The Tiv Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow A Keynote Address By Rt. Hon. Gabriel Suswam PhD, CON On The Occasion Of The First Tiv National Conference September 10, 2013

Posted: December 7, 2013 in BENUE, political, Uncategorized
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  The Tiv Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow

A Keynote Address By  PhD, CON

On The Occasion Of The First Tiv National Conference

September 10, 2013 



It is indeed a great honour for me to deliver the keynote address at the First Tiv National Conference. I am happy that this conference will afford us the opportunity to articulate a common vision to enhance the social and political status of the Tiv people in the Nigerian state.


One of the reasons why I am proud of my Tiv heritage is the fact that my forebears organized their society on the principles and tenets of justice and equity. This is in tandem with the main aim of democracy because it affirms the sovereignty and centrality of the people’s choice and welfare in the decision making process of societies.

The implication is that the collective wishes of the people should prevail at all times within the ambits of fairness and justice. Thus democratic tenets are not strange to the Tiv people who believe fiercely in their sovereignty. This was why they rabidly fought British colonial domination until the lowering of the union Jack in 1960.

The topic which I have been asked to speak on–Tiv yesterday, today and tomorrow is indeed very vast. For the purpose and intent of this historic conference my submissions would focus largely on the critical appraisal of the Tiv political culture from independence in 1960 till date so that I will be able to proffer suggestions on how to reclaim our historic destiny in the Nigerian project and beyond.


In Tiv of yesterday, that is pre-colonial Tiv society, there was unity and oneness. If there was calamity or tragedy it was perceived as a collective tragedy. My firm assertion of Tiv historic unity and oneness is not mere romanticism. This is validated linguistically. An example will suffice. When the Tiv man shouts  Ayatutu Ka uno? The normal refrain would be Ka se and also the normal call and response of yange la alu ikuror abam seoo, Hoon se kpe clearly underlines the fact that the fate of all is the fate of one hence the firm believe in fighting for the collective interest. This communal ethos may not be perfect like all things human but it was by and large a highly successful philosophy of organizing the Tiv society.

The pursuit of collective interests led to the evolution of a concept of leadership that seeks to accommodate the interests of the various Tiv lineages and clans hence key leadership positions were shared and rotated on the basis of equity and fairness. Ya na wan gbian– take and give your brother is a unique Tiv zoning formula evolved  to enhance a sense of belonging. Thus Tiv tradition and politics go hand in hand. The appointment by the British of quisling chiefs Tor –buter was roundly rejected by the people until exigencies led to the creation of the Tor Tiv traditional institution by the British in 1946.

Kwame Nkrumah famous parody is apt in the Tiv circumstances in Nigeria. Seek Ye First the political Kingdom and very other thing will be added on to you. However in the quest for securing the politics of Tiv land to major factors have greatly imperilled the growth and prosperity of Tiv people.Colonialism and the vicious struggle for power and dominance by the Tiv post –independence elite put a knife on Tiv unity and ushered in a culture of political violence.

With the advent of partisan politics under the leadership of an indigenous political elite in 1960, Tiv land was submerged in crisis. Now Ayatutu is no longer gets the refrain Ka se. It is now me. So when the Tiv is attacked it will now be the day I die. There is no more spirit of collectivism. Things took a more deleterious note when the Tiv introduced abusive political songs. The major political parties in Tiv land were the Northern Peoples Congress NPC which formed the government at the centre and the United Middle Belt Congress UMBC under the leadership of J.S. Tarka. Both parties were at each other’s throat. They took politics as a contest that must be  won at all costs.

If a particular party triumphed at the polls the opposition made the land ungovernable. Consequently, we had the 1960 Nande nande and the atem ityo in 1964. It is ironic that instead of attacking the forces of tyranny as represented by the NPC, the Tivs turned their arrows and guns on themselves, killing, maiming and looting. The land was despoiled. People were homeless; some became refugees in their own land. Of course the Tivs were the losers.

A similar scenario played out in the 1979/83 elections. The two major parties were the National Party of Nigeria, NPN  and the Nigerian Peoples Party, NPP. Aper Aku of the NPN emerged victorious at the 1979 polls but he was not allowed to govern effectively. Aku was diabetic and the propaganda machine of the opposition waxed songs that were abusive of his person More which was a beer  produced by the state  government’s brew ery company was denigrated as Aku’s urine and followers of the opposition placed an embargo on it. Paul Unongo who embodied the opposition was referred to as a perpetual debtor who never threw parties and always travels at night by the ruling party.

Thus the personalities of the major gladiators were thoroughly maligned. Even though Aku did well, he was not encouraged by the attitude of the Tiv who were constantly seeking his political down fall. The opposition did not articulate better ideas  on how to tackle the developmental issues confronting the state save damaging songs of abuse.

When Adasu came in in 1991, the same culture of denigrating leaders and ensuring their fall was still subsisting. The fierce electoral battle which he fought to overcome his rival in the National Republican Convention NRC , would have birthed a new culture since Prof Ignatius Ayua had thrown in the towel. Unfortunately members of Adasu’s Social Democratic Party constituted themselves into the opposition. On his part he elected to confront his political adversaries with the same inelegant language that was used on him. His regime was however short-lived  as the military stepped in and truncated that democratic dispensation in 1993.

With the return to democratic rule in 1999, this trend continued as the then Governor who ruled from 1999 -2007 under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP,  was acrimoniously fought within and outside the party by the opposition  All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP. Whatever successes he recorded were written off and mocked.


Since 2007, when I came on board as governor under the ticket of the PDP, I have faced similar challenges. The opposition elements have continued to malign and castigate my administration even with the re validation of my current mandate is still referred to as stolen mandate. The opposition are still saying that they will bring down this government.

The unfortunate incidence which led to the closure of Benue State University and the vandalisation of government properties at the slightest pretext by youths purported to be students of the state owned university shows the deep dysfunction that pervades our society today.

While the politics of denigrating leadership and violence was going on over the years the core Tiv leadership embodied by the traditional bodies, religious bodies and the political elite were hapless because they were compromised. Some of them were outright linchpins of the attacks on constituted governments or were the major orchestrators or financiers.

This conference is thus a welcome development in the annals of Tiv political evolution post independence. Coming at a time when the falcon can no longer hear the falconer and the Nigerian state is constantly exercised by terrorist infraction; it is indeed a most auspicious time to mediate on the Tiv role in modern Nigeria. In that wise I must commend the organisers and assure them of my wholehearted support and that of government in creating the enabling environment for the mobilization of constructive ideas for development.

The Tiv have hitherto been known for good quality leadership which was displayed by their resistance to colonial domination and the articulation of the minority agenda the in Nigerian nation which has paid off with the emergence of the Goodluck Jonathan  presidency.

The greatest undoing of the Tiv is disunity of her political leadership. This has greatly imperiled the socio-economic development of Tivland. This political disunity is the gain of our neighbours within and outside the state. No longer is our collective voice powerful enough to evoke respect. We now have youths who interpret leadership within the purview of personal aggrandizement instead of  service.


The politics of tomorrow can only aggregate the gains of today if we join hands to repair the past damage. To do this we will need to respect the traditional institution which must be united to bring positive leadership to bear in Tiv land. The Mzough u Tiv should reappraise its aims and goals. Our youths must embrace higher ideals and models. They should also be more creative and think outside the box of. They must look beyond the securing of white collar jobs or engaging in politics to survive elders must be ready to parent the youth by showing exemplary conduct and educating them on their roles in society.

As a people we must de-emphasize unhealthy completion. If people who are qualifies are given positions they must be supported and encouraged to succeed. Let us be our brother’s keepers we must stop pulling down our own people. Let us support them when they are doing well and admonish them when they go wrong. We must also de-emphasize sectionalism among the Tivs. While I do not discourage regional meetings such as Jemgbah, Sada, Minda, Kuda, the emphasis of such groupings and political meetings on this platforms should be on cultivating the values and ideas of Tivness. Thus we can use our groupings to liaise with our brethren in the diaspora to build unions and associations that transcend our clannish environments.

My administration has demonstrated its commitment to the social and economic development of Tivland by provision of infrastructure and championing the political patronage of Tiv sons and daughters at the highest levels. I would thus enjoin us to discuss frankly as brothers and articulate ideas that can enable this administration advance the cause of development in Tiv land and Benue state.

Thank you.

God Bless you all

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