As an unquestionable multiple stakeholder in the Benue Project, it will be strange if not irresponsible if I do not speak on critical matters that affect our state. I spoke strong truths during Suswam’s administration and I have no reason to withhold my opinions to the Governor Ortom’s APC Government, which was elected by the citizens in a popular mandate and this victory upheld by the Nigerian judiciary. My understanding of Ortom’s mandate is to provide correction as directed by God himself where previous administrations erred and where the Benue people feel oppressed. I believe that the APC led House of Assembly are Honourable members partnering with the Governor on the agenda driven by an attitude of change.
The Politics Of First Class Chiefs
The hasty passing of the Chieftaincy Bill at the tail end of the last PDP administration made many Benue citizens helpless before the mammoth political machinery that closed its ears to constructive advice. This was why entreaties from me, and Prof. Mvendaga Jibo, (the leading intellectual authority on the Tor Tiv Institution) and others, were biliously brushed aside. Now that this administration wishes to amend the law, I need must warn that politics and traditional institutions make risky bedmates. We are all witnesses to the contempt with which part of the Benue political class held some heads of traditional institutions in Benue and their malevolent struggle for relevance and survival.The power of traditional institutions in Nigeria was eroded from when they were the Upper Chamber of the Nigerian Legislative houses in the Richards Constitution of 1945 to the Littleton Constitution of 1954, revised in 1957 when thy started their downward spiral; to the 1999 Constitution when they lost all administrative power. This loss of power was justified by the nature of a republic where power devolves to the citizens and not the monarchy (Chiefs, Obas, Sultans, Emirs, Obas, Ator, Ochis and Ters) and the fear of establishing a parallel state status for the traditional rulers. But the most important reason the people of Nigeria progressively sidelined the traditional rulers was their loss of dignity and relevance, as they became corrupt, impunity loaded and merely political party enforcers. This state of affairs was parodied in Benue when the Tor Tiv institution became a victim of poor choices made by the last two civilian administrations.
Every administration must approach public policy with decisional justice and fair play especially where there is strict adherence to the rule of law. The Introduction of first class chiefs on Intermediate areas is without justification in a modern administration. The intermediate areas were a creation of the colonial administration, and have been long superseded by the creation of local governments. If Benue State people desire to have first-class chiefs then let all the present second-class chiefs become first-class chiefs. The promotion of some to the exclusion of others without clear metrics is a form of injustice. The Constitution recognizes Local Governments and not any intermediate areas. We are stoking political fires when we take this approach by rejecting the time worntraditions, that the chieftaincy position a man is sworn in is the one in which he dies. To promote some and not others will lead to careerism and instability in the traditional system.
Let me also state that I am not against the establishment of strong traditional leaders in Benue and Nigeria. This is because of the thinking that the political class has woefully failed in transforming the country and its constituent states to modernity. The politicians obfuscated community development initiatives by predating on state resources in unbelievable wantonness.
This is why there is a new thinking that perhaps as an act of desperation we should beckon on the traditional rulers who as custodians of indigenous political values and practices might assist the political class so that the state is reconstituted with the integration of traditional rulers. The new thinking should permit the state to ascribe roles for traditional rulers in conflict resolution, consensual decision making and settlement of border disputes alongside mobilization of the people towards the promotion of education, preventive health, incubation of enterprises, inspiring the rule of law, and urging participation in electoral processes. The Benue Assembly should spell out these specific functions of the traditional institutions without running afoul of the 1999 constitution.
Appointment Of The Tor Tiv
I wish to contribute on the draft law, which sets the criteria for the appointment of the Tor Tiv. To do this effectively I wish to announce that even though I am suitably qualified to be the next Tor Tiv, I have prayerfully ceded my right to contest for that stool so that I can continue to be the independent voice of the people. This is why I again feel entitled to make these unbiased contributions. There is urgency as the next Tor Tiv appointment is merely awaiting the passing of this amended law. I am aware that aspirants to the Tor Tiv position and contending communities have tried to stake their claims of eligibility. Claims and counter claims have erupted and you will need to thread carefully so that the Tor Tiv institution does not suffer fatality.
The worst nightmare to avoid is where one or more candidates and communities feel aggrieved that the criteria and laws passed and selection process is not based on historical precedent, or just and fair and is biased against them. Such discontents could drag the process to litigation or feel alienated and refuse to recognize the new Tor Tiv. I am aware that it is possible to get away with political impunity by doing things, which can be done through the aegis of political power. We can do all things when we have political power. But we should do the right things that are just and sustainable. Shakespeare says “ to be thus is nothing but to be safely thus”. The graveyards of history are littered with past politicians who engaged in political impunity and demagoguery.
Succession to the Tor Tiv stool has evolved without acrimony since 1946. There is total agreement that the philosophy of power sharing by rotation between the Ichongo and the Ipusu lineage is the guiding criteria. When the Tor Tiv dies, the stool passes to the next lineage. The wisdom of this rotation disqualifies any body in the late Tor Tiv’s family and lineage. In Tiv canons, it is safe to say that since we do not practice primogeniture the last person to aspire for the next Tor Tiv in Tivland is the son of a late Tor Tiv.
This means in present circumstance that, even if the Tor Tiv should evolve over the generations to Minda, it ought not go to the Iharev super clan, and when all have taken their turns and it is the turn of Iharev in decades to come, it should not go to the clan of Alfred Torkula and least of all to any of his children. The Tiv have over the decades evolved a traditional democracy based on genealogy and lineage which has been set in stone through precedence and through scholarship, government archives, political records,traditions and palace chronicles. Any innovation that is contrived merely by political expediency and denies the veracity of history is injustice.
My appreciation goes to the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom for his government revisiting the Benue State Council of Chiefs and Traditional Council’s law 2015. The amendment bill, which is being considered points to several errors and misrepresentations. Sadly the House has omitted the most egregious of all errors the consequences of which would result in fatally flawed selection process and kill tradition, truth and justice.
In Section 16 (1) and Schedule 3, the last Assembly erred and the former governor also erred in signing into law that the major components of IPUSU were SHITILE, UKUM, MBAIKOR, JEMGBAGH JECHIRA AND TONGOV. THIS IS INCORRECT FROM ALL AVAILABLE ORAL AND WRITTEN RECORDS. I wish to refer the Assembly to the respected recordsin the contributions of (a). Mvendaga Jibo, The Tor Tiv Institution, and Mvendaga Jibo Chietaincy and politics: The Tor Tiv in Politics and administration in Tivland.(b). J.D. Ndera, Wombo Makar: historical reflections on Chieftaincy and Colonial Experience in Tivland. (c). Alfred Akawe Torkula, The Concept, Practice and Colonial Influence on Kinship System among the Tiv people of Central Nigeria. (d.) Tesemchi Makar, A History of the Tiv people in the 19th and 20th. Century circa 1800-1960. (e) John Ngusha Orkar, A Pre-Colonial History of the Tiv of Central Nigeria C.1500-1850. (f). Benjamin Akiga Sai The history of the Tiv and Akiga Sai, The Descent of the Tiv from Ibenda Hill. And Paul and Laura Bohannan, Tiv farm and Settlements. There are other written and oral sources of enlightenment not cited here should you desire further illumination.
All the authorities above are unanimous, and I likewise support the fact that genealogy is the key to Tiv social organization, and that the man Tiv had ten grandsons from his two sons, ICHONGO and IPUSU since his third son Poor died without an issue. These ten have become the super-clans between whom the chieftaincy stool rotates. ICHONGO super-clans are, IHAREV, IKURAV, MASEV, NONGOV, TURAN AND UGONDO. Among the IPUSUthe super-clans are SHITILE, UKUM, KPAREV, andTONGOV. It is incorrect to make the sons of Kpar to sit at table in individual capacities when sharing takes place among the Tiv super clans. The Tor Tiv sharing formula should not be between Mbaikor, Jechira and Jemgbagh. These should be subsumed under the Kparev (a collective for sons of Kpar)super-clan. Governor Ortom has corrected a similar aberration in the case of Ukum Local Government where the children of Ngen and Cha Mbaterem and Torov were excluded in the law being amended. See page 5. Shedule 6 column 3 of no. 2.
It is important to stress that the error in the law enacted by the last administration for the composition of the Ipusu lineage is partly responsible for the upsurge of aspirants for the Tor Tiv stool especially among the sons of Kpar. The Tor Tiv Dr. Akperan Orshi was crowned on behalf of all sons of Kpar. Subsequently, when he died the stool went to the sons of Ichongo and Alfred Torkula was crowned on behalf of all Iharev super-clan members. The same children of Kpar are now contending for the Tor Tiv stool when other super-clans like Shitire, Ukum, and Tongov have not yet been crowned the Tor Tiv. Your inability to effect this change will throw the Tor Tiv stool into a stormy and needless rancor.
Ter-Katsina Ala Succession.
On page 5 of your amended bill, (the assent page) Column 3 no.9 schedule 6, the House seeks to amend the bill where the it made provisions for the principal units from where the Ter Katsina-Ala is appointed.
The bill erred in combining Tongov and Ikurav into a single entity on the one hand and Shitile on the other. In the political realm where demographics are the sole criteria, wards have necessitated the power-sharing formulae between Shitile and Loko constituency. In appointment of traditional TER chieftaincy, it should be considered that in the Loko constituency the Tongov and Ikurav are both super clans of Ipusu and Ichongo, and Shitile also a distinct Ipusu super clan. It is this unique composition of Ipusu and Ichongo super clans in Katsina-Ala, Kwande, and Makurdi that requires a distinct rotation on the component super clans. Therefore it is more expedient that TONGOV, IKURAV and SHITILE remain the distinctive components. Similarly at the Local Government level it would be most unwise to devolve the components of traditional Ter chieftaincy to Ichongo and Ipusu at the micro level withoutthrowing Tivland in confusion. They should be handled with justice and care in an evenhanded manner among all the Local Governments.
Women In The Traditional Rulership
I wish to appreciate the wisdom of the House for upholding that a woman can at least be considered for Third Class Chieftaincy position in the Amendment Bill. The world is changing and we must change with it. Tiv society was never disdainful of women especially the elderly who had gerontocratic clout as much as the men. Even during Tiv migration they held the home secure while our ancestors fought in wars. They guaranteed the security of Tiv existence. They are half of Tiv humanity and I look at the next Tor Tiv as the person to advocate for more open spaces in politics, careers and homes for the embattled Tiv woman. After all, Tiv daughters who performed as ministers, commissioners, police officers, vice-chancellors, and legislators performed with no less competence as the best of our men. It is on record that a Tiv woman was the first to become a speaker of a House of Assembly in Nigeria. We can still lead the nation in founding modern traditional Tiv stools based on our republican nature and our sense of justice and balance in our social relations. Our mothers wives and daughters who are absent now need to become involved.
In conclusion I wish to remind the Speaker and Members of the State House of Assembly they are all in a unique position to contribute to nation building in a significant way. Their approach to duties will be testimony of their individual contributions to the well being of our people whose destiny is in their hands. The time for change is here, when democracy must focus on treating citizens fairly, with respect and their rights and dignity upheld. We are all living witnesses of how bad governance has corrupted our society. Epic battles will confront you as you stand on behalf of justice against vested interestsof those that are political predators and are armed with anti-people policies even among your members. I urge the law makers to identify with the challenge of the Christian in government where governance ought to be our vocation as sons of God to do justice, love mercy and humbly serve God. Indeed we are the ones the Bible said that the world has been waiting for: Romans 8:19 (NKJV) “The earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.”
–Prof. Amb. Iyorwuese Hagher Ph.D., FSONTA, FIMC, CMC, OON sent this peace from Dayton Ohio, USA.