Poor handling of the protracted Jukun/Tiv crisis by successive administrations in Taraba State, as well as colonial policies, may have contributed to the renewed crises, which has escalated to an unprecedented dimension.
Investigations by Daily Independent, reveal that successive governments’ inability to act on commission reports of past crises between the Jukun and Tiv, might have left a vacuum, which the feuding parties capitalized on to settle long-standing grievances.
Also, it is on record that the Jukun and Tiv lived in unity and cohesion before the era of colonial rule but the creation of traditional authority for the two hitherto “fluid” societies, might have amplified the issue of identity, which then triggered a division. The pattern of settlement between the two groups within border areas of the two states also makes it extremely difficult to avoid clashes.
It is true that the Darius Ishaku administration met the problem on the ground and may have been caught unawares because it failed to study past reports on the crises, a source told Daily Independent.
However, kudos must be given for efforts made by the Ishaku-led administration, in tackling the problem, even though it only yielded temporary success.
Meanwhile, in trying to find a solution to the problem, Gov. Ishaku and his Benue State counterpart, Ortom, in 2017, met in Ugba, Logo LGA for the purpose of commencing boundary adjustment at the Benue/ Taraba boundaries.
But later that same year, precisely in September, both governors set aside the National Boundary Commission’s decision to swap two communities. The commission had ceded the Moon community of Kwande LGA of Benue to Taraba and also ceded Chanchanji in Takum LGA of Taraba to Benue which sparked violence. And only recently, Gov. Ishaku, whose wife is Tiv from Benue, hosted Tiv opinion leaders, where he declared that “Tiv people are indigenes of Taraba”. Suffice it to say, the indigene/ settler issue is one of the critical issues that underpin the prolong crises between the Jukun and Tiv.
However, following intermittent clashes between the two groups, Gov. Ishaku set up the Barr. Sam Ada-led Peace Committee. It hardly completed its work before the crisis assumed another dimension. So many people criticized the way the committee went about its work, sitting in far-away in Akwanga, Nasarawa State and discussing issues that pertain to Taraba people. In fact, it was during their sitting in far-away Nasarawa State that the crisis took a different dimension with the targeted killing of members of both groups on highways and raiding of communities by militias from both groups.
Also, the report has it that, one of the feuding parties had begun profiling the other, thereby giving room for escalation of the crisis. Consequently, the Federal University Wukari was affected, which led to its unfortunate closure. The Wukari-Makurdi road and Wukari-Jalingo road became death traps for the feuding parties.
Critics, therefore, faulted the way the government handled the crisis and especially the fact that it was insensitive to the plight of the people when it sent the Peace Committee to work in far-away Nasarawa, instead of going to the affected communities to dialogue with aggrieved parties.
A critic of the Ishaku administration, Aaron Artimas, blamed the governor for his attitude on the various crises in the State. “He refused to go to Lau, Ardo Kola and now it has affected his people and he didn’t go… no peace committee can be more appropriate and effective than the governor himself to sit with the people to solve the problem,” he lamented.
Artimas, who had served as a media aide for at least two past governors, revealed that the committee was needless since there are several committee reports on the same problem, gathering dust on the shelves. “So many committees were set up before and the reports are in the deputy governor’s office lying there since 1991. He should have taken these reports and use them,” he opined.
He blamed the Ishaku government for not doing enough to deal with the crisis after promising to tackle insecurity in the State when he came to power. “The governor can’t say he is oblivious of the problem. He came to Taraba with the promise that all problems will be tackled. It worsened because since he came, the crisis has not abated,” he added.
When contacted to comment on the allegations against the current administration in the state, the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Media and Publicity to the Taraba State governor, Bala Dan Abu, evaded the issue of past reports. Instead, he stated that the reason for the crisis was because the Tivs wanted a chieftaincy stool, which is not possible in Taraba, especially under Wukari. “If they are given a chieftaincy stool, will the traditional ruler be loyal to the Aku Uka or the Tor Tiv?” he asked.
He, however, added that the Tivs in Taraba must know their boundaries for peace to exist in the state.
Daily Independent sought to get the historical angle to the Jukun/Tiv problem. An American scholar who specializes in African Studies and had carried out research on the two ethnic groups, but who did not want his name mentioned, gave his perspective to the historical coexistence of the two groups.
From his perspective, the two groups had lived together, until colonial policies and missionary activities divided them. He stated: “Around 1800, when Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowder traveled up the Niger River, he described the Munshi (Tiv) and Kororofa (Jukun) as one people (like hands folded together) that could not be held apart. Over time through colonial conquest and boundary-making as well as missionary Bible translation, two separate groups began emerging. In the past, they were fluid identities, but because of the above, people were forced to clone either Tiv or Jukun (forced to choose). This culminated in the British creating the Tor Tiv position in the late 1940s so that the Tiv could have their own ‘traditional’ ruler. From the 1920s, Christian missionaries from the Calvinist Reformed tradition, evangelized both people so that for almost a century, Tiv and Jukun Christians have even had the same faith tradition – though two different denominations (NKST for the Tiv and the Christian Reformed Church of Nigeria or CRCN for the Jukun)”.
Going by this narrative, can we undo history in order to ensure peace or will the government do the needful by revisiting reports of past crises, which have never been implemented? That remains to be seen.