In 2009, the Kwande Traditional Council suggested certain people to the then Ter Kwande, Late James Adzpe, to confer traditional chieftaincy titles on them. I was, by the virtue of the fact that, with my friends, Tersoo Akula and Kenneth Azahan , had written Adzape’s biography, familiar with the events leading to the event. For my closeness to the Ter Kwande’s palace and that I followed the event closely, I came to one conclusion that today, honour is cheap in Tivland.
In the past, as a historian who has carried extensive oral research in Tivland, especially in Kwande Local Government, I know that honour among the Tiv people was highly priced. A honourable person, then had a price to pay to be regarded as a honourable person; and the Tiv society apportioned these prices carefully. It was reserved for great hunters/farmers; those who had killed rare animals like elephants and lions or had their barns filled with huge produce to feed the land, like that man Adanyi Antse Bur. And then for traders, industrialists, educationists and politicians; politicians who the people saw as their TRUE representatives like Aper Aku, the first elected governor of Benue State.
As late as in the 1970s/80s; during the first and second republics, the Tiv people were careful with whom to honour. When one heard of the names of Ako Dzungwe Shande Anyankpa, Faasema Gygwe, Gideon Ierkwagh Kajo, Akaazua Muemue, Denen Tofi and PADOPAS Awunah and so many others, then, here and there, one was sure to come in contact with people who in spite of their little education, miniature physique; had greatly impacted the society.
In 1976 when Kwande Local Government was created, two people through their financial muscles kept it standing. These were Ako Dzungwe and Ierkwagh Kajo. The Kajos provided the first structures that served as the first Kwande Local Government secretariat; Dzungwe and Kajo contributed immensely to building some of the buildings standing today at the Kwande Local government secretariat. These were the honourable people that our society knew.
In 2014, the same society that honoured men like Jerome Tilley Gyado, that great industrialist and men like JS Tarkaa, the minority right activist, for their achievements and contribution to the development of Tiv society is honouring SPACO, OSAMA, SHORTMAN and John Akpersahi. My people, what is the common denominator of the former and the latter? That’s why I say honour is cheap in Tivland, today.
Ter-Kwande, late James Adzape had wanted to honour Ashi Ahmadu (nee Adzuanaga) alone, initially. The reason being that between 2006 and 2008, this woman was changing the little town of Achar in Maav Asar, Mbakyor ward, Kwande Local government,into a modern town. She had facilitated contracts for construction of a link road from branch Uzege, Nyiev-Yiev to Achar, slaughter slabs, a hospital, toilets, market stores etc… the people were overwhelmed and when the good man James Adzape heard of this, wanted to honour this her daughter for all that , who then was a senior staff at the National Assembly. A delegation was sent to her; but she declined to receive a chieftaincy on the grounds that she was a civil servant and moreso, she revealed that somehow she was not responsible for the contracts in Achar.
She told the delegation from Kwande Traditional Council that Hon Onyiola Omisore, the one that just lost a guber race in Osun State, who then was the House Chairman of Appropriation committee in the House Of Reps, was the one who had single handedly put all the contracts in the budgets. It was only then that it came to light that all those federal government projects in Achar didn’t come from Hon Chille Igbawua or Senator Joseph Akaagerger who then represented Kwande/Ushongo federal constituency and Benue North-East senatorial district (Zone A) respectively, but from a Yoruba man. That was how, through Mrs Ahmadu, Omisore came to be honoured as “HUROR U KWANDE”. Other Tiv men who didn’t have this information were angry that Omisore who then was accused for the death of one of his kinsman, Bola Ige, was honoured by Kwande men.
To me, and perhaps a few others at home, our problem was not Omisore but these others that were lined along side him for honour , namely Terlumun Akputu, John Akperashi and Col Basil Kwenbe (RTD). Although this trio was suggested by their respective district heads, something was amiss. It brings to the front burner the issue of HONOUR. Were these the best or suitable people people to be honoured? Basil Kwembe?
The same Kwembe was principal staff officer to a Nigerian Authoritarian, General Sani Abacha, the then Head of State, what did he do for his people? NOTHING.. As if that was not enough. When George Akume, the then governor of Benue State, wanted to destroy Kwande, it was this man that allowed to have his house as custody for the militia that came from all over Benue state, headed by one Owanga who died recently. From his house, a few kilometres from Adikpo town, headquarters of Kwande Local Government, this militia went about killing innocent people everywhere in Kwande. How honourable was this man? Why should this man be honoured?
This piece doesn’t have time for the escapades of Akputu and Akperashi; what they did or failed to do, but to look at the issue of honour and how it is, at the moment, indiscriminately apportioned in Tivland and the results thereof. I know that today, unlike in the past, people that are honoured in Tivland are rather known murderers, criminals, cultists, thieves and the likes? So how can we develop as a people?
This is where I blame George Akume and Gabriel Suswam for those they have used their privileged positions to empower. Look at Spaco for example; where did he come from? How come he has become a force to reckon with in the scheme of things? Somewhere else, these terrorists are known, but they live in their caves, far away from civilization like Osama Bin Ladin did and Abu Musab al-Zarqaw or the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is doing somewhere at the moment; waiting for the law. Look at a guy like Orduen Abunku who was stripped of his medical certificate in America and it was on record; how would Suswam honour him in his cabinet? If not because honour is cheap amongst us?
People like Tarker Gologo, Obadiah Okough, Peevkyaav Zegi or Tondur Kumbur rose from the rungs of the society as praise singers to occupy special positions of status in Tivland because they explored their talents. As a result, the society that celebrated the millionaire Jime Akaaka, or celebrated them for their creativity. But today? What one needs to be honoured in Tivland today is to do the worst of things. How can we develop?
David Gemmell once said that “I may be stupid, as you say, to believe in honour and friendship and loyalty without price. But these are virtues to be cherished, for without them we are no more than beasts roaming the land.” So today we are beasts because we have left our winning ways. Honour, in Tivland is so cheap that any murderer can earn, that’s one of our problems or should I say our basic problem?
I leave you with this long quote : “It really is something … that men disapprove even of our doing things that are patently good. Wouldn’t it be possible for us just to banish these men from our lives, and escape their carping and jeering once and for all? Couldn’t we live without them? Couldn’t we earn our living and manage our affairs without help from them? Come on, let’s wake up, and claim back our freedom, and the honour and dignity that they have usurped from us for so long. Do you think that if we really put our minds to it, we would be lacking the courage to defend ourselves, the strength to fend for ourselves, or the talents to earn our own living? Let’s take our courage into our hands and do it, and then we can leave it up to them to mend their ways as much as they can: we shan’t really care what the outcome is, just as long as we are no longer subjugated to them.”
― Moderata Fonte, The Worth of Women: Wherein Is Clearly Revealed Their Nobility and Their Superiority to Men
Iorliam Shija is the Editor-In-Chief, Nigerian Peoples Post