Tension is now building up in Taraba State over the renaming of some communities by the administration of Governor Darius Ishaku.
Specifically, the recent change in the name of a settlement established by the Tiv people in Gassol Local Government Area of the state from Dan- Anacha to Kwararafa, the ancestral name of the Jukuns, on the orders of Governor Ishaku, has continued to cause tongues to wag.
Piqued by the forceful change in the name of their community, which they founded in 1983 and named after a popular yam specie, Dan-Anacha, to underscore their agrarian nature, a group of 27 persons under the auspices of the Tiv Community in Dan-Anacha led by one Hon. Jacob Gbagede, petitioned the governor and the speaker of the state House of Assembly.
The petitioners wondered why Governor Ishaku took such an action without consultation at a critical time he was preaching peace and striving to provide honest and responsible leadership to enable him to rescue the state.
They noted that renaming the communities was a development capable of engendering tension and even outright crisis. The petitioners first wrote a letter to Governor Ishaku, asking him to explain the reason behind the sudden change of name of their town as was announced by the Caretaker Chairman of the council, Alhaji Yahuza Yaya’u, during a security meeting in Mutum-Biyu, the local council headquarters.
A letter to that effect signed by the Caretaker Chairman of Gassol, Alhaji Yaya’u, and addressed to the Ter Tiv Gassol, Zaki Simon Erentsa, dated July 25, reads in part, “I am directed to inform you that the Taraba State Government has changed the name of Dan-Anacha to Kwararafa. You are, therefore, requested to change the name to Kwararafa on your sign post, receipt and other transactions with minimal delay.”
The letter caused tension among the natives of the town, who raised questions, asking, “Why the sudden change in name? Why did the past governors of the state not contemplate changing the name?”
The petitioners vehemently argued that the name of the community, “Dan- Anacha,” could not be changed on the basis of “selfish tribal considerations” as it was done in the past, when Ayu was changed to Tsokundi, Genyi to Rafin Kada, Sanganyi to Chonku, Ikperen to Kemberi and more recently Anyam Kwevel renamed Bichi under the Ishaku administration.
While admitting that the new name, Kwararafa, is an ancestral name of the Jukuns, the petitioners however, advised the governor not to stoop so low as to immortalising his ancestors by changing the name of Dan-Anacha community.
But apparently aware of the implication of writing a petition when they have access to the governor, the leadership of the Tivs in the state condemned their kinsmen’s action, describing it as misleading and capable of pitching the Tivs in the state against the governor.
President General of the Tiv Cultural and Social Association, Mr. Goodman Saaondo Dahida, while addressing a press conference in Jalingo, recently, said the petitioners did not consult the leadership of the Tivs in the state before writing the petition. Dahida insisted that the group did not write the petition for and on behalf of the entire Tiv people of Taraba State.
He said, “The only authentic voice of the Tiv people of Taraba is Tiv Cultural and Social Association and no other group has the mandate to speak for the Tiv p eople in the state. The number of Tivs as an ethnic group in the state is not 27 and the action of the group should not be misconstrued to mean that the entire Tiv in the state are behind their action.
“Over the years, we have employed dialogue and other diplomatic channels in resolving issues and we don’t believe in petitions and being confrontational as the best ways of resolving issues.
“We view the petition as purely the handiwork of some desperate politicians, who want to drag us into the politics of hatred, blackmail and mischief ahead of the 2019 elections.”
While blaming top members of the opposition All Progressives Congress in the state, for cashing in on the purported change of name to cause disaffection, Dahida appealed for calm, saying that the Tiv leadership in the state was doing everything possible to amicably resolve the issue.
Piqued by the forceful change in the name of their community, which they founded in 1983 and named after a popular yam specie, Dan- Anacha, a group of 27 persons under the auspices of the Tiv Community in Dan-Anacha petitioned the governor and the speaker of the state House of Assembly
Asked whether his association was comfortable with the name change, Dahida said that the Tiv people did not agree with the development. He, however, condemned the petition, saying it would not in way solve the problem.
“Our immediate concern at the moment is the security and welfare of our people in the villages and we are happy for the peace the governor has restored in the state. In the coming days, we shall be meeting with the governor to see how best to resolve the issue and possibly appeal to the governor to rehabilitate the displaced people,” he said.
The action of the Tiv leadership in the state is seen by many analysts and political watchers in the state as the best way out of the tensed situation which is capable of breaching the relative peace the state is enjoying at the moment.
Ishaku himself was pleased with their action when they paid him a solidarity visit at the Government House, Jalingo. The governor, who did not delve deep into the issue during the visit, however, said, “Those who go to war usually end war at a round table. My doors are wide open for dialogue at any time. I will do everything possible as governor to promote peace.”
Exonerating his principal of alleged persecution and ethnic cleansing against the Tivs as represented by the petitioners, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Public Affairs, Emmanuel Bello, described the allegations as mere fabrication, which could not withstand any scrutiny.
“Governor Ishaku actually feels an affinity with the Tiv people, both as an in-law and someone who has championed the cause of these wonderful people in Taraba State and elsewhere. Governor Ishaku’s wife is Tiv. Beyond that, his colleague, the governor of Benue State is also an ally.
“No other government gave more political leverage to the Tiv people than Governor Ishaku’s government. The allegation is just the work of a few funny politicians in the opposition. They want to stoke ethnic flames as usual.
“The Tiv renamed this place Dan Anacha – after a certain specie of yam that became popular in those parts. But Kwararafa holds a lot of significance to the inhabitants, as the spiritual headquarters of the Jukun. Anyone can easily understand their consternation at the sudden change of name,”Bello said.
The governor’s aide said Ishaku had been holding meetings with major stakeholders over the matter, disclosing that when the matter started, the state’s chief executive quickly called his counterpart in Benue and they were now already putting heads together to resolve the issue.
But while all these were playing out, the governor, it was alleged, sponsored advertorials in more than five national dailies, justifying the change in the name of Dan-Anacha community in particular, which according to the advertorial, is the headquarters of the Kwararafa empire.
The advertorial maintained that it was the collective decision of Kwararafa sons and daughters in Nigeria and in the Diaspora to execute the project and the governor simply had to comply to restore the dignity and divinity of the ancient kingdom.
As the public continues to analyse the propriety of the name-change against the backdrop of politics and ethnic supremacy in the state, especially as the matter involves the famous Kwararafa empire of the Jukuns, a public affairs analyst, Yusuf Tanko, told our correspondent that only the truth and nothing but the truth could bring about an amicable resolution of the issue.
Tanko said, “Jukun and Tiv stakeholders need to sit down and talk before an enemy come in between them. Who first arrived the area and found the place? If the place was Kwararafa before, why is it that it took over 30 years for Dan-Anacha to grow this far, before someone is changing it back to Kwararafa today? And can’t the two towns or villages co-exist without forcibly diminishing another’s identity? Jimeta and Yola are co-existing like that in Adamawa. Or is it still the Tiv/Jukun rivalry that is playing out? These are the questions that need answers.
“I learnt there’s a village close to Dan-Anacha called ‘Shishi Kwararafa,’ though distinct from each other, if its influence override Dan-Anacha, going by the history of the area, so be it. But if not, we have Yola and Jimeta, Ardo Kola and Jalingo and many other towns existing like that without issues. So, as I said, only the truth can solve the problem,” he said.