IMPROVING INTER-ETHNIC RELATIONS: THE TIV-JUKUN EXPERIENCE
In view of the collective efforts to sustain a more cordial relationship between the Tiv and the Jukun ethic groups, Fr. James Bature ( a Tiv priest) and I (a Jukun Archbishop ) who have been friends for over forty years since our major seminary years organized an interactive session at the Federal University, Wukari, Taraba State, 16th January, 2019, intended to expand the scope of our usual celebration of friendship. We invited various stakeholders to reflect on the need for a more positive relationship between the Tiv and the Jukun and indeed, among the diverse ethnic groups in Nigeria.
During the interactive event, a book which we encouraged and supported Mr. Joseph Bem Targema, a Polytechnic lecturer of Mass Communication to write on the Tiv-Jukun Relationship: the Model of a Jukun Bishop and a Tiv Priest, was presented. The book relates the story of how the friendship between the two of us from two ethnic groups was developed and nourished and how it has grown in quality and impact and so can serve as an inspiration to the young people, namely, that relating to one another, building friendship and living together peacefully is not only a possibility but a reality.
The book not only relates the story of the friendship of a Tiv Priest and a Jukun Bishop, but also looks at those positive areas of cooperation and collaboration between the Tiv and Jukun which can enhance greater understanding.
The interactive event was deliberately held in the Federal University Wukari, where students come from all states of the federation representing diverse ethnicities and cultures, to encourage students in matters of inter- ethnic harmony.
I thank my Aboki – Fr. James Bature, who insisted that we should have a celebration to mark forty years of our friendship (abokiship) which was what gave me the inspiration to expand the scope and this culminated in the event of today when the Executive Governor of Benue (Dr. Samuel Ortom) and the Executive Governor of Taraba State (Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku) together with the Aku Uka of Wukari (His Royal Majesty Dr. Shekarau Angyu Masa-Ibi Kuvyon II) and the Tor Tiv (His Royal Majesty Prof. James Ayatse represented by His Royal Highness Arc. Orkaa Kaave, Ter Ukum), as well as Bishops, Priests, Tiv and Jukun youth and student leaders and many dignitaries assembled to discuss Tiv- Jukun relationship.
Fr. Bature and I sincerely thank the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University, Prof. Abubakar Musa Kundiri, who graciously accepted to host the event in the University and the University Deputy Vice Chancellor, Central Administration (Fr. Dr. Anthony Bature), who served as the chairman of the planning committee together with members of the local organizing committee, for efficiently putting things together.
It is hoped that this event like many other previous efforts by the governors, traditional and religious leaders, will trigger a greater positive understanding of what unites us rather than what divides us. To God be the glory.
We must also thank Bishop Charles Hammawa of Jalingo Diocese who enthusiastically embraced the event and actively participated in it. Barr. Damian Dodo, SAN, provided us the Bishops a comfortable accommodation in his beautiful Wukari residence. Prof. Tor Iorapuu (a Tiv Professor) whose message along with that of Barrister Dodo (a Jukun legal luminary and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria), who were contemporaries in school in Benue State, in their input underscored the significance of the event and certainly uplifted the spirit of the younger Jukun and Tiv generation. Equally, the remarks by the national leaders of the Tiv and Jukun student/youth were positive, edifying and promising. We acknowledge the support and contribution of Fr. Peter Tari, the parish priest of St. Mary’s Parish Wukari (who looked after us so well) and also Fr.Solomon Dankaro, Fr. Peter Kamai and others who helped to facilitate the event. Hamtul Press Ltd Jos did a good job of printing the book, typeset by Obama publishers, Makurdi.
The presence and encouraging messages of the Governors of Taraba and Benue States, the representative of the Tor Tiv, the Aku-Uka, many chiefs, senior government officials, youths and a huge crowd was certainly of very great symbolic significance and a strong statement about the need for peaceful and harmonious co-existence among our people. May God grant us greater mutual understanding, harmony and progress.