By Nathaniel Ikyur
For Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, convening the Tiv security and peace meeting on Monday, May 18th, 2020 was a master stroke. Tiv in Benue are made up of 14 local government areas out of the 23 in the state. The meeting underscores the seriousness the governor places on unity he has consistently preached at every fora since he was elected in 2015.
Not withstanding the sharp political differences after the 2019 general elections, and it’s grievous fallout, the meeting recorded unprecedented attendance of dignitaries. This was confirmed by the governor himself. To crown it all, the heavens opened its bowels shortly after as a seal, washing away all of our divisiveness that has creeped into the lives of the Tiv nation. It was a sign of good things to come.
Ortom did not withhold anything. He was bold enough to admit that in times of politics and electioneering, certain exchanges are necessary. But interest is permanent. He told the gathering that now that elections are won and lost, it’s time for governance. And so he wants an end to the disunity among the political class and the criminality the youths have indulged in which has seen unexplained and ceaseless conflicts among the Tiv over land and sundry matters.
Some have argued that there’s an invasion of an alien influence in the land that breed violence. No one can explain what it is. Things never heard among the people have taken centre stage. Kidnapping and an upsurge of militancy and banditry gangs among the youth is growing. The youths now hold court, taking decisions in politics, communal and among many other matters. The elders seem to have voluntarily taken the back seat for fear of elimination, leaving the land in the hands of outlaws.
In fact, no one can trace when this got worse. It’s been so bad lately. In recent time, while the herdsmen are killing and maiming the Tiv on their ancestral lands, and the Jukun violently driving ancestral Tiv away from Taraba state and also right here at Abinsi in Benue state, the sad story of the tiv is told as they are busy fighting one another, destroying the little economic gains and so on. This, Governor Ortom said is unexplainable and must stop. And that’s the more reason the meeting was bipartisan. One big, united family you would say.
The roll call of dignitaries at the meeting was impressive. And the governor too was happy. It was the stakeholders meeting of Benue North-East and Benue North West senatorial district. There are 14 local government areas in these zones out of the 23 local councils in the state. This meeting can be said to be the first of its kind in recent history of the Tiv nation where the creme of distinguished personalities converged for the singular purpose of putting away individual differences and uniting the people. And the governor also acknowledged this much.
Senator George Akume and current minister of the Federal Republic led the pack. If his recent altercation with the governor that went viral is anything to go by, his presence at the meeting alone spoke volumes. It signalled that a new wave of unity never envisaged by those who wish to see the Tiv in perpetual disunity coming. Former Senate President Iyorchia Ayu, Senator Gabriel Suswam, the immediate past governor of the state, Senator Barnabas Gemade as well as Senator Emmanuel Yisa Orker Jev and a host of other National Assembly Members were present. The traditional institution was heavily represented with the paramount ruler of Tiv, HRM, Prof James Ayatse, Tor Tiv V leading. The church was also present in good measure.
Governor Ortom set the ball rolling. He was unambiguous in his choice of words. He counselled: “politics is now over. Join hands with me let there be unity and peace in our land.” In further paraphrasing his words, the governor called out to the leadership to come together and end the ravaging effect of criminality among youths so that the Tiv nation can be great again.
So Governor Ortom, because he wears the crown, he feels the pains, and rightly so. Apart from the security reports on herdsmen invading communities, killing and maiming, the spate of violence across the length and breadth in Tiv land has made him have sleepless nights. He conceded without contest that the time to end these conflicts among the various warring kindreds, and sometimes same families is now. And he needs everyone on board. It was the consensus of everyone present that unless the Tiv unite, respect for elders and constituted authorities is restored, the chances of our development will continue to elude us. It was more of a time for confession before the priest. And they all spoke with the voice of reason: that the unity of Tiv is sacrosanct.
The church and the traditional institution all agreed to support the political leadership and end this nightmare, saying, it’s now or never. But in all of these, the onus of sustaining any meaningful peace in Tiv nation lies in the hands of those who control the political space. And that’s why Governor Ortom sought to begin mending the fence with the different shades of leadership across party lines.
Now, in the months and years to come, the people will want to reap from the words of Akume, Suswam, Ayu, Jev and Gemade as they join hands with Govenor Ortom for the benefit of the Tiv people. The people would want to see an end to herdsmen invasion on our lands. A cessation of criminality in our rural communities among the youths but a rise in brotherliness and agricultural activities where we have tremendous comparative advantage. And it’s not all about the leadership. We all have our duties to carry out. Starting from where you’re, let’s all queue behind the leadership to usher in peace and tranquillity among all where Benue will become, not just the food basket but the true home of unity and peace.
So help us God. Amen.
Ikyur is the Principal Special Assistant on Media to Benue State Governor.