Benue State on focus: Shark swallows shrimp, the majority – minority syndrome, the Jukun case study
The Jukuns are ardent culturally oriented people
By HRH Dr. Sabo Azyidoku Emmanuel
The minority tribes in Nigeria do not need a papoose, but, that ultimate ease, lease on life leastways. These orchestrated occasional ceremonies of assault and battery by the majority tribes against the minority tribes are barbaric and condemnable. Away in George Orwell’s Animal FARM, is a portrait, dramatizing the cannibalistic tendencies and character-overhaul of the human society. Since we are all entitled to existence, we must live and let live.
It is no longer any news, considering the excruciating agonies, the minority tribes are passing through in the hands of the majority tribes in Nigeria. This desperate situation, elucidates, the plight of minority in the midst of majority in this godless generation. In all the worshipping centers of the various faiths, the Omnipotent, the Omnipresent and the Omniscient God’s name is being evoked, sarcastically. The exiguous attention can be best described as abysmal.
The truth is that, in every majority, there is always a minority. This reminds us of the theatrical struggle-push of minority groups in Nigeria, since 1940’s. All the Constitutional Reforms captured some basic elements of the minority tribes or people of the deprived background. As contentious as it was, in the wake of Nigerian independence backed up by some political structures, some prominent Nigerian politicians particularly from the Northern region cried out. Worthy of mention were some astute politicians such as Malam Aminu Kano, who deprecated and stood firmly for the liberation of the deprived Talakawa’ and the poor. The likes of Sunday Awoniyi, Michael Audu Buba, Hajiya Gambo Sawaba, Patrick Dokotri, Joseph Sawua Tarka, Jacob Obande, Tanko Jolly Yusuf, Solomon D. Lar, Abutu Obekpa, etc, all fought for the minority tribes in the past. But when states were created to address this life of depravity, life became a paradox of itself. The minorities of yesteryear have become majorities of today, perpetuating and enlishing assault and battery on the minorities in their domains with ignominy. Contributing on this bizarre scenario one can find in, THE ANATOMY OF VIOLENCE…. “Historical experience showed that when new majorities emerge, they drive the new minorities crazy and fresh agitations for elbowroom on both sides enflame passion and give rise to suspicion”. p21 (N. Aboki 2021).
At the moment, the minority tribes, where ever they are, are being marginalized and reduced to nothingness. Their ordeals tell much of the intermittent denials and frustrations they experience in their various areas of abode, from the so called majority tribes who parade and propagate the doctrine of numerical standard or population. These minority tribes are imbued with pains, agonies and hopelessness-hopelessly at the mercy of the demagogues or juggernauts-movers of politics. These denials and frustrations manifest in different theatrical postures. Religion, tribal, socio-politico-economic barriers take the centre stage in administration and governance. The most dominant that frequently send signals are the devil incarnates of religious bigotry, tribalism and the tantalizing politics of dominance through population. These debacles are institutionalized. The actors delimit appointments and elective offices in the polity.
The case of Abinsi is a glaring example where the Executive Governor of Benue State, His Excellency Dr. Samuel Ortom has confiscated both the traditional and the political climate of leadership. The Governor administers right from the Benue Peoples House through some conduit personae. He murdered democracy, by forcefully, planted a Councilor from Tse Alashi-Kwenev hamlet of Agasha Ward in Abinsi Council Ward, amidst protest from Abinsi Council Ward. This act has condemned him as a non believer in the Tiv philosophy of egalitarianism.
In, THE CONCEPT, PRACTICE, AND COLONIAL INFLUENCE ON KINGSHIP SYSTEM AMONG THE TIV PEOPLE OF CENTRAL NIGERIA-HRH DR. Alfred Akawe Torkula CFR, J.P. p. 40-41, the author opines that the Tiv people believe in, “Egalitarianism among the Tiv people is one concept, which ensures equity, Justice and fair play ….” insiting that, “There hardly arose a case of imposition or one man becoming too powerful to the extent of a dictator.” Furthermore, HRH Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkula, in, THE COSMOLOGY IN TIV WORLD VIEW page 131, stressing on the role of agnosticism in the selection process of a King in Jukun culture opined that “In the cause of this study, it was discovered that among the Jukuns, the agnates constitute the Kingmakers in the society to select both the political and religious leadership.” But Torkula remained adamant and interfered in all the Chieftaincy issues during his reign as the Tor Tiv.
Equally, the true Messiah of the Tiv, Ortom who deprecates Fulanilization, but has seen nothing wrong in the massacre of the Jukun people, their culture their tradition and their right to exercise political powers and governance, just because, being a minority is their fault, their crime, their sin. His actions have portrayed him to be a tribalist, a ‘Kur-Utya,’ or, a warlord, or, a general, leading his people in the warfare; consciously and conspicuously combat ready to crush any one on the way. The dramatist says “Life is but a walking shadow.” Mind you, no Empire no matter how great ever lived for ever. And for every beginning surely there is an end. So, to tom-tom about is vanity. This is doctrinal and a divine injunction. So take note.
At least, Governor Ortom should learn from the erratic errors of the Tor Tiv iv, who demeaned or belittled his exalted position of Tor Tivship, by insisting that Atojir of the Iharev extraction, his Utyondu blood link be appointed the “Orne” Kindred headship in Abinsi instead of Orshior of Nongov extraction who genuinely won at the contest, which generated a heated debate and protest. The rest is history today.
Governor Ortom has forgotten or perhaps, he is not aware of the fact that the Jukun over time had lived together and co-existed peacefully with the Tiv people, the Tiv people paying tributes yearly or contributing grains and other farm produce for the Jukun ritual ceremonies in “Akuzu”, and “Afu-Keh”, where the lake is, an Uvir annex. The Iharev and Nongov who could trace their ancestral maternal parents to Jukun roots would frequent the “Abyi” deity for sacrifices to propitiate the gods. Governor Ortom’s father, Ortom Adorogo used to lodge in Azyjidoku’s (my grandfather) house in Abinsi during some of his itinerary visits or journeys to the interior Tiv land across the Benue from Ndzorov habitat, in the 1960’s and late 1970’s. Time flies, may be Samuel was to young to notice this harmonious relationship or his actions against the Jukun people are deliberate.
Zaki Torkula Amah like most Tiv elders of the past such as Agir, Anyakpa, Ortamen had Jukun friends such as Ataki, Autoshi, Adikwu, Atala etc. Torkula Amah from Tse Torkula in Mbadwen District, Guma Local Government Area of Benue State had a friend, my uncle, Akose Ahmadu Azyjidoku. In those days any time he crossed the Benue river to Abinsi, his place and house of residence was Ahmadu Akose Azyjidoku’s house. The joy of this relationship, this friendly intercours made my uncle Ahmadu Akose Azyjidoku to name his son Isah, Amah, after the name of Torkula’s father. Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkula actually started his elementary school in Abinsi. He was a class mate to my brother Isah Ahmadu Azyjidoku. But because of the hatred Akawe had for the Jukun people, never anywhere did he ever mention that he started his primary school in Abinsi. After all, he was staying with Isah’s father in Abinsi attending school with Isah his classmate. And when Akawe grew up, all that he was interested in, was to amass massive plots of land in Abinsi. He facilitated that when he became Permanent Secretary, Director General, Civil Commissioner with the Benue State Government. The climax was when be became the Tor Tiv, using the Apex position to actualize his ambition, his dream. Virtually all the lands stretching to Torkula’s compound, the portion that was only allotted to him by my grandfather King Ataki of Abinsi, he annexed the primary school staff quarters, the school farms, the Rounder’s field events, the school Orchard and Gardens, some Tiv, Jukun and Hausa farms were all confiscated by Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkula, using power corrupt, absolute power corrupt, absolutely. Just because he had a pulling power and influence. Effectively, he created wealth for his family in Abinsi, who will not even stay. They cannot even stay in Tse Torkula of Mbadwem District, Alanku hamlet in Guma Local Government of Benue State, due to perennial insecurity problems. Right ahead, his children have gone far in selling plots of lands to prospective land vendors and speculators. Torkula’s family in their numbers are scattered in townships; their domiciliary is an illusion.
For the purpose of clarity, the Abinsi land area, to the West of Mbakor, Tyotu, up to Baa on the Makurdi Gboko road is 6 kilometers. The Agbodo bridge, kilometer 17 from Makurdi is the border area, today, due to Government policy that all areas within 17 kilometers North, South, East and West radius should be within the jurisdiction of a State capital. To the south, the Ananga habitat, now being occupied by Ijoh, an Uvir offshoot known as Mbafur of Utiondo Iharev super clan, belongs originally to Abinsi area. A glance at the RIVERAIN JUKUN OF TIV DIVISION sketch map during the proposal for the reorganization before 1929 to be known as “Jukun N.A.S (or village areas) namely: Agbodo, Ankwa, Abuni, Abinsi, Azenu, Jamindo (island), Jamindo (Hamlet), Kitsani, Bajimba, Asede, Aguye, Atengye, Asokpoga, Aselema, Anuhwa (Abon), Ashuku, Akatsu, Akor and Anyishi” etc refers. But that bitter disagreement between Ankwa (Azyjoko) and Abinsi made the Colonial Government to balkanize Jukun village areas. These villages were shared amongst Tiv clans namely: Utiondo, Kambe, Ndzorov and Saghev that were adjacent. Read the “Intelligence Report on Abinsi Town and its environs by Mr. K.P. Maddocks …” And that was the beginning of our travails.
The Colonial Government, by this unpopular arrangement put the Jukun people in a mess. “This arrangement was, as be imagined, extremely unpopular with the Jukun who considered it most unjust that they, the original settlers, should be placed under the authority of the Tiv who were regarded as a tribe as mere slaves”. INTERLLENGENCE REPORT ON ABINSI TOWN IN TIV DIVISION dated 27th August, 1934 and signed 29th August, 1934, p.9. They lost the wisdom of making any of the hamlets a tentative or shadow administrative unit, while studying the psychology of the brothers in dispute. After all, when other Jukun villages were shared amongst the Tiv clans, Ankwa and Abinsi still remain in one area, till date. So the step taken in the balkanization of Jukun village areas amongst the Tiv clans in the first place was an injustice against the Jukun people. Moreso as the Jukun people rejected this unpopular merger and even wished that they were returned to Wukari to be administratively ruled by their kin and Kith, and not to be ruled by the Tiv who were mere strangers on the land.
The aggressive and reactionary nature of the Tiv people do not value or hold relationship in high esteem. Even if one is an in-law to them, the moment they are about to launch a dastardly assault and battery on any person, this intimacy is ignored, is kept aside. Fresh on our minds was the case of CSP. Asebiya Agah who married two Tiv women, one from Mbakor, Tarka Local Government Area, the other from Masev, Gwer East Local Government Area, both of Benue State, but it was his in-laws, the Tiv people that killed him during the Communal clash between Jukun and Tiv in Abinsi, in 1995.
We can also find in the book titled, THE CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS OF MARRIAGE AND FAMILY STABILITY AMONG THE TIV PEOPLE OF CENTRAL NIGERIA-HRH Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkula, CFR, JP p47, where relationship does not amount to anything when there is a disagreement between the Tiv and non-Tiv. For instance in the case of – “His Royal Highness Makeri Zakpe, Tor Tiv I, had a Yoruba wife, Malam Gondo Aluor Tor Tiv II, had a Jukun wife. His Royal Highness James Akperan Orshi had a wife of Etulo extraction, while His Royal Highness Dr Alfred Akawe Torkula, Tor Tiv iv has an ldoma wife”, that notwithstanding, all these non tribes (Women) that even married the Tiv paramount rulers, no tribe can sincerely talk of Tiv magnanimity. The Jukun, the Idoma, the Etulo and even the Yoruba-all in-laws to the Tiv people have a lot of bitter testimonies. Glad to note that “Demands and agitators by the Tiv within and outside Tiv land for a Tor Tivship coupled with the forceful dismantling of Audu Dan Afoda’s rule in Makurdi in 1946 yielded dividend. The British overlord succumbed and in 1946, Makeri Dzakpe, a Tiv man, an ex-British sergeant Major was installed the Tor Tiv, terminating the non-Kingship rule over the Tiv people”. p42 –THE CONCEPT, PRACTICE, AND COLONIAL INFLUENCE ON KINGSHIP SYSTEM AMONG THE TIV PEOPLE OF CENTRAL NIGERIAL – HRH DR. Alfred Akawe Torkula, CFR. J.P. which means. Even Audu Dan Afoda, a Yoruba man who was the Chief of Makurdi who also doubled as in-law to Makeri Dzakpe who later became the Tor Tiv I, did not find it safe or easy with the shock tactics of the Tiv people.
The Tiv can visit hatred against non Tiv without any recourse for the simple fact that their victim is from another tribe. Our visit to Ter Naggi palace in Naka in 2012 was a big shock to all of us on board. We actually were in Naka to canvass for support and seek for royal blessings in respect of chieftaincy issue in Abinsi. Chief Daniel Abomtse, the Ter Naggi instead of listening to us, he rather became a swank, asserted authority and with pride, told us that the Abinsi District could as well be cancelled. What warranted this assertion from this Iharev man, who is neither from Utyondo nor Sherev, a western rumps-Tyo Ishin or Tyoshi, an Agatu brought up from Rukubi-Ijiwo axis of Eke Development Area of Doma Local Government Area of Nasarawa, hitherto, is a shocking bravado. We least expected such comments from a chief whose position then was very controversial. He thought he could impress us as a DJ, or, an MC, the role he played at Agon village in Agwatashi of Obi Local Government which attracted the attention of HRH Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkula, Tor Tiv iv, for this exalted position of Ter Naggi (Naka) I. The Tor Tiv stood for him in his trying moment when the Nakka people rose against him, rejected him out rightly even at the Court of law. Omigosh, nemesis even caught up with them as they later parted ways in party politics. The Tor Tiv was for Terhemen Tarzoo, while Chief Abomtse took side with Dr. Samuel Ortom, his in-law. A situation, the Tor Tiv was not please with. Governor Ortom and the Tor Tiv were in coldwar(though they were in- Laws) till a Daniel truly came to judgment. Chief Abomtse should count himself lucky today, because had Dr Samuel Ortom lost the seat of governorship of Benue State, his seat as Ter Naggi would have eluded him.
Those faking history should note that there had not been any full-fledged war between Jukun and Tiv at their point of encounter or entry. Their relationship was cordial, peaceful, benign up to the time of British rule. Their relationship became soar much later because of party politics and with the Tiv people refusing to be subservient to their Jukun overlords. Even the Tor Tiv iv, HRH Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkula in his book titled “DEATH AND BURIAL CUSTOMS OF THE TIV PEOPLE OF CENTRAL NIGERIA, did not deny the fact that the Jukun people and other tribes arrived the Benue valley before the Tiv people. He posited that, “Between 1500-1600 AD, again due to hostilities from the bush tribes (Bafum), the Tiv moved out of Swem into Kyurav-ya country. From this point, they occupied the Benue valley through conquests and by pushing into various directions, other settler-tribes of Jukun, Chamba, Alago, Udam, Migilis etc. By the year 1800 AD, the people became a dominant group in the Benue Plains” page 3, refers. Again, in a paper presentation titled – GENEALOGY OF UTYONDO – AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE PRESENTED ON THE OCCASION OF 1ST UTYONDO NATIONAL DAY CELEBRATION ON THE 14TH TO 15TH MARCH, 2009, where it is stated that, “From the above accounts it has clearly shown that atoatiev, i.e. Migili, Abakwa (Abakpa), Agatu, Arago, Bassa, Idoma and Jukuns arrived in the Benue valley before our ancestors.” Still on the same paper, “The early inhabitants of the area they now occupy were non-Tiv (atoatiev) made up of Abakwa (Mgbakpa), Arago, etc who our ancestors drove out in the second half of the 19th century before the advent of the Europeans. The concept of ‘conquests’ or ‘drove out’ do not apply here, since there was no any historical war between the Jukun and Tiv. When the Tiv met the Jukun they only coexisted peacefully. Legitimizing the Jukun position as the first settlers, the Colonial umpire in their reports affirmed that “… but even though there may be a few Tiv hamlets actually on the bank in this area, I would propose that they be included in the Aku’s territory as the Jukuns (e.g Anyishi) preceded the Tiv many years in this region; the Tiv are mainly farmers not fishermen; and also the Tiv have ample unoccupied land in the interior.” INTELLENGENCE REPORT ON THE RIVERAIN JUKUN IN TIV DIVISION, pp29, page 13 – K.P. Maddocks.
The above statement is an affirmation of Dr. Tesemchi Maker’s, Clement Nanev Uhondo’s et al, contributions on the debate on who first arrived the Benue valley and those who came much later and settled. A true son of the Tiv, should tell the story as it is and not those toerags or scavengers that are faking history all around. The man at the Benue peoples House, it is toff and should not feel toey by adding to his hearted cap, this adorable Jukun clothe. There is no excuse than to just do that. More so as the Arch head of the Mzough U Tiv, has affirmed it to be the clean truth.
Culturally, the Tiv and the Jukun are polarized. For instance, in the case of or aspect of marriage, the Tiv people had a system of marriage in the past that dominated Tiv culture. Exchange marriage otherwise known as “Yam-she” or “Kwase-musan” “was a system of marriage where a man took his daughter, sister or ward and exchange with another person’s for a wife”. THE CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS OF MARRIAGE AND FAMILY STABILITY AMONG THE TIV PEOPLE OF CENTERAL NIGERIA- HRH Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkula, p. 55-56 refers. This practice was considered uncivilized by the British and, “ District Heads and elders of the people were summoned at Abinsi in 1927 to give their consent to the abolition of the Exchange Marriage within seven days or else they would be deported to Kaduna like their colleague, Chief Ugba” p. 75 of, THE CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS OF MARRIAGE AND FAMILY STABILITY AMONG THE TIV PEOPLE OF CENTRAL NIGERIA- HRH Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkula.
And again, culturally, the Tiv people accommodate sexual fecundity which breeds children that are not legitimately given birth to, through marriage. “The essence of this as already stated, is that the aim of the Tiv people is to “fill their home with children”. page 127, of, THE CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS OF MARRIAGE AND FAMILY STABILITY AMONG THE TIV PEOPLE OF CENTRAL NIGERIA- HRH Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkula. That is, a woman who has ran to the parents house, “In Tiv culture, as long as dowry has not been refunded or recovered by the husband” no matter the long stay, “such a woman and her children continue to remain his, even if the woman is not living with the husband”.
Again, “…… the culture generally encouraged overtly, Wankwase practice to help populate families or lineages.” p 132, of, THE COSMOLOGY IN TIV WORLD VIEW – Alfred Akawe Torkula. This cultural practice of the Tiv boosted their population astronomically, for it was not a prohibition, not a taboo, it was a cherished culture for one to be “born in his or her maternal home outside marriage…” “Such a person is known as “Wankwase” or “Wanya”.
By and large, the Tiv people will find it difficult to be so friendly with the Jukun people anywhere they meet because of their determination not to share but total take over the possession of lands that originally belong to the Jukun people.
Secondly, the strategic positions of Abinsi in the historical process of Benue state since time immemorial, the mark, is indelible. That is, the archival records, the Jukun people as the first arrivals, is nauseating and distasteful to the Tiv.
Thirdly the history of political change of the Tiv people cannot sail to anchor without the mention of Abinsi, which was their first point of rendez-vous, namely: The first Headquarters of the Colonial Government, the first Headquarters of Tiv Division, A one time Sub-Native Authority unit, the seat of IJIR TAMEN- the Supreme Law Court of the Tiv people, till 1957 before, it moved to Gboko, the seat of Ter lchongu confraternity, the first Tor Tiv, installed in 1947, in Abinsi,
Also, Abinsi has continued to suffer unjustly because, in the colonial days, most Tiv cases were administratively judged in Abinsi, and offenders were punished. Quick to remember were the instances of chief Ugba, Kyekye Asera, Dari, Anyangwa, the abolition of Exchange marriage or “Yam-she”, the story of Abuugh Abenga, the slave merchant etc. These and other allied sundry matters, made the Tiv people to hate Abinsi and by extension the Jukun people. And in one of their songs of hatred against Abinsi was this song known as “BATUR WUA OR SHA ABETSE,” meaning the white man is killing Tiv, in Abinsi.
The story of these maltreatments of the Tiv by the British government has been cycled in circles amongst the people up to the present day Tiv generation toddlers. As the Tiv continue to propagate propaganda of hatred against Abinsi and the Jukun people of Benue state, they do not tell these naïve and younger generation of the Tiv youths of the bad and the ugly side or aspects of their actions or misdeeds of the time, past. They rather shy away from mentioning such criminal tendencies that warranted such penalties.
Today in Benue state, all non Tiv tribes are dead there in the boiling cauldron, getting the hard heating. They have vowed not to give non Tiv, ticket to the seat of Governorship in the state. It is their birth right. Most juicy appointments, they hold sway. And like the proverbial Oliver Twist, they are still asking for more. They cry foul, and notice marginalization more than any tribe in Nigeria, unjustly.
In Taraba, Nasarawa, Plateau and even Cross river states, where they are dotted. “Again, we find this looming problem in Nasarawa State where the Tiv insisted on the chieftaincy rights with other ethnic groups. THE ANATOMY OF VIOLENCE …. Nawani Aboki p 28 in (Adamu 2001: 2). The Tiv people should know that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. Unequivocally, more campaigns shall be intensified, until the Kwa groups particularly the Jukuns of Benue state are properly integrated into the state affairs and administration, orelse, the Tiv struggle or interest in those other states will be thwarted, traditionally and administratively. For, the Tiv people have nothing to lose if they give the Jukun people of Benue State, three (3) chiefdoms. This singular act, will send signals to all Kwararafa people Nationwide, and the Tiv people who are residing in Kwa-groups controlled States shall smile back home. For one good turn deserves another.
Finally, as forwarded from Kwararafa peoples Assembly, on the 18th of September, 2021 by one Mohammed Bravo; contributing on the need for unity, captioned THE COROLLARY OF LIFE. “Don’t support evil today because it doesn’t affect you directly, tomorrow it could be your turn. Because what affects one directly, affects you indirectly, this is the integrated structure of life.” So, “don’t fear. The devil can do nothing. You are already a Conqueror and even more than a Conqueror”. Just be, an Emmanuel-God with us.