On 6th August, 2005, three months and fourteen days to his death, His Excellency, Very Rev Father Moses Orshio Adasu, former governor of Benue State, was invited as Guest Speaker , to a Community of Tiv Students , CTS, Benue State University, BSU Chapter’s Tiv Day Celebration.
Before he began to speak on the topic, “Introspection, Key to the development of Tiv Nation”, Fr Adasu observed that such a glamorous and elaborate event put together by mere students to engage the Tiv Question should have been organized by Mzough U Tiv and not students. He noted that it was regrettable that Mzough U Tiv and Ijir Tamen were dead!
“I have lamented that Ijir Tamen and Mzough U Tiv which symbolized Tiv Ontology are gone and with them, The Tiv Nation. They must be resurrected.”, Adasu tendered as a solution. He also advised that, ” The Tiv at home and those in the Diaspora must come together and make this happen. The Tiv need a Forum where together as a nation, they will withdraw into selves , recollect who they are , how they live and recreate Tiv identity.”
The huge successes of Tiv cultural festivals like Kyegh Sha Sha, KSS and Mutual Union of Tiv in America, MUTA Annual Conventions have once again, caused Tiv men of thought to think in same lines like the good priest had done fourteen years ago. But why has Mzough U Tiv failed where CTS , KSS and MUTA are succeeding? Has Mzough U Tiv, actually failed? Here, I will X-ray the Mzough U Tiv at 34 years of its formation on the basis of the above problem questions.
According to Prof Mvendaga Jibo, series of activities that led to the formation of Mzough U Tiv began on 6th April 1985. Jibo revealed that it was during the 60th birthday anniversary celebration of the then Tor Tiv HRM, Orchivrigh James Akperan Orshi, the then Tor Tiv at his village, Tse Kur Baka, in Mbatie District of Buruku Local Government, that the he hinted on an idea of a Tiv Forum for his people.
When he was elected as third Tor Tiv on 10th March 1979 after the death of his predecessor, Orchivrigh Gondu Aluor, on 17th November, 1978, Orshi inherited a divided Tivland. Although, he had become Tor Tiv , 19 years after the Nande Nande political crisis or 23 years after the Atem Ityough crisis, the effects of these Tiv Political Riots were still unattended to as at the time he became Tor Tiv . But obviously , of most importance and immediate attention to his reign were the crisis and bad blood that ensued from the 1979 Gubernatorial Election between Aper Aku and Mr PRV Belabo and of course the controversy surrounding his emergence as Tor Tiv.
Despite the fact that beginning in 1969, when he joined politics , Wantaregh Paul Unongo had further divided Tivland politically as it was the case in the early 1960s, but the overwhelming figure of 1979 General Election, who won and took all was of course Senator Joseph Sarwuan Tarka. In that election, Tarkaa installed Aper Aku as Governor, himself as senator and his son , Hon Simeon Mbakorkaa Tarka a House of Representatives member . Tarkaa also ensured that Orshi emerged Tor Tiv even when most of the elders and king makers had thought it was the turn of Ipusu from Kwande and had even presented a candidate.
He may have a used a proxy in 1979 election, but in the 1983 General Election that Aku was seeking another term, and just four years after Orshi was Tor Tiv, Unongo decided to go for the governorship election himself. Apart from perhaps the 2011 Gubernatorial Election between Gabriel Suswam and Prof Steve Ugbah, no election in living memory had divided Tivland like the 1983 General Election. Although Aku eventually won, Tivland lost more . We lost lives and the unity that held our people together. We lost much peace that even when the military took over power on 31st December, 1983 to end that dispensation , Orshi was too wise to conclude that the military intervention had ended the political crises of his people .
As politicians were winning elections , Orshi was aware that Tiv identity and unity was failing. So on his 60th birthday, he invited all his prominent sons and daughters to the place of his birth. He pleaded that all his subjects should reason and come up with a non-partisan FORUM to lead the process of charting a path for change in Tivland . That was the message he was preaching since he became Tor Tor Tiv but “Saddened by his inability and want of peace and progress in Tivland , which was aggravated by the common phenomenon of incessant intra tribal fighting and killings of fellow Tiv brothers and sisters as well as ubiquitous pull down syndrome of those who are up at the ladder of success, the Tor Tiv wished the Tiv people to change for the better” , according to Jibo.
Orshi therefore pleaded with his subjects and added that he would reward “any willing Tiv person who would bring Tiv sons and daughters together to share in a common forum for the discussion of Tiv affairs with a token inspiring plea of the sum of 1000( one thousand Naira) only. This plea sunk because there was an immediate response from the influential Tiv sons and daughters of the day
On 17th April, a day after the royal plea, Tiv sons and daughters went into action as they had gathered at Tilley Gyado Hotel, Gboko to discuss the matter that burdened their king and come up with a solution. This inaugural meeting to discuss the issue was convened by Mr Akaazua Muemue, a renowned bussiness man. After series of such meetings, Chia Surma, Ezekiel Akiga, Isaac Shaahu, Ayua Num and Akaazua Muemue himself decided to take up the challenge that the Tor Tiv had thrown at them. They in turn selected two people each from the Tiv intermediate areas to go back to the Tor Tiv and discuss the idea of the forum in details and had the Tor Tiv take the lead of the process to form the forum , with a promise that they will support him to succeed.
Those selected to interface further with Orshi on this matter were from Jechira, Chief Jerome Tilley Gyado and Judge Angwe Asen, MINDA, Chief Ayua Num and Justice AB Utsaha, Sankera, Hon Joseph Tor Bossua and Ezekiel Akiga , Kwande , Chief Ako Dzungwe Shande and Achirga Abuul, while from Jemgbagh it was Ijir Zever and Chia Surma. The Tor Tiv received these delegates and after listening to their appeal that the ” the perceived Tiv Forum should be started by Tiv Traditional Council which after taking roots, they would then take over ” , he obliged them.
The Tor Tiv on his part called an emergency Ijir Tamen on 27th April , 1985 to receive further inputs from his members of council on the idea. On 1st June, 1985 Mzough U Tiv was born on a day that a second Ijir Tamenwas held for the purpose. Many names were suggested for the FORUM but that which was given by Hon Jerome Hwande as MZOUGH U TIV was unanimously adopted.
What were aims and objectives of this Mzough U Tiv?
1. To promote and provide a forum for unity , peace and harmony among Tiv people in particular and Nigerians in general
2. To Promote , secure and enhance social , cultural and agricultural advancement of Tiv people in particular and Nigerians in general
3. To promote, provide and preserve educational, health and other social institutions for our people at all levels permitted by law
4. To promote , provide and preserve a Forum for dessemination of information and exchange ideas between members of the association or members thereto and to receive and impart such information and ideas
5. To promote , preserve and enhance the traditional institution of chieftaincy, marriage and Tiv Native law and customs
6. To promote and encourage the development of Tiv language and literature
7. To engage in any other area of economic activity for the benefit or well being of the members and the association;
8 To do or perform any other thing or act not expressly provided herein , but which is direct or incidental to the attainment of any or all of the above aims and objectives.
If you look the above lofty ideas and what the Mzough U Tiv has become today then, like Adasu and many other observers had concluded , we can say that the Mzough U Tiv has failed itself and the Tiv people . This failure can still be traced basically from the crisis that the body was set out to solve.
In 1985, the then leading Tiv politician , Paul Unongo refused to be part of the formation of Mzough U Tiv . Unongo and his supporters , to Jibo, were suspicious of the Tor Tiv’s idea. Unongo felt that Tor Tiv had formed the association to rally the pro -Tarkaa supporters to frustrate Unongo’s emergence as a Tiv political leader( it should be noted that Tarkaa died on 30th March, 1980) . That apart , in the wisdom of Mzough U Tiv, they survived and came up with a Tiv Day.
Dr Tesemchi Makar wrote that the idea of celebrating an annual Tiv Day in September in Gboko , was designed to be a gathering to remember and celebrate the gallant efforts of Tiv’s ancestors who led the way in occupying the Benue Valley, the challenges they faced as they engaged other tribes and the colonialists and to celebrate their successes which led to them to have Gboko as their admistrative center in 1933 and a Tor Tiv as their Paramount Ruler in 1946. The Tiv Day was to be used, also , to celebrate Tiv Culture and essence and engage the Tiv question in Independent Nigeria.
In 1987, Paul Unongo who had endeared himself to the military government of the day , prevailed on the then milliary adminstrator, not to attend the Tiv Day. Unongo also directed Council Chairmen who he had influenced their appointments and were loyal to him like JA Aligba, Katsina Ala LGA , Jacob Damjor, Gboko LGA and Nyianshima Bur, Kwande LGA, not to attend Tiv Day. But Due to the pressures from his Tiv colleagues in military like Col JM Inienger and Brig SG Ikya, the then Military Adminstrator, Col J I Bakut shunned Unongo and attended Tiv Day. When he discovered that Unongo nearly misled him, Bakut was so angry that he fired the chaimen who boycotted the Tiv day.
In 1989, 1992 and 1993, Unongo decided to attend the Tiv Day in Gboko but he ended up having issues with the organisers . The issues became glaring, especially in 1989 and 1992 editions . At those two occasions, he had demanded to address the Mzough U Tiv, but the leadership refused. “They didn’t want Unongo to get his views and aspirations accross to the masses so easily by using the Mzough U Tiv’.Since those days, partisan politics has continued to stand in the way of organising a very successful Tiv day at home and in making the Mzough U Tiv into a formidable association.
This is a very big vacuum that CTS, Mzough U Tiv ken UK, MUTUK, MUTA, KSS and several other Mzough U Tiv like those in Lagos and Port Harcourt have occupied. Now, do you blame these groups that ordinarily would have been just associates of the Mzough U Tiv at HOME, for organising more glamorous and elaborate events because local politicians have failed to overcome their differences and do same in Gboko?
The present Tor Tiv MUST rise up and own the Mzough U Tiv . He must return it to its origins and guide it aright along the intension of its founding fathers. Like Adasu observed in 2005, ” the future of the Tiv people has become bleak and unpredictable. Indeed, it is saddled with broken promises and accompanied with untold hardships. A people who once were victors have become victims. In all, the metaproblem is founded on lack of leadership in our human institutions.”
I think, with Adasu and many others , I can conveniently agree that Mzough U Tiv and her brain child, Tiv day are dead or lack the proper leadership to steer its affairs , but with Adasu and many other men and women of goodwill, I can’t demonize those who like, CTS, MUTA and KSS, that are still keeping the fire burning by organizing Tiv Days annually.