Religion, as an institution of the society is supposed to be a solitary affair practiced within the context of the church, the mosque and shrine. These bodies are suppose to offer guide to the practitioners but the choice of adhering to the tenets of a religion or which religion to follow solely depends on the person.
In Nigeria where we have an almost equal number of Christians and Muslims and a few traditionalists, religious freedom is guaranteed and our constitution recognizes Nigeria as a secular state.
But its secular status was tested over the years with the implosion of religious intolerance in the north and its attendant effect of interfaith conflicts which have claimed thousands of lives and destroyed properties worth billions of naira. In addition to that and quite unfortunately too, religion is often used by desperate politicians for their selfish ends. For instance, the Sharia Law matter at the inception of the Fourth Republic Democratic dispensation, almost consumed the north. However, because it was not conceived in good faith by those leaders at that time, it died a ‘natural death’, as then President Olusegun Obasanjo postulated.
Taraba, a North-Eastern State, has had its own fair share of religious crises and it is really a test ground of religious tolerance between the two major faiths- Christianity and Islam.
Meanwhile, the State has a unique socio-religious pattern compared to its peers within the region. With a total of 16 local council areas, the state is composed of over 30 ethnic groups, intricately made up of families whose members practice either Christianity, Islam and Traditional African Religion. And unlike certain communities in most northern states where the dwelling pattern and mode of dressing is determined by the religion one practices, in Taraba these factors are instead, determined by one’s ethnic background. That is why communities like Mayo Gwoi, Magami, Sabon Gari and others within Jalingo the capital, harbour ethnic groups such as the Mambillas, Jenjos, Wurkum, Kona, Jukuns and so on, all living together and practicing different faiths without friction. Interestingly, in some Nigerian cities, one could find communities based on religiosity and so much intolerance among different religious adherents. In Taraba the case is much different and to a lesser degree. In fact, there are cases of persons who crossed over from one religion to the other without any consequences. It is a normal daily occurrence and a way of life!
But sadly enough, Taraba is among those states in the north that has experienced religious upheavals between Christians and Muslims which has taken the state back on the wheel of progress. It happened in Jalingo- the state capital and almost all the administrations since 1999 experienced one crisis or the other, especially in southern Taraba.
Wukari- the ancestral land of the Jukuns was once affected with close relatives fighting and killing each other. The Jukuns are known to hold their culture in high esteem. But it looks like the influence of Islam and Christianity on the people might have encroached into their culture which religion is part of it. For instance, during one of the cultural rituals in Wukari town which involved a procession, members of one of the major religions could not stand the ceremony, they saw it as an affront to their own practice and that led to a religious crises where casualties were recorded, properties destroyed and a huge humanitarian crises resulted. That was a big blow to the kingdom of the Jukuns which resulted to interventions by the traditional council.
Speaking during one of the peace meetings in the aftermath of the crises, the paramount ruler of the Jukuns and Aku Uka of Wukari, Dr Shekarau Angyu Masa Ibi, Kuvyo 2, while regretting the conflict between his subjects, wondered why brothers would fight each other because of religion. He described it as strange because of the legacy he had set in the traditional office where his staff are made up of Christians, Muslims and traditionalists. In line with this, one will agree that conflict between kith and kin could be caused by alien forces who do not share the true values of the community. That can also be said of other crises situations across Nigeria.
Besides that, politics is said to have an influence on all those crises because in their desperation to gain access to power, politicians often use all sort of unorthodox methods including whipping up religious sentiments among a group against another to their advantage. And where the community is already religiously divided, such sentiments may appeal to such groups without knowing that it is all a means of attracting their attention.
Interestingly, the late Danbaba Suntai’s government was able to use institutional means to make sure interreligious harmony in the state. It funded the Christian Association of Nigeria(CAN) and the Muslim Council while the two bodies were able to use dialogue as a way of settling and preventing conflicts between the two religions. The two bodies have also ensured that they laiased with every new government, says Rev. Jerapiye, a former official of CAN in the state.
Jerapiye, who is the National Vice President of Christian Reformed Church in Nations(CRCN) as well as Chairman, Taraba state Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board, has this to say on interreligious tolerance and the crises of the past in the state. “The society is becoming pluralistic and there should be tolerance. People should learn to tolerate each other. Differences are meant to make us live together. The diversity is a plus to us. Any society that does not have competition of views and ideas, that society is bound to fail. Our problem is, we are not so exposed and so we must belong here and anybody that does not belong here is an enemy”.
He therefore advised saying, “God never made the mistake of putting people in the same family belonging to different faiths. People should be able to know why God made it that way, they should ask if it is for us to fight each other”.
Also contributing, the Grand Khadi of Sharia Court of Appeal, Taraba state,Justice Ahmad Mohammed Bose, stated that the peace in the state between the two faiths was due to the cordial working relationship between the Muslim Council and CAN. He however agreed that the religious crises in the past were caused by politicians who were desperate to win. According to him, Christians and Muslims in the state had never had any problem with each other. Bose therefore, advised politicians to be careful on how they run politics saying “the best way to win is to make sure there is peace”.
Taraba State Government has attributed over 80% of the cases of destruction of farmlands, rape, cattle rustling and communal clashes in some Communities of the State particularly that of Ardo Kola, Karim Lamido, Lau, and Kurmi Local Government Areas to the activities of invading herdsmen.
This was revealed to Journalists by Chief of Staff Government House, Hon. Rebo Usman on Monday night shortly after an emergency meeting with Taraba State Governor, Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku, Christian Association of Nigeria CAN, Muslim Council and Heads of Security Agencies in the State at the Exco Chambers Government House Jalingo.
He said the unprecedented influx of Herdsmen into the State in search of grazing land calls for prompt security response and apt vigilance on part of the Government, the Governed and undiluted information to the security apparatuses that are in the State.
The Chief of Staff stated that, it has been established that most of Herdsmen trooping into the State are on the invitation of some personalities within the State and stressed that Government has vowed to deal decisively with anyone found to be aiding the Herdsmen that have caused untold hardship to the people of the State.
Hon. Rebo Usman maintained that Taraba State Government has put in relentless efforts to achieve the level of peace being enjoyed in the State before the ugly resurgence of herdsmen invading Communities and taking lives, destroying property and depriving people from going about their normal daily activities as witnessed in these few days.
Accordingly, the Chief of Staff posited that Government is conscious of her responsibility of providing security and the protection lives of all citizens and those residents in the State and that workable avenues would be fashioned out with a view to providing conducive environment for farmers and grazers that are willing to collaborate with Government for peace to reign in the State.
Speaking on the agreement recently reached between Taraba and Benue States on the introduction of Ranching in the two States, Hon. Rebo Usman explained that the two Governors were categorical in their resolve to introduce Ranching.
He stressed that a process has been initiated in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, to go into grass farming aimed at reducing friction and constant clashes between farmers and grazers, and as well create a market where farmers and grazers will interact regularly in the areas of farming and selling of improved grasses.
He appealed to those who are responsible for the influx of the Herdsmen in the State to desist forthwith as Government is no longer ready to condone any activity that will impact negatively on her citizens and called on all Tarabans to rally round Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku by putting all hands on deck and collectively say no to activities that would lead to destruction of peace and security in the State.
Rebo Usman further tasks all Tarabans to have confidence on the security Agencies in the State by being law abiding, reporting suspicions and persons with questionable characters to relevant security Agencies as well as Government functionaries.
He also urged all to desist from over exaggerating happenings in their various Communities which has contributed greatly in creating unnecessary suspicion and tension that have led to wide spread of loss of lives and the destruction of property across the State.
Taraba State Governor, Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku, yesterday commissioned two office complexes within Jalingo metropolis and used the opportunity to commend Taraba State Chief Judge, Justice Josephine Yakubu Tuktur for her foresight.
Governor Darius Ishaku said he is confident that with beautiful courtrooms, it will enhance the performance of Judicial officers in the State.
He stated that his administration will accord the Judiciary adequate attention so that justice will be dispensed fairly to all manner of people devoid of sentiment and with total respect to the rule of law.
Governor Darius Ishaku praised her vision for naming one of the complexes after the former Chief Justice of Nigeria CJN, Justice Mahmoud Mohammed retired, who has distinguished himself in the law profession and a revered judge of international repute.
Earlier in her speech, the Taraba State Chief Judge, Justice Josephine Tuktur told the Governor that the court complexes constructed is to ensure that judicial officers in the State operate under conducive working environment so that they will be able to live up to their billings as judicial officers.
Justice Josephine Tuktur also said it has become absolutely important to honour one of its own who has written his name in gold in the judicial clime in the country and beyond.
The commissioned Court complexes were the Industrial Court and Magistrate court constructed near the Afolahan square while that of Mile six will house Area Court and Magistrate Court respectively.
Governor Darius Ishaku also inspected the new office complex of Taraba Aids Control Agency TACA and new temporary office complex for newly created NGADA Development Area at TSBS Complex.
The wife of Taraba State Governor who is also the Chief Executive Officer, CEO and Founder, Hope Afresh Foundation Taraba, Barr. Anna Darius Ishaku has applauded efforts of the Global City Teams Challenge (GCTC) Team in Jalingo for showcasing the State globally.
The wife of the Governor who gave the commendation at the Conference Hall of the Hope Afresh Foundation Taraba during the Team’s meeting stated that, they had not only brought victory to the Foundation, but to Taraba and Nigeria at large.
According to her,the Global Award earned by the Team can only be described as a miracle considering events that led to its achievement, stressing that she is proud of efforts put by the Team members in bringing Taraba to its present status.
Barr. Anna Ishaku explained that, the GCTC Smart City project is expected to bring about a feasible solution to the recurring problem of IDPs which has devastated the North East and Taraba in particular.
She further disclosed that, in a chat with NITDA officials in Abuja, her eyes were opened to great opportunities that abound if the project is sustained, stressing that the State Government will take over the project at this point as it is now beyond her office.
She assured the Team of her total commitment in ensuring that their hard work yields desired results.
Speaking earlier, the Chairperson GCTC Jalingo, Mrs. Grace Amaefula stated that through efforts of the Governor’s wife and the SSG’s office, the Taraba State Government Website which had been down was restored by the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA who later invited the Foundation for a workshop on the GCTC project.
According to her, that was the starting point of the project whereby the ICT unit of the Foundation attended the workshop in February 2016 alongside 5 other pilot States, one from each geopolitical Zone including Lagos and Abuja.
She further pointed out that, following the outcome of the workshop, Her Excellency suggested that Taraba focus its project on the Internally Displaced as that was the prevalent problem in the North East, adding that since then, the constant supervision, inputs and financial support of the Governor’s wife has been the reason for the success of the Team so far.
She also presented the achievements made by the Team to include; ascertaining the total number of IDPs, Identification of key IDPs problems, Global recognition and Leadership Award of 10000 Dollars by GCTC, GIS mapping of Jalingo, Talking Book for rural dwellers among many others.
In their separate remarks, two of the Team members, a retired Permanent Secretary with the Ministry of Science and Technology, Mr. Amos Wanmi, and a lecturer with Taraba State University, Dr. Yahaya Salihu Emeje took turns to appreciate the Governor’s wife for her support to the group and passion towards salvaging the less privileged.
According to them, Her Excellency is a woman who makes the most out of every opportunity despite lean resources, to ‘make things happen’, stressing that in development, willpower is the key, therefore she should sustain the willpower in her and not allow discouragement to set in due to lack of resources as it will surely come.
Climax of the event was the presentation of Commendation Letters to Team members by the Governor’s wife.
Taraba State Governor, Darius Dickson Ishaku says the State is not completely free from the Boko Haram insurgency going by the numbers of arrest made in some parts of the State recently.
Governor Darius Ishaku made the revelation in Government House, on Monday when he received a team of Senators led by Senator Kabiru Ibrahim Gaya representing Kano South in the National Assembly, who were in the State on a fact finding mission in respect of the influx of insurgents into some parts of the State.
The Governor lamented that, with the series of arrest of some insurgents in the State it portents danger, which is an indication that the State is not completely safe from the Boko Haram insurgency.
“Kabiru Sokoto was arrested here in Mutum Biyu, several arrest were quietly made in Garba Chede where they were trying to form a formidable sect, also in Tella, Gassol axis, as I speak to you, last week I had to take a phone and call the CP because they were bringing some people in Buses to come and settled in Taraba State.
“I agreed with Senator Bwacha when he was speaking on the floor of the House and I have said it repeatedly here in this room to those who come to visit us, I said the Fulani that we know are not Fulanis that kill people, they put their stick across their neck and if there is anything the Fulani loves is the radio.
“But the new Fulanis that we see as herdsmen don’t carry stick, but AK 47, and the new herdsmen that we are seeing are herdsmen that come to kill everybody on their road. The Fulanis that are grazing need the people and so they don’t kill them, and so is good that the citizens and Government are beginning to sieve the wheat from the chaff,” he emphasised.
He maintained that, the State Government is working relentlessly in reducing the sufferings of the Internally Displaced Persons who are at the moment taking refuge in some camps in the State.
Accordingly, the Governor stated that various camps have been set up to take care of the IDPs and commended the contributions of all the security agencies for working relentlessly towards ensuring that peace is sustained throughout the State.
Darius Ishaku used the forum and appreciated Tarabans for their cooperation by embracing peace and harmonious coexistence and promised to reciprocate the good gesture by ensuring that peace is further sustained and fortified in all the nooks and crannies of the State.
Speaking as the team leader, Senator Kabiru Ibrahim Gaya said, their visit to the State was to ascertain the authenticity of the infiltration of the displaced persons.
Senator Kabiru Gaya commended Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku towards the maintenance of peace and for creating conducive atmosphere for the people to coexist peacefully.
“The essence of our visit here is on the motion raised by the Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Bwacha on the issue of influx of groups that are creating problems here in Taraba State and we are here to find out what is really happening. I remembered when the Military disbanded the insurgents from the Sambisa Forest, some of them moved across, I am also affected, I am a Senator from Kano South and in fact some of the insurgents move down to Borgon Rimi and therefore if the come to Taraba is not something that we could say it does not exist because they are closer to Taraba than to far away Kano State.
“Therefore, the Senate after the motion raised indicates that in some few Local Governments, it is becoming difficult and some people have started leaving those and living in camps with the IDPs.
“So, the purpose of this visit is to ascertain the problems and also to suggest solutions to the National Assembly for viable actions to be taken.
“But I am happy to say that even though we could not come earlier, the Arc. Governor did not wait for us, but went into action and we are happy to say that there is peace here in the State,” he stated.
Senator Kabiru Gaya informed the Governor that the committee will meet with stakeholders to also hear from them with a view to reporting back to the National Assembly on their findings.