Celebrating the Tor Tiv institution at 75

By Iorliam GA Shija

The dream of the Tiv people who today predominantly live in Benue State; and also in Taraba, Nassarawa , Cross River and Plateau States, to have an identity during the colonial days , was summed up by two significant events which were the unification of the all Tiv people in 1933 and the selection of the first Tor Tiv in 1946.

At the declaration of a protectorate over Northern Nigeria on 1st January, 1900 by Lord Lugard, Tesemchi Makar, a well known Tiv author, revealed that, The Tiv and many other tribes in the Benue Valley from Mozun to the Camerouns border including Muri, Bauchi and Adamawa Emirates were put under one administrative unit.

From then, there were continued administrative changes that divided the Tiv people albeit, indiscriminately. For example, Makar noted that , in 1926, when the Munshi Division was created , it also included the non-Tiv speaking people in the Southern Districts of the Emirate of Lafia.

Same year, about eleven segments of Tiv which included Ikyurav Tiev, Ikyurav Ya, Turan, Mbagen,( Kusuv , Shorov) , Tongov , Shitire North and South, Ugondo, Ukum, Etulo and the people of Katsina Ala villages were divided and ruled by the Aku of Wukari. This divisions and subjugation under other non -Tiv chiefs didn’t go down well with the Tiv people especially, the chiefs and influential men.

In 1927, the first Ijir Tamen , the Tiv Central Council, was held , but those sections under Aku were not included or invited and also the person who chaired it was a Nupe man, Audu Adan Afoda, the then Sarkin Makurdi. These issues angered the Tiv people so much , but also blossomed their nationalism.

The annexation of the eleven Tiv Clans to Jukun territory and the Appointment of a non-Tiv as the Chairman of the Tiv Central Council did not only fan Tiv nationalism but it caused persistent complaints . This eventually resulted to the withdrawal of the clans in 1933. The District Officer who achieved this for Tiv people was Embertom. So Gboko was established in 1933 as the Headquarters of Tiv Division for the first time to unite all Tiv people .

That was the first victory that the Tiv won. Although they had a division, it was headed by non -Tivs. That was the missing link, so agitations for self rule began.Even though they preferred to work through the chiefs , the educated elites of the day like Orodi Ugba, Akiga Sai and Iyorkyar Ako led the demands to have a son of the soil as Tor Tiv.

It is on record that Jako Aka of Turan was the first Tiv man to raise the issue of demand for a Tor Tiv officially in the Ijir Tamen of May, 1938 in Gboko. Also when a conference of chiefs was to be held in Kaduna in same year, the Tiv took advantage of the event to demand that a Tor Tiv should be chosen to represent them, but the colonial government refused .

In 1944, during a visit in Gboko, the chiefs confronted Governor Richard with the demand for the appointment of a Tor Tiv and he finally accepted . The Tiv World War veterans who were then returning from the Second World War were to also forcilly add their voices to these agitations for self rule .

After series of negotiations , Makir Dzakpe , a Second World War veteran was selected on 19th September , 1946 as the first Tor Tiv . According to Godwin Nyor Hembe, the government accepted the people’s choice on 3rd April , 1947 when Makir Dzakpe was installed as Tor Tiv the first.

For these 75 years, from 1946 to date, five distinguished personalities have ascended to the throne and contributed their quota to the development of Tiv, Benue and Nigeria at large.

Orchivrigh Makir Dzakpe was Tor Tiv from 1946-1956. Prof Mvendaga Jibo has stated that, amongst other things , Makir was an effective spokesman of the Tiv people . He was a fearless and frank Tor Tiv who mixed freely with his subjects .In the 1950s the Tiv were demanding for more social amenities like schools , hospitals , roads and more of the trappings of Western Civilization and Makir Dzakpe was the most vocal voice of the Tiv in these demands from the colonialists.

The second Tor Tiv from 1956 to 1978 was Orchivrigh Gondu Aluor. Aluor like Makir also paid attention to the development of education in Tivaland. He used to visit schools to encourage students and staff to be serious. For example, on 26th October, 1958 he visited Mount Saint Micheal’s Secondary Aliede and on 1st November, 1958 , he visited Benue Provincial Secondary School Katsina Ala , to also encourage students . These visits encouraged the students and deepened the people’s quest for education.

The Third Tor Tiv was Orchivrigh James Akperan Orshi 1979 to 1990. Orshi is famous for a lot of achievements, especially the promotion of Tiv culture and foundation of Mzough U Tiv in 1985, a gesture which gave rise to the formation of such bodies all over the world by Tiv people .

It was also through the Mzough U Tiv that a Tiv Cultural Day or Tiv Day was initiated . The day was set aside to celebrate the successes of the Tiv people which resulted to their unification in 1933 and having a Tor Tiv in 1946. The Tiv Day, according to Makar which was to be held every year, was to be on the Saturday of the third week of every September. In that light, the Tiv Day of 2019 should have been held on 21st September, 2019.

The fourth Tor Tiv was Orchivrigh Alfred Akawe Torkula, 1991-2015. Upon his election, Torkula embarked on several changes especially in the mode of dressing of the Tor Tiv. He fashioned the Tor Tiv regalia on the popular Tiv anger clothe . Like Orshi, he also popularised the Tiv Culture and also introduced the giving of honorific chieftaincy titles to deserving Tiv sons and daughters; also to non-Tivs too. The fourth Tor Tiv also published a lot of books on the way of lives of the Tiv people .

Before his appointment as the fifth Tor Tiv, Prof James Ortese Iorzua Ayatse has had a sterling career in academics and educational management. He was born on 12th May, 1956. He schooled both in Nigeria and abroad. He was Vice Chancellor of University of Agriculture, Makurdi (Now Joseph Sarwuan Tarkaa University) from 2001- 2006.

On 16th February 2011, he was Appointed as pioneer Vice Chancellor of Federal University, Dutse Ma, Katsina state, where he was till 15th February, 2016.

On 20th December, 2016, Orchivrigh Prof James Ortese Iorzua Ayatse was elected as Tor Tiv and giving Staff of office as the fifth Tor Tiv in Gboko on 4th March, 2017 by His Excellency Samuel Ortom, Governor of Benue State.

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A prolific writer of about two decades standing experience
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