THE IMPACT OF THE NEW CHIEFDOMS ON THE HISTORY AND FUTURE OF TARABA STATE: A Case of Takum and Ussa
By Rikwense Muri
I wish to as a matter of fact to first of all commend the executive governor of Taraba State, Arc Dairus Dickson Ishaku for his proactive measures to ensure that there is sustainable peace in Taraba State. He has created special offices and programmes to respond to the current issues bedevilling our dear state. Special Advisers were appointed, special committees inaugurated, several peace meetings and reconciliation efforts were carried by our governor. These show clearly that DDI is a leader for such a time like this in our history as a state. Let’s take our time to analyze one of the governor’s efforts for sustainable peace in the land through a policy framework to structure and restructure the Traditional Institutions in the state.
Recently the news of the Executive Bill by the governor to the State House of Assembly to establish new chiefdoms across the state got to the public. This news has created mixed reactions in the land due to the sensitivity of such bill to a people whose only institution of unity is their traditional structures. It’s a known fact that all over the Federal Republic of Nigeria, traditional system of governance provides more stable leadership to the people due to their closeness to the people. The British colonial masters saw its effectiveness and adopted this institution under the Dual Mandate Policy of Lord Lugard to govern the country aka Indirect Rule. This worked so well indeed for the people of Nigeria especially here in Northern Nigeria upto the year of Independence in 1960 and following.
Governor Dairus adoption of this institution to help strengthen governance at the grassroots is therefore not new and ought to be commended by all especially now that our state is troubled by crisis between farmers and militia herdsmen.
As citizens, we have the responsibility to own the government in a democratic setting hence the need to respond appropriately when sensitive issues are on the table for discussion. With this sense of dutiful responsibility, I want to analyze the impact of this bill of establishing new chiefdoms on the history and future of our dear state. More so because Takum and Ussa LGAs have the traditional stool of the Paramount Ruler at the foundation of the intractable conflicts in Southern Taraba area. How will this new bill impact the people of these LGAs? These will be my focus in this brief analysis and discussion.
Impact of the Bill on the State
When we speak in the context of Taraba state in general, this bill is a sign of hope for many communities who long for recognition of their traditional stools and their inclusion in the state Council of Chiefs. As I’ve earlier stated above, the traditional institution is a very unique platform that bonds every community as it serves as the custodian of the varied culture and traditions of the people. If preserved and kept out of partisan politics, this institution will prove to be a blessing to all ethnic groups in Taraba State. The Bill should therefore aim for inclusiveness.
Impacts of the Bill on Takum and Ussa
Having affirmed the positive impact of this bill to the entire state, the case of Takum, Yangtu and Ussa LGAs looks negative based on the following factors:
1. The 1963 vs 1975 gazetted laws and 22 years vacuum of Takum Paramount Traditional Stool
2. The Traditional Structure of Takum and Ussa Chiefdoms
3. The fragile peace in the land and the solution
4. Justice crying on the streets of Takum
5. Our collective Quest for peaceful coexistence.
1963 vs 1975 Gazette and the 22 years vacuum
While other communities may rejoice over the new bill, the fact that the issue of the 1963 vs 1975 Gazette for the traditional stool of Takum is yet to be resolved, Takum/Ussa sees this new bill as a time bomb and an instrument of enmity that may bring about another conflict. Therefore instead of being seen as a blessing, it may be regarded as another curse that may take us back to those barbaric years of violent conflicts in the land.
The 1963 gazette was coded into law by examining the traditional and cultural practices leading to the selection of the Paramount Ruler and thus the Stool was institutionalized. The gazette restricted the stool to the two ruling families of the Likam and Aketen. This was the tradition of Takum and the gazette respected that tradition. Also it was enacted in accordance to the Federal constitution of the country under the democratic government of Alh. Tafawa Balewa. Takum was seen as a respected community with rich culture and traditional values in the Middle
Belt of Nigeria. Sultan Ahmadu Bello himself visited Takum at the installation of Prince Ali Ibrahim Kuffang ll as the Ukwe Takum in 1963. On the Sultan visit, he recognized the gazette as the reflection of the history, culture and tradition of Takum Chiefdom.
However in 1975 during the military dictatorship era under Benue Plateau State government of Joseph Gomwalk, a second gazette was made on the same Takum Paramount traditional stool without consulting with the people of Takum. The new gazette added a Chamba family to the two historical Kuteb Royal families. This single act became the sole cause of crisis in Takum. Of which many committees and commissions of inquiries have recommended a return to the 1963 law as the only option for peace. Instead of implementing these reports, the government decided to abandone the issue entirely. Today Takum is 22 years without a King. Refusal to resolve this, makes every efforts of creating new chiefdoms in the area as an insult to the Paramount traditional stool which from every indication may be resisted due to the historical importance of Ukwe to Takum people. Hence any responsible government that prioritize peace will definitely tread with caution on the matter until this outstanding issue is administratively, not legislatively, addressed.
Traditional Structure of Takum/Ussa Chiefdoms
Takum Paramount traditional chiefdom spreads across the today’s Ussa LGA, Takum LGA and Yangtu Special Development Area. The historical structures of the kingdom recognized twelve bi Kwe (Kuteb local chiefs); in addition of Chamba local chief, Hausa local chief, Yukuben local chief. Ukwe, the King of Takum was the Paramount Ruler who headed the Traditional Council and ensured peace and unity in Takum.
Today, any traditional chiefdom in Takum and Ussa that goes against this historical structure will be an exercise that may serve the interest of divisive elements to jeopardize the current peace building and development efforts in Takum, Yangtu and Ussa. Hence the need to tread with caution.
The fragile peace in the land and the solution
If the government of Taraba as currently constituted is sincere in her quest for peaceful coexistence in Takum she must display high level of equity and justice in the land. I am not against the establishment of chiefdoms in Bete, Chanchanji, Kashimbila and Yukuben; however merging 12 bi Kwe Kuteb into 2 chiefdoms can be seen as a calculated attempt to divide the Kuteb or reduce the status of other bi Kwe. If the merging succeeds, it will be considered an abomination in Kuteb land. The fragile peace in Takum calls for 4 chiefdoms in Yangtu for Jenuwa, Bika, Kwambai and Acha, 8 chiefdoms for Takum comprising of Likam, Aketen, Hausawa, Koffar Ahmadu, Chanchanji, Kashimbila, Bete and Yukuben, and 5 chiefdoms for Ussa comprising of Fikyu, Kpambo, Lissam, Rufu, and Lumbu.
Since the state government is establishing these chiefdoms as an effort towards lasting peace, it’s very important to envisage the bigger picture for crisis prone areas of the state and nip in the bud the potential consequences of chieftaincy squabbles and solve it once and for all with this bill.
Justice crying on the streets of Takum
In Takum today all that is needed for peace to reign is to embrace justice and equity for all. Injustice especially in our handling of Sacred Traditional Values of the people is the reason for the intractability of our conflict in Takum. Sincerity of motives, open dialogue and love among the people will motivate bonding and resolve this matter easily.
No one can successfully legislate injustice into the life wire and fabrics of the society. I pray we all listen to the cry of injustice on the streets and corners of Takum. Without justice getting some comfort, all our efforts for lasting peace in Takum will fail.
Our collective Quest for peaceful coexistence
Our governor is right in his strong stand that without peace he cannot guarantee any development in the state. This righteous stand of DDI shows humanity quest for peace in order to attain the highest fulfillment in life as we interact together as human. The excuse by government not give justice to the plights of Takum because of its security implications is not justifiable because righteousness and peace do kiss each other in the presence of justice. This bill provides DDI the right timing to resolve the lingering Takum conflict once and for all by installing Ukwe Takum and give all the indigenous tribal communities their chiefdom to uphold unity, peace and cultural development of their people.
The social contract theory of the origin of States sees the state as an institution of justice, fairness and prosperity of the people. The state and citizens who are her owners have a contract, the citizens surrender his human right to the state in exchange of civic Rights. The state therefore is obliged to protect the interest of the citizens. Taraba state must continue to see herself as an institution in the light of justice, fairness and prosperity of her citizens to be assured of the complete loyalty and patriotism of her citizenry. The current bill of restructuring the traditional institutions of the state should be withdrawn and amended to reflect the collective wishes of the citizens especially those of Takum, Ussa and Yangtu government areas. This is imperative and the surest way for us to bond and attain our dream for a prosperous future for our people.
God bless Taraba State of Nigeria.