THE President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Samson Ayokunle has appealed to the leadership of both Jukum and Tiv in Taraba and Benue states to sheathe their swords and embrace peace as no society can develop without peace, tolerance and harmony.
Ayokunle made the appeal on Thursday in a statement issued by his Media Assistant, Adebayo Oladeji.
He noted that hostilities between the two tribes have led to the death of hundreds of people, expressing concerns that the two warring parties were still agitated and reluctant to give peace a chance.
The CAN president further urged the leaders of Tiv and Jukum to, as a matter of urgency, convene peace meetings among all relevant stakeholders with a view to finding lasting solution to the feud.
“From the information available to us, majority of Tiv and Jukum are Christians and ordinarily, one would have expected them to come together in unison and resolve their differences, no matter how bitter they are, as commanded us by Jesus Christ who is the Prince of Peace.
“Apart from this, we are aware that the two tribes are inter-twined because they exist side by side and have for long time inter-married,”he said.
According to him, such mutual hostility between the two ethnic groups led to the gruesome murder of a Catholic Priest, Rev Fr David Tanko, recently while making a reconciliation effort.
He said, “This evil wind has, sadly, claimed several innocent lives”.
Ayokunle lamented, traveling on Wukari and Katsina-Ala highways has become dangerous and suicidal as travelers who belong to either of the tribes are arrested, killed or set ablaze, just exactly the way the Catholic priest was killed.
The Christian body, he disclosed, has been making efforts behind the scene with both the Federal Government and the two-state governments on how to reconcile the two factions at a peace meeting to be hosted as soon as practicable.
The clergyman appealed to the two tiers of government to accelerate the process of an enduring peace process in which CAN is ready to be involved.
“We need to remember that violence and bloodletting will not benefit any of the warring parties; rather, it is the people, states, entire country and humanity that are at loss.
“May peace reign not only between the Tivs and Jukuns but in our nation Nigeria in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour,” Ayokunle said.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday promised to end the communal conflict between the Tiv and the Jukum people of Benue and Taraba states.
Represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha in a stakeholder’s meeting with the governors of both states on Wednesday, Buhari assured, that peace would be facilitated among the warring parties.
“We will ensure we facilitate peace. We will not trivialize issues that have to do with emotion because we can’t allow this conflict to continue.”
Buhari urged leaders to promote peace in their actions and utterances, saying the Federal Government would not fold its hands and allow miscreants to take over the country.
At the event, both governors of Taraba State, Darius Ishaku and Benue State, Samuel Ortom disagreed over the causes of communal clashes.
Ortom said the crisis was strictly between the Tiv and Jukum people in Taraba, stating that the traditional institutions in Wukari – a city in Taraba and predominantly Jukun – had failed to protect the interest of the Tiv, who are settlers from Benue State.
“The history or tradition cannot supersede the constitution; we are all Nigerians. People have come from different places to settle in Nigeria.
“The constitution remains sacrosanct and we must obey it. The issue of describing some people as settlers is where we get it wrong,” he said.
Ortom called on the Federal Government to set up a commission of inquiry on the lingering crisis since it was a matter between two states.
However, Ishaku said there was a plot of silence among the Tiv, spreading lies against his government, even after gaining immensely from his government.
Ishaku, said the people could not sacrifice their history for a constitution copied from a foreign country without regards to the ethnic composition and peculiar nature of the country.
He said, “I can’t disregard history because of the constitution. I’m a Jukun and my wife is a Tiv. You said I should drop my history because of constitution? No! No! No!
“I employed 3000 teachers and over 400 were Tivs. Do you want me to carry the whole state and give it to one tribe?” he said.
The Tiv and Jukum have a long history of a communal clash, alleged to have resulted from the fear of domination; land resources and ownership; unequal representation in political positions.