The Idoma people of Benue State have many reasons to support Senator David Mark as he uses his strategic position as the senate president of the federal republic of Nigeria to break rules of Federal Character in the state as it relates to employment, recruitment and placement into political positions. But the Tiv have very few reasons to blame him. In as much what Mark is doing today has its far reaching consequences; perhaps in the future, yet I think it is rather unfortunate that Tiv people waste quality time accusing Mark for their woes. If the Tiv people are failing to re-evaluate their fallacious “Majority Concept” and/or reshaping it to work for them and feel the right thing to do is heap blames then, I wish to write and point them to personalities and issues that they can heap such blames on.
Foundational scholarship and theoretical conceptions for and about Idoma history, take away the colonial records by anthropologists, have largely been provided by very few scholars; chiefly being, V G Okwu, Prof Erim O Erim, Prof J Elaigu, Prof Yakubu Ochefu, Prof Amgstrong Adejo and Prof Okpe Okpe. Even a perfunctory look at their common themes, especially as it relates to their neighbours the Tiv people, show a constrained hatred and misrepresentation of facts, resounding same that were earlier reflected in many a colonial documents. They capture the Tiv people as expantionists, land grabbers, ingrates; also as foolish and stupid people.
For example, they claim that their ancestral home lands, in the old Kwararafa Kingdom, are mostly what the Tiv people occupy today. Shortly before entering the Makurdi, the capital city of the state, is a River known as River Mu. Idoma historical sources suggest that, at a point, the idoma had settled up to Mu. The interpretation of this is that Makurdi which today is peopled by Tiv was at some point an Idoma settlement. Even the areas around Apa, somewhere in Wukari where the Idomas claim to have originated from are now taken over by Tiv people. To them, the Tiv people might have started having contacts with the old Kwararafa kingdom, at around Ugbema town, today in Buruku local government which is occupied by the Mbagen people of the Ipusu extraction. With what Mark is doing today, one can rightly say, he believes in this history and so he is on a quest to reclaim his peoples mandate; their lost grounds.
As from 1914, with the amalgamation, when the Hausa/Fulani and colonial masters worked in Tiv land, the Idomas gained many grounds and /or were favoured unduly against the Tiv people . This was for some reasons. The Tiv people resisted western penetration; an expedition had to be sent to take over Tiv land. The British didn’t forgive the Tiv people for that. After the eventual subjugation of the Tiv people through gun power and the Hausa/ Fulani who were the most qualified administrators at the time started working in around Tiv people, the Tiv refused to accept their religion.But Maybe because of their Kwararafa origins, the Idomas readily accepted Islam and many were converted to the religion; more so, since they had not violently resisted the British like the Tiv did, the British too were also more friendly with them. While the Idomas benefited from this, the Tivs paid dearly.
For example, the name of Munchi(Munshi) province which was to comprise of Tiv(Munchi), Idoma and other tribes was summarily changed by the colonialist to Benue Province; they didn’t consider the Tiv worth to have a province named after them. Note that the Tiv were known as Munchi, then. So Benue state would have been either known as Munchi or TIV STATE, were that change not effected. This was a harbinger of things to come. For while the Tiv, from their population controlled local politics, the Idomas, with their contacts with the northern establishment ,were right from the beginning, poised to have more control at the central government. With independence and democracy, Tiv produced a few great leaders that that stepped up their federal presence and also with the military takeover, Tiv also had few leaders who made land mark efforts at integrating the people and balancing this thing up. But they are still there, and with people like Mark, be there for a while.
Some of these things I say here came to light during the National Conference. The Idoma delegates at the conference, led by Prof Yakubu Ochefu and Engr Geoffrey Ejiga, refused to have any common ground with the Tiv people. They rather chose to form a Kwararafa league led by Prof Jerry Gana, a Nupe man in Niger State and also comprising of Junkuns from Taraba, some selected people from Kogi, Nassarawa etc. on the floor, Ochefu was silent, but behind the scenes, he did everything possible, and in league with others, they had their basic bargains and have them enshrined in the final report. First, they had some couple of states; secondly, that governorship should rotate among the senatorial zones. A certain Prof Onje Gyewado, a delegate from Nassarawa state, revealed the minds of people who look at Tiv in this light when he said Tiv people are “foolish ingrates ” “trouble makers” “uncompromising and unreasonable”. Such profiling of Tiv , supported by colonial and some historical documents, always mark the Tiv out as targets, and same repeated at the confab, because if not just only for the few things that Dr(now professor) Mrs Magdalyne Dura argued and got, the Tiv would have returned from the confab, empty handed.
The Younger Tiv generation, shall need to deliberately take out time to look at these things; they will have to look at their historical claims. Review extant literature, conduct more archaeological excavations and consult oral sources to test these claims. They will also work out modalities to either consider coming out of these tribal misconceptions. They will have to maintain friendships across the tribes like the guy Tersoo who while on the Hot Seat of the game “ Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” called his friend Oche. Failure to do this, then we shall have to sustain them and live with their dangerous consequences forever(like Goodluck Jonathan’s salary for the flag designer). Yes, David Mark, like no Idoma or Tiv man before, has decided to legalise this and further makes things tough for the younger generation that might want to come of this quagmire tomorrow; Yes, the Tiv, with their population and in a democracy, have been doing what the blacks have been also using their population to do, by producing a governor for Benue State since it was created in 1976 and democratically governor came on board in 1979. But unlike Benue political leaders of yore, Mark acts without tact, and further exposes his people, the Idoma to unnecessary danger, even if not today yet, in the near future.
Since 1976, Benue state has had four or five major political leaders. The first was Senator JS Tarkaa, then Wantergh Paul Iyorpuu Unongo; thirdly, it was Prof Ioyorchia Ayu(maybe, jointly with Engr Barnasbas Gemade) and then now David Mark. Take a look these names again. How many Tiv men are there? How many Idoma? What really have the four of them done for the Tiv nation? Take Ayu for example, he has been Senate President before, Minister of Education, Minister of Industry and Minister of interior. It has taken three different Idoma people to be hold these positions( David Mark, Jerry Agada and Abba Morro). What did he do? Equal opportunities were open to him, such as are opened to Mark, what did he do? How many people did he employ? Lets not look far, but in Gboko Local Government or amongst the Piav people; how has he helped them? At least, Chief Mike Kaase Aondoakaa did try for his Ukan people of Ushongo Local Government. So can the Tiv see who or those to blame for their woes?
Iorliam Shija is the Editor-In-Chief, Nigerian Peoples Post