Marginalisation and deprivation of the Jukun in Benue State

The palace of the chief of Abinsi has been in ruins


By Yakubu Useni

Located on the Southern Bank of River Benue, Abinsi Town is on the Makurdi Gboko to Wukari highway. Abinsi is on kilometers 25 to Makurdi Town. While the distance from Abinsi junction is kilometers 120 through Kwatan Sule and is about 204 kilometers through Gboko to Wukari Town in Taraba State. This oldest Town in Benue State with rich documented historical facts with colonial antiquities has suffered neglect by both Federal and Benue State Governments probably due to oversight or deliberate negligence. Details of Abinsi History shall be in my subsequent bulletin, but for the purpose of this discourse, let narrow this narrative to the topic of discussion as captured in the headline above.

I have treated very frugally the history of the Jukun people of Benue State in my previous articles if you are carefully following me and this will be one of the issues I shall be addressing in this article. The article seeks to respond to the recent publication of the Mdzough U Tiv (MUT) A Tiv Social Cultural Association on the New Telegraph Newspaper of 1/10/2019 alleging that Abinsi is a Tiv settlement, and that the name was formally known as “Abetse A Tiv settlement” but corrupted to Abinsi by the Colonial Masters without any historical facts to substantiate the allegation hence rendered null and void for lacking in substance.

The Jukun people of Benue State particularly Abinsi and Anmor (Fiidi) in Guma and Makurdi Local Governments respectively have witnessed some level of crises with their Tiv neighbors, example of such crises are:
1. The Tiv/Jukun crisis of 1995 in Abinsi.
2. The Tiv/Jukun crisis of 2017 at Anmor (Fidii) that lead to the displacement of the Jukun in Anmor (Fidii) which till date the Tiv has refused the Jukun to return to their ancestral land in the said place.
3. The Tiv/Jukun crisis of January 17, 2019. In Abinsi

The 1995 Tiv/Jukun crisis in Abinsi has the Commission of Inquiry set up to investigate the the remote and the immediate causes of the crisis and to proffer possible recommendations that will forestall the reoccurrence of the crisis. The Commission in their reports, recommended the creation of the Jukun Chiefdom in Benue State among several other recommendations, but even as I write this article now, none of the recommendations have been implemented

Similarly, the Tiv/Jukun crises of 2017 Anmor (Fidii) and January 17, 2019 in Abinsi respectively also have the Commission of Inquiry set up by His Excellency, Governor Samuel Ortom to find out the remote and the immediate causes of the crises. The Commission however, conduct a public hearing where the reports and recommendations as at the time of this article, is still pending. The allegation of the Jukun land encroachment and grabbing by their Tiv neighbors among several other allegations and evidences were tendered to the Commission by the Jukun during the public hearing.

There are clear cases of marginalisation and deprivation of the Jukun people in Benue State as earlier Stated in my previous articles. In the area of Benue State Civil Service, three of Jukun sons of Wanu extraction were members of the Benue State Civil Service namely;
1. Oliver Atama: Benue State Urban Development Board.
2. Austin Audu: The Voice Newspaper.
3. Hassan Gadu: Benue State Ministry of Justice and they have both retired from active service. Currently as I write this article, nobody from the Jukun in Benue State is serving in the Benue State Civil Service. If this is not marginalisation, then how else can one define marginalisation.

In politics, since the transition of Nigeria from military to civilian rule in 1999. The Jukun people of Benue State have suffered tremendous marginalisation, Mr. Oliver Atama was retained by His Excellency, Governor George Akume as General Manager Urban Development Board. He was retained on the bases that he was with the Board since from the military regime, the administration of Akume ended and Governor Torwua Suswam took over in 2007-2015. Where Gadafe Asemanya was appointed as Special Assistant to the Governor on Public Utilities on the bases of “who knows who” and not because he is Jukun. In fact, it was after his appointment that he was discovered to be from the Jukun. The first tenure of His Excellency, Governor Samuel Ortoms administration, three of Jukun sons from Abinsi namely:
1. Innocent Abayilo
2. Kefas Aseshi (Bakassi) and
3. Dauda Ubandoma. Were appointed as Special Assistants to the Governor on Chieftaincy Affairs, Community Relations and Land Matters respectively. In the second tenure of Governor Ortom, I learnt that only Innocent Abayilo is in the list of his SAs. Is this not also marginalisation?

In the Area of Chieftaincy Affairs, the Jukun people have their ways of selecting and enthroning their Traditional Rulers according to their culture and tradition and anything outside that is termed “cultural and traditional bastardization”. Government never appoints and enthrones chief for the Jukun people in Benue State but only confirms a Chief after all the processes are done by the Jukun, however, the reverse is the case now. A clear example of this can be seen in the situation where the late Tor Tiv HRH Ochivirigh Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkula forcefully appointed and enthroned one Isa Amodu Ajidoku (Andula ) as the District Head of Abinsi against the wishes of the Jukun of Abinsi. The day he was to be brought to Abinsi from Gboko in 2013 or thereabout, the Jukun people of Abinsi staged a peaceful protest, the decision that lead to the blocking of the Makurdi Gboko high way in Abinsi axis where Governor Suswam was also cought up on his way from Logo to Makurdi. The Governor stopped and enquired to know what the problem was, he was told of it and he promised to address their grievances but nothing is done to that effect.

In the same vein, the present District Head of Abinsi is also alleged to have been forced on the Jukun people of Abinsi. This was contained in a memorandum submitted to the Commission of Inquiry by the National Association Jukun Wanu (NAJUWA) Headed by Engineer Moses Amankye as President and Mr. Nuhu Marvellous Adagba as Secretary General of the Association. According to the Association’s position and submission in the Commission of Inquiry held in Makurdi and also made on the Daily Trust Newspaper of September 24, 2019. The Association stated that the present District Head of Abinsi was imposed on the Jukun people of Abinsi against their wishes. NAJUWA further stated that though the current District Head of Abinsi is from the Royal Clan too but his selection and enthronement did not follow due process as enshrined in the culture and tradition of the Jukun people. The association further stated that the process was marred by the political interest group that lead to the bastardization of the cherished Jukun culture handed over to the present generation for continuity.

Base on the submission above, I challenge the Mdzough U Tiv (MUT) under Chief Edwards Ujege to provide answers to the following questions as part of the issues raised in their Press conference held in Makurdi as captured by the New Telegraph Newspaper of 1st October, 2019 as a rejoinder to the publication by the NAJUWA on Daily Trust Newspaper of 24 September, 2019. As follows:
1. How is Abinsi a Tiv Settlement?
2. Has any Tiv man or how many Tiv men ascended or held the position of ABISEKU which is the traditional name of the Jukun Chief/King in Abinsi?
3. What are the evidences of the historical evolution of the name “Abetse” to “Abinsi” as alleged in your rejoinder?
4. Demonstrate historically the existence of Abinsi Town and juxtapose same with the arrival of the Tiv into the Benue Valley.
5. Please tell the world to know what lead to the crisis between the Jukun and Tiv in 1995 in Abinsi and the Constitution of the Commission of Inquiry to look into the crises and whether the recommendations by the commission as contained in the White Paper have been implemented. You should equally demonstrate practically to the whole world to know what are the remote and the immediate causes of the crises in Anmor 2017 and January 2019 in Abinsi?
6. If Abinsi is a Tiv Settlement as alleged in your rejoinder, will it have suffered the retrogression in development as it is the case now in view of its historical antecedents?
7. The Chief of Abinsi was upgraded to the status of 3rd class Chief and the staff of office given to him in 1913. This pre-exist the creation of Tiv traditional institutions, and when the Tiv Nation was reorganized in 1929 Abinsi was still the Headquarters but what is the case of Abinsi today? Before the creation of Gboko as the Administrative Headquarters of the Tiv Nation in 1934 ABISEKU (Abinsi Chief) was already a third class Chief but is demoted to a mere District Head rather than promoting him to the status of a 2nd class Chief.
8. If Abinsi is truly a Tiv settlement as alleged, why should the Tiv not develop and resuscitate it in view of the legacies put in place by the Colonial Masters?

It is true that Taraba and Benue States are not at war neither the intention of this article is to incite war between the two States or the two ethnic groups in Benue (Tiv and Jukun) but to set a precedence to the relevant authorities for a long lasting peace building process. The authority should cohesively look at the immediate and remote causes of the perennial and incessant clashes between Tiv and Jukun in the two States Taraba and Benue.

ADMONITIONS

1. The relevant authorities concerned especially the peace committee should focus on treating causes of the crises rather than the symptoms.
2. Truth should be told at all times and at any level irrespective of who or what is involved and we must always be ready to accept responsibilities and do the needful to avoid shifting blames
3. Traditional Rulers and government should at all times be proactive and work in synergy for peace in their domain.
4. Politicians at all levels, should avoid inciting the youths against their opponents during electioneering periods and empower the youth with education and not with guns as political thugs
5. Above all, history should be told with historical facts and figures with proves devoid of fallacies. History is not when you eat pork meat and saturate it with liquor then you sit under the cool shade of a mangoe tree and begin to dish out lies in the name of history and at end, youths are incited against themselves and start taking arm to bring crisis.
One Nigeria! JUSTICE and EQUITY must reign supreme.