The Jukun are highly traditional people
By our reporter
The National Association of Jukun Wanu (NAJUWA) has decried the move by the Nzough-U-Tiv to rotate the kingship of Abinsi, the largest Jukun community in Benue State in a bid to create trouble among the people.
This was contained in a strongly worded Open Letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, where the association enumerated many issues affecting them in Benue State which the Tiv are bent to suppress.
According to the body, “the District Headship of Abinseku is subsumed under Nongov clan, and unlike other areas where five Kindreds were appointed for all Districts, only three was done for Abinsi and a Tiv Kindred was smuggled in to part of the three which means that while the Jukun is presently serving its own term, the next Abinseku will come from Tiv Nongov to seal up the Jukun fate completely to ever aspire to that stool.”
“With this arrangement, certainly the potential for future conflict is laid,” the letter noted.
The full Open Letter to Mr President:
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF JUKUN WANU (NAJUWA) RESPONSE TO NZOUGH-U-TIV AND ASSOCIATION OF TIV IN TARABA STATE: AN OPEN LETTER TO HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI (GCFR) PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA.
Your Excellency sir, permit us congratulate you for your various achievements since your re-election into office for the second term. We the Jukun of Benue state otherwise known as Riverine Jukun (Wanu) identifies with your administration and pray to Almighty God grant you the required wisdom and strength to pilot the affairs of this nation to the expected promise land. Further, we want to bring to your notice and other peace-loving Nigerians of our legitimate complaints as citizen of this country for an unwarranted orchestration to emasculate our aboriginal right in Benue state; unfairly subjected to discrimination, marginalization, anguish, pain, and physically attacked with huge loss of lives and properties. Last January alone Abinsi was attacked for three consecutive days before security men intervened.
Sir, while still nursing the pains of the unfortunate incidence, the Tiv dragged us into Taraba state issues, by spuriously claiming that the Jukun in Benue state have been enjoying Tiv magnanimity and as such similar favor be extended to them despite several appointments they enjoy such as Commissioners, Permanent Secretaries, Directors and uncountable employment of Tiv people in both the state and in Jukun LGA Civil service. Presently, as we write, a Tiv woman is appointed Commissioner in Taraba state. In trying to curly more favor and legitimacy they spread falsehood on Jukuns in Benue state, such that NAJUWA had no choice than to publicize our true condition in Benue state and rebut those falsehood outrightly.
Unfortunately, or so Benue state government and the Tor Tiv in their normal attitudes, showed off mundane demeanor and turned the other way characteristically as though nothing was in the offing. But rather Nzou-U-Tiv and another Tiv Association in Taraba state, mainly surrogates, masked up in a ‘rented spaces’ of National Telegraph dated 1st October, 2019 and Vanguard Newspapers of 9th October, 2019 as well as the Radio Benue that is supposed to be owned by all people of the state, and jolted the air with innuendoes, falsehood and propaganda, which could only be absolved as contrivance drawn from figments of imagination. This orchestration, sadly as it unfolded, propelled this write-up wherein our facts are detailed and reinforced with excerpts; knowing that for a people who are usually stubborn with falsehood, the effective weapon that opens him up to be unsheltered is to allow truth to speak for itself. To this end, Tiv thesis is presented in abridgement below for ease of reference to untangle our response distinctly.
2.0. THE POSITION OF THE NZOUGH-U-TIV AND TIV ASSOCIATION IN TARABA STATE IN RESPONSE TO OUR FIRST PUBLICATION.
- That the Aku Uka of Wukari is the cause of the crises in Wukari in Taraba State;
- That Arch. Darius Ishaku refused to implement the resolution entered between the two tribes in Taraba State;
- That the history of Kwararafa Empire which Aku Uka appropriates, was superimposed by Herbert Palmer into Kano Chronicles, meant to elevate a weakened Jukun tribe as Hamitic hegemon over and above the Tiv people. The work of Prof. Abdullahi Smith, Prof. Murray Last, and Dr. CC Jacob were cited;
- To prove that viewpoint, they alleged that the story in the chronicle did not agree with an excavated archeological sample at Puje whose lone date of between 16th and 17th centuries AD is later than Palmer’s 13th Century narrative and that Jukun oral tradition is silent on the eastward migration espoused in Palmer’s account;
- That Colonial masters drew up a ‘Ring Fence Policy’ in 1918 for purposes of making Tiv subservient to Jukun in all ramification;
- That Baiki’s expository description of Jukun people in 1854 as ‘dejected, degraded and poor wearing vegetable leaves to cover their private parts’ did not support Palmer’s overrated 13th Century Jukun warlords;
- That it was deduced from the work of MS Garbosa II that Tiv presence at Southern Taraba in the 1830 was earlier than circa 1840 when Wukari was founded. Also records from Koelle’s Polyglotta Africana (1854) show an interface between Tiv and Chamba by 1830 in the same area. That no oral evidence proved Jukun as major player in Southern Taraba or Benue valley prior or during the 19th century while same existed for the Tiv tribe.
- That almost all Jukun towns and villages, including Wukari and Abinsi belonged to Tiv people with the names of the places changed. In the case of Abinsi, Nzou-U-Tiv claimed Abetse was the Tiv name corrupted in colonial records to what it is today.
- That NAJUWA’s complaints are mere spread of falsehood to portray the Tiv people as troublesome tribe meant to cover up the inhuman treatment of Tiv in Taraba state
- That Jukun and all residual kwararafa tribes in Benue state have not been subjected to oppressive treatment and are given equal opportunity to exist unmolested like their Tiv counterparts.
Your Excellency sir, it is for the above misinformation and misleading facts and how our complaints was dismissed that spurred this thorough response.
3.0. THE KANO CHRONICLES AND ALLEGATION AGAINST PALMER
To begin with, we have to admit that the Tiv allegation against Palmer is astounding and hardly contextualized. One wonders if it is the manuscript or the text or its interpretation that is the thrust of this question. We thought it could be the script, composition or specifically the portion that deals with Kwararafa’s exploits? In this connection, if Kano chronicles is being questioned on the Kwararafa’s account, the Tiv should have had the audacity to apply same parameter on the Gigan or divan and or the Bayajida legends as same subject also predominates these scripts.
We also admit, manuscripts are critiqued to an integrity test, be it textual, redacting, or historical. Non-scripted sources such as articles, artifacts, ecofacts, etc are also not spared. Take for instance Prof Murray Last, one of the three authorities cited by the Tiv, on this subject; in his textual criticism of the Kano Chronicles, he formulated nine hypotheses to drive home his points. Nowhere did he dismiss the manuscript as forgery, or insinuate or discredit the story line as the Tiv seems to be impressing, rather he contended that “the context in which Kano Chronicles was compiled would seem then to be period of Kororofa invasion…” As a matter of fact, Murray justified the historical fact of Kwararafa exploits against the travesty being propounded by the Tiv here.
Besides, if you have problem with Kano Chronicles on Kwararafa military prowess; what about the Kanem Borno chronicles? If it were on the basis of Arabic script that raises the opprobium, we will devote little time to draw up the analogy. Hausa contact with Arabic world was mentioned as far as the 9th Century in the work of Ahmed Ibn Yakubi, a Muslim Geographer, the earliest of World culture in the Abbasid Caliphate. During the reign of King Yaji (C.1349-85) Islam was introduced to Kano and Islamic clerics and traders from Mali, Volta region and Songhai moved in droves to the ancient city. By 1463- 1499 under the reign of Muhammad Rumfa, construction of mosques and Madrassahs, a school where Islamic, Arabic, and secular education are taught, was ordered and Muhammad al-Maghili was commissioned to write a treatise on Muslim governance as many scholars were brought in from Egypt, Tunis and Morocco; and within few years, Kano became the center of Muslim scholarship. (See Lapedis Ira, A history of Islamic societies 1966; Hogben/Kirk-Green, Emirates; Lange, Kingdoms.)
If Muhammad Runfa commissioned a treatise to be written on Islamic governance in Kano in circa 1463 what would have inhibited the Kano chronicles from being produced or written? The case of Kanem Bornu Empire whose contact with the Arabic world was earliest, is instructive. With an extended territory up to Fezzan in Libya and precursor to Borno Empire of between 1380 and 1893 its Arabic influence led to the popular Divan or Girgan, a Royal chronicle which documented events of Kanem Borno Empire of the 9th century, written from the 13th or 16th up to the 19th century, discovered by a German traveler, Henrich Barth in 1851. In addition, notable correspondence took place between Mai Idris Alooma and the Othoman Sultan Murad III in circa 1570. (See Urvoy Y. F. M. A 1949; Lange D. 1977; Smith A. 1983)
The Kano, Kanem Borno and Kwararafa Empires existed not only as peers but contiguous in land boundaries within the period stated above. On the Kwararafa side, with its peculiarities nonetheless, foreign exploration of her great exploits caught the attention of Leo Africanus, a Berber Andalusi Diplomat in the 15th Century when he recorded how the prowess of Kwararafa Army, resisted the Kanem Empire’s aggression, an Empire reputed with 10,000 horses and armed fighters. Aside the Kano Chronicles which accounted for invasion of Kano in 1653 and another at 1673, by the Kwararafa military and subdued the city, other sources such as the Bayajidda legend took account of the Kwararafa’s historical exploits also. Undiscovered by the Tiv, these historical accounts as documented which they found distasteful, were not actually meant to eulogize the Kwararafa Kingdom, but they were sitreps of an overall Islamic military campaign going on at that time.
Instructively, it should be understood that both internal and external sources influenced historiography of both Kano and Kanem Borno and indeed Kwararafa empires. The distinguishing factor however, is the Arabic and Islamic perquisites which heralded the written chronicles in the two entities, a perquisite naturally lacking on the Kwararafa side on account of being pagan society. Here is the point; the Tiv people, in one strand, get themselves boxed to nonsensical in their persistent hate for the Jukun. Earlier analogy above revealed that Kano and Kanem Borno empires were literate societies centuries before the introduction of western style education. The Kwararafa couldn’t have performed the magic wand, having fortified her territory against Islamic incursion. Written sources in this strand therefore was inferred from the accounts recorded by those who were equipped with the ability to do so.
The other written sources, outside the Kano cum Kanem Empires erupted from the Europeans/colonial and other outside sources, which got first- hand information and events as they unfolded in their time. If the Kwararafa had written its own account, as does the two entities, it is believed, the world would have better appreciate the exceptional prowess exhibited in this major coastline and landmass where people without outside influence established a powerful league able to survive almost three to four centuries of statecrafts, and instituted a formidable military that fortified itself against the aggressive Islamic force which swept through Africa like wildfire.
We cannot fathom out why this took over Tiv preoccupation, because we all share common experience, even though they come a distant two centuries behind, comparatively. In the case of Tiv for instance, apart from European historical accounts, the preponderance which is in the realm of the 19th century, where else do one finds any inkling of the Tiv historiography? Sawua G. Nyityo noted this unfound predicament when he stated:
“the early history of the Tiv which is unrecorded is shrouded in mystery and legend. The earliest recorded account by 19th century European explorers, ethnologists, and linguists like Baiki, Palmer, Freemantle, Rupert East, as well as Samuel Ajayi Crowther’s journey on the Benue in 1854 often substituted fantasy for facts, largely because of lack of regard for oral traditional account” (See Political Centralization and Transformation of Tiv Society, 1900-1963 by Sawua Gabriel Nyityo, 2003)
It is crystal clear the premise of his assertion is wrong, because all recorded histories of Tiv clans were based on oral accounts of the Native, his revelation attest to the fact that Tiv historiography couldn’t have been earlier than the 19th century. Or is it the most recent charade with untold conjectures said to have emanated from Akiga Sai? An example of one such many conjectures in that self- made script is reproduced here:
“In Tivland, men of wisdom do not get anything; it is fools that are entrusted with responsibility. The Tiv do this for two reasons; in the first instance, they eat a fool’s money, then they make him a chief briefly and later strip him of the chieftaincy title for a more knowledgeable person. But they fear giving the title to a man of wisdom, fearing that he may hold it in such a firm grip that they would be unable to strip him of the title, because of his wisdom. But they give to the fool expressly, in order to eat his money completely and take the title from him for another fool”
If the above text is critically analyzed, you get the fallacies of defective induction. First, the whole scenario above on Tiv history is a twenty-century phenomenon. Question is, do Tiv have chiefs nor value Chieftaincy? Last week alone the state is embroiled some illustrious sons of Tiv’s referring to to Tor Tiv the 5th as Tor- Party, similar to what the late Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkula suffered. The Tiv society is one that does not respect the sanctity of its kingship. Secondly, the text revealed the mental mind of the Tiv person, whose societal fundamentals are propelled by principles of mediocrity, deceits, corruption and moral bankruptcy or else what on earth, is virtuous here for a 21st century civilized world to consume.
Back to Kano Chronicles one wonders if Tiv are insinuating that Hausas illiterates in both Arabic and English languages, to the extent that an interpolated text could not have been deciphered? This is extremely derogatory and abuse of sensibility of the Hausa people, much more than Palmer whom they intended to bastardize, knowing he is not alive to pose a commentary.
4.0. THE JUKUN ORAL HISTORY AND THE HAMATIC ALLEGATION
Even though this write up is not intended to dwell on the argument in support or against the proponents of Hematic theory, we however wish to state that the conclusions drawn by the theorists, stemmed from available records and archeological evidence in which their standpoint was based. Remarkably, this was stated practically by Herbert Palmer himself.
According to Tiv Association in Taraba state, Palmer, “…held up the narrative as a deliberate arm of the Indirect rule policy to bolster the Jukun as a dying Kingdom. By portraying the Jukuns as Hamites, Palmer wanted the Jukun to join other Hamites in Colonial Historiography mandated to ‘civilize’ and dominate other groups in colonial enterprise.” In trying to expropriate the historicity of the Jukun migration from the East, they stated “…It is difficult where Palmer’s exotic narrative is rooted when Jukun oral traditions are mute on the Kwararafa narrative except now, when they quote Palmer with glee and appropriate his intellectual misadventure.”
We did not intend to dwell so much than to disprove this assertion straight away, by quoting Dmitri. M. Bondarenko and Peter M. Roose wherein they stated:
“…one of the most interesting researches, backed up rise by his own fieldwork to find traces of Kisra, was undertaken by Mathews in 1926. He states: “The Kisra legend…is common in Northern Provinces of Nigeria from Wukari on Benue River to Tilo and Bussa on the Niger. It tells of a magician King of that name who was driven out of the Arabia by the prophet and who founded series of pagan states in Western Sudan. It has been stated that the Jukun of Wukari has no knowledge of the Kisra tradition. But this is not so. The Aku Oka (the Priest-King or rather, Devine King) keeps a sword and a spear which are said to have been left at Wukari by Kisra. The sword is called Buttren, ‘the sword of old time’ and the spear is called ishigh, which is not the usual word for a spear in Jukun and is applied to this spear alone…the Jukun say that they came from the East (Egypt or Mecca) and in Bornu and Katsina both Kororofa and Wukari (its off-shoot) are said to have been founded by descendants of Kisra. The Kakau of Songhai asserts that about A.D. 600 there was a great migration from East to west across the Sudan called Kisra Migration. ‘The Kisra’ are made out to be Persians who fought against Rum (the Byzantines) and were driven west, entering Nigeria by way of lake chad” (See Mathews A.B “The Kisra Legend” African studies, vol. 9, no1, 1950)
5.0. WHY SIR. RICHMOND HERBERT PALMER IS BEING DEMONIZED BY THE TIV
Herbert Palmer, the indefatigable Lieutenant Governor, was indeed credited with the effort that stalled midway the conspiracy to hand off Jukunland for Tiv domination. Unfortunately, eyes were closed to Tiv phenomenon that actually delayed that process at the early stage of colonial administration and the Tiv have looked back in retrospect to find an alibi in Palmer and indeed the Jukun. We will devote a little time to help the Tiv look at the inward characterized by Tiv idiosyncrasy; hostilities to neighbors; and internal clannish feud and animosity predominated Tiv societies that escorted them to Nigerian soil until this land ushered an opportunity to contract a date with destiny. Lets look at the Tiv world.
5.1 TIV’S IDEOSYNCRACY.
Pope St John Paul II said, as the family goes, so goes the Nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live. In Tiv culture, family union is characterized by copious sacrilege and conscript foundation. A.S Judd described it pointedly, “the great ambition of the Munshi is to have many wives…he has three ways opened to him: he may purchase, he may exchange, or he may steal…” (See A.S. Judd, African Affairs, vol xvi, issue LXI, October, 1916, pages 52-61). How does this impact on the overall life of the people? Let’s examine the factors accordingly:
- PURCHASE OF BRIDE: This type is literal as the name implies, to buy. This is conceptually different from bridal rites as obtain in other societies like the Jukun’s. b. EXCHANGE MARRIAGE: known also as yamshe, this marriage involves exchange of sisters or daughters as wives. c. BRIDE STEALING: Stealing a bride known as Kwase-ngohol/Tsuen/korun is practically as the name also imply is to elope with any woman- spinsters or married. (See Moses Tsenongu; BSU. Tydskr. Vol. 48 n. Pretorial 2011).
To purchase wife is simply dehumanizing, obnoxious and un-dignify than slave trade because it is a stepping stone to prostitution; the practice, over time, incubated anguish, hatred and unruly behavior. It is for this worldview that Okwa Felix Ago stated “…This conception could also be said to be the reason for the promiscuity recorded among the Tiv people, both single and married…” (See Okwa Felix Agbo, Traditional Conception of Human Person, Arts and Social Science Journal.)
Secondly, on Exchange marriage the practice was so perverse that abolishing it met some consequences, as S. G Nyityo stated: “…It is therefore pertinent to note that the abolition of exchange marriage resulted in widespread violence leading ultimately to the reorganization of the Tiv native administration in the 1930’s” (See Political Centralization and Transformation of Tiv Society, 1900-1963 by Sawua Gabriel Nyityo, 2003)
Bride stealing, the third of Tiv types of marriage, spares no woman married or unmarried which is the most horrible; tantamount to instilling thievery as acceptable norm. Gordon, the colonial officer credited with opening up Tivland painted the picture vividly:
“The Munshi is most independent, cunning, cruel, boastful, and very religious…he is very quick tempered and never think of the consequences of his action…the whole history of the tribe points out their independence and their inability to obey orders… they admit themselves they are thieves and this is borne out by the many complaints that are continually brought.”
He contended further: “Both systems are at best the bottom of a great many of the internecine quarrels that have rendered the Munshi country a bye-word for lawlessness”
David Craig Dorward, of School of Oriental African Studies, London University, revealed: “before 1907, European contact with the Tiv rarely extended beyond the banks of the River Benue. In 1885, Mr. Willain Wallace of the Royal Niger Company tried to establish a trading relation with the Tiv by opening a network of stations along the Benue and Katsina Ala Rivers. However, within one year, the Tiv had looted many of these stations and had killed two European agents. The company therefore abandoned all its posts in Tivland except Abinsi, which stood on an island near the confluence of the Katsina and Benue rivers and was less subject to surprise attack.” (See African Affairs 1969)
Caught in the web of this circumstance, Terlumun Kerekaa and Msuega Ahar averred that “the gospel work undertaken by the Dutch Reform Church Mission (DCRM) from South Africa was so strong that the wave of conversion among members of the tribe swept away most unhealthy socio-cultural practices in the land”. And it was in Jukun land that the light first illuminated on the Tiv as Godwin Yina noted “The first Tiv encounter with (Western) missionaries was in 1875 at Abinsi, but it was not until 1911 that the South African Missionaries came in Tiv land at Sai” (See The Hegemony of Western Civilisation and its Corrosive Influence on Oral Tradition among the Tiv of Central Nigeria, Terlumun Kereke and Nsuega Ahar, 2019.)
It was also in Abinsi that the conference was organized in collaboration with the colonial authority and the Dutch Missionaries to end these odious practices.
5.2 HOSTITILITY TO NEIGHBOURING TRIBES
Tiv neighborliness is characterized in this order: land and human being contrary to the Jukun worldview which is the opposite. Laura Bohannan and Paul Bohannan who understudied Tiv culture in the 50s revealed:
“as has been seen, every Tiv believes that he has a right to sufficient land to feed his dependents; thus, if land is short, he takes more. In practice, he always takes it from the person whose land bounds his own, but who is most distantly related to him: that is he secures for himself the largest possible group of supporters in dispute which he knows will almost surely ensue…hence most Tiv see their minimal utar as constantly expanding (whether this is literally true or not). It expands in all directions…”
On the Jukun side, in 1905, L.O Laird, the Assistant District Officer, Wukari Division, wrote:
“There is no special tie or Kindred or custom determining where a man may farm, it depends on his own choice and available land, but until he is married, he would most often farm in the same spot as his father or guardian. These farming centers are all well-known and are named usually by Jukun name of the nearest waters” (See Report on the Assessment of Wukari District, 10th Oct. 1923 by L.S. Ward, carried out in 1905)
As we ponder on this subject, we know Tiv perspectives on emigration to strange land is obscured based on his idiosyncrasy. For instance, in 1907, the Resident, Muri Province gave an insight to this Tiv attitude wherein , he stated: “He has had a reputation he has gained from his harshless strangers in his neighbourhood who have mistaken cunning for bravery… Why was this reported? The colonial masters got themselves entangled with Tiv attitudes, especially after the Telegraph incidence from Akwanaja. On the 25th April, 1913, a report was filed by J. Nelson Shefield, the O.C Troupe at Ukpo of Tiv theft and barbarism towards their Gabu (Egedde) neighbor. The report stated:
“… these Munchis continually come over to the boundary hunting in their country and if they stopped them, they were threatened with arrows…the Munchis from Abaku on the 5.4.13 came over the boundary and seized yam from their people when returning from market at Oyaye (Egedde). On April 19th the Gabu came into Ukpo and complained that two of their men had been shot by Shungave Munshis at Gabu country and their heads cut off…” Shefield also reported on the 19th May 1913 that Mbala Munchis were fighting with Ute and an Assistant Provincial Commissioner was deployed with troops to stop the fighting. (See extract from Report of O.C. Troups Ukpo, 25th April, 1913, Muri province)
Why was Tiv beheading those they kill? The story of cannibalism within Tiv communities was rife in colonial records, accounting for why they were labelled Arna. J.R. Peterson, the Chief Commissioner, explained: “the term “arna” (ignorant infidels) applied to the Tiv is too often heard from Hausa and the name by which the Tiv were popularly known-Munci (connected always in the mind of the Hausa with a cannibal origin of the Tiv)” (See Minutes of the meeting by Chief Commissioner, J.R. Peterson, 6th March, 1947).
A vivid account of this troubling discovery was made by Captain J. Freemantle, in his annual report of the Muri Province in 1914, when the Royal Niger Store was attacked by Tiv in Abinsi which saw Tiv abduction of about 150 Hausas. The Resident officer’s entreaties to Tiv to return those captives failed, fearing they may be eaten up. In the ensuing Report, Freemantle stated:
“As I consider it most imperative that these people should be brought to reason, I proceeded on the morning of 8th to the northbank with 50 soldiers under Leut. Wood…the Munshis fall back into some very thick bush just beyond the village and there was heavy firing for about 10 minutes after which they fled. The soldiers brought in 13 bows and quivers which they stated represented men killed…there was no casualty on our side…the juju in the village was smothered with blood and a human arm was found in one of the huts. Also, a bag of salt and two pieces of Niger company’s iron. I requested Lieut. Woods to burn the village which he did. Several prisoners were taken. Some of these I sent back to with message that further action would be taken against them if the captives and plunder were not at once returned.” (See Residence Muri 4th Sept. 1907, Munshi Tribe, Laws and Customs, Notes on)
The worst of this nonsensical was the pettish allusion that Jukun couldn’t be that great because Baiki described them as adorned with vegetable leaves. The idea itself is so repulsive and as stunted as the proponent itself whose sense of reasons speaks volume. A good example of this is to say USA is militarily weak because some poor folks are citizens of that country. If Baiki’s exposition was in 1850, that period was ancient to 1907, a period Jukun were not only producing cloths but exporting same. What was Tiv character at that period, when they were busy stealing each other’s wives, daughters and sisters for matrimonial? As late as 1907 Captain Upton Fitz-Herbert Ruxton, noted of Tiv whose basic hygiene was terrible. He stated:
“their teeth are without exception very bad, being most irregular and badly discolored. Their mouth is really a most disgusting sight…there were besides a great number afflicted with kraw kraw particularly young children. This may be due to the dirtiness of their body. Their principal form of washing seems to be scrub themselves with a red stuff from head to foot.” (See Residence Muri 4th Sept. 1907, Munshi Tribe, Laws and Customs, Notes on)
5.3 CLANISH FEUDS AND ANIMOSITY PREVALENT WITHIN TIV SOCIETY
Understanding the underlining above will be an easy sail to appreciate this third point. But it is better to hear it from the horse’s mouth. The first to publicly acknowledge these troubling facts was Tesemchi Makar who dug it out from Akiga. According to him “…. the forceful snatching of wife from her husband that in Akiga’s words (1939:38)… this form of marriage by which the Tiv themselves lost their women during their migration, caused many inter tar (that is inter clan) wars” in Tivland (Makar 1994:141, see also Akiga 1939:137)” It was a society of both rat race and lion race. Let’s get the picture clearer.
This form of marriage as mentioned earlier, raised high stake in the society, such that husbands and fathers are proportionally victors yet victims, because as he engrossed himself to snatching off another’s wife or daughter as wife or wives, someone else lurks around his backyard to seize the catch or pluck from amongst the varieties available to the snatcher. The wife-victim would have also been kidnapped by several other men elsewhere. It is a troubling situation such that as late as 1926, the District officer of Abinsi Division, Capt. G.G Feasey stated inter alia:
“In July, the Dutch Reformed Church Mission asked that action should be taken to modify the marriage customs of the Tiv; but this was not agreed to by His Honour, the Lieutenant Governor who suggested that a conference of chiefs should be called by the District officer in charge of the Division to consider the whole question. ” (See Abinsi Division Annual Report and Returns, 1926, by Capt. G.G. Feasey)
In this instance, where did you place the siblings of a single mother being fathered by men visibly antagonistic to one another? What about the emotional state of a woman that is a mobile wife and mother to children of quarrelsome husbands? This was already a concern to Capt. Feasey when confronted with these realities, sometimes between headmen and their subjects. For example, the case of Muji, the Kunav District Head of Kunav North, an area Feasey and B.M Macfarlane, the Assistant District Officer Katsina Ala Division, toured extensively. Feasey noted that: “It was found necessary to remove Muji from his post as District Head owing to his extortion and his habit of acquiring women illegally. He had agreed to live at Lafia, for his presence in the district would have been a course of further trouble.” (See Abinsi Division Annual Report and Returns, 1926, by Capt. G.G. Feasey)
Piece up the above cultural traits of Tiv idiosyncrasy, barbarism and cannibalism against neighbors and above all, unending feuds amongst the various clans, and attack on European, why do you pass the bulk to the Jukun or even Palmer?
6.0 THE ATTITUDE OF TIV AGGRANDISEMENT.
The claims by Tiv tribe to ownership of Abinsi and indeed other Jukun towns goes concurrently with name labeling. Once a Tiv person migrates to settle in a place, this signify a bad omen ahead. For instance, we implore any person to googled up Tiv history in the internet, and you will noticed that they had already added FCT, Niger and Cross River States in the checklist of Tiv states. Take out Niger state and FCT in this analogy and you will get the picture clearer. What is the connection between Niger state and Tiv? All we know is that few Tiv are there to eke out a living, because of the arable land there. What about the FCT? The FCT as the Federal Capital, has attracted all Nigerians to settle, either as civil servants and for other purposes; it has no contiguous boundary with Benue state and has no link with Tiv tribe. As a matter of fact, the Jukun tribe should be the ones to lay such claims because Gwari, Igbira, Koro tribes, etc who own parts of the territories are all of Kwararafa family. So, what is the connection between FCT and Tiv tribe? Are Tiv tribe the most populous of tribes in FCT, or is any District apportion for the Tiv as a race different from others? Anywhere a sizeable Tiv population exist, that ethnic chauvinism and aggrandizing trait sets in insolently.
7.0 HOW ABINSI BECAME TIV’S ALBATROSS: A MIRROR TO UNDERSTANDING JUKUN-TIV CONFLICTS IN BENUE, NASSARAWA AND TARABA STATES
Abinsi is a strategic town and have existed within the Kwararafa empire but came to prominence after the Royal emigration, of between C.1535-1625, the Jukun Wanu (Riverine Jukun), chiefly, from Aku Uka royalty, secured the Southwestern flank of the territorial waters; around the stretch and almost the middle of the two confluences of River Benue and Katsina Ala, at circa 1596-1615 when Aku Katakpa held sway as Aku Uka of Wukari. Ananga was the actual cradle, within the precinct of Azhoko or Ankwa, straddled by Abweni or Abuni. The next in that migration was Anu, Adamma, and Ndo-Alo who settled at Abinsi; forming the backdrop to Akubise throne which was ascribed to Wa-Kpoko, Wa-ga and Ndo-Lo (See Erim, Idoma Nationality 1600-1900, 1981; O.E. Aigege Agba (80) AKPHT-4, 83; Asemanya; The Jukun of Abinsi: A Socio-Political History 2018.)
It should be noted that at the very end of the 16th century till date, Abinsi has produced more than 20 rulers. The first Aku was Anu or Onu who reigned for 30 years from 16000 to 1630; followed by Adamma, 1630 – 1650; Anowa Nongye, 1650- 1668; Abise, 1668- 1700; Agbo, 1700- 1715; Atila, 1715 – 1745; Aloshu, 1745- 1776; Adumepu, 1765- 1785; Adaba, 1785- 1825; Asoga, 1824- 1850; Ashikyeno, 1850-1870; Agabi Idoko, 1870-1906; Ajidoku Agabi I, 1906- 1928; Ataki Agabi, 1928- 1957; Agoshi Ataki, 1957- 1967; Sabo Ajidoku II, 1967- 1985; Asuku C. Abayilo, 1986-2008; and others till date. (See The Jukun of Abinsi: A Socio-Political History 2018, Joshua Asemenya and Voice Newspaper, 29th August, 2008.)
It was during the reign of Ashikyeno that Tiv people showed up, a period of over 250 years. Before the forage of Tiv into our land, the Jukun are both farmers and Fishermen. The Riverine Jukun superintended and controlled the territorial water and build a thriving economy around it such as fishing and boat building which made Abinsi a major crossover points between the Northern and southern trading routes. Fishing and trading in other articles such as clothes, beads, iron, etc across the Benue River and River Katsina Ala, brought Jukun into close affinity with Fulani, Wurbo, wailamayo, Jenjo, Bachama, Wurkum, Karimjo, Batawa at Upper Benue region and with Kanakur, in Kiri and Shelleng, Lunguda at Banjiran and Guyuk up River Gongola. The practice also extended as far as Lagdo and Tibati in Cameruon almost to the fringes of Central Afrique. Trading in fish also took that turn towards the coast, stopping intermittently and terminates at Onitsha market where those wares are sold or bartered.
C.C. Ifemesia perfectly described the major precolonial trading routes, and the prominence of the Riverine Jukun in the precolonial economic system, centuries before the Tiv people set their feet into Nigerian soil. He stated:
“Another north-south road ran from the neighbourhood of N’gargagamu, and later from Kuka (the nineteen-century capital of Bornu), through Bauchi, to the Benue. Its termini in the Benue basin were principally Panda, Abinsi, Ibi, Wukari and Yola. Thus, large caravans from Katsina, Kano and Borno could carry goods from their home areas across the Sahara to the Benue basin and take back large numbers of slaves, tons of ivory, and other commodities. Crossroads from Bauchi and Wukari linked the eastern with the western route. From Wukari one could travel via Akwana and Keana, Lafia, Beriberi and Keffi to Zaria and Kano. From Bauchi the route went through Zaranda, Dell and also Kano. Further east, as Dr. Henrich Bath demonstrated in the middle of the nineteenth century, one could make a journey from Bornu south through the countries of the Gamergu and Bata-Nargi to Yola in the Benue basin…most of the slaves, ivory, natron, and other wares from the Benue made their way down the Niger to the coast. But some slaves bearing merchandise went in caravans from Abinsi and Wukari overland to Idah and Ankpa in Igala, to Utonkon and Igumale in Idoma and to Ibagwa and Enugu and Enugu Ezike in Nsuka Area. Southwards still, the routes followed the Aro trading networks through places like Amokwe and Nuzuogu, or through Nkalagu, Nike, Agaja, and Uburu, down to Bende and Arochukwu, and thence to Calabar and Bonny on the Coast…There was a West to the North-east land route linking Ife with Illesha, Oshogbo, Igbajo, Illa, Aiyede, and Lokoja at the Niger-Benue confluence. Further south, through the labyrinth of channels, creeks, and backwaters of the Niger Delta and other rivers, a canoe could be taken from Badagry in the extreme west to the Andoni-Ibeno country in the extreme east…” (See C.C. Ifemesia, in Studies in Southern Nigerian History, Edited by Boniface I. Obichere, 2005)
The trading routes covered the entire six geographical zones of what is modern Nigeria. Abinsi and indeed Riverine Jukun were a major player in same way as Wukari, Donga, Takum, Ibi, Dampar Kona etc and far beyond. Within this said period, the Tiv are still far away at Congo. That is why we felt sorry for the Tiv and did not fault Nzou-U-Tiv’s press conference hinging on Tiv trade with the Igbirra along the bank of river Benue, because the said trade being referenced was a late 19th century phenomenon, already fostered by Jukuns centuries earlier. With the advent of Colonial Masters, the newly arrived Tiv were literally nurtured into the existing trading center by Jukun at Abinsi. The time frame of the trading activities of the Jukuns is further defined by Christopher Ehret, who encapsulate as follow:
“west of the Igala, still another strong Kingdom, Kwararafa, dominated the middle stretches of the Benue River in the thirteenth centuries. It repeatedly blocked the ambitions of the rulers of Kanem and later of Borno to expand their territories southward, and in fact Kwararafa seems often to have been the stronger power… Kwararafa’s position along the middle Benue probably similarly took advantage of the movement of goods east and west along that river and between the rainforest to the south and the chad Basin to the north. By the fifteenth century the commodities of commerce in these regions included large numbers of horses, brought overland from the drier savanna and steppe to the north…” (See Christoper Ehret: The Civilizations of Africa; A History to 1800. James Currey, 73 Botley Rd Oxford ox2, 2002)
This was echoed by Dr. Nwachukwu J. Obiakor and Abuoma C. Agajelu, all of Nnamdi Azikiwe University. Emphasizing on the role played by Jukun during the precolonial and before Tiv advent to this region, they stated:
“the early navigation of these waters contributed immensely to the precolonial internal and external trade. Also, ideas and technologies were diffused from one state, empire and Kingdom to another through this means. The Niger-Benue area appeared to be a major crossover in the general spread of the technology of iron…The importance of the Niger and Benue in early history of Nigeria is further reinforced by the fact that three major Kingdoms flourished on their banks. The Jukun Empire embraced most of the Benue valley and exercised influence over much of Northern Nigeria as far as Kano, and appears to have been known in the south as far as the estuary of the Cross River.” (See, British Colonial Economic Policies and infrastructure in Nigeria: the rail transport Example, 1898-1960 by Dr. Nwachukwu J.O & Abuoma C.A in IGWEBUIKE, an African journal of Arts and Humanities Vol 2 No 3, 2016)
The Cross River estuary which became the launching pad of Tiv entrance into the Benue valley was the borderline between Kwararafa empire and the south. There was nothing resembling Tiv in this area until the late 18th century. As late as 1935 K. Dewar, the Assistant District Officer Abinsi District in Tiv Division explained this succinctly:
“…the Benue above Abinsi is a fishing ground regularly visited by people from as far south as Onitsha and far East as Yola, and there is of course a constant flow of trade both up and down the river. The permanent population, apart from a few Hausawa, consist almost entirely of Jukun, a reserved and secretive people, who though on a higher cultural level than the Tiv still adhere to their pagan beliefs” (See Intelligence Report on the Riverain Jukun Units of Tiv Division, 1935)
The economic activities and scenery of that region was turned into disarray when Tiv appeared somewhere from Congo in the late 18th century and like a bull in a Chinese shop, traders and travelers began to be attacked along the inland route which criss-cross Jukun territory from Abinsi, across river Katsina Ala through Arufu Akwana, Kente, Sondi, Ritti to Wukari, the headquarters of the Kingdom; also across Katsina Ala Takum axis that conjoin the routes aforementioned. Nyityo, a Tiv fellow, painted the picture accurately. According to him:
“in July 1906, Captain C.F. Gordon, an officer largely credited with “opening up” Tivland, assumed duties as the Acting Resident of Muri Province. Captain Gordon did so much in advancing the imperial ideology of progress otherwise known as the civilizing mission. However, there were initial difficulties to overcome. First and foremost, he had to tackle the incessant problem of Tiv attacks on traders in Benue and Katsina Ala rivers” (See Political Centralization and Transformation of Tiv Society, 1900-1963 by Sawua Gabriel Nyityo, 2003)
In spite of this development, the Jukun cultivated a remarkable relationship with the Tiv even though as strangers and semi tributary, they are viewed as inferior in status as K. Dewar expounded:
“…the riverain Jukun, always maintained a superiority status amongst their Tiv neighbors up to the time of the arrival of the British. This was due to their higher intelligence combined with their invulnerability, for the Tiv were not watermen; and to the fact that through the trade passing up and down the river they became a source of supply to the Tiv of certain articles which they soon learnt to prize but could not obtain elsewhere” (See Intelligence Report on the Riverain Jukun Units of Tiv Division, 1935)
8.0 COLONIAL ADMINISTRATION OF ABINSI AND JUKUNLAND: A CASE OF LAND ANNEXATION SANCTIONED BY POPULATION CESUS HOAX AND FRAUD
Colonial administration at the onset in 1900 in Northern Nigeria, assembled Jukun and other ethnic minorities including amateur Tiv tribe into the Lower Benue Province, with headquarters at Akwanaja which shortly metamorphosed to Muri Province in 1905 through realignment of boundary, and by the 1930s, a full-blown enclave envisaged for the Tiv race by the colonial masters was unveiled.
The Colonialist conceived the idea as soon as some Residents and District Officers assumed duties in their respective posts at Abinsi, Wukari, Ibi and Katsina Ala, incidentally all non-Tiv towns. During this period, Tiv had no established or organized authority other than scattered settlements with doted thatched mud compounds, within vicinity of Jukun territory, being immigrants. Further reorganization in 1910 created two major Divisions within the Province with headquarters at Abinsi and Wukari. The Tiv District of Katsina was placed under Abinsi Division, as by this time the presence of the British paved way for massive encroachment of Tiv towards Jukunland at the Northward and Eastward within the bank of River Benue and River Katsina Ala.
The Colonialist found an already established 22 Villages and settlements of the Riverine Jukun from Makurdi area at the bank of River Benue up to Sufa in Wukari, and at the fringes of Katsina Ala River. The settlement includes: Abonko (Makurdi) Abinsi, Agbodo, Ankwa or Azhoko, Abuni (Abweni) Jamindo (Zhamindo), Azenu, Kitsani, Ashuku, Aku, Abon, Aguye, Atenge, Asokoga, Aselema, Asede, Aku (under Asede village) Kinda, Akatsu, Akor, and Anyishi. (See Intelligence Report on the Riverain Jukun units of Tiv Division by K. Dewar, the Assistant District Officer, 3rd September, 1935)
The advantage of the Royal Niger station at Abinsi paved way for Agabi Idoko, the then Akubise to facilitate the touring of all the Jukun settlements; following the footstep of his predecessor, Asekyeno the 13th Akubise who displayed same hospitality to the Tiv when they arrived the vicinity as rent seekers, of which Utyondo Tiv tribe owe allegiance and became tributary to the Jukun. Idoko’s gesture continued after his death and his son Ajidoku Agabi who assumed mantle followed that trends of hospitality to Tiv till Jukun fortunes began to change at the reign of Ataki Agabi, Ajidoku’s son who took over and ruled between 1928 and 1957 when his father died. This fact formed Maddock report, which was incorporated in the Intelligence report by K. Dewar in 1935, Part of the report read:
“the general situation may be illustrated by the history of the relation between the Abinsi and the Utiondo Tiv, whose leader, Agiri, was taken by the chief of Abinsi a few years after his arrival in the vicinity (from the south) to Agudu Manu, the Aku of Wukari (C.1850), and presented with the title of Tor-U-gbande. After this the people of Abinsi ferried Agiri and most of his followers across the Benue to their present site… they paid tribute in the form of gift of corn for the yearly Jukun rites which were attended by the Tiv elders of Utiondo until the British arrived and put to stop to this.” During this time, the Jukun played a significant role in civilizing the Tiv into a new found world to which Dewar stated:
“the Tiv had then no experience of iron, his primitive tools and weapons being made of wood. The first stream of immigrants was into what is now Abinsi Division, West of Katsina Ala River. It was this Western stream, led by Harev and Masev clans, which is said first to have learnt the use of iron…” (See Intelligence Report on the Riverain Jukun units of Tiv Division by K. Dewar, the Assistant District Officer, 3rd September, 1935)
- Dewar stated in his report that despite the stoppage of Tiv annual tributary to the Jukun, there was this sense of obligation that still persist thereafter. He explained that:
“None the less in the historic raid on the Royal Niger company Store and the Hausa quarters at Abinsi in 1906, the Tiv were acting on the instruction of Agabi, the Jukun Chief of Abinsi who had quarreled with the Hausawa and plotted the whole affair…it would thus appeared that at the time of the arrival of British, the Tiv of Utiondo were in position of semi-tributary allies to the Jukun of Abinsi.” (See Intelligence Report on the Riverain Jukun units of Tiv Division by K. Dewar, the Assistant District Officer, 3rd September, 1935 also see The Jukun of Abinsi: A Socio-Political History by Joshua A. Asemanya, 2018.)
In effect, by virtue of its position, Abinsi played binary role as Headquarter of the Division in one hand, and served as District Head for the riverine Jukun, on the other. To further restructure the District, and enhance effective control of the Jukunland, the District was later subdivided into two units with Abinsi as an independent village tax paying unit between 1911 -12 while the other 20 Jukun villages were grouped under Azhoko or Ankwa, as precursor to creation of more Districts for the Jukun. According to Dewar, “In 1913, however, the two units were united and formed into Abinsi District of which Ajidoko, the Chief of Abinsi, was made head, the Chief of Ankwa having refused to move on the mainland when the headship had been offered to him with this stipulation.”
The colonial administration on the other hand in 1926 brought Lafia Emirate under Abinsi Division, superintendent by Assistant District Officer Major Cragg while the following 23 Tiv Districts of Ikurav North, Ikurav South, Mbagen, Shitire North, Shitire South, Tongov, Turan, Ugondo, Ukum, Gav, Harev East, Harev West Masev, Kunav North, Kuna South, Mbakor, Mbatiav, Mbatierev, Mbayion, Nongov East, Nongov West, Shangev South, Shangev West, Tombo East, Tombo West, Ukan, Utange, and Yandev were created.
9.0 COLONIAL ANNEXATION OF JUKUNLAND TO TIV TRIBE
On the 13th 0ctober 1922, after touring and interviewed natives of Lokoja, Idah, Bagana, and Benue Bridge of what was known as Bassa and Munshi Provinces, W. Scott Evans, came to a conclusion that the amalgamation of Old Bassa province with the Munshi Province was a mistake because in his views, “the Igalas of the Western part of Munshi Province have no connection or affinity whatsoever with the Munshis”, As a matter of fact, he observed that if the two provinces were to be retained, the name could have been renamed Igala-Munshi Province. (See extract of the inspection Notes on Kabba, Munshi and Muri Provinces by his Honour, the L.O, MP, dated 18. 10. 22)
Colonial masters therefore thought that large vacant land existed within Jukun enclave and much resistance was not envisaged from a more receptive Jukuns, coupled with the report of Capt. Abraham, the District Anthropologist Officer, supported by Capt. Downes of the Wukari Division. Capt. Abraham had projected in his report that Tiv population was going to be doubled in fifteen years. Joshua Antinyi Asemenya provided another insight in his book, entitled The Jukun of Abinsi: A socio-political History, 2018. He stated:
“The colonial officials had to compromise with the Tiv majority because, it was in the interest of the colonial administration to enlist the support of the Tiv people so that they did not disrupt the colonial rule by constituting themselves as stumbling-block to colonialism. Besides, the so-called reorganization was embarked upon to totally break the backbone of the Jukun, to what the Tiv considered as too much prominence being giving to Abinsi and the entire Jukun. They also felt that since Tiv had now allowed the colonial masters to penetrate the Tivland without confrontations, it was proper that all attention should be diverted to the people who formed majority.” (See the Jukun of Abinsi: A socio-Political History, by Joshua A. Asemanya, 2018)
The imperial interest was far beyond Asemanya’s postulations, it was a mission for total annexation of Jukunland. H. Hale Middleton, the Acting Secretary Northern Province, spelt out the composition of the munshi Province:
“broadly speaking, Munshi Province is composed of two elements:-(a) The Apa and Jukun races, which predominate in the Idoma Division and in large centers in the other Divisions such as Wukari, Dampar, Awe, and the Toto and Panda region, as well as West of Makurdi. (b). The rest is Munshi and it is advantageous that this virile and rapidly expanding race spread North and North West up the Railway, to occupy the large amount of vacant land there is to the North of the Benue”
The initial plan to take over Jukunland was unwittingly codified in a poetic script, but which we decoded effortlessly. The message from the Acting Secretary reads:
“The more the Munshis can be got to spray, the better for the country. It will tend to relieve the land hunger which exist along the Northern Provinces-Southern Province border, and the province has been constituted as it has very largely with that end in view “ (See Intelligence Report on Munshi Province, 1908)
The key words in that contraption is ‘LAND HUNGER’ and ‘LARGELY WITH THAT END IN VIEW’ Land Hunger? Yes, the Jukun land earmarked for Tiv tribe as gift to be eaten up. Colonial masters themselves knew that if Tiv will be pushed to accomplish this task, a lot of effort is required to civilize them to become normal people and bring them out of their dungeon to occupy Jukun area. This was made clear by Gordon, the Assist Resident Munshi province, when Benue Province was being proposed. He stated:
“In the Division at present under my charge I have little doubt that both wheat and rice could be profitably cultivated if seed and a few native skilled in their culture could be provided. There must be many other articles besides these worth encouraging. With greater demands for variety of commodities there must be more chance of the Munshis for example, settling down to be quiet members of societies as well as inducing him to install himself in larger and more lasting communities” (See Muri quarterly Report No.59, Sept. 30 1908)
- H. Ruxton, Resident Muri Province in 1908 and Captain Elephinston, Acting Residents from 1909 did great work to set the stage running for the accomplishment of the Tiv’s clean- up task. For instance, Elephinston embarked on the construction of road from Abinsi to Katsina Ala from 1909 to 1910 and opened up River Katsina Ala to navigation. In short, between that time to 1926, various construction activities were carried out to position the Tiv to take up the new found territory earmarked to them. As the least and handicapped tribe, colonialist want them cultivated by the relatively civilized to have them tended, nurtured and embedded.
The land area which they want Tiv implanted was the Muri-Munshi un-demarcated boundary covering Akwana up to Takum and the northern bank across Doma, Keana to Awe. E.G. Dupigny, the Resident Muri, put untold pressure on Aku Uka to allowed Tiv to occupy the land for purpose of farming alone. The census figure of the Tiv clans were also handed over to the Resident Muri obviously for absence of clear-cut boundary demarcation. The figures are as follow: Shittire North-496; Shitire South-444; and Ukun-2, 768 was handed over to Resident Muri. (See Annual report from Muri Province by Resident W.F. Govers, 1905).
But Dupigny was also mindful of the exact people he is dealing with. His description of Tiv says it all. According to him: “The Munshi is a natural diplomat and will endeavor on every occasion to force one hands and at the same time grind his own axe”. As predicted, the magnanimity was short-lived as Tiv began to venture beyond the reasons why they were allowed in; and without further hesitation, they were driven away immediately.
E.G Dupigny, and his counterpart Mr. Rockforte Rae, the Assistant District Officer, Abinsi were less than pleased and were relentless. To accomplish the task against all odd, the authority at Kaduna must be impressed that the Jukun population was waning while that of Tiv were increasing astronomically. Dupigny filed the report, and Part of the report read:
“It is an open point whether the expulsion of the Munshis – a virile and rapidly increasing race- was expedient politically. The idea of keeping Wukari lands exclusively for the Jukunawa (an effete race), or the desire to restrict Munshis to the Province, is in theory perfect, but when one descends to cold facts as one has to, one finds that the progress of the Ibi Division is undoubtedly hampered by a serious lack of population and labour… At the present movement, the Munshis are pressing to be allowed to reoccupy the lands in Muri Province from which they are evicted and Sarki Wukari, whose father first invited them, is prepared to extend a cordial welcome. On my recent visit to this part, where Mr. Rockforte Rae, the Assistant District Officer Abinsi Division was able to meet me in connection with a boundary dispute, one of the section heads of the Munshi clans who had previous to 1918 settled North of Arufu – Wukari Road but in 1918 been ordered to go back across the road came in to ask that he and his section might be allowed to return and become vassals of Sarkin Wukari. He was informed that the matter would be referred to His Honour after it had been discussed by the two Residents concerned… A similar answer was given to another section head who met me at the same request at Gidan Amadu in the Takum District” (See Muri Province half year Report by E.G. Dupigny)
The indication that the condition was rife for Tiv take-over no matter the setback was contained in a telegraph forwarded by E.J Saltwell, Resident Benue, on the 23rd July 1926, wherein Dupigny report was echoed. The telegraph reads:
“For some years the Munshis, a virile race, were compelled to remain in the South of the boundary, and the Wukari and Takum lands of the Ibi Division were reserved exclusively for the Jukonawa, an elfete and decreasing race. Such Munshis as had already crossed, were compelled to return, although the Sarkin Wukari at least was not averse from their immigration”
The misrepresentation of the fact was glaring. The Jukun were not averse to the immigration but the report failed to convey the main reason why Tiv were expunged in the first place. The Residents were actually gambling out the plans because the Jukun had already been profiled and the activities of Tiv were touching the heartbeat of the Jukun. The profiled report stated:
“The Jukons, formerly at Kororofa and later at Wukar, were themselves the central authority, of a large empire reaching as far North as Kano, and as far South as the Coast. They never recognized any authority superior to their own” (See Intelligence report Muri Province, 1914).
Capt. Feasey, the District officer who assumed duty on the 23rd April, 1926 as the District Officer Abinsi Division was mandated to draw up another strategy that will be less confrontational, he was assisted by Mr C.V Williams who was posted in on the 16th May 1926. The framework of his assignment was laid down by his predecessor, Capt. J.D. Symes, the Assistant District Officer, between 23rd January, to 27th April, 1926. Symes worked in concert with Mr. Rutherford, who was at Katsina Ala station from January to March before he was relieved by Mr. B.M Macfarlane on the 17th March, 1926 till 30th September of that year.
The peaceful gradual strategy was revealed at both the North, west and south of Wukari. The first shot was at Kashinbila which was revealed in the intelligence report. The report gave an insight of what was being planned:
“On a certain occasion when a suggestion to the District Head of Turan (Munshi) that Katsimbila should be put under him he stated at once that it was not a Munshi country” (See Muri Province report, 1914)
The plan was rechanneled to the Riverine Jukuns as the Residents were not dissuaded by the naivety of the District head of Turan. In that connection, the strategy was wholeheartedly executed. H. Hale Middleton, the Acting Secretary Northern Province revealed vividly how the plan was going to be implemented at the Northern bank of the Riverine Jukun:
“The Chiefs of Lafia, Keffi, Nassarawa and other regions must therefore be encouraged in every way to invite Munshis into their countries, in communities which can have a certain measure of local self-government under Munshi headmen”
That push was intensified and the outcome was a total onslaught from all fronts from Abinsi Division, especially after 24 Districts were created for the Tiv. For example, Captain G. G. Feasey, the Resident, in 1926 reported inter alia:
“There have been some emigration to Doma and Idoma from Harev West, but very few from Harev East to Keana… Efforts have been made to induce those on the South bank of Benue to join their fellows on the North Bank…by a gradual Northward movement of the clans between there and the Benue.” (See Annual Report No.4, for the Abinsi Division by Captain G.G, Feasy, 1926)
10.0 COLONIAL POLITICS OF LAND ANNEXATION THROUTH POPULATION CENSUS
Three-way strategy was mapped out by the Colonial officers in the two Divisions to take over Jukunland. The first strategy centered around the context of the actual population figure of Wukari District. The significance of this was to obtain accurate figure of the District which to determine the blanket figure to be awarded to Tiv clans arbitrarily in other to present Tiv tribe as most populous comparatively. The second strategy was related but conversely strategized to double down the population of the Riverine Jukun along the bank of River Benue, to enable the Jukun subsumed under Tiv control and by extension reduced Wukari sphere of influence by half. The third strategy was therefore to ensure that higher population figures are arbitrarily assigned to the Tiv, and project the tribe to agree with the projection already made by Capt. Abraham, Capt. Downess and their ilk. Unfortunately, the Resident officers did a very bad, rough, pitiable and a yeo man’s job, and failed to cover their track. Let’s examine what actually transpired in the three areas of Wukari; Abinsi/and Riverine towns; and the Tiv areas.
10.1 NATURE OF CENSUS CONDUCTED AT WUKARI DIVISION
L.S. Ward, the Assistant District Officer, Wukari Division was detailed in his assigned task of enumerating the Jukun population. The instruction was straightforward and clear: the population figure of the Wukari Division must be obtained accurately as they are. In 1908, Ward, after carrying out that assigned task, filed the report of the census conducted personally with assistance of his staff. He summarized his activities succinctly:
“the census was conducted by me personally and occupied me for two and a half month. I believe it’s a thorough one as I took a special pain to check the figure I obtained…finally the census was done by house to house visitation and whenever it was possible individuals, and not head of the house, were asked to enumerate their respective children”
We do not want to bore you with details as the above summary tells it all. It was a detailed exercise that was reportedly carried out by the A.D.O. with the assistance of his staff and all the figures generated were accurate to the last. Let’s turn to how the census exercise at Abinsi and across other Riverine Jukun, an area that ought to be an extended Wukari sphere of influence.
10.2 NATURE OF CENSUS CONDUCTED AT ABINSI AND OTHER RIVERINE JUKUN
Colonial administration conspired with Tiv scribes to undercount the population of the Riverine Jukun, ultimately to reduce the overbearing influence of the Jukun Kingdom and by extension suit the overall theory that has been circulated in colonial record of the decreasing population of the Jukun against the increasing Tiv population. Unfortunately, it took more than eight years running, only in 1935 that the anomaly was discovered at a Jukun village named Asede, east of Bajimba by K. Dewar, a forthright Resident of Abinsi Division. The discovery was however belated because it was the result of those censuses that was used to partition all the land of the Riverine Jukuns from Abinsi to Sufa in Wukari and subsumed them under five Tiv clans whose population figures were estimated far above that of the Jukuns. Dewar’s report was more empathetic. He stated:
“Numerous examples could be given of the serious effects of the lack of administration alluded to. For instance, since the settlements in Sangev (Nongov East) have been handed over to the Tiv (i.e. 1929) their recorded population has fallen from 454 to 170. Part of this is due to emigration and part to inaccurate counting by Tiv scribes who are completely ignorant of Jukun language and customs. At Ashuku for example personal count by myself showed exactly double the figures of the scribe’s count the previous year, despite several deaths from small-pox.” (See Riverine Jukun of Tiv Division: Intelligence Report, 3rd September, 1935 by K. Dewar, Asst District Officer).
This is an indictment that calls for critical assessment.
Before this event, a detailed report by Madock had recommended that Abinsi and all Riverine Jukuns should either be made independent with additional Districts created for the Jukuns or the entire area be merged under Wukari as has been the case before the arrival of Colonial masters, but in contrast the District officers jettisoned that recommendation and pursued a census policy that reduced Jukun population of the Abinsi District and allied towns and villages to justify the piecemeal subdivision of Jukun towns and subjugate them under Tiv clans who were not just common strangers but rent seekers and tributary of the Jukuns. Dewar described the development clearly:
“…the majority of the villages namely Abinsi and Ankwa and their hamlets went to Harev East (Utiondo). The remainder were apportioned out amongst the Nongovs, the lion’s share went to Nongov East (Sangev), Anyishi and Akatsu alone went to Shitire North…This arrangement was, as may be imagined, extremely unpopular with the Jukun who considered it unjust that they, the original settlers, should be placed under the authority of the Tiv who were regarded as a tribe as mere slaves.” (See Riverine Jukun of Tiv Division: Intelligence Report, 3rd September, 1935 by K. Dewar, Asst District Officer).
What this means is that a large portion of Wukari sphere of influence has been cut off almost by half and in place of that, on the 1st October, 1926, The Tiv Districts with an inflated population of 123, 979 of Ikurav South, Mbagen, Shitire South, Shitire North, Tongov, Turu (Etulo, non Tiv),Turan, Ugondo, Ukum and the village areas of Katsina Ala out of which was Etulo (Jukun) numbering 2, 476 were transferred from Abinsi Division to Katsina Ala station under Wukari Division. The reason for this action, up till this moment does not make any sense other than, as we now understand, a deft move towards implementation of Abinsi blueprint; in other words, it was geared towards applying Abinsi strategy on the Wukari area as earlier planned to take place at Kashimbila which the Turan Chief naively truncated; which juggled the phase to take-off at the Riverine Jukun area in contrast to the original phase in the policy implementation. It was that initial obstruction that swerved the policy implementation to the Riverine Jukun.
The anomaly was too glaring that K. Dewar cried out aloud. In his assessment of the unfortunate balkanization of Abinsi and other Riverine Jukun, he empathized:
…it is, to say the least of it, a misfortune that this region which has an individuality of its own and which contains within itself possibilities of development on characteristic lines should be broken up piece-meal and shared amongst the newly arrived Tiv who have neither understanding nor use of it. And yet this is the course that for a variety of reasons it was deemed necessary to adopt in 1929” (See Riverine Jukun of Tiv Division: Intelligence Report, 3rd September, 1935 by K. Dewar, Asst District Officer).
Let’s therefore turn to examine the third strategy of how population malpractice was perpetrated in Tiv Districts to prosecute Tiv centered policy of domination.
10.3 NATURE OF CENSUS CONDUCTED IN TIVLAND
Head count in Tiv land was bedeviled by improper method hedged around estimated figures, instead of the rudimentary method applied in Wukari and at worst the Riverine Jukun. The colonial masters did not pretend about this abnormality, even as different estimated figures fail to reconcile three years on. In 1905, W.F. Govers, the Resident Muri Province put the total estimated figure of the Tiv tribe at 358, 000 and contrasted this with the G.G. Feasey annual report of Abinsi Division in 1926 which gave total Tiv population of 328, 500, a period of 21 years, you smell a stinking rat. (See Annual Report No.4 by Captain G.G. Feasey, on Abinsi Division, 1926). This outcome raises a fundamental question, because as an increasing population, it was expected that Tiv population should have tripled, if the characterization of Tiv population is anything to go by, but in this situation, the reverse is the case. The two figures presented above indicated that the numbers had decreased by 29, 500. On the other hand, G.G. Feasey’s estimation did not provide the breakdown of the clans; however, Govers report gave the breakdown of some of the clans as follow: Shittire-35, 000; Turana (Turan)-12,000; Tongobo (Tongov)-16,000; Tombo-8,000; Nungobo (Nongov)-15, 000; and Gondo-15, 000, etc.
The two population estimates above was preceded by earlier estimated census conducted between 1903 to 1905 and were all based on faulty premise; the Resident Muri Province in his annual report of 4th September, 1907 made that point clear when he stated: “among themselves, they seem to be many but their appearance does not give this impression” (See Report of Residence, Muri Province, 4th Sept, 1907)
Why was this outlook revealed of Tiv population? Ruxton the Resident Muri Province, in 1908 made this assessment of the Tiv settlement and population:
“in many places from the higher ground many villages are not big-the largest seen contains 55 living huts but there are many which contains only 4 or 5. The corn bins belonging to each house give false impression of the size of the villages.” (See Report of Residence, Muri Province, 4th Sept, 1907)
Writing further on the nature of the Tiv habitation, he stated:
“The information in I.D.W.O. Maps up to 1905 is now outdated, in nearly every case the villages shown to have moved, in many cases are not recognized. This is due to the migratory character of the tribe and to the fact that each village is generally known by names of the Head of the family living in it preceded by the Munshi word…” (See Report of Residence, Muri Province, 4th Sept, 1907)
The point being enunciated by Ruxton is that most of the Tiv Clans, gets further sub clans as offshoot from the original clans already known but colonial masters used the offshoot clan to allocate bogus figure to shove up Tiv population. But often times, this sub clans get missed out based on the migratory character of the people. But in spite of the mixed up, population figure has already been assigned to the clan in colonial records. Yet, the clan or family has moved and could not be traced anywhere, because these are family settlements that are always on the move.
Captain C.F. Rowe, the 2nd Class Resident Muri Province in 1908, was definitive in his report of the estimated census applied to Tiv tribe, which he distinguished with the usual assessment done for other tribes like the Jukuns. He explained the details and how the idea was authorized:
…this report differs from an ordinary Assessment report in that the assessment itself was suggested to me during conversation with His Excellency the Acting Governor when I was at Zungeru last year and is at the same time coincidence with actual collection. The assessment was based on previous statistics obtained on Munshi Race as the result of absolutely close Resident Census and Assessment in those Districts hitherto brought under administration, the intention being to as quickly as possible bring the whole Munshi clans under such Administration and then to follow, in this instances, when the political staff may admit, by the usual close assessment and census of each individual ‘house’ (village) by a European officer…”
Rowe further explained how the census was obtained at Tombo West in this manner. He stated:
“…I visited this Yandava clan and obtained as closely as possible in a full meeting of headmen of each section, subsection, ‘town-group’, a list or very approximate total of all ‘house’ (Villages) within each subsection or group. As many of these were visited as possible, both prior to and after the assessment but as it was out of question to visit and census each home individually, the average incidence of all previous Munshi statistics hitherto recorded was adopted by me as a guide to population…such averages give as to population 21 souls per ‘house’ (village) 7 of whom are found to be adult males, 7 adult females and 7 children (under puberty). My unit of rough census is therefore ‘seven’ though in cases where I consider a clan or portion thereof, is obviously divergent from this average the unit is varied accordingly” (See Assessment Report on the Yandava District of the Munshi Division, 27th March, 1913, by Capt. Rowe, 2nd Resident Muri Province)
The census in Tivland was not just a paper work, it was an abnormality that did not fit into the reasons justified by colonial authority. To drive home this point, let us examine few of such cases. For example, the Nongov clan, made up of Ndzorov, Kambe and Sanghev segmented as Nongov West, East and North, even though, Nongov North are principally Ndzorov clans who have crossed River Benue towards Awe, and the remainder domiciled at Agasha/Kwenev axis near Abinsi. In 1905 the total population of Nongov was estimated at 15, 000 but in 1929, almost 26 years after, the cumulative population of both Nongov West and Nongov East was 9, 199 according to the Report of Mr. K. J. Bryant, the A.D.O. Abinsi Division. The breakdown for the West and East was 3, 833 and 5, 366 respectively. (See Nongov East & West – Re-assessment Report, by Mr. K.J. Bryant. A.D.O. Abinsi Division, 1929)
If 9, 199 figures are contrasted with 15, 000 estimated for Nongov in 1905, it shows a decrease of 5, 801 people. Why was this so? Was Tiv population not said to be an increasing one? Even if Nongov North is added, it does not make any difference, why? Because in 1934 the total population of Ndzorov District made up of Kambe (i.e. Shamiyough, numbered 271) and Jukun (numbered 71) was 2,545. This was a period of almost 30 years. (See Intelligence Report on Nongov-Ndzorov District of Tiv Division, Benue Province, 22nd January, 1935).
Another example is the population of Shittire. The Shittire clan has an estimated population of 35, 000 in 1905; but earlier above, we recorded that Govers was handed the population figure same year as follow: Shettire North-496 and Shettire South-444 which summed up to 940, and it get worst when it is juxtaposed with the 32 in 1935 personally recorded by K. Dewar for Shittire North.
The discrepancies are endless and mind boggling. However, we get the inference as early as 1905 from Gower’s report for the Province. He however admitted that two separate reports were made for the Tiv in the middle of this mess. Accordingly, he stated:
“there is however such a discrepancy between my estimate of the total population of the province (543,000) and that of Mr. Resident Lobb (825, 000) that I have allowed the latter statistics to stand in the statistical form T, i presume his estimate…is higher than my own, but I do not know on what information his calculation was made. My figures agrees with that of Ruxton’s estimate (1903) about half a million. I also attached separately 2 statement of the Munshis (who are however included in the general total”
It is now established beyond reasonable doubt that the much vaunted Tiv population figures was and is nothing but a sham, a hoax, a farce and the greatest fraud that was perpetrated by colonial masters to take over Jukun territory. Unfortunately, same outlook is still being perpetuated without question. Take the last governorship election in Benue state and put the voting population in perspective of Tiv who claimed to be 7 Million and bragged of being the 4th largest ethnic group in Nigeria. A voting population of this number should not be less than 3 million at least, but what do we record on the last governorship election? The total votes secured by Samuel Ortom was only 410, 576, in an election that was hotly contested and included other tribal groups while his closest rival got 329, 022, which altogether was less than 1 million votes. The secret is BIOMETRICS.
11.0 THE RING FENCE POLICY
The initial policy laid down by Palmer to actualize Wukari Federation in 1928 was aimed at creating a federation made up of Wukari, Donga, Takum Awe, Shendam and indeed Abinsi Districts and Ashuku District which was proposed to be established under that arrangement. Tiv tribe were not part of that federation, but carved out separately, to live side by side with the Jukun, but it was G.G. Feasey and cohort that truncated that idea by first consigned Abinsi and other Riverine Jukuns under Tiv clans and laid the ground for the ultimate subordination of the entire Jukunland for Tiv to dominate. Therefore, the hidden agenda to include the ten (10) Tiv District into Wukari Federation was aimed at replicating the Abinsi blue print as we earlier mentioned. The report gave a very unsubstantiated reason for the action as follow:
The decision to bring the ten Tiv Districts within the ambit of this policy seems to have been largely financial, combined with the evident difficulty of administering the whole thirty four clans from Divisional Headquarters, at Makurdi”
Palmer whom the Tiv now found convenient to blame, received the proposal with a pinch of salt. Maddock’s report submitted to the Resident Benue Province on the 20th August, 1934 stated inter alia:
“Sarkin Abinsi has told me that when the Jukuns were placed under Harev East Court they decided upon a policy of passive resistance. They resolved that nothing would persuade them to go to Tiv court or to Makurdi and made up their minds that they must wait patiently for better days or else return to Wukari.” (See p.33, Maddocks report, 1934)
The key word here is PASSIVE RESSISTANCE and RETURN TO WUKARI which caught the attention of Herbert Palmer, the Lieutenant Governor at Kaduna. Palmer’s response to the frustration expressed by Ataki Agabi, the Abinsi chief as reported by Maddock, was echoed by Palmer when he came into the fray to proffer solution to an injustice that was perpetrated against the Jukun. Palmer stated:
“there are two and only two courses of action to pursue. (1). Go on as at present and see the Jukuns continue on the downward path of passive resistance to a policy which means their ultimate extinction. (2). Boldly use the machinery which i purposely arranged, i.e. the Wukari Division Native Treasury – to put matters on the basis which will give some hope of ultimate and satisfying results” (Emphasis ours)
The first point stated by Palmer above was patent admission of the injustice and impunity meted the Abinsi and other Riverine Jukun; how their territories were balkanized and swallowed up by Tiv tribe, without their prior consent. The second point was the situational crave to solve an inherent problem created by overzealous officials under his watch; wherein he proposed merger of Abinsi and Riverine Jukuns within Wukari Federation and excluded the Tiv people whose administrative system was being worked out concomitantly. But how the ten Tiv clans were conscripted into Wukari federation instead of the proposed Tiv Division as mentioned by Maddock and sanctioned by Palmer, is of utmost importance here.
What is now the Ring Fence policy which angst the Tiv today was designed to solve a complex problem that emanated from the colonial policy that have induced Tiv to migrate into Jukun territories and the underground policy of the Federation which was initiated with sole aim to prompt Tiv eventual take over. Unfortunately, it was the Tiv phenomenon that scuttled that process as Palmer observed:
“The Federation policy has been steadily pursued and the various units now look to Wukari as their center, where are situated the departmental institutions. But up to the present there is no sign that any are likely to forgo their independence which they cherish. Jukun cultural influence is stronger in Donga and Takum…the connection of the Tiv Districts with Wukari cannot be fairly described as a Federation in as much as they have few common interest”
That was why after the reorganization when Tiv were removed, the Resident reported as follow:
“The Chief of Donga, Takum and Awe fully realized that they have common share in and responsibility for the central institutions which are well supervised on their common behalf by the Aku. After his visit his Honour wrote: “I visited Wukari and the Native Administration institutions and held a meeting with Aku and other Chiefs (Note: excepting Tiv). The institutions…are well run. The Native Administration is a live organization so far as the Jukun -speaking Districts are concerned. No good ground, however, has been represented for bringing in the Tiv”
One can understand from above that the Tiv are a metaphor of ‘problem’ of some sort. When they were part of Wukari Federation, the arena was crisis ridden, but as soon they were removed, the Federation began to flourish in peace which gave credence to why Palmer faulted Tiv’s inclusion at the first instance. Palmer’s exceptional knack was brought to bear when he was able to underscore the root cause to his officers who failed to be neutral in their dealings with the Jukun and Tiv neighbours. He stated:
“I think we have every reason for satisfaction with the progress made in the Province generally since its reformation as separate province in 1926. At that time, though different kinds of work has been done in the different Divisions, it would hardly be said that there was any definite coordinated Native Authority policy and the perennial Jukun/Munshi complex seemed to be in a constant state of flux as Residents come and went and were either pro- Munshi or Pro-Jukun” 12.0 THE PERSISTENT CLAIM OF ABINSI AS MEANS TO SALVAGE THE CRISIS OF IDENTITY BY THE TIV
Abinsi is a historical town with unique many recorded FIRST; unequalled in the whole of Benue state, described in 1911 by Capt. T.A. Rose, the Acting Resident Abinsi Division, as the biggest Port in the Benue River. (See Intelligence Report 1911). We will examine those FIRST one after the other: It is the FIRST cross-over point in Benue state that once linked the Northern and Southern Nigeria from the precolonial days up until Makurdi Bridge was constructed; the FIRST port for Royal Niger company in Benue state; the FIRST Divisional Headquarters in Benue state; the FIRST Headquarters of Benue Province in Benue state; the only and FIRST town in Benue that was headquarters of two-current state headquarters: Makurdi and Lafia; It hosted the FIRST headquarters of Tiv Native authority before it was transfer to Gboko; the FIRST headquarters of Abinsi Districts; the FIRST headquarter of West African Frontier force in Benue state; it is the FIRST town that introduced the Tiv clan to Aku Uka, for appointment as Tor- u -Gbande; It is the FIRST town that introduced Tiv to use of Iron; it is the FIRST town that civilize the Tiv to use of money; it is the FIRST town that enabled the Tiv tribe to meet the Missionaries; it is the FIRST town that hosted the Tiv conference towards the abolition of Tiv obnoxious marriage practices; it is the FIRST town in Benue state visited by Queen Elizabeth; the first primary school built in Benue state is in Abinsi; it is the FIRST town in which the first Tor Tiv was elected for the Tiv and coronated; the FIRST bank built in Benue state was in Abinsi; the FIRST town along with Katsina Ala where British Cotton Growing Association (BCGA) experimented plot when new improved cotton seedling was introduced. The numbers of its FIRST is the basis that draw Tiv envies, but that is normal in human life.
These may not necessarily be the reason why the Tiv want Abinsi hellbent as whatever glory the town carried, at least it has been rendered prostrate politically and physically over the years. However, Tiv sees Abinsi take over as a fundamental solution to a crisis of identity. Most Tiv scholars have overstretched that bounds already; they want Jukun name buried in the tide of history. There has been among the emerging scholars that have challenged the early Tiv historian like Tesemchi Makar and Akiga Sai. Tehember Wuam, drew up class of Tiv scholars that emerged in search of Tiv roots. He stated:
“The point of Tiv later dispersal has attracted a lot of attention from scholars of Tiv history. In this, Swem, has always featured as a putative homeland, the last launching pad, from which the Tiv moved into the Benue valley from sixteenth century and came to occupy their present abodes in what is today Benue, Nassarawa, and Taraba states of Nigeria”
The migration period was constructed by him to be in three phases: the first phase, he stated was under the putative ancestor of Tiv as the leader; the second phase was said to be between 1535-1595 at the foot of Ibinda Hills which saw Tiv entry into Kwararafa territory and squared up with the Chamba or Ugenyi tribe in a scuffle, which changed Tiv Northeast course to westwards. On the last phase he stated:
“In the later phases of the movements the Tiv moved fully into the Benue valley and most groups had settled in their respective territories by the late eighteenth century. Given the above scenario, therefore it is plausible to aver that Tiv origin and migration history are explainable, not in one swoop movement, but in number of phases. Collaborative inputs from archeology, linguistic, history and anthropology will help to make the nature and character of such movements clearer” (See The Origin of Nationhood and Migration into the Benue Valley, c. 15000-1900, by Tehember Wuam, 2013)
From books, graduate and post graduate research work and other articles, as can be underscored from above passage, Tiv scholars and public commentators, have smuggled the date of their arrival to the Benue valley as far as the 16th century. This proposition is too watery and has no evidential value within circles of credible scholarship which spurn such conclusions as illusory. The claims are not only flawed, but speculative, mostly traced to the work of Iyo J.E.A. a Tiv author, whose authority is baselessly self-indulging to please Tiv audience and promote Tiv agenda; otherwise we invite any scholar of repute to provide any trajectory, source material, article, or archeological evidence, or credible independent source within and outside this continent with inkling of the Tiv entry to Benue valley far beyond late 18th century. Until this is produced, any of such claims are mere balderdash, of no paper weight value and is doomed, existing only on Tiv phantom world.
Thence, an entrenched groups, as we will later see, preferred a much natural and clandestine, far reaching, tangible, credible, subtle but of odious intellectual property, to steal the legacies of Abinsi and Riverine Jukun, seem to have been transmuted into Tiv system and dialect, to assume new name of Abetse, supported pragmatically by a map put forth by Laura and Paul Bohannan and which removed all traces of Abinsi and Riverine Jukuns from Makurdi to the Taraba boundary; having Jukunland balkanized and swallowed by Tiv clans of Mbatiev, Mbawa, Mbasaan, Nzorov, Saghev, etc, assumed within literature as Tiv’s. Thus, past histories and colonial legacies is appropriated by way of gradual assimilation of Jukun into Tiv culture. In this connection, Abinsi and its people has been denied any means of survival since independence and battled to be Tivinised by naturalization and indoctrination. For instance, no single school was built for the town since independence and every inference made on the town was colored with Tiv modulation, and Jukun imagery in Abinsi is promptly portray as fishing or settler elements from Taraba state. The other means was to whittle down its political strength, take over its traditional institutions and structure and by so doing appropriates its legacies. The last battle was heaped on Nongov shoulder, who are now in charge on account of the present Governor who is himself a Nongov son.
This will in no small measure remove the toga of immigrants; Tiv historiography will seamlessly embrace the 16th Century thesis by Iyo J.E.A and the likes of Wuam who are struggling hard to pile them up for the Tiv. On the basis of this, Nassarawa and Taraba state will open up their floodgate for invasion. That is why today, the voice of Tiv have become louder than before in Taraba and Nassarawa state because this battle seems to have been won with the name of Abinsi and Jukun finally expunged in Benue state records. We will open up the vista of how all along the hatchet job for this diminution was assigned to the touch bearers. The touch bearers are the Hyarev and Nongov clans – the immediate neighbors of Jukun and Abinsi.
13.0 THE IMPACT OF NONGOV/IHAREV FORCES TO SUBDUE ABINSI AS BASIS FOR TIV TO OVERRUN THE WEST/EAST OF NASSARAWA STATE AND SOUTHERN TARABA.
It is crucial to understand the perspective why the Association of Tiv in Taraba or the N-Zou-U-Tiv will chose to openly lie knowing conscientiously that all the lies will not stand the least scrutiny. The reason is nothing but arrogance, and lack of respect or sensitivity fueled by wrong perception of Jukun culture. Significantly, the Tiv people understood well that over time, the Jukun have always refrain from getting entangled on any propaganda game with the Tiv, which they aptly misunderstood for ignorance or naivety or sometimes based on wrong notion that Jukun fold lacks educated people that could square them up on that thrust. Actually, Jukun culture of being reserved have been the greatest undoing which sees open altercation as vainglory rather than standing firm to the truth; because open vituperations is seem as a weak stance, more like an empty gong that makes louder noise which is useless and does not obliterate existing facts. But most often than not, the Tiv have leveraged on that and capitalized on propaganda to curly national opinion of their aggressive tendencies, and such proclivity in the past has been harvested pronto to cover their tracks effectively; and they love it because they seem to thrive in it, turning the victims as the aggressors. But a time will come in one’s life that too much of lies and propaganda may turn out to be the same pedestal that swallows one up, because many lies will be needed to cover up other lies, and at the end you get struck by same salvo of ammunition without the opponent firing a bullet.
A significant point on this instance can be understood from the defense offered by the Tiv Association in Taraba state against our legitimate claim in Benue state which they want denied us. They stated:
“The Jukun of Benue state recently in copycat fashion, rented a space in some Newspapers complaining of marginalization. These complaints merely mask the on-going genocide of the Jukun in Taraba against the Tiv of Taraba state. On the Benue side no Jukun life is threatened, nobody is telling them to pack and go to Wukari, the home of Jukun Kingdom and the Aku Uka…most issues canvassed are blatant lies intended to portray the Tiv as always in a state of conflict with their neighbors. The Jukun in Benue state recognized that they are very happy to share the Benue space with other groups who have been here since the colonial period. Each ethnic nationality including ‘residual kwarararafa ethnicities’ is giving latitude in the state to pursue and develop their culture without interference …”
Let’s put those claims on scale to determine who is actually telling lies here. First, the Jukun in Benue state has no single reason to be happy with our stay in Benue state and we call on any single individual to disprove this position, just one. Secondly if our complaints of marginalization are lies, why do the state government and Tor Tiv remain deft silent ever since we made those allegations? Is Benue state government or the Governor and Tor Tiv so timid, so much so that a lie thrown at them renders them this dead scared? If this Tiv association so derogated their leaders as cowardly, of incapable of defending false allegation against them, we will freely join first in questioning the professorship of the Tor Tiv in particular. Thirdly, we wish to thank the Tiv association for coming to stark admission of the fact that Wukari is Jukun Kingdom and home to Aku Uka. This admission has led to rest the fires and brimstone inherent in a central thematic, unproductive write-up of the Tiv Association in Taraba state meant to prove black as white color. Incidentally, as the wise will say, if lies travels a million miles, truth will overtake it in a matter of seconds.
Fourthly, our write -up did not prove Tiv as trouble mongers, Tiv have always been one and unrepentant for that matter. Akiga Sai, Tesemchi Maker, Sawua G. Ntyito and many Tiv scholars have mentioned Tiv violence in their works at different epoch, so we should not be made scapegoat. The colonial masters have also reported Tiv troublesomeness but cannibalism. Besides, recent events of Tiv aggression are known all over the place, be it gangsterism, kidnapping, blocking of major highways, killing and robbing travelers of their possessions, and worst still, the belligerence predominates amongst Tiv clans, which still subsist as we write. In 2003 for instance, Tiv warmongering occurred in both Benue, Taraba, Plateau, and Nassarawa states in one swoop, which led to the constitution of the Commission of enquiry by Obasanjo Government at the behest of Tor Tiv, who volte faced unfortunately, and requested same Federal Government to terminate the proceedings half way when evidences began to reveal Tiv aggression as cause of the crisis; but the Federal government did not bulge until the proceedings were concluded. Peace would have been enthroned if the recommendation of that panel was implemented to the later by Benue state Government, because Abinsi hold the golden ace – treat the vulnerable within your fold, in same way as you wish to be treated by others. If you want peace, give peace, that’s the Golden Rule.
Finally, as regard to the Jukun experience in Benue state, we will actually devote time on this subject not only to debunk the assertions of Tiv association in Taraba and the Nzou-U-Tiv but to announce that gone are days when we capitulate to Tiv propaganda; we have changed our posture, but we will always respond with fact and figure, not chirruping like street urchins as Tiv propaganda is assuming lately.
The Jukun question in Benue state would have since been erased if Herbert Palmer, Maddock and K Dewar did not intervene in 1933 to 1935. That intervention rescued Abinsi except other Riverine Jukun from sliding to extinction penultimate independence in 1960.The implementation of Maddock’s proposal was enunciated on the 16th December, 1935, by the Acting Secretary Benue Province, wherein he stated:
“I have to refer to your memorandum No. 22821/40 of the 21st November and to say that the removal of Abinsi town from the control of former Tiv Native authority, and to grant of independence status, have had a good effect. The change took place about a year ago and the Divisional Officer (Captain Downes) reports that the Council which constitutes the new Native Authority and Native Courts has functioned very satisfactorily and that the people appeared to be content.2. The question of the future administration of the Jukun Riverain settlements…has recently been raised by the people, who say that they wish to be associated with the new Abinsi Native Authority.”
Two maps were sketched to reflect those proposals. The first defined Abinsi boundary which took off at area close to Mu bridge of about 7 kilometer away from Makurdi on the two banks of River Benue and traversed the middle border of Iharev both on the North and the West of River Benue and got to Abuni where it curved and bend westward to incorporate Ananga at Ijo and thence curved eastward, bordered by Iharev East, across the Makurdi-Gboko road, bordered by Nongov West, crossed over River kor named by Jukun as Akyo-Nuwha at around kwenev and thence curved Eastward and bend towards the bank of River Benue and thence moved eastward towards Jamindo island, bypassed it, crossed the junction of River Katsina Ala to Kitsani and Azenu at mouth of River Guma, of the Northern bank of River Benue almost to the fringe of Bajimba (Gbajimba). The second Map which is for the entire Riverine Jukun continued from there on both sides of the bank of River Benue and terminated on the Northern flank at Awe in present Nassarawa state and on the western side at Sufa in the present Taraba state.
Two major development suffices here. First the Maddock proposal and boundary adjustment which was approved on the 14th September, 1934 by his Honour, the Governor General Northern Nigeria, in effect assigned all River Benue within Benue state boundary, with half a mile distance on both sides of the bank of River Benue, including parts of River Katsina Ala; islands and ponds as enclave of the Riverine Jukun. The wisdom behind the idea was also enunciated. The initial policy in 1934 spelt it out:
“It is proposed to demarcate a boundary to include the hamlets of Abinsi in the vicinity as mentioned in paragraph 7and their farming lands. This is necessary in order to ensure that this minority are not gradually dispossessed of their farming land by the encroaching Tiv. The attached sketch plan represents roughly the proposed boundary.” (See Abinsi Town: Re-organisation of, 5th July, 1934 Maddock Report)
By 1935 when the policy was approved, the wish of the people, administrative outlook, size of the land and boundary were defined as follow:
“28. It is the strongly expressed wish of every unit at present under the Tiv Native Authority that it should be made independent of that Authority; and all units, including those of Abinsi area, that they should be placed under the Aku of Wukari…29. In the event of all units being placed under Aku it is suggested that they should be included in the Wukari Division (1) A strip of territory say half mile in width on either bank of the River Benue from the Tiv-Wukari boundary to the lower extremity of the area of the Abinsi Native Authority. (2) The Ashuku, Atenge, Benue Katsina Ala confluence triangle. (3). (The area at present allotted to Abinsi town. The total area is roughly indicated in the map-appendix A). This could be done, without disturbing Tiv rights for…it is possible that in some places there may be farm within the suggested half mile strip and in such cases slight adjustment could be made when the boundary is actually demarcated…” (See Intelligence Report on the Riverine Jukun Units of Tiv Division, by K. Dewar, 1935)
Secondly, as it stand, all our land is contiguously bordered on the Northern plank by Nassarawa state and on the Western plank by Taraba state, which essentially give effect to the 1935 policy that grants us options to continue to live in Benue state or be merged with our kith and kins in Taraba state, an option the present situation in Benue state is tending towards which may be the practical option to invoke as solution to the intense animosity between the two tribes which has refuse to abate; also in exercise of our rights as free citizen of this country.
The unfortunate occurrence revealed that after Abinsi Native authority was established as a fallout of this proposal, the other Jukuns who were to be exhumed from Tiv domain and placed under Abinsi Native Authority as contained in that policy document, was truncated, a situation which was also acknowledged by the Federal Government’s Commission of enquiry. With all intent and purpose, the policy was scuttled by the Pro-Tiv Residents and District Officers who at that instance, created additional clans totaled 54 for the Tiv under a Central authority at Gboko. In furtherance of the Tivinisation policy, a draft schedule of Tiv Native Authority in 1945 was filed by D.F.A Macbride, the District Officer Tiv Division, Gboko detailing what it termed Tiv order of natural affinities and association. That document was the Devil’s handiwork, meant to reverse the 1935 policy in favour of Tiv plan to annihilate Abinsi Native Authority, and in effect crumble the Jukun voice within what was termed Tivland. The document spelt out the order as follow (1)“Kwande” to include Ukan, Nanev, Turan, and Ikurav (2)Shittire- to include Katsina Ala, referred as guest settlement in Shitire land (3)Ukum-Tongov sept which Ugondo is associated. (4) Nongov (5) Iharev including Abinsi and Makurdi as settlement in Iharev land (6) Massev- are the Kparev (7)Jecira – that is Kunav, Gaav and Shangev and (8) Jengba which include the non Tiv settlement of Utur.
The proposal was thrown out outrightly because of what it represents – Tiv notorious and relentless bid to bury the Jukun of Abinsi, Makurdi and other 21 villages already placed under Nongov, Shittire and Iharev and also other non-Tiv region such as Etulo, and Hausa-Fulani in the Katsina Ala environs. However, another proposal dated 29th January, 1947 which partly provided the needed buffer for the Jukun, Hausa Fulani and Etulo sailed through. It was reasoned that it was improper to insist that the Jukun must be subsumed under Tiv Native Authority. Macbride conveyed that outcome as follow:
“His Honour agreed that they should become subordinate Native Authorities…it would not be necessary for Makurdi, Katsina Ala and Abinsi to have representatives as members of the Tiv tribal council but they could send representatives to meetings of the Council when matters affecting their areas were being discussed”
In addition to above, a Council was set up as intermediary between the Tiv, Jukun, Hausa-Fulani and Etulo as Macbride further clarified:
“This Council in fact exist and meet occasionally to discuss matters of mutual interests to the clans which constitutes the Sept. They would continue to meet, functioning as advisory Council and, if it was desired to approach the Tiv Tribal Council on any matter, the recognized Sept. head would do so in his capacity as a member of the later Council”
This was the interplay that heralded independence in 1960. But before independence, the administration was running its course, Tiv parochialism and insatiable attitude threw everything topsy-turvy. The Leut. Governor had visited the Province and held meetings with several interest groups including the Tiv. The session with Tiv was reported by the Resident, inter alia:
“Makurdi with its large cosmopolitan population presents a different problem. In this connection, the only other matter which the clan Heads raised during His Excellency’s visit was the Chieftaincy of Makurdi town, which is vacant owing to the recent death of Audu Dan Afoda. They wished the post to be filled by a Tiv man and considered that their request is reasonable as the land on which the numerous stranger elements had settled was Tiv land”.
What nature are Tiv that everything must be claimed up, without consideration for others? They subjugated Abinsi and 21 Jukun Villages, yet they are still asking for the last one standing! At what point does this land become Tivland? Have the Colonial masters lost memory so soon? Was is it not same Colonial masters that recounted Tiv immigrant’s status and practically exhumed them out of their little cocoon between 1908 and 1929 and supplant them on Jukun territory? Did the Tiv conquered the Jukun in a war? How sudden, Jukun and other tribes are termed stranger element in their land of origin? Little wonder it is a Tiv sing song cliché, these days.
The Tiv by their very conduct, always showcase themselves as uninformed lot. For instance, Colonial depictions of Administrative names is not unique to Tiv area alone. But it is only the Tiv that has taken name depiction out of context, or even twisted, or subjectify to Tiv’s tainted definition to suit an agenda of appropriating all that is within that precinct. When Muri Province was named, it does not imply that every territory within that province belonged to the Fulanis. The Tiv themselves were once under Abinsi Division before Tiv Native Authority was created; does that mean that all territory under that Division belonged to the Jukun? The Tiv Division, as it was called, was a name; it does not give Tiv the audacity to call every territory within that Division Tivland. If in the 1940s Tiv are not knowledgeable of this fact, what about now that knowledge has skyrocked? Tiv ignorance knows no bound and has fueled all these unnecessary crises bedeviling Tiv society. In case you want to be tutored, Tiv Divisions have Jukun, Etulo and Hausa Fulani and not all territory within it are Tiv land; get informed and stop displaying crude ignorance.
The Tiv baggage was ferried into post-independent governance and these misconceptions and tainted cosmic worldview resulted to the Atoativ and Atemtyo syndrome and, expectedly within four years of Tiv stewardship, Tiv Division was plunged into political unrest. (See the 1964 Tiv Riot; Inter-partisan Perspectives. By Tersoo Haa-Orpin, 2014). The unfortunate situation necessitated the constitution of Commission Chaired by Ahmadu Coomassie. It is also important to note that within the aforementioned period, the 1947 approved plan was actually jettisoned by the Tiv Native Authority. The Coommasie’s commission duly observed the anomaly as one of the basic causes of the problems. If all territory there belonged to the Tiv, Coomassie Commission wouldn’t have made a case of it, but this is what the Commission recommended:
“Abinsi and Katsina Ala – these should remain as Subordinate Native Authorities. They should not be included in the Districts in whose areas they have already been grouped. Due to their historical position their chiefs should be ex-officio members of the Native Authority Council.”
The report recognized all the interest of various tribal groups within the Division, and the Native Authority Council became the independent organ that mid-wife all the tribal Native authority, separate from Tiv Traditional Council. The report reads:
“(i).The Native Authority Council should adequately reflect the political party strength. (ii). Election to the Native Authority Council should be indirect by and from the elected members of each District and Town Council and each Subordinate Council; one member from each District and Town Council and each Subordinate Native Authority (iii). There should be four ex-officio members: – Tor Tiv; President of Makurdi Native Authority; Sarkin Abinsi; Sarkin Katsina Ala. (iv). The five senior clan heads should be nominated for the Native Authority. They should not be members of the Native Court. (v). There should be a maximum of five members recommended by the Council for nomination by the Government to represent the following special interest: – (a) One Hausa representative from Gboko; (b). One Arago/Nupe representative from Makurdi; (c) One Jukun representative from Abinsi; (d). One Turu/Hausa representative from Katsina Ala; (e) One Cattle Fulani to Represent Fulani…”
Despite these, Abinsi and Jukun were targeted for total annihilation and by 1976. When Benue state was created, Abinsi was surreptitiously expunged from records of the state, waiting for the demise of Akubise. Further creation of Local Government saw Abinsi moved out of Makurdi to Guma LGA, sandwiched properly between Tiv clans of Hyarev and Nongov, and the struggle to annex the land became the battle to be won by the strongest of the two. The Hyarev clan first call the shot.
In 1985 shortly before Guma Local Government was created two major incidences woke up the Jukun in Abinsi. First Ajidoku Sabo, the Abiseku has died and it took place when Ezra Apake Kanaso, the late Jukun patriot, discovered that Abinsi, in effect the Jukun have been removed from Benue state records. Meanwhile, both Hyarev (Ityondo) and Nongov had launched a determined campaign to take over Abinsi. Petitions were filed before Akperan Urshi, the late Tor Tiv. On the 6th March, 1986, Akperan Urshi addressed his findings to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, signed on his behalf by Dave Yange Iornsegen, the then Secretary Tiv Traditional Council. Parts of the reports reads:
“I am directed by His Highness the Tor Tiv to inform you that after death of Sarkin Abinsi there was a plan to appoint another one after the usual investigation/selection process.2. But before this could be done, this office received petition from various quarters challenging the appointment of Sarkin Abinsi among the Jukuns. Consequently this office obtained reactions to this petitions from the elders of Abinsi and copies of the petitions from the elders were forwarded to the Sole Administrator Makurdi Local Government for his investigation and recommendations (copy of our letter of reference No. TTC/CHI/44/38 of 5th September, 1985 attached) 3. After the petition and elders of Abinsi were summoned before the Sole Administrator for thorough investigation, this office received the finding of the Sole Administrator’s letter reference No. LGM/DIS/1/21/91 of 13th February, 1986. 4. I am directed by His Highness the Tor Tiv to inform you that like the Sole Administrator; he does not understand why Abinsi was not included in “the Local Government (Established and constitution) instrument 1976…
- As regards to the question of Abinsi Chieftaincy, I am directed to inform you that the Sole Administrator has not made any suggestion as how the matter should be resolved. However, His Highness is of the opinion that the Jukuns have better claims to the Chieftaincy of Abinsi than the Tiv or any other tribe for that matter. 6. There is abundant evidence that since Abinsi was established, it is the Jukuns who have all along being appointed the Chief of Abinsi…in the circumstance His Highness does not believe that it would be in the best interest of the present administration to entertain any claim to Abinsi Chieftaincy from any quarters other than the Jukuns.” (See correspondence entitled Petition over the appointment of the Clan Head of Abinsi, dated 6th March, 1986)
The late Tor Tiv was forced to toe that path because late Ezra Kanaso in one of the Meetings had told the audience that if Tiv want to be Abinseku, then the Tor Tiv stool should be democratized to include the Jukun too. This was received with exasperation, but threw everyone there off balance and nailed the case abruptly. To understands Tiv disrespect to their traditional leaders, the matter was not led to rest even though Captain Clement Asuku Abayilo a retired Army Officer of Jukun extraction became the Abinseku. The Hyarev took up another challenge insisted the status of Abinseku must be reduced to a Kindred Head, since it was not possible for the Jukun to be stopped. This campaign was led by Bar. Felix IJor, who is from Mbasaan clan of Ityondu and incidentally was elected Chairman Makurdi LGA in 1988. The other person was one Bar. Utsaha. Under that same regime, Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkula became a Commissioner, who also was of Hyarev Clan. Dr. Alfred Akawe the late Tor Tiv, attended Abinsi primary school and was literally brought up by Ataki Ajidoku, the late Akubise, who was friend to his father, a Tax collector. The trio of Ijoh, Ustaha and Alfred Akawe persevered until the later was elected Tor Tiv. In 1995 Abinsi people were awaken at a wee hour by Tiv warriors who had encircled and besieged the town, shooting sporadically. Before that fateful day, Mr. Asebia Agah, a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police of Jukun extraction was murdered by the same people in cold blood and another incursion to kill Chief Clement Abayilo was foiled by the people. It was a horrifying experience as news that flowed out thereafter was that the battle was planned from the Highest Tiv authority. In the attack that ensued, many people were killed and several houses burnt down, but Almighty God did not allow Tiv plans to succeed and the rest is now history. At the end of the day, a Commission of enquiry was instituted by the Government under Justice Oki to get to the root cause of the crisis. The Commission sat and memoranda were received, defended and at the end, the report was forwarded to the Government for implementation. Thereafter, a white paper was drawn and Gazeted accordingly by the state Government. The report of the white paper reads in parts:
“3. That on the same 2nd October, 1995 about 50 armed Tiv men planted themselves by Mr Asebia Agah’s house and some of whom later apprehended and killed him..3.20 That after massive violence of 2nd October, 1995 several sporadic but organized attacks of burning, killing and looting took place in Abinsi and surrounding villages from the rest of October to the first week of December, 1995 and that those organized were both by the Jukuns and Tivs who all had access to sophisticated guns…3.22 That neither the Iharev nor Nongov have satisfied us that they arrived in Abinsi area first or that either of then gave permission to the Jukun to settle at Abinsi…On the contrary, we are satisfied that the Jukuns arrived and settled on Abinsi and on many islands on the River Benue for at least 50 to 100 years before any Tivs came near that region.”
The Commission recommended wide range of issues among which are: demarcation of Abinsi land; establishment of a separate Chiefdom for the Jukun; the stool of Abiseku remains exclusive preserve of Jukun people, to be rotated among three Ruling Houses; and the dethronement of Clement Abayilo. A critical review of that incidence, finding and recommendation revealed that the whole matter centers on Tiv claim of Abinsi, the relentless efforts to take over the Abiseku stool and an effort built on the desire to reduce the status of Abinseku down below to Kindred. It was the failure to actualize that ambition that the Tiv decided on the fateful day of October, 1995 to get all the Jukun slaughtered and to physically take over the town. Though Government accepted most of the recommendation, none were implemented except the dethronement of Clement Abayilo, a decision that still baffles our people till date. The Government, as we reasoned expected him to cave in and he and his people should be murdered, as did Asebia Agah and justice would have have been done, in the eyes of the Tiv. One major recommendation that was rejected by government, seems to suggest that the Tiv are still not ready to give up. The state government in rejecting the creation of Chiefdom for the Jukun, stated:
“Government rejects this recommendation because Government has already decided that the Traditional Stool of Abinsi will continue to remain the exclusive preserve of the Jukuns. Secondly, as a District in Guma Local Government Area, the District Head of Abinsi is a member of Guma Local Government Traditional Council which has defined powers under the 1991 Chieftaincy Edict. Moreover, because of the satisfactory nature of the present legal arrangement, the creation of a Chiefdom will create more problems than is intended to solve” (See Government Views on Decision on the Report of the Abinsi Communal Disturbances Commission of Inquiry, 1995)
This has exposed the state government and Tiv traditional Council as an interested party, because that statement was indeed the silliest decision ever taken by any government that is just and fair and is determined to enthrone peace. Does it mean that the law is unchangeable that no other chiefdom will ever be created in Benue state any longer? We will shortly see if that position is valid and if the equal opportunities is granted to every tribes in Benue state as claimed by Association of Tiv in Taraba state. Again when we contrast the recommendation of the Oki Commission with the Judicial Commission of Inquiry on the behest of the Tiv in 2003, which the Federal Government set up in response to conflicts between Tiv and all its surrounding neighbors in Benue, Nassarawa, Taraba and Plateau states, this automatically render the position of Benue state government incongruous. In the draft report presented to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on the 21st August, 2003, by Prof. I.A. Ayua, the then Solicitor-General of the Federation, who incidentally was a Tivman, the state government became literally exposed. The section of the findings on Abinsi reads:
“ FINDINGS: (pp. 40-41) 1.1.1 The Commission found that:- (i) As far back as 1934, the British created the Abinsi Native Authority with the intension of putting all Jukun settlements under the Native Authority. Regrettably, this plan was thwarted. (ii). The Jukuns in Abinsi were reputed to have settled down in that area for almost a century before the arrival of the Tiv in the Benue Valley. This fact has been accepted by the Benue state Government in its White Paper on the Abinsi Communal Disturbance Commission of Inquiry, 1995. (iii). The present clamour for Abinsi Chiefdom is based on an earlier agitation supported by historical fact prior to the appointment of the first Tor Tiv, Makeri Dzakpe in 1947, the Chief of Abinsi was the only Traditional Ruler in the whole of Tiv Division. (iv). The creation of an Abinsi Chiefdom will not only assist in promoting peace, it will also prevent the area from developing into a potential flash point” (See Presentation of the Draft Government views on the Report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Communal Conflicts in Benue, Nassarawaa, Plateau and Benue states, dated 21st, August, 2003)
That recommendation was aimed at stopping Tiv incessant and felonious claim of Abinsi, and also liberate other 21 Jukun towns and villages under one Chiefdom for the Jukun who are culturally different from Tiv tribes, and who actually merited it far above the Tiv themselves. The Federal government rightly pointed to the fact that it is within the competence of Benue state government to implement same and to prevent further crisis in the region. Yet again Benue state government till date has refused to implement the recommendation.
14.0 THE FINAL ONSLAUGHT AND NONGOV PEHOMENON
The responses of the Tiv Association in Taraba state and the Nzou-U-Tiv to NAJUWA’s publication and the silence of the state government and the Tiv traditional council was not just coincidental but deliberate. The Tiv Association in Taraba state had echoed the Mzou-U-Tiv claim that Abinsi was initially Abetse a Tiv town but was corrupted in colonial records into Abinsi in favour of the Jukun. Before this outburst, a surreptitious move was planned by the Tiv traditional council attended by prominent Tiv sons including Ministers, Members of National Assembly, state assembly, the Tor Tiv Prof. James Ayatse and no less a person than the Governor of Benue state, his Excellency Samuel Orton, who were assembled at the Tor Tiv palace and did what even the Koma people at the Hey days of Yohanna Madaki in Gongola state, couldn’t have done. The most important people in Tivland had planned that the names of Abinsi, Katsina Ala, Yelwata would be changed to Tiv names because the towns are located in Tivland. This figment was discovered and was readily exposed and is brought to global attention for the world to see, which can be googled up at www.apexnews.com
The easy illustration of the above is to say that the Sultan of Sokoto and his Council members decided to change the names of Gboko, Kwande, Vandekya, Aliade, etc to Hausa Fulani names on account that the towns are located in Northern Nigeria. This is how power drunk, arrogance, inconsideration for others, intolerance, ethnic chauvinism will turn bunch of heads to a small mustard seed. It is not fathomable to even mute up the idea that the whole lots gathered there are not aware that both the late Tor Tiv, Akperan Urshi, the state government and Federal Government had made it categorically clear that Abinsi is not a Tiv town. If this assemblage claimed ignorance of this fact, such as M-Zou-U-Tiv and the Tiv Association of Tiv in Taraba state has now done, then it should be put on record that the highest people in Tivland are the most illiterate lots in our world and an embarrassment to their respective families. But we know that this is not the case, therefore they are very much aware of what they were doing. Why do we say so?
On the 20th October, 2016, the Benue state government published a Gazette entitled: A law to make provisions for the establishment of Benue state Council of Chiefs and Traditional Councils in the state for the purposes connected therewith. The law also spelt out all the traditional stool in the state according to ethnic, clans and villages. This should have been a wonderful opportunity to dispense justice to the Jukun, but to the contrary, the Tiv and Benue state government decided in a show of raw power, arrogance and wickedness and finally remove the name of Abinsi and Jukun from Benue state and this is the final onslaught.
Prior to this brazen and crude show of power, memoranda were filed by the Jukun for its own case but unknown to us the Tiv had plotted the removal of Jukuns in affairs of Benue state. In the ensuing plot, the Jukun memoranda was grouped under Nongov zone and a team was constituted to harmonize our position in one format but hoping that the presentation will be delivered separately. The Jukun representative unfortunately was kept incommunicado until it became clear that our memoranda were obfuscate and muddled up and never saw the light of the day. We were not allowed to present our case till the exercise was over.
But come to think of it, assuming we actually did not present a memo, was it not incumbent for the state government to create Jukun Chiefdom since technically Abinsi case was not creation per se but reinstatement. Besides, the Chiefdom is the oldest in the entire Tivland, couple with the recommendation already made by both Federal and state Commissions of enquiries as means to bring peace in that region. But the worst done is not just the refusal to create Chiefdom for Abinsi, but outright removal of Jukun as indigene of Benue state. As we write Abinsi has been subsume under Nongov clan and Jukun name has been wiped out of the record of the state. The only Councilor slot for Abinsi is now taken over by Nongov just the yesterday.
After the law was enacted, it took the Jukun folk almost a year before we could see the law; it was censored for the Jukun, but as soon as our effort paid off, the Abuja branch of our association made several unsuccessful efforts to meet with the Governor on the issue. A stakeholder meeting was convened with our sub-group in Makurdi to find a way out of the long jam and the meeting agreed that any action be kept in abeyance until the view of the matter is sought from the State Governor who is the State Chief Executive. The meeting dispassionately agreed that to be able to get the appointment to sail through, there was need to frontload an accolade in the contents of the letter, hoping that the appointment sought will be treated with dispatch and with warmth. In that light, a letter dated 30th October, 2017 was transmitted to the Governor, received in his office on the 2nd November, 2017. Despite several efforts to get the appointments to hold, the Governor refused to see us. We were not deterred, another letter was again written as a reminder dated 9th March, 2018 received in the Governor’s office same day, but once again the Governor remain recalcitrant and refused to see us up till now as we write. Copies of these acknowledged letters can be published for all to see.
Presently the Riverine Jukun are neither indigene of Benue or Taraba state where we were initially proposed to be merged in 1934. Today, after almost a century of living within Tiv Division, the Tiv out of bestiality, has pushed us to the position of stateless people without status, identity, and future. Technically speaking, we are internal refugees in our country; as victim of day light robbery, domination, intolerance and raw wickedness. What becomes the way out is to resurrect the form of adjustment in the Cross River/Akwa Ibom State coastal boundary solution.
As it stands, several option are opened to us to determine our future, principal which is the 1935 policy outline which grant the coastal boundary of River Benue exclusively to the Jukun, from the fringes of Mu bridge, half miles on both sides of River Benue, and stretched on a characteristic line, down to Taraba state where Colonial masters originally wanted us merged. This is what we have and will keep.
15.0 THE POSITION OF THE LAW THAT EXPUNGED ABINSI AND 21 JUKUN TOWNS AND VILLAGES IN BENUE STATE.
The law defined and listed clearly all ethnic groups and Chiefdom in Benue state; Abinsi and the and 21 Jukun town and villages were expunged, and further proof is revealed of Guma LGA which used to be 10 Council wards inclusive of Abinsi is now 9 council wards.
The singled out Jukun for discrimination and failed to implement the 1995 Oki Commission’s and 2003 Federal Government recommendation to create Chiefdom for the Jukun, rather in the Tiv Division, Tiv Kindreds were elevated above Abinsi District whose stool is senior to all Tiv traditional institutions put together.
Worst still, the District Headship of Abinseku is subsumed under Nongov clan, and unlike other areas where Five Kindreds were appointed for all Districts, only three was done for Abinsi and a Tiv Kindred was smuggled in to part of the three which means that while the Jukun is presently serving its own term, the next Abinseku will come from Tiv Nongov to seal up the Jukun fate completely to ever aspire to that stool. With this arrangement, certainly the potential for future conflict is laid.
Finally, we end with this message to the Tiv who are playing God: For more than 40 years of our unfortunate stay in Benue state, you have denied our communities access to education and basic social amenities and representation in the state assembly; we have never been appointed into state executive council; our son, late Bar Atela Auta who rose to a Magistrate Judge in the state Judiciary was unceremoniously retrenched from the service on phantom excuse of downsizing; as we write, no single Jukun is working in the state Civil Service or Local Government service despite thousands graduates we have in almost all fields. We have been attacked in our various communities and our properties destroyed yet in all our encounter with the Tiv, it has been on self- defense; never have we been the aggressors. Our traditional rulers are unfairly forced to wear Tiv regalia and beads as condition to be recognized in the state and our lands and fishing ponds practically seized. About 40 hecters of Abinsiland was arbitrarily annexed by Alfred Akawe Torkula, the late Tor Tiv, now being sold in piecemeal by his children.
In all these we have been patient, working hard to survive and have been toiling in other jurisdictions to build our capacity modestly. But Know that God Almighty does not work with numbers; he uses the little to humble the mighty. Your exercise of raw power will not terminate our life, nor annihilate our land nor diminish our pride and heritage. Know that all the manipulations will not deter us as we have come of age to determine our future. We do not stand on your way to achieve your ambition in other places; but be informed that if you stand on our way to self-determination, this time around, we guarantee you that by the grace of Almighty God, you are setting yourselves and generation on the path to meet your waterloo.
In view of the foregoing, your Excellency sir, we restate our prayers to Benue state Government and indeed Tor Tiv as follow:
- That if by the action of Benue state and Tor Tiv to have expunge Jukun name and Akubise stool as a traditional institution in Benue state, a testament that Jukun are out of the territorial administration of Benue state, and should find a way out for itself, we warmly accept that offer wholeheartedly, because over the years of being here, the Tiv have proved beyond every reasonable doubt that they are no true ally and detest living with other ethnicities; the Idomas will bear us witness as they too have suffer discriminatory political marginalization.
- But if the Benue state Government and the Tiv traditional Council, see the need for us to continue to live in Benue state; then let it be known that as the original tribe that inhabit this region for over 250 years before the advent of Tiv; couple with the fact that the Akubise stool, the most senior in the entire Tivland- was 4rd Class in 1932 at a time no single Chief existed in Tivland until 1947; the stool should be elevated to at least 2nd class chief to cater for about 21 Jukun villages that line up the bank of River Benue which extended to the border of Chinkai/Ibi in Taraba state;
- That a Chiefdom be reinstated for the Jukun under Akubise to superintend all the 21 Jukun communities in the states, including Abinsi, Agyetashi, Agyogo (Wurukum), Wadata, Akatungu (North Bank), New Garrage, Amor, Azhoko, (Ankwa) Asede (Bajimba) Jamindo, Akatsu, Ashuku, Anuwha, Gidin Mangoro, Kitsani, Azhoko, Abweni, Anyishi, Atenge, Azenu, Aselema, etc .
- That from the above Chiefdom, at least five Districts should be created for the Jukun as follow: Agyogo District; Akatungu District; Ankwa District; Abinsi District; and Ashuku District.
- The Jukun constituency be created for representation in the state House of Assembly because we merited it, and for our minority voice to be heard;
- That our Kindred Heads should also be recognized and made to enjoy renumeration in the state as their Tiv counterparts; and the Tiv traditional Council should reverse its action in areas where Jukun chiefs were relegated with parallel Tiv chiefs;
- The Abinsi Development Area office transferred to Agasha should be reinstated.
- The insistence by the Tiv traditional Council on condition that before any Jukun rulers must be recognized until they wear Tiv traditional regalia and beads must be discontinued forthwith, because it is oppressive, repressive, unconstitutional and put Tiv in bad light as intolerant of other’s right to live.
- The above position does not infringe on the rights of the Tiv people but rather seek to actualize our basic rights as citizen of this country. If the above demands are disregarded, it will be clear that the supposition in item 1 above is sanctioned. Therefore, we urge our Kith and Kins of Kwararafa descent in 27 states to note forthwith.
- Also, in like manner our brothers who are next door, that is Nassarawa and Taraba states would be required to suspend any further activities with the Tiv in their respective states until the Tiv people and Benue state is ready to allow Justice to prevail in the affairs of the state;
- In the event the state government and Tiv refused to do the needful within the time frame deemed necessary, we will Commission a process to bring into effect the 1935 policy and land boundary created as Jukun enclave; to be realigned and merge with Taraba states as contemplated in that policy because we will not be left abandoned as stateless people in our dear country.
This is the wish of our people, and we call on all lovers of peace, justice, equity, and progress including some Tiv who are genuinely concern with our plight in the state, to support this noble and legitimate course. We also call on fellow countrymen to identify with our course geared towards the emancipation of our people from shackles of oppression and deprivation to one that guarantee our inclusiveness, protection and wellbeing. We can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
Your Excellency sir, we thank you for your time, understanding and leadership.