“ONLY TRUTH CAN END JUKUN/ TIV CRISIS” – TARABA CLERGY
Rev. Joseph Unum Ajaver is a clergy with the Christian Reformed Church – Nigeria (CRCN). In this interview with Jethro Yerga, he identified causes of the prolonged crisis between Tiv and Jukun and maintained that truth is the only panacea for permanent peace.
For quite a long time, the Tiv and Jukun people of Taraba State have been in crisis, especially in Southern Taraba. What are the implications or setbacks of this crisis on these two tribes?
The crisis has brought a lot of set backs on the two tribes. Let me be a little bit personal. As am talking to you now, my father’s home town has been completely destroyed. All my relatives including, siblings, brothers, sisters and the church members are now refugees. Both tribes are in pains at least for one thing or the other and we don’t know when we will come back to our places and development is seriously retarded. There is no law. Some of the displaced persons are in Jootar, some Bali, Mutum Biyu, Jalingo and some in other parts of the neighbouring Benue State. Poverty is hoovering in the land, No proper education of the young ones as Primary and secondary schools are completely destroyed. There is no serious reconciliation yet and so we have given room for foreigners to come and occupy our villages.
If you go to our villages now, the Tiv/Jukun are no longer in those places. Foreigners have occupied the places. They are grazing on the lands freely. Some places, strangers have gone to farm on the lands in the name they have bought them. I keep wondering how one would buy land during crisis and am also afraid that if there is no room for a dependable reconciliation, both the Tiv and their Jukun brothers will continue missing several opportunities both physically and spiritually.
How do you look at the disposition or roles, play by leaders in Taraba State, especially leaders from Southern Taraba as regard ending the Jukun/Tiv crisis?
The leaders have played vital roles toward taming the crisis. There have been several reconciliation meetings but non of the meetings has yielded positive result. The fact is that even when the leaders meet and agree on certain things, the agreements don’t stay long before breaking down. So leaders of both tribes have done their best but a reliable solution has not yet come on this prolonged crisis. I want to point out that, the fault is coming from non implementation of agreements that are reached at the end of each reconciliatory meeting. The government seems to lack a political will to make things work. I think there are forces somewhere. Been a clergy, I believe that the forces of the enemy are there. Anytime a peace committee agreed on something, it would not stay long and the agreement would break.
What do you think should be done, to permanently end the Jukun/Tiv crisis in Southern Taraba .
There is need for introspection by the two parties. All the parties must be sincere to themselves. We just need to tell ourselves the truth. We should think like human beings. The Tiv and the Jukun should know that it’s God that brought them together from time immemorial. If the Jukun and Tiv understand these and really love one another, the crisis will die permanently. Unfortunately, we have refused to love and accept each other. There is a conception by the Jukun that the Tiv are settles in Wukari, while the Tiv always try to claim their constitutional right as indigenes of the land.
I advised that Pastors and ministers of each group should seat up and live up to their responsibilities of preaching peace and love all the times instead of taking sides. They should also preach repentance. One good thing is that, We are from the same religion. There is no reason whatsoever that should make us to be fighting each other. If we look at ourselves as one indivisible body which belongs to God, we will tolerate one another. It takes two to tangle. It takes two people to agree so we should implement our agreements. We should not be going back to fight to break them at each given time.
On the part of the Taraba State Government, can you say the government has done enough towards bringing the crisis to an end?
The various administrations have done their best. I remember during the administration of Danbaba Suntai, any where there was crisis, he would send security to go and arrest the crisis immediately. Governor Jolly Nyame did same. However, am very sorry to say that the immediate past government, under the leadership of Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku played his role, but did not do enough towards ending this crisis.
The crisis has lasted for over four years. From 1st April, 2019 up to date, 2023, and we did not see where the government had taken decisive majors or raised a loud voice to stop the crisis. Whenever the former Governor made a political pronouncement that the Tiv people should go back to their ancestral homes, the Jukun people would say the governor had not given them the security to allow the Tiv people to return yet. But when the Tiv people make attempt to return in accordance to the Governor’s instruction, crisis erupt. This had continued until he left us with the crisis. The last time we met with him, he replied us that he was making arrangements to end the crisis, through an organization structure of Tiv and Jukun building their houses side by side.
So I can say that the government was not proactive as concerned this crisis. Throughout his last four years, there was crisis and there was no any pronouncement from him not to talk of follow up in respect to ending the crisis. This crisis has kept reoccurring, but it is under governor Darius’ administration that it lasted for so long like this. The government had set up committees to look into the crisis but had failed to monitor what the committee had done. We approached him on several occasions but there was no positive response. We visited all the Local Chiefs to see how we could restore peace but all they kept telling us was that we should go back to the governor who is the chief security officer of the State.
Well, am sure if the governor had came out with a loud voice and given a matching order in respect to taming the crisis, everyone would have settled down with peace in the area by now.
Coincidentally, the governor of Taraba State is now a pastor and the neighboring Benue also has a Rev Father as the Governor. What is your expectation from these two men of God as regard ending this age long crisis?
Thank God for this coincidence. Some people may not know much about the Executive Governor of Taraba State, especially as concern his pastoral life. I think I know a little about him. If there is any CRCN church from Wukari down to Kwatan Sule, it is a result of the hard work of the Governor’s father. He was an ardent evangelist who had spread the gospel of Christ with passion. So the Taraba State Governor, Dr. Agbu Kefas comes from a good evangelical gospel background.
Again, the Governor of Benue State, Rev.Father Hyacinth Alia, is a Catholic priest. Before he became the governor of Benue State, he had worked as a priest in the church, healing countless people. Many people used to go to him en mass and many got healed from their sicknesses and other challenges. That’s why the people of Benue State prefer him to any other person. But I want to say that this crisis is not a Benue and Taraba, Tiv and Jukun race crisis. It is the Tiv in Wukari Local Government and the Jukun in Wukari that are fighting. So if the Governor of Benue State comes into play any role in the crisis, he is not supposed to come in defense of the Tiv race. It will be very wrong to do so. It is the role of the Taraba State government to ensure that the Tiv and Jukun people in the state live in peace and unity.
The role he can play is to come in the capacity of a man of God and appeal to these two tribes to recognize the purpose of God on their lives and stop the crisis. I believe that if the people will recognize that the Tiv in Taraba are different from the Tiv in Benue administratively, the problem will be half solved. Though the Tiv people in Taraba are also from the Tiv race, but they belong to a different region. They belong to a different state that is governed by a different person other than the governor of Benue State.
The crisis should not be treated as a crisis between the Tiv race and the Jukun race but as a crisis between the Tiv in Taraba and the Jukun in Taraba. It should not be a fight between the governor of Benue State and the governor of Taraba State.
What do you suggest the two tribes should be doing in order to rebuild enduring and permanent peace that seems to be lost in the area?
The two tribes must be each other’s keeper. They should behave as Christians and stop the unnecessary killings. They must tell themselves the truth. The truth is that the Jukuns should know that there are Tiv people who are indigenous in Taraba State. There is no doubt that there are people who have come from Benue or other places to farm in Taraba or look for one thing or the other just like it’s obtainable everywhere, but there are Tiv people who should be recognized as indigenes of Wukari and should be given the practical recognition of indegineship.
These people were curved into the state from time immemorial. They were there during the time of northern region, in Benue Province, from the time of Benue Plateau, from the time of Gongola and now Taraba State.
Also, other people who are neutral should also be engaged to help settle some of the issues. The Tiv of Benue who are not indigenes of Taraba should not pognose in the crisis of Tiv in Taraba. They should not come and say let’s go and help our Tiv brothers in Taraba. That is wrong. This is what the Jukun people are always complaining. The Jukuns always point it out at every fora. I also feel strongly that they are right because, even in Taraba, it is not all the Tiv people that are displaced. It’s mostly people in Wukari that are facing difficulties in settling peacefully with the Jukuns owing to the fact that we don’t want to tell ourselves the truth and hear the truth.
What is your general call to both Jukun and Tiv of Taraba State especially those in Wukari Local Government Area?
Am a pastor, so let me preach a little. In the book of Hebrews 12:14, the Bible say we should make peace with all men and to be holy, without holiness no one will see the Lord. I want to tell both parties to repent and make peace with each other. I don’t want any one to die and go to hell fire. So my call is that they should all repent of hatred, backbiting, fighting, tribalism and unnecessary sentiments. All this rancor is political and Satanic. It is evil.
This political era has cause a lot of trouble, and we should accept the diversity of our differences. If we are able to do that, the crisis will die a natural death. We all are aiming to go to heaven. You can see that I am a Tiv man by tribe, but I am a pastor and preacher in CRCN, a church believed to be owned predominantly by Jukun race. I don’t have sentiment when it comes to living a life that God created us to live.
So I advised that we should learn how to treat one another as human and Christians. We should always preach peace and not hatred. Everyone should be obedient to God’s words.
Politically, the Tiv are known for their block votes. They hardly go with the Jukun in one party just because of lack of trust and this has cause serious challenges in maintaining peace as well.
I want to appeal that both Jukun and Tiv in Wukari should try as much as possible and understand themselves so as to work and flow together politically. They must not all belong to one party. What I mean is that they can generally work together towards arriving at their common goals. Whatever political party you belong should not make your brother an enemy. Both youths should not fight for their politicians. Our politicians should also work for unity and not creating unnecessary hatred between the two tribes.
Those things causing distrust should be removed. Let the leaders stand for the truth and am telling you, they all will enjoy the fruits of the land without tears.
This is not time to fight, but time for peace. It is time to build up the ancient ruins. I call on the Tiv youth to stop taking law into their hands, and the Jukun youth should not take advantage of this and continue killing innocent citizens. The Government of Dr. Agbu Kefas has just come into power. Let us all give him a chance to amend what has gone wrong for years. He is a capable hand. With capable and God fearing people around him, I believe he will surely stand for Justice, Equity, Fairness and Truth.