Category: Independent Opinion.

By A. A. Mshelia

I read the article posted by Aliyu Muhammed, June 18, 2020. It said it was a sponsored one by the The National Catholic Diocesan Priests Association, Jalingo Diocese, in Taraba State, through a press conference in Jalingo, by the Chairman of the forum, Rev Fr. Ephraim Sani. It is okay for citizens to express their concerns about events happening where they reside; It’s called human rights to speech or freedom of expression. On the other hand, some statements attributed to Governor Ishaku and his Government would have been okay if the statements in that article was coming from the quarters of a political party. But to have come from one of the most respected faith-based organization and a father of faith we so revere, it is pivotal that I appeal to some statements, because, words are spirits and spirits don’t die. Few sentences, if not appealed to could serve as seeds in the minds of the general populace and words needs to be used to balance the once spoken. To say the statements are completely okay or be quite about them is to accept…

It is pivotal to note, religious leaders and faith-based communities are the largest and best-organized civil institutions in the world, claiming the allegiance of billions of believers and bridging the divides of race, class and nationality. Religious leaders are often the most respected figures in their communities. Buddhist monks and nuns, imams, pastors, priests, punjaris, and leaders of other faith communities play a powerful role in shaping attitudes, opinions and behaviours because their members trust them. Community members and “political leaders listen to religious leaders”. Especially at the family and community level, religious leaders have the power to raise awareness and influence attitudes, behaviours and practices. They can shape social values in line with faith-based teachings.

Against these facts it would then be unfair to overlook the expressions with the notion that Governor Darius Ishaku led administration is escalation the killings in Taraba State, and being complacentt in ending the crisis and addressing the plights of the people affected. Adding that the administration of Darius Ishaku has not done enough to address the killings in the state, noting that human life in Taraba has become so cheap that it takes no second thought before life is wasted.

Firstly, I have been a young minister of the gospel for over a decade and half and I have learnt to always thrive towards being spiritually sound and socially balanced. Thus, looking at the facts and investment made by the Ishaku led administration in an effort to restore peace around the State, it will be a gross misconception to say little was done to solve the crises in Taraba, talk more of tagging it as Governor Ishaku is responsible for escalating the crises in Taraba. Aside being just “spiritual” it is also profitable to study history and facts: first, so that one can be approved by God and all, secondly, because the lack of knowledge will always make us perish.

The crises in Taraba State has been in existence as far back as our memories can recall. Thus, wisdom here is to seek knowledge through history, or better still enquire of the Holy Spirit of what God is saying on the matter because aside the efforts of Government which is contemporary, God has always delivered and saved his children by the hands of the prophets.

Secondly, A man of God speaks to edify, encourage and pray for his society and the nation. If everyone should be emotional and sentimental about social, political and communal happening, such shouldn’t be a reflection we see from our leaders of faith.

Unarguably, Governor Ishaku inherited a State with crises in different facets as there was war virtually everywhere. There were inter-tribal wars, religious conflicts, political crisis and those caused by sentiments. He had to initiate policies that would bring about peace to all the people. He reached out to the traditional leaders, visited stakeholders, community leaders, talked to political leaders and became aggressive in the preaching of peace.

Governor Ishaku has worked assiduously for the attainment of peace and security in Taraba State. In one of his memoirs he noted:
My worst experience as the Governor of Taraba State was within the first few months of my administration, where I will come to office every day and see the pictures of innocent people being killed, cut in to pieces, and I knew these people were innocently murdered…. The worst of it all was that there was little I could do about it because I didn’t have the police nor the army working with me… Those were my most tormenting times in governance …. And I prayed to God those moments will never again come to Taraba State; as nothing breaks the soul than how I have seen my innocent Taraba people killed in cold blood while they slept or attended to their daily living. There are so many questions begging for answers as we do not yet know whose interest these terrorists in Taraba State are promoting.”

Let us not be quick to forget, that in his effort to avoid such crises in 2017 in Takum Local Government Area and other Local Government just that year, a Joint Security Meeting resolved that by the second week of March, 2017, all the migrant herdsmen will move out of Takum to enable the farmers cultivate their farms.

However, the time elapsed and the Fulani people refused to move out as resolved at the meeting. This prompted another security meeting where the Ardos were urged to re-emphasize the message to their people. According to the Chairman of the Local Government Council, a report was received, May 30, 2017, that a person was killed by the Fulani herdsmen around Tatikumbu area. Policemen were immediately dispatched to the area and recovered three corpses.

Moved by the need for peaceful co-existing, aside the Governor’s numerous engagements personally on the matter, His Excellency, Governor Darius Ishaku made other relentless efforts and dispatched a peace delegation to all the areas involved, but the herdsmen were unrelenting in their campaign of attacking villages and incursion into farmlands.

Tiv Peace Committee on a thank you visit to Gov. Ishaku

July 24, 2017 Governor Ishaku implemented the anti-open grazing law as a means of tackling the famers-herders conflict in the State, after it was passed by the Taraba State House of Assembly. Having studied the situation over the years, he proved that the itinerant structure of herding is obsolete given the present state of development, population growth and advancement in technology; that ranching should be introduced so that cattle will be restricted to a particular place and close out chances of futures attacks. Governor Ishaku stood firm on that law against all odds; to many Tarabans and some Nigerians that had experienced the herder’s carnage, saw the bill as a mile stone in the history of Taraba State as it was believed to have changed the social lives of the people in the state for the best, because, the activities of this lethal herdsmen had defeated all securities checks and questions are been asked with little or no answer to how they came about the sophisticated weapons they move about with and destroying lives and properties.

For Governor Ishaku, he expressed: “The bill was necessitated by the unwanted occurrence over the years which the country has experienced in the hands of the killer herdsmen, turning the traditional practice of farmers in the state into night mares”.

Clearly, security happened to be an area which the Darius Administration focused on. The Government took several steps to ensure that the State was crisis-free and safe for residents and visitors. Ethno-religious conflicts were managed and reduced to the barest minimum.

The activities of armed bandits on the roads were curbed; roads leading to communities that were frequent scenes of armed robbery attacks, the dilapidated state of the roads that made it easier for the robbers to operate, these roads were reconstructed or rehabilitated thereby bringing respite to the people of these regions.
On internal community clashes that has also resulted to loss of lives and properties, others believed in resolving such conflicts by the use of force only, whereas Governor Ishaku believed the first step to resolving the clashes among neighbouring communities is by negotiations. He has gone beyond the level of brute force.

His assessment was that conflict resolution cannot be achieved in that way only, as this brutal method will not only drive violent conflict parties underground, the remaining parties will make those remnants regroup and fight back in a vicious manner, thus escalating the conflict situation in the area.

On the Tiv and Jukun conflicts, extraordinary sessions of the parties involved from both States and Government had deliberated on the communal clashes in the various regions, to enable effective dialogues, negotiations and of course a win-win resolution, while encouraging early warning mechanism, a meaningful and durable solution to the problem by supporting accountability mechanisms to ensure suspected perpetrators are brought to justice.

Governor Ishaku ensured that all people displaced as a result of the crisis were provided with adequate relief, including protection, shelter, food, healthcare; adequate compensation; community members involved enjoyed their human rights, including rights to land, water and pasture, which are at the heart of the crisis; herders do not graze on farmlands and any herder that allows his cattle to graze on and destroy farmlands is promptly arrested, investigated and prosecuted. Community leaders that encouraged members of their communities to perpetrate violence were thoroughly, independently and impartially investigated and prosecuted if found guilty.

The challenges of herdsmen attack on farmers and communal clashes is a national issue as it affects a good number of States in Nigeria. Hence, the recommendations will be that, the international community and civil society organizations should pay attention to ongoing herdsmen and farmers conflict, which has the potential to spread throughout West Africa. The current approach by the Nigerian government has not adequately addressed the situation.

Gov. Ishaku, together with Gov Ortom of Benue State, after a peace talk.

There is a possibility that the problem could lead to serious food crises and refugee problems in the region if quick action is not taken to provide adequate security for people in rural communities across Nigeria. The federal government should consider constituting a special security task force to prevent further clashes between herders and farmers, as well as set up mechanisms to penalize criminal actors who kill in communities, serving as a form of justice and a potential deterrent to others.

Security forces should seize illegal weapons and set up information centres to collect tips on the locations of the violent actors in affected communities to alleviate it. State governments should consider providing temporary grazing land to herdsmen to reduce tensions already generated.

The international community would do well to consider putting pressure on the federal government to collaborate with state governments on mitigating the crisis, specifically by working together on instituting peace-making interventions in communities experiencing herders-farmers clashes.

Therefore, the policy direction and focus of the Ishaku Administration on the restoration of peaceful co-existence among all the various ethnic groups across the State as well as ensuring the safe return and rehabilitation of the displaced persons cannot be faulted, and this explained the rationale behind the Governor’s popular slogan to the people of the State “Give me peace and I will give you development.”

I appeal, that as Ministers we must remember that we are encouraged by scriptures to respect authorities, and pray for them and searching through the scripture I have not seen any version that speaks of believers criticize the efforts of Government or make the general populace have a feel of nothing is done, which at the end will divert the faith and heart of those who have been praying sincerely for the peace of Jerusalem (Taraba State).

I therefore appeal again, that just like the story of Moses in the Bible and Quran (which have similar stories), that Taraba State must arise and backup the efforts of Government towards the fight against the insecurity/crises that has bedeviled our State for decades. This is a fight of faith and the weapon of our warfare must not be canal. This is a call to all, because as God is the Father of all, so is Governor Ishaku the father or Modern Taraba irrespective of what name anyone of us calls God. We can only win such battle in unity, not blames.
Only the truth sets free

Written by A. A. Mshelia.