…how Gov. Darius Ishaku ended bloodbath
By Fanen Ihyongo
At last, the Jukun and Tiv ethnic groups of southern Taraba have agreed to a ceasefire. Fresh moves by key stakeholders to resolve the crisis seem to bear fruits.
At the end of a two-day peace talks held at 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 to call for the suspension of hostilities. They have directed that all road-blocks in the affected communities be dismantled; local markets reopened and kidnap victims released.
Jukun and Tiv ethnic groups of Southern Taraba have been at daggers drawn for some time now and the crisis has claimed many lives and properties worth millions. It has also left many people homeless. Several efforts made in the past to bring peace between these neighbours had been futile. The latest outbreak of hostilities has been on for over six months.
The crisis climaxed when a 42-year-old cleric, Rev. Fr. David Tanko, a peace broker, was killed and his corpse set ablaze. The priest’s murder prompted President Muhammadu Buhari to call for dialogue between Tiv and Jukun from Taraba and Benue states respectively.
During the meeting, which was held at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, Benue Governor Samuel Ortom proposed that the Federal Government should set up a commission of inquiry into the crisis. But Taraba 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 a committee and gave the warring groups a seven-day ultimatum to sheathe their swords for the committee to work effectively.
The peace committee, which had been hailed by all as likely to succeed, was to examine and bring to an end all issues underlying persistent violent clashes between Jukun and Tiv ethnic groups. The committee had 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. Among members 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 other religious bodies as well as representatives of the Jukun, Tiv and Etulo communities from the affected local government areas. All the attending groups made their presentations.
The meeting was chaired by Taraba State Deputy Governor, Haruna Manu, who, together with the SSG on behalf of the state government, signed the communique that was issued at the end.
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 communiqué read: “Speakers at the meeting condemned the crisis and stressed the need for the cessation of all forms of hostilities between the two communities to pave way for the peace building effort being spearheaded by the Taraba state government.
“The crisis has been hijacked by criminals from both the Jukun and Tiv communities and therefore, the two communities should expose the criminals among them.
“We also resolved to, henceforth, stop reprisal attacks or revenge from both parties, but report all forms of security breaches to security agencies for appropriate action.
“The government should take deliberate steps to encourage the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to return to their homes, since adequate security operatives have been deployed in the affected communities to protect lives and property”.
It was gathered that the Tiv/Jukun crisis stemmed from a protracted feud based on a claim by the Jukun that the Tiv are ‘settlers’ in Taraba 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, used the longevity of their stay in Taraba to reject their settler status by claiming both land ownership and political rights in the area.
These seeming claims, passed on to Jukun/Tiv offsprings and generated bloody scenes, as both groups tried to prove they were no weakling.
But all of this fracas may soon become history as Ishaku, whose wife, wife, Anna, hails from Vandeikya Local Government Area of Benue State, is determined to bring to an end to the age-long conflict that has unwittingly stifled the spirit of brotherhood between the two tribes.
It is worthy of note, too, that the Taraba governor’s children are naturally Jukun and naturally Tiv.
They have compound blood of Jukun-Tiv in their veins and arteries.
Ishaku does not hate any tribe in the state and has demonstrated this by providing projects, appointments and services across the length and breadth of the state since coming on board and is still doing more.
The governor’s wife, on her part, has done a lot in trying to broker peace between Jukun and Tiv.
Ishaku has already solved one aspect of the impasse by declaring that Tiv in Taraba are indigenes and not settlers. This explains why, in his first term, he appointed many Tivs as advisers and senior aides.
He named Rebecca Manasseh, a Tiv woman, as Commissioner of Environment, in defiance to the stand of his kinsmen.
In 2014 when the Tiv in Taraba were displaced from their ancestral homes by suspected herdsmen marauders, Ishaku rehabilitated the displaced persons once he came on board as governor in 2015.
The governor, a peace maker, with his popular ‘Give me Peace, I will Give you Development’ slogan, went a step further, to suspend 10 traditional rulers accused of tampering with land belonging to Tiv people. By these actions, he became the ‘messiah’ and cynosure of praise by Tiv.
In his ‘Rescue Mission’ in the education sector during his first term, Ishaku rehabilitated schools and provided furniture and writing materials.
To deliver quality education, he recruited 3, 000 teachers who were trained to update and enhance capacity.
Out of the 3, 000 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?’
He has brokered peace between Tiv and his Jukun kinsmen, and he is looking forward to resolving the aged-long conflict to ensure there is lasting peace.
He has been disturbed by the crisis so much so that he did not celebrate his birthday on Tuesday, July 30, when he clocked 65 years.
It is hoped the new peace initiative by Ishaku will cement the spirit of peace and unity between the Tiv and the Jukun of Taraba State once and for all.
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