Dahida: Politicians taking advantage of tribal differences to cause mayhem
President General, Tiv Cultural and Social Association, Goodman D. Dahida, has said that politicians are taking advantage of tribal differences to cause mayhem in Taraba and why the trouble has refused to go away. He spoke to CHARLES AKPEJI.
What, in your view is responsible for the age-long Tiv/Jukun killings?
It is unfortunate that Tiv and Jukun men are always immersed in crises. Ordinarily, I believe that since God has destined that we should live together, we should not be at loggerheads with one another because you cannot fight God for what He has done. He has created us; put us in this environment as the farmers that we all are, so, we should not be fighting ourselves.
The truth is that the Tiv cannot do without the Jukun, and the Jukun cannot do without the Tiv. So, one wonders why all these crises. But to some extent, we believe that politics has being playing roles in this lingering crisis. After all our forefathers were living peacefully together.
Before now, the Jukun were free to vote for a Tiv and vice-versa during elections. Also, in the past, a Tiv represented the two constituencies of Wukari. That was in the defunct Gongola State, but now, it is difficult for a Tiv man to even vote for a Jukun, or for a Jukun to vote for a Tiv man. It is now difficult because of the high level of suspicion among them. So, to some extent we believe that politicians take advantage of the tribal difference and cause mayhem. And that is exactly what is happening now.
Secondly, in this current and ongoing debacle, criminal elements in Jukun and their counterparts in Tiv Land are the ones being used to cause all these problems. The crisis was mismanaged by the powers that be because if these two young men (Tiv and Jukun youth leaders) had problems, there should be amicable ways of resolving such problems, but authorities mishandled the crisis at the initial stage and that was what brought us to this level of killings and destruction of properties.
We understand that hundreds of Tiv have been displaced as a result of the crisis?
If you say hundreds may be you don’t know what is happening there because hundreds of thousands of Tiv people have been displaced in this state. If you look back to seven years ago when Fulani herdsmen displaced the Tiv people in the southern part of Wukari that boarders Benue State, over 100, 000 Tiv people were displaced and they have never returned. And that is the exact area that this crisis has erupted from again. Those that left their places of abode to Kente and have a new settlement at the other end of Benue State, are all indigenes of Taraba, and not indigenes of Benue. But because they were displaced from Taraba State, they have to seek refuge in Benue State, which is at the boarder line. So, this current crisis has also displaced hundreds of thousands of my Tiv people.
Is it safe to say that efforts of both present and past state governments have failed to resolve the crises?
There is a level of limitations because the Tiv man in Taraba does not have a traditional ruler, and sometimes, these crises are better resolved with the traditional rulers. If you look at the village heads that we have in those areas, even when they come before the Aku-Uka (the traditional ruler of the Jukun Kingdom), the only thing they can do is to take orders; they can’t argue with him because he is their father. So, there is no way this crisis can be resolved the way people think it should be resolved. If the Tiv people are given a traditional ruler, I am sure that the crisis would turn out to be a thing of the past because the Tiv traditional ruler would be able to come around, sit with the Aku-Uka and discuss the way forward for both ethnic groups.
Like what is happening now, none of the Tiv leaders has been invited for a meeting, even for once, and this crisis has been up to two weeks now. Nobody has ever invited the Tiv elders. If at all Tiv people are invited, they always end up inviting Tiv from Benue State, whereas this crisis started here in Taraba State.
We have just finished elections, so we are also looking forward to benefits from what we have done because we massively voted for Governor Darius Ishaku, and we want to get the dividends of what we have done. We know that there are some Jukun people who are much concerned about this crisis, and don’t want this crisis because they knew the roles the Tiv in Taraba State played during the elections. Most people know the roles we played in ensuring victory for Ishaku because we felt he is the only person that would wipe off our tears. But if few weeks after the elections the Jukun people in Wukari would rise up and begin to attack the Tiv people, then it is very unfortunate and uncalled for. We believe that the entire world frowns at this.
Would it be right to say that Tiv people in Taraba State are being marginalised?
Indeed we are being marginalised in so many ways. We, however, know that freedom does not come within a day.
Fulani herdsmen displaced us in 2014, and immediately Governor Ishaku came on board, he asked (through the traditional rulers from the affected local governments) all displaced Tiv people to come back without any condition and we all came back. Now, when the issue of chiefdom came, we were deliberately not recognised and we complained. We felt that the governor is an understanding person, who will one day hear our cry. We are very much optimistic that before the end of his tenure, he will definitely give us chiefdom. To a point we were even more qualified than most of the communities that benefited. We know that Governor Ishaku is a God- fearing leader and we are certain that he will definitely do something about that soon. But the truth is that we are being marginalised, but we are looking unto God, that definitely our freedom would one day come.
What will you suggest as the way out of these killings?
Recently, I told a government official that there is no problem that can be solved in isolation. If you want to solve a problem, you should assemble every party involved at a round-table and allow every one of them to express his or her feelings. Some of us have being advocating for this because there is every need for all the tribes in southern Taraba to come together and dialogue. We proposed this to the governor during his first tenure. If all of us are brought together with our Benue brothers (because they are affected too), we will be able to iron things out. And I am sure by the time we succeed in doing this; we shall resolve our differences and live together as brothers and sisters.
What I am trying to say is that the local people who are directly affected by the crisis, as well as the traditional rulers should be engaged in dialogue because we know what our problems are since crises started in the 1950s.
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