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Agbu: Politics, greed, lies fuelling Tiv/Jukun bloodbath

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Former President, Wukari/Jukun Youths of Vision, Luka Agbu, in this interview with CHARLES AKPEJI, said the state government should be held responsible for the incessant killings between the Jukun and the Tiv ethnic groups. 

Incessant killings between Jukun and Tiv ethnic groups in Taraba State have continued for years. Just how deplorable is this trend?
The killings going on in this state between the Jukun and the Tiv ethnic groups is uncalled for, unwarranted and a disgrace to both groups, who have been members of one family for over a century, and they are still living together. Just why should they turn against themselves and be killing one another because of trivial and menial issues? The killings are totally condemnable, unacceptable. It is something everybody irrespective of ethnic groups, political and religious affiliations should detest because no one has the right to take away life that was given by God.

Yes, I agree with you that the two ethnic groups have been on each others throat for decades, but in the same vein, several efforts to end the killings have been made, because there is no reason for us to be killing ourselves because the Tiv and the Jukun are living as a family in one environment; they are all peasant farmers, they are the masses and they are poor people. So, why should they be killing themselves? Even before we were born, we were told such killings have been in existence. We also learnt that the elders and the community leaders have been making frantic effort to see that the killings stop because there is no reason for us to be killing ourselves

So, why have efforts to end the killings failed to yield positive results? 
All efforts have proved abortive because of politics, selfishness and the inability to speak the truth. In addition to this, the inability of the government of the day to sincerely intervene has caused these crises to increase in intensity day-in, day-out.

But let me take you back to history.  When the former governor of Benue State, Dr. Gabriel Suswam and the former governor of Taraba State, the late Danbaba Suntai were in power, there was sincere trust between them. They came together, provided a joint patrol team that was heavily funded by both states. Apart from that, they succeeded in bringing the two communities together. During their eight years in power, there was no single crisis between the Jukun and the Tiv people.

I will also like to refer you back to history again.  As an advocate of peace, I was deeply involved in making sure that the Tiv man sees Wukari as his home, and a Jukun man sees any of the Tiv local government councils in Benue State as his home too. I muted for an idea to bring the Tiv and the Jukun to a round-table.

During my tenure as President Wukari/Jukun Youths of Vision, we contacted Suswam and he supported the idea of a roundtable and we brought him to Wukari. Suswam came to Wukari in the company of the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation,  Michael Andokaa,  and other highly-placed delegates from Benue. We also organised a world press conference, where we declared that peace between the Jukun and Tiv race has come to stay, and that all other enemies have been put to shame. Still part of Suswam’s team to Wukari in December 2009 were critical stakeholders from Benue State.

The Aku-Uka (chairman, Taraba State Council of Chiefs) was there, the present senator representing Taraba South, Emmanuel Bwacha was there, as well as the Chief of Ibi. So many sons and daughters of Jukun tribe were all in attendance. The dialogue, which made us gave out awards, yielded good results because throughout their tenures, no outbreak of crisis was recorded between the Tiv and the Jukun communities.

So, violence that has reared its ugly head once again is very disappointing and very unacceptable to us. Therefore, we are calling for the immediate intervention of the government of the day to put an end to this issue.

But the present leadership of the two states have made some moves to resolve the crisis. Are you saying that their efforts are not good enough? 
Their efforts were okay, but we cannot say what actually went wrong again that led to these present killings. I remember that the present governors of both states met severally in designated areas of the states to brainstorm on how to end the killings. At the level of high knowledge of our intellectuals, there is this unity, but look at the level of our farmers in the farms, they are killing themselves and this thing is escalating to the towns. I will not say that their efforts have been futile, but we need more of these efforts in order to put an end to these killings.

Are you bothered that these killings are coming shortly after the general elections? 
Let us be sincere to ourselves, the major causes of these crises is because there are invisible hands that cannot be traced. But you cannot accuse anybody because both of us are the ones killing ourselves. But the major question to ask is ‘what are their aims and gains?’ One cannot tell. So, we are calling on the government of the day to come out boldly and arrest those it is sure are part and parcel of the killings and prosecute them.

Right now, displaced Jukun people are in dire need of relief materials. What efforts are in place to help them out? 
A lot of people of Jukun extraction, especially women and children from Kente Village have been displaced. Some fled to Wukari; some to Akwana, and some fled to as far to Chinkai. I must, however, let you know that the government of the day is really disturbed.  On our part, we have already contacted the government of Taraba State to see how it could help the displaced persons with relief materials, and also to put an end to these crises here and there. The government is responding, and has mobilised a team of security personnel, which have been deployed to all the flashpoint areas.

The council chairman is also doing his best to control the situation.

Major yam market in the area has been burnt down. What does that portend to the economy? 
The burning of that yam market will not only have negative effects on the local economy, but would as well affect the country’s economy as well because people from different parts of the country always come here to purchase truck loads of yam, which are taken to different parts of Nigeria. Now that the market has been burnt, definitely we should be expecting scarcity of yam come next year. So, as far as I am concerned, that is a great set-back to the country.

So what will you suggest as the surest way out of the quagmire? 
There is a suspicion that is going on in the heart of a Tiv man and in the heart of a Jukun man. This suspicion must be immediately addressed because the Jukun man is always suspecting the Tiv man, and the Tiv man is always suspecting the Jukun man, even when they are all from one family. But there’s no need for such ugly attitude.

Recently, there was also Fulani herdsmen problem here and there, but thank God the government weighed in and brought us together by settling the issues. Now, you can see for yourself that the Fulani man is happily grazing his herd and the Jukun man is happily cultivating his farmland. Having overcome that, why should a Tiv man and a Jukun man be at each other’s throat when they all worship in the same church? Tell me, why should they be fighting themselves? Both the elders and critical stakeholders that are of Tiv extraction should come together as they did before.  I am aware that they are making efforts to see that this mess does not re-occur. Let us be sincere in fishing out the bad eggs. If we know those causing the problems, we should be bold enough to identify them so that we can all have peace. I am also calling on the government to establish a permanent security base in all these flashpoints so that they can easily avert unforeseen crises that would come from the Tiv, Jukun or the Fulani.


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JukunLuka AgbuTiv
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