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Home Opinion Editorial How to end Fulani-Tiv skirmishes

How to end Fulani-Tiv skirmishes

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Oral tradition - accepted by both Tiv and Fulani tribesmen - says that the two tribes are cousins. They are consequently forbidden by tradition from engaging in acts of hostility against each other. However, in recent times, this gentleman’s agreement has been observed only in the breach. Frequent clashes between itinerant Fulani herdsmen and sedentary Tiv farmers have shattered the myth of common ancestry and communal harmony.
When he was made governor of Benue state in 2007, Gabriel Suswam was so concerned about these clashes, some of them very bloody, that he initiated a Tiv/Fulani forum to tackle the ugly development. The Tor Tiv, Alfred Akawe Torkula, and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, are joint leaders of the forum. The Sultan has, however, delegated his authority to the Emir of Gombe, Alhaji Usman Shehu Abubakar, who presides over these meetings. Even then, the Sultan has taken the initiative so seriously that two years ago, he went down to Makurdi, the Benue state capital, accompanied by Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar. 
Unfortunately, these efforts have not yielded any fruitful results. Now, there are daily reports of more deadly clashes between the Tiv and the Fulani from Nasarawa to Benue and Taraba states. This is a sad commentary on the state of security in the country and particularly in the North. When both the modern machinery of government and the traditional institutions of authority fail to restore order in an African society, only one option is left: anarchy.
The Suswam initiative, no matter its good intentions, failed because members of the forum after collecting fat allowances for their meetings turned it into a ‘story tellers’ club where members met in air conditioned hotel rooms in Abuja and humoured themselves with stale, time -worn stories of the traditional ties between the Tiv and the Fulani! The result of their story telling exploits is the disaster we have on our hands today.
We believe that the situation deserves a more serious and responsible approach than what the Suswam initiative has given us. The nomadic Fulani move around with their cattle in search of grazing land. The governments, both federal and state, MUST provide this land for them. They are citizens of this country who are subjected to taxation on their cattle wherever they graze. More ever, they supply a very essential part of our nutritional needs.
However, this should not be done at the expense of sedentary farmers who also need the land to till for their daily needs and the economic growth of the country. It is the responsibility of the government to work out this delicate balance in the name of equity, justice and communal harmony. So far, we regret to say our governments – both federal and state - have failed. Much of the blame goes to northern state governors who have failed to check the damaging impact of desert encroachment in the region. The loss of arable land in the North-east and North-west has forced out an increasing number of herdsmen from these regions to the North-central states where clashes have become rampant, not only with the Tivs but also other sedentary farmers. This situation, if not checked, will develop into a more complex security threat than the Boko Haram.
Sadly, the federal government is treating the Tiv-Fulani clashes with characteristic ennui. We understand ‘security experts’ in the government have been telling President Goodluck Jonathan that the combatants are bush primitive men who can easily be overwhelmed with the might of the federal security apparatus. This is the same attitude that led us into the intractable Boko Haram tunnel.
In our considered opinion, the government needs to take a more comprehensive view of the Fulani - Tiv clashes than the myopic advice of these ‘experts.’ It is the only way to find an enduring solution to it.

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