Don’t call us visitors in our land- Benue Jukun blows hot

A Jukun dance group


By our reporter

After years or perhaps decades of silence, the Jukun of Benue State, has come out bold to inform the world about marginalisation by the Tiv in the state.

This was contained in a strongly-worded advertorial published Tuesday in Daily Trust newspaper titled “Jukun-Wanu of Benue State: The true position” by National Association of Jukun–Wanu (NAJUWA).

The nationality with rich history and earlier settlers in the Benue valley dwell on issues of intimidation, utter neglect and planned process of extinction by the Tiv in Benue State.

It was gathered that the write-up was a staunch reaction to complaints by Tiv in Taraba State of neglect while the Jukun face grievous and untold hardships from Tiv in Benue State.

Here is the full text of the write-up after the Jukun are pushed to the wall.

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF JUKUN–WANU (NAJUWA)

C/O AKU ABINSI PALACE ABINSI, GUMA L.G.A. BENUE STATE

 

JUKUN–WANU OF BENUE STATE: THE TRUE POSITION.

  • INTRODUCTION

We, the Jukun people of Benue State under the umbrella of the National Association of Jukun-Wanu (NAJUWA) wish to state that our attention has been drawn to the comments, arguments and counter-arguments during the Taraba Jukun/Tiv expanded stakeholders peace meeting held at the Yar Adua Center, Abuja on 3rd September, 2019, newspaper publications and debates on Channels Television between the Tiv and Jukun youth leaders in the face of the on-going strife between the two tribes.

We are compelled to shade light on some salient issues raised because the continuous silence these misleading statements on the Jukun  tribe shall amount to total admission. It is imperative to state categorically that this publication is not intended to frustrate the achievements of all the peace meetings including the very recent Abuja meeting but to state the true position of the Jukun people of Benue State and make suggestions that will bringing permanent peace between the two tribes.

  • THE HISTORICAL  BACKGROUND OF THE JUKUN PEOPLE OF BENUE STATE

According to C.K. Meek in his book “The Sudanese Empire”, the Jukun claim descent from Yemen southern Arabian Peninsula. They migrated and entered Africa after a brief stay in Egypt. The Jukun finally entered Nigeria through the Kanenm – Bornou as early as the thirteenth (13th) century. They took part in the foundation of the Kwararafa kingdom which headquarters kept moving. The first place was at Biepi or Apa then Puje and finally at the modern Wukari under Katakpa as the first Aku.

The Jukun-Wanu who are predominantly fishermen, also trace their origin to the Kwararafa kingdom. They belong to the large family of the Kwararafa kingdom before migrating to their present locations in the Benue valley now Benue state in about sixteenth (16th) century in groups as clans, lineages or royal houses, establishing towns, villages, hamlets and Islands such as Abise (corrupted by Europeans as Abinsi), Agyogo, Anmor, Agbodor, Azyoko, Jamindo, Akachu, Ashuku, Ndosede, Kitsani, Aguye, Anyishi, Abweni, Anuhwa and many other towns in the present day Benue State.

According to K. Dewar these Jukun settlements which are mostly close to the bank of the river Benue and Katsina – Ala were founded by Jukun chiefs and their followers. These settlements were founded before the arrival of the Tiv in the Benue valley in about eighteenth (18th) century. To corroborate this assertion by K. Dewar, Tesemchi Makar in his book “The History of Political Change among the Tiv in the 19th and 20th Centuries” opined that when the Tiv came the Chamba and Jukun powers were on decline.

It is instructive to know that before the advent of the colonial rule and their administration, all the Jukun chiefs received their appointments, confirmations and coronations from the Aku Uka of Wukari who, was and still is regarded as the highest spiritual head of the entire Jukun kingdom however, with the creation of Tiv division out of Wukari confederation, some of the Jukun settlements from Anyishi town to Ijaha fall within the Tiv division. Abinse, a Jukun – Wanu settlement was the headquarters of the newly created Tiv division before it was moved to Gboko in 1933 during the reign of Captain Downes, a British administrator.

The office of the Tor Tiv was created in 1945 and Orchivirgh Makir Dzakpe, a retired army sergeant was appointed the first Tor Tiv. With this new arrangement the chiefs of Jukun settlements within the Tiv division are under the direct jurisdiction of the Tor Tiv and not Aku Uka of Wukari as was the case before.

It is important to note also that the Jukun–Wanu are predominantly fishermen. They founded settlements which are close to the river, where they carry out their business of catching fish and other riverrine related activities. According to K. Dewar, on the arrival of Utyiondo Tiv, the Jukun–Wanu of Abinse ferried the Utyiondo leader, Agiri and his followers across the Benue river to their present site. Some Tiv groups who moved to the confluence of Katsina – Ala river near the present day Anyeshi or Anyebe (Jukun–Wanu village) were paddled across to the other side of the Benue river by the riverrine Jukun. Infact, most of the ancestors of the Tiv now living in Awe, Keana, Doma and Lafia might have been paddled across the Benue river by the riverrine Jukun. Because if there were no Jukun-Wanu (riverrine) in Ashikuna, Andosede, Azamindo, Akatsu, Anuhwa, Asugu, Anyeshi (Anyebe), Azjoko or Ankwa, Anmor (Mu), Agyogo and Makurdi, it would have been a herculean task for the Tiv to cross the Benue river to the other side during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The riverrine Jukun Wanu were the only group of people prior to this time, that settled along river Benue. They used boats and canoes for their main occupation, fishing. See “The Jukun of Abinsi: A Socio – Political History by Joshua Antinyi Asemanya.

On arrival, the Tiv met the Jukun people with their well-organized traditional institutions. The Jukun–Wanu chiefs presented their Tiv visitors to Aku Uka of Wukari for the title of Tor – u – gbande. For example, the Utyiondo leader Agiri was presented by the chief of Abinse to Agudu Manu, Aku Uka of Wukari for the title of Tor – u – gbande (the drum chief).  See K. Dewar and K.P Maddock reports.

3.0  THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE TIVS AND JUKUN

The relationship between the Jukun and Tiv undoubtedly has been cordial as the Jukun man had no other better friend than the Tiv. Interaction between them was very free. The relationship between them was so intimate that personal relationships are expressed at a family level, for instance Jukun named their children after their Tiv friends and vice versa. Among the Jukun people there are names up to date like Aondo, Orkaa, Nyampenda etc and there are Tiv people too who named their children with Jukun names. It is imperative to mention that some Tiv groups particularly the Iherev, Masev and Nongov who had since found themselves close to Abinsi, Gbajimba and other Jukun settlements came often to exchange their farm produce like yams and yam powder “Ambo besu” with Jukun fish and meat. This “trade by barter” went on for quite a long time because of the friendly relationship between the two tribes. What stultify and soured this good relationship?

4.0 THE TRUE POSITION NOW.

The cordial relationship between the Jukun and the Tiv people began to deteriorate towards the late 1960s due to the rapid population growth and quest for arable land for farming by the Tiv. They began to develop cold feelings towards about the Jukun people. These feelings and suspicion have remained to date. Thus, the Tiv often regard and call the Jukun people as “mbavanya” (visitors) and settlers despite the fact that from all available records, Jukun people settled in the Benue valley (Benue state) before the arrival arrived of the Tiv people. They said Jukun people are not from Benue state but Taraba state which is not true. The Jukun people have protested over this unfortunate and recent name given to them but the Tiv will remain adamant to it, because they have the support of their chiefs, elders and elites. Recently, a prominent Tiv traditional ruler a Ter described the Jukun people of Anmor as visitors in his memo submitted to the Commission of Inquiry into the Communal Crises between the Tiv and Jukun communities in Fiidi of Makurdi Local Government and Abinsi in Guma Local Government Areas.

Land Encroachments:

Despite the fact that the Jukun people arrived the Benue valley before the Tiv, the Tiv are encroaching on Jukun lands without regard to the original owner. For example, vast lands, were was encroached upon by the Tiv in Jukun settlements like Abinsi, Agbodor, Agyogo, Anmor, Jamindo, Ndosede without due process. Where the encroachment by the Tiv is resisted by the Jukun people, it is met with violence. They are intimidated and at times killed because they refused refuse the taking over of their ancestral lands. This is what happened in Anmor (Fiidi) on 22nd May, 2017 where the Jukun people were completely displaced sacked from their ancestral home. There is no single Jukun in Anmor (Fiidi) village as we make this representation because they protested the taking over of their ancestral land by the Ugondo Tiv under the leadership of the kindred head Chief Julius Uor Adi.

Historically, the Jukun settlements which are now in Benue state due to state creation were founded before the arrival of the Tiv in the vicinity. These settlements have Jukun names but recently the names were changed and replaced with Tiv names. For instance, Agbodor has been changed to the Tiv name Angbaaye, Ndosede to Gbajimba, Anmor to Ikyurav etc. These changes were made without the consent of the indigenous Jukun people. More worrisome, is the fact that the Tiv who came to these settlements and met the indigenous Jukun people in most cases will erect sign posts with those names in these areas to affirm the changes.

Apart from the encroachments by the Tiv on the Jukun lands, the Tiv who are not fishermen are now struggling or contesting the ownership of fish ponds and islands (Achii) with the Jukun people in the recent times. These fish ponds, islands (Achii) and lakes were founded and were in the possession of the Jukun people since time immemorial. This was before the arrival of the Tiv in the Benue valley. It is a well-known fact that the Tiv are not fishermen but farmers. These fish ponds and islands (Achii) are located virtually in all the Jukun settlements. They are sources of the Jukun people’s livelihood. These ponds and islands (Achii) have their Jukun names. It is surprising that the Tiv around the vicinities of Gbajimba, Ndosede, Ashuku, Abinsi, Jamindo, Agbodor, Anmor, Agyogo etc are contesting the ownership of these Achii (Islands) with the Jukun people. The contest over the ownership of these lands, fish ponds and Achii (Islands) are some of the causes of crises between the Jukun people and Tiv in Agbodor (Agbanye), Abinse, Anmor (Fiidi), Agyogo, Jamindo and many other Jukun settlements. Some of these crises have resulted into litigations between the two groups. For instance, Jamindo in Guma local government in suit N0.CV7/2016 between Evangelist Yusufu Ahanwo vs Victoria Dennis which was decided in favour of the plaintiff, the Jukun-Wanu people of Agyogo in Makurdi had and still having similar experiences, etc.

Meddling with our Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs:

Meddling in the Chieftaincy affairs of the Jukun is a recurring decimal and it has always been sources of crisis between the two tribes in recent times. The problem is not just the interference, but the intension is to penetrate to eventually take over the stool. This was the case of Abinsi. After Chief Clement Abayilo was deposed there was a clamour by Tiv people that the King makers must be democratised to include the Tiv people and each of the tribe most have equal representation, because according to them, Tiv people also live around Abinsi and that the next Akubise should be zoned to Tiv.

The Jukun people like any other tribes have their own procedures of selecting a chief. This traditional method is followed strictly by the Jukun people. It is the a belief that their ancestors usually take active part in choosing Aku for the community. In the past, the Jukun people were allowed to choose their Aku before presenting same to the government for confirmation. The case is different now. The government and other interested Tiv are deeply involved in the selection of Aku for the Jukun people. This was a major cause of crises in Abinsi in the past and even recently when the present Aku Abinsi (the district Head) was imposed on Jukun of Abinsi without any traditional ritual performed.

The new development now going on is that parallel Tiv Kindred or District Heads are appointed and recognized by government while the Jukun chiefs are relegated. For instance, Simon Ugondo, a Tiv man from Ugondo section of the Tiv was appointed a Kindred Head and imposed on Jukun people of the ancient town of Agyogo in Makurdi, even though there is Aku Gyogo in place, who is occupying a stool that existed as far back as 16th century. The last Aku Agyogo Chief Abdulahi Asenya who died in 2017 was recognized as kindred Head. William Adetse a Tiv man from Agah ward in Isherev section of the Tiv was also recently appointed as the Kindred Head of New Garage kindred of Market/Clerk ward. The last Jukun Chief (Aku) in New Garage in Makurdi was Chief Sani Ego. Agbodor, Anmor (Fiidi), Azyoko, Wadata, Anuhwa, Ashuku, Gbajimba etc which are predominantly Jukun villages also suffer similar predicaments. These chiefs appointed and imposed on Jukun settlements are not Jukun people and do not understand the Jukun culture and tradition as well as they do not reside there. To conclude the annexation of any traces of Jukun traditional system in Benue state, the State House of Assembly passed a law and same was Gazette on Chieftaincy and traditional Affairs in 2015 and reviewed in 2017 which as we write has removed and expunge the Jukun people completely from Benue State. Series of petition written on this matter has not seen the light of the day and the government has not shown any sign to change this decision.

Lack of Government presence in Jukun Settlements.

There is no government presence in any Jukun settlements in Benue State. Take for instance, the only government school in Abinsi was established in 1930 by the colonial masters. This was the same primary school that was attended by prominent Tiv sons and daughters in the past. Apart from this primary school, there is no government secondary school or primary health centre despite the population of the town and its status as one time provisional headquarters of Benue province. Presently, all social amenities at Abinsi were provided by the Federal Government. Take for instance the Electricity which was a World Bank/Federal Government projects was sited in Abinsi and many other Tiv settlements, the irony of the matter was that while other communities were commissioned, Abinsi one was not commission for more than one year until when Isa Kontagora who was posted in as Military Governor discovered the anomaly and was able to commission the light. Is this because Abinsi is a Jukun town?

 

Marginalization in Office and Political Appointments.

It is imperative to observe that since the creation of Benue State in 1976, no single Jukun man had never had a political position of a commissioner, chairman of a local government, permanent secretary, member of any board, director. These are positions enjoyed by other minority tribes in Benue State. Oliver Atama a Jukun man was made the General Manager of Urban Development Board during the Military regime of Col. Aminu Isa Kontagora and later inherited by the then Governor George Akume led administration. The present government made a history by appointing three (3) Jukun sons, namely Hon. Innocent Abayilo, Hon. Kefas Aseshi and Hon. Dauda Ubandoma as Senior Special Assistants and Special Assistant to the office of the governor respectively during his first tenure.

Denial of Employment/Recruitment opportunities.

The Jukun graduates seeking employment in the state are not given the opportunity into the Benue State Civil Service like other Benue tribes. In the entire Benue State Civil Service the Jukun people can only boast of two (2) Civil Servants namely Mr. Austine Audu with the Voice Newspapers and Hassan Agadu of Benue State Judiciary, who have since retired.

Total Exclusion from Kindred Heads in Makurdi.

It is imperative to know that out of the forty – two (42) kindred heads in Makurdi L.G.A, the Jukun people of Benue State do not have a single Kindred or District Head despite the fact that they had have kindred heads in their settlements of Agyogo, New Garage and Wadata in the past. Even in Guma L.G.A, where large numbers of Jukun people are found, there is one (1) District Head and one (1) Kindred Head only in Abinsi. Other Jukun settlements in Guma L.G.A are ruled by the Tiv imposed Kindred or District Heads.

On the whole, in the entire Benue State the Jukun have only one (1) Kindred Head and one (1) District Head as the Benue State chieftaincy law recently passed does not give the Jukun people the right to become the Ter Makurdi or Guma or any other higher chieftaincy position despite their many settlements and population in Benue State.

Those chiefs recognized in Benue state like the District Head and Kindred Head of Abinsi have been compelled to wear the Tiv black and white beads against the tenets of their culture and tradition. They must communicate in Tiv language during traditional chiefs’ meetings since the means of communication during such meetings is Tiv language. By this arrangement, Jukun chiefs are forced to abandon their culture and tradition and abide by the Tiv culture and tradition which are alien to them. The Jukun are not given the opportunity to practice their culture and tradition freely as done by other minorities in other places. They are “Tivilized” to ensure that their identity, history, culture and language as original settlers are lost forever.

  • OUR PRAYERS

For permanent peace to reign between the Jukun and Tiv, we make these prayers:-

  • Henceforth, the Jukun people should not be referred to or called visitors in Benue state. As we are not visitors but bonafide indigenes of Benue State as affirmed by historians, historical books and His Excellency the Governor of Benue State Dr. Samuel Ortom himself.
  • Given the distinct nature of our culture and tradition, we request that Chiefdoms should be created for the Jukun people of Benue state, in conformity with the recommendations of the Commissions of Inquiry Reports, 1995, Abinsi Communal Disturbance headed by Hon. Justice J.A.P Oki OON (Rtd) and the Federal Government report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into communal conflicts in Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba States, 2003. This is because we have the numbers and our settlements are very close to each other along the riverine areas.
  • The National Boundary Commission should as a matter of urgency demarcate all the Jukun settlements from her Tiv neighbours.
  • The Tiv Area Traditional Council should henceforth stop imposing traditional rulers on the Jukun people as they have their traditional procedures of selecting and installing their traditional rulers (Akus).
  • The Tiv who are now Jukun neighbours in Benue state should desist from confiscating or invading Jukun lands and fishing ponds.
  • The Jukun chiefs should not be compelled to wear the Tiv black and white beads or dress like the Tiv chiefs. This negates the culture and tradition of the Jukun people. After all, the Igede who belong to zone “C” of Idoma majority have their own traditional beads and apparels as a symbol of distinguishing their culture from that of the Idoma.
  • The Jukun people whose houses and property were destroyed, demolished and/or looted in the crises at Abinsi and Anmor (Fiidi) should be adequately compensated to enable them rebuild their houses and recover their property so lost to ease their return to their ancestral homes.
  • The government of Benue state should gainfully employ the teeming Jukun unemployed graduates in the Benue State civil service. Also, government should consider Jukun sons and daughters for more political appointments in this second term of Governor Ortom’s administration and beyond. After all, “he who seeks equity, must do equity”.
  • It is a common practice by the Tiv to change the historical names of Jukun villages from their original names recognized even before the advent of the Tiv and the British Colonial Masters in the Benue valley to Tiv names. A classical example is the ancient village of Agbodor which is now called by the Tiv as “Angbaaye”. This should also stop.
  • The Benue state chieftaincy laws should be amended to capture and accommodate the Jukun culture and tradition as the ascension to their thrones is hereditary.
  • All Jukun settlements like Ndosede, Jamindo, Ankwa, Agbodor etc not recognized as Kindreds or Districts Heads, should be recognized and their chiefs upgraded to either Kindred or District Heads as the case may be.
  • Henceforth perpetrators and principal actors in crises should be identified, arrested and prosecuted by law the police for their roles in such crises to serve as deterrent to others.
  • The practice where the Tiv are claiming the ownership of Jukun settlements, Islands (Achii), lakes and fish ponds despite historical evidence should be discouraged.
  • A secondary school, health centre etc should be provided for Abinsi community, to restore its pass glory as a one-time provincial headquarters of the defunct Benue province.
  • Abinsi rural police station should be upgraded to Divisional Police Station.
  • The Jukun people should be officially recognized by the Benue state government especially at government functions.
  • CONCLUSION

The Jukun people of Benue State express their gratitude to His Excellency the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari and their Excellencies Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue State and his Taraba State counterpart, Arch. Dairus D. Ishaku for their frantic efforts in ensuring that peace returns to the troubled areas.

May the Almighty God in heaven, the giver of life, knowledge and good health continue to guide you all in discharging this assignment.

Thank you and God bless.

Engr. Moses Amankye                                   Mr. Nuhu Adagba

   President General                                           Secretary General