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Implications of the Tiv-Jukun conflict in Taraba State

The state of human insecurity in Nigeria flouts any exhaustible description. While ethnic clashes rage in several parts of the country, an Islamic terror group popularly referred to as Boko Haram contemporaneously unleash mayhem on innocent unprotected and defenceless civilians conspicuously clad in poverty and despair due to many years of economic inactivity and political betrayal.

This is concatenated by the horrendous onslaught of Fulani herdsmen on farmers as they perpetuate Rambo-style extermination of farming communities in a bid to secure grazing fields for their livestock. The synchronous   banditry attacks on unprotected villagers in the North-East of the country where many are killed, raped or abducted to be rescued only by fat ransoms completes the equation that makes Nigeria a very dangerous place for human habitation at the moment.

One can write volumes about the state of human insecurity in Nigeria, the focus of this article is to explore the economic, social and security implications of the Tiv-Jukun ethnic clashes in Southern Taraba and to suggest better ways of addressing the conflict to reduce its economic, social and security implications on the people.

The conflict relationship between the Tiv and Jukun ethnic groups is as hoary, antediluvian, primordial and antiquated as their primus happenstance. Is this an artefact of colonialism, post-colonialism, deprivation or economic subjugation? This is better irradiated, perhaps, by the socio-economic realities of these people than by any theoretical or conceptual suppositions.

Superiority claims over military might, traditions, customs, and value systems between ethnic groups are not completely uncommon just as clatters and tussles over lands; natural resources, power and economic resource distribution aren’t alien to many simple societies. The reasons for which these mundane nuances have been blown out of manageable proportion between the Tivs and the Jukuns of Taraba State raises many eyebrows.

Many media and academic experts have traced the sources of the conflict to land encroachment, primordial hatred, marginalisation and claims over which group is autochthonous or heterochthonous. Conflict and social identity theorists do offer a general explanation of ethnic conflicts such as that between the Tivs and Jukuns of Taraba State.

Conflict theorists posit that there is a reciprocal relationship between conflict and ethnic solidarity. This is further explained by Social identity theorists who argue that group solidarity among in-group members make them form certain hallucinatory-non-existent positive imaginaries about themselves as in a direct contraption to those they form of out-group members. This often breeds conflict, they conclude.

Instrumentalists also argue that when people fail to acquire political power through laid down procedures, they tend to explore other means including ethnic identities or consanguinity. The extent to which the Tiv-Jukun conflict has political colourations is something that is worth further investigations. One may ask, where do they get the arms and ammunition? Who are their suppliers, why is the state equipped with the military and police unable to quell the conflict? What are the needs of both factions?  Answers to these questions may un-wrap the onion layers and reveal the true nature of the conflict.

The Tiv-Jukun conflict has led to the disruption of farming and commercial activities, destruction of properties including houses and food stores, killing and displacement of people, increased cases of kidnapping, abduction, rape and rising levels of food insecurity in the region. For people who live on less than a dollar a day, this is even more catastrophic. Taraba as a whole is considered to be one of the poorest states in Nigeria. This is epitomised in the records of their internally generated funds. About 83 percent of the population are farmers, so if people cannot go to the farm for fear of being killed, the long-term economic consequences will be indescribably devastating.

Diplomacy over Violence

History has shown that there are neither winners nor losers in ethnic conflicts, be it symmetrical or asymmetrical. The Irish war, the Lebanon war, the Rwandan, Congolese, Burundian, Liberian, Sierra Leonean and South Sudan wars are all examples of ethnic conflicts that produced no winners or losers. Guns win battles, wars are never won.

People who lose battles go back to regroup, re-strategise and launch a reprisal. The vicious circles continuous until conflicting parties descend together into the abyss. I believe the Tiv and the Jukuns in Taraba State don’t need to tow this line. If anyone feels genuinely marginalised or maligned, one can choose diplomacy over violence to express one’s dissatisfaction.

You are no enemies to one another; you are in fact friends, brothers and sisters because you share much in common. You share in the humanity bestowed on us by God, the dignity of which is inalienable even at death, you share in the same colonial and political history, you share in the same social and economic conditions, you are both victims of a failed state, orchestrated by concatenating kleptocratic regimes, and you have a common enemy to fight against poverty. Drop the guns and get to the negotiation table. Say no to violence.



Tobias is a PhD scholar at the University for Development Studies, Ghana


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