TOR TIV: The Selection Of Next Tiv Chief , History & Challenge Of Justice

By Usha Anenga
On 23rd November 2015, we woke up to the rude shock of the passing away of our paramount ruler, HRH Tor Tiv IV, Alfred Akawe Torkula. The monarch succummed to a brief illness at an Abuja hospital. Three months later, on 4th February this year, he was laid to rest at the traditional headquarters of the Tiv people, Gboko after a robust, well attended burial ceremony.

For eight months now, the Tor Tiv stool has been vacant and whilst some have suggested some underground political power-play as the reason behind the delay in appointing a successor to the throne, Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom explained the enthronement of a new monarch had to follow due process. Perhaps that due process was the amendment of the Council of Chiefs and Traditional Councils bill which was under consideration by the State Assembly during this period.

While signing the bill into law, Governor Ortom said he had received "devine instruction" not to interfere with the selection of, particularly the Tor Tiv, promising to only ensure a free and fair selection exercise. He went further to declare three days of prayer and fasting to seek divine intervention which culminated in a prayer service today at the Government House.

Sheik Usman Dan Fodio, a violent and relentless jihadist, an epitome of religious intolerance once said, "A nation can survive in irreligiousity but it cannot survive in prolonged injustice." Perhaps, after the religiosity of prayer and fasting, it will be more important to ensure justice is served, or rather ensure that injustice, however prolonged, is stopped in the selection process of the next Tor Tiv.

The seat of Tor Tiv was instituted 70 years ago in 1946 and was designed to rotate amongst the two sons of Tiv - Ipusu and his younger brother Ichongo. The decendants of Ipusu are Shitile and Kpar the younger one while Ichongo’s descendants are Masev, Ihyarev, Nongov, Ugondo, Turan, Shangev and Ikyurav.

On the other hand are intermediary areas in Tiv land which is a more nascent geopolitical creation. These are Sankera, Kwande, Jechira, Jemngbagh and MINDA which is actually an accronym for Masev, Ihyarev and Nongov Development Association.

To understand how this all works out, it will be important to know how the Tiv sons fit into this new geopolitical arrangement. The decendants of Shitile, the eldest son of Ipusu, are found in Sankera along with some of Ichongo's children such as Ugondo, Turan and Ikyurav. Kpar's children along with some of Ichongo's such as Shangev and Ikyurav are found in Jechira, Jemngbagh and Kwande intermediate areas.

In Tiv cosmology, it is customary for the first child or eldest son, so to speak, to be given the privilege of being the first to pick when anything is shared amongst children; from farmland to inherited property, meat and everything else, the first son comes first and is given preference. So it wasn't a matter of debate, in 1946, whose decendants would produce the first Tor Tiv. It would definitely be Ipusu, the eldest of the two sons and within Ipusu, it would be Shitile, the older of them. This was not only logical, but tradition and Shitile had a ready leader in Late Ezekiel Akiiga, one of the first educated people in Tiv land, for the stool.

However, a foundation of injustice was laid when Shitile was ignored and HRM Makir Dzakpe from the younger Kpar lineage was enthroned as the first Tor Tiv. On the geopolitical front, he was from Jechira intermediate area. He ruled for only 10 years, from 19th September 1946 and died on 12th October 1956. The colonial masters were told by greedy indigents that the Tivs needed a king with military background and HRH Makir Dzakpe, fresh from World War II, was found worthier than Akiiga who had no such experience.

When HRH Dzakpe passed on, he was succeeded by HRH Mallam Gondo Aluor of Ichongo. He hailed from Ugondo of Sankera intermediate area and was an easy choice having served as the Deputy Tor Tiv to his predecessor. It is said that when the gods are happy, the king rules for long, and rightly so, Gondo Aluor reigned for a longtime in what has become typical of Tor Tivs from the Ichongo lineage. He ruled for 22 years from 1956 until 17th September 1978 when he died.

As the Tor Tiv stool returned to the Ipusu lineage, another round of injustice was served. Shitile was again denied the stool in broad daylight over some political arithmetic. Chief Joseph Sarwuan Tarka, who was the leader of Tiv politics, at that time, was contesting for a seat at the National Assembly and quickly drafted co-contestant Dr James Akeperan Orshi into the position of Tor Tiv, even though Dr Oshi was of Kpar extraction from what we have today as Jemngbagh intermediate area. Agitations fell of deaf ears but as it was becoming customary of Ipusu's unjustly enthroned monarchs, his reign was short. He joined his ancestors on 14th May 1990 after just over 10 years.

HRM Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkula of Ichongo, precisely Ihyarev, was enthroned in 1990 as Tor Tiv the fourth and as the gods smiled down at the transparency of his selection, he reigned for a long time just as his Ichongo predecessor, a whooping 25 years.

As a new Tor Tiv is poised to emerge, the familal spirits and demons that have perpetrated generational injustice in Ipusu have awoken with their usual permutations; there is always something to bring up. This time, it is that the selection of Tor Tiv should be rotated among the intermediate geopolitical areas and not among the decendants of the Tiv sons, thereby making a case for a Tor Tiv from Kwande extraction; a case for a third Tor Tiv from Kpar and not Shitile, creating an unnecessary dilemma.

As we have completed three days of fasting and prayer today, perhaps we should be reminded of the words of Shiek Usman Danfodio who said,  "A nation can survive in irreligiousity but it cannot survive in prolonged injustice." Beyond the religiousity lies the challenge of justice, lest our prayer and fasting ends in the perpetration of the injustice that has been the albatross of Tiv land.

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