Former minister of defence, General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma (retd), is a name people love to associate with. He is one revered figure that is respected for his valour and love for our country’s unity, peace and development. His footprints in military and business are indelible. The first and last time I met him was in early December 2000 at a media function in Asokoro, Abuja. As one of the nationalists this country has produced, Danjuma’s sterling qualities have attracted commendations and condemnations from friends and foes alike. Recently, a Middle Belt group called on Danjuma to call his kinsmen to order to stave off further escalation of the Jukun/Tiv clash that has claimed many lives and caused the destruction of properties in the border communities of Taraba and Benue state.
According to some commentators, Danjuma should come clean in the matter by calling on his kinsmen to sheathe their swords against Tiv communities. They contend that since Danjuma came out to call out Nigerians for self-defence in the heat of massive killings by bandits, now is the time for the General to call Jukuns to order to halt further attacks on Tiv farmers. I find it inscrutable why a group or public commentator should take delight in reducing the nationalistic status of Danjuma to that of an ethnic or tribal champion. For record purposes, Danjuma did not call on the Jukuns for self-defence; he called on all Nigerians to rise up and defend themselves as the bandits were colluding with bad elements within the military.
One is constrained to ask: What do Danjuma’s detractors stand to achieve by dragging him into the Tiv/Jukun clash? What parameters were deployed in arriving at the conclusion that the Jukun ethnic group was the aggressor? Is it fair to allege that the son of an ethnic group is guilty of sponsoring aggression in ethnic supremacy clashes? Who are the sponsors of this mischief that are now baying at Danjuma whose love for Nigeria is never in doubt?
There is no doubt that since Danjuma’s earlier call for self-defence, his critics have never allowed any opportunity to pass by without taking advantage of it to portray him in bad light. It is in this light that I see the current campaign to link him to the recent Tiv/Jukun clash. Those conversant with the track records of the former Chief of Army Staff will tell you that Danjuma’s fatherly figure cannot be boxed into a single ethnic template; he’s far beyond that. His vision is beyond some ethnic supremacy wars which the MBCG are championing.
There’s every reason for Danjuma to remain a nationalist than support ethnic separatism. His vast business empire and his participation in the unfortunate Nigerian Civil War that has kept the country united are some of the key factors that lend credence to his support for a peaceful and united country. To date, he is the only non-Muslim from the North with a traditional title from the Zazzau Emirate. With his enormous connections and love for the unity of Nigeria, any effort to link Danjuma with ethnic warfare can only be the fertile imagination of some mischief-makers who may be working to serve the interest of some detractors too timid to own up to their fight.
No doubt, the earlier call by Danjuma for self-defence was misinterpreted as calling for armed rebellion against security agencies. To me, his call was a wake-up alarm on the federal government to wade into the incessant mass murders that were then unleashed on Nigerian communities by bandits. He did that not because he wanted to cause grave worries for the security architecture, but to ensure government rises to its responsibility of protecting lives and properties. Little wonder, after the federal government waded into the matter, Nigerians now saw more involvement by the security agencies that subsequently reduced attacks on communities. To imply that the former minister’s call for self-defence gave impetus to the recent Tiv/Jukun clash is simply a mischief that was aimed at dragging the General’s name into an ethnic feud.
Yours sincerely is aware of efforts deployed by the former army chief and defence minister to resolve the age-long Tiv/Jukun conflict. I Knowing his antecedents, I believe that Danjuma is greatly pained at the current clashes and I am at a loss why some groups and persons should be calling on Danjuma to call the Jukun ethnic group to order. I am sure that, if he eventually does, his detractors will not desist from further accusing him of being behind the clashes. Early this week, leaders of the warring border communities in the two states met, with deputy governors in attendance, and resolved to embrace peace. Without equivocation, leaders from the two sides blamed the recent clash on criminal elements who are all out to disturb the peace of the people.
What many should be asking is: What benefit does Danjuma stand to gain from any ethnic clash involving Jukun and Tiv ethnic groups? Having fought for the peace and substance of the country’s unity, what benefits can accrue to him as a nationalist whose business umpire employs hundreds of thousands of Nigerians, among others? There is no doubt that those behind the plot to link the Tiv/Jukun clash are simply brainless , are impish and determined to drag the name of a well-regarded retired General in the mud to achieve whatever motive they have set out to achieve.
It is to Danjuma’s credit that his call for self-defence in the heat of incessant attacks against Nigerian communities led to a swift reaction of the military, thereby reducing the rate of occurrences after the troops reviewed their operational strategies. To expect the military simply to decimate communities on account of rumours devoid of careful investigation resides in the past. We should never be involved in accusing illustrious sons and daughters of ethnic groups of supporting clashes without concrete proofs. When groups and individuals engage in raising false alarms against personalities with the mere intent of portraying them as trouble makers, we must question their motives. Danjuma does not need to come clean on the Tiv/Jukun clash as he is not involved in any way. Those who are calling on the retired General to call his kinsmen to order are acting a script personally known to them.
Those who are acquainted with the man are quick to point out that he is a serious character. His footprints in the nation’s history marks him out as a patriot who means well for the country. No amount of falsehood and mischief, as being waged by ill-informed minds, can taint his reputation and his role in uniting the people of Nigeria. As an elder statesman, there is nothing Danjuma deserves more than peaceful co-existence among Nigeria’s ethnic groups in order to ensure peace and development.
Achieving peace in the Middle Belt is made more difficult by groups and persons who are out to play the script of forces opposed to entrenching peace in the area. Achieving peace is only attainable when we shut the doors against mischievous groups and persons desirous of promoting bickering for their personal interest.
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