official census in the area before the colonial rule, the 1946 census conducted by the colonial regime in the former Wukari Federation put the Tiv higher than other ethnic groups.
“The Jukun became worried over the continuous growth of the Tiv population and their subsequent interest in political governance and this was the genesis of the problem. The first crisis in 1959 happened as a result of the victory of the late Mr Charles Tagur Gaza against a Jukun man, Usman Sangari, to represent the Wukari Federation in the House of Representatives in Lagos.”
Also, the President General of the Tiv Cultural and Social Association, Chief Goodman Dahida, said, “We lost 100 people in Wukari, 82 in Donga and 57 in Takum Local Government Area. We want to beg for a stop to these senseless killings.
“Till date, our people are being killed on their farms any time they attempt to go to their farms. We need peace for any meaningful development in our areas.”
Dahida lamented that what happened in Kente in Wukari Local Government Area, which sparked off the ongoing crisis, was a minor incident that even a local government counsellor could have addressed.
“But because of the already conceived plans to do away with the Tiv in Taraba by all means, there was an immediate reaction in Wukari town around the General Hospital Junction, about 45 kilometres away from Kente where the incident occurred.
Jukun react
Our correspondent contacted a prominent Jukun leader, Chief Dante Andrew through a letter but had yet to get his reaction as of the time of filing this report.
However, another Jukun leader, John Mamman, who is an elder statesman and the Chairman of the Taraba State Civil Service Commission, said, “You see the issue between the Jukun and the Tiv is an old story and they lived among themselves for long. In fact, we grew up and met them there and I think it will be difficult for us to say we can find a solution that can separate the Tiv from the Jukun, that is not workable. The issue here is that we allow politics to come and interfere with things that actually don’t have political bearing. Like the issue that spark off crisis in Kente in Wukari Local Government, under normal circumstances these are two people who had misunderstanding and it grew up to become something else.”
However, a Jukun youth leader from Wukari who pleaded not to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the issue accused the Tiv of embarking on guerrilla warfare to attack the Jukun communities from the Benue end.
He lamented that the Jukun people from Wukari could no longer go to their farms as the Tiv attackers kill any Jukun man around the surrounding bushes.
He said, “Both sides have lost a lot in terms of human casualties and properties. Nobody is winning the war; both sides are losing. The government too is losing revenue and the earlier the issues are resolved, the better.
“I think the Tiv people are demanding too much. How could they talk of a 10-point agenda now when it was not feasible for implementation in the 1990s?
“The Tiv people are fond of running to Benue to take cover and then attack us in Wukari whenever there is a minor problem. We are ready to integrate with them, but they should learn how to respect our cultural and physical boundaries.
Government efforts at resolving the crisis
Ishaku and his Benue State counterpart, Samuel Ortom, have already met with stakeholders from the Tiv and Jukun communities to address the lingering crisis.
Ortom had on several occasions said the crisis between the Jukun and the Tiv in Taraba was an internal affair of the Taraba State government and that the Benue State government was only concerned because it was proper to assist the people who fled the crisis in Taraba and took refuge in Benue.
A 30-man peace committee set up by the Taraba State government has also visited the affected communities and has submitted its report to the government about two weeks ago.
A public affairs analyst, Mr Adams Peterson, said, “For me, Ishaku should have his name written in gold as a governor of Jukun origin who is married to a Tiv woman by ending the decades-old crisis for the peace and development of Taraba.”