ACCEPTANCE ADDRESS DELIVERED BY HIS MAJESTY, ORCHIVIRIGH PROFESSOR JAMES ORTESE IORZUA AYATSE ON THE OCCASION OF HIS CORONATION AS TOR TIV V ON SATURDAY, 4TH MARCH, 2017 AT J.S TARKA STADIUM, GBOKO
Let me begin by appreciating and recognising the presence of the Almighty God, the creator of heavens and earth, the one who enthrones kings and by whose mercies all of us are gathered here today to witness this historic event. Permit me the nostalgia of returning all glory to the Almighty God who ensured my choice as the fifth Tor Tiv on the 20th December 2016 and appreciating the forty-six kingmakers who agreed to be used of God for my election. The record breaking, overwhelming jubilations and acceptability of my choice amongst the Tiv Nation at home and abroad, and the popularity of the choice among friends of Tiv Nation across the globe attest to the divine stamp of approval. We are indeed grateful to God Almighty.
I warmly welcome the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, to this epoch-making ceremony. Your presence is an acknowledgement of your long-standing relationship with the Tiv Nation and your identification with us in moments of joy. We appreciate and applaud your administration’s dogged fight against corruption and insurgency. The Tiv nation is solidly behind you in your spirited efforts to address the socio-economic challenges facing the country and the desire to reposition Nigeria on the path of sustainable development.
I welcome one of my worthy sons, the Executive Governor of Benue State, Chief Dr Samuel Ortom, who has today handed to me the staff of office as the fifth Tor Tiv. Your Excellency, the entire process of the emergence of the fifth Tor Tiv, from enactment of the law to the actual election and installation, has taken place under your watchful eyes as the Chief Executive of the state. It is to your credit that you submitted to the directive of God not to interfere nor allow political interference or manipulation but only the will of God to prevail in the selection of the fifth Paramount Ruler of the Tiv Nation. History has proved over and over that God honours those that honour Him, yours will not be an exception to the rule.
Let me welcome in a special way members and friends of the Tiv nation who have travailed in ceaseless prayers over Tivland for God to give us a new Paramount ruler and have waited on Him for this day to come to pass. Never in the history of Tiv Nation has so much prayer preceded the selection of a new monarch, and never has there been such a long wait before the emergence of a new Tor Tiv. I appreciate you, your labour and love for the land and its people, and the Tiv Nation for the patience to wait. I believe this is a pointer to the fact that God wants to do a new thing in Tivland and your long wait shall not be in vain.
I am humbled and honoured to welcome all the great sons and daughters of Nigeria, gathered in their multitude, who have contributed immensely and are still contributing to the shape and form of our beloved country.
Your Excellencies, Majesties, Highnesses, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, today marks the completion of the process of my ascension to the throne of our great founding fathers and the completion of a succession process to the Tor Tiv throne, which became available with the transition of my predecessor, Late Orcivirigh, Dr Alfred Akawe Torkula, Tor-Tiv IV, who joined our ancestors in November 2015. It is with total submission to the will of the Almighty God and a deep sense of humility, coupled with a passionate purpose to advance, protect and defend the interest of the Tiv Nation that I graciously accept this huge responsibility of leadership with all the unforeseen burdens and challenges. I acknowledge and I am encouraged by the invaluable goodwill, support and jubilation that followed my selection as the 5th Tor Tiv and the warm reception from my subjects and friends of the Tiv Nation at all levels across the length and breadth of the country and beyond.
As I said when I addressed the ‘Ijir Tamen’ (the Supreme Assembly of the Tiv Nation) on the 20th December 2016 following my election, I believe that my choice is not because I am the best among the candidates that sought to ascend the throne but because God, in His infinite wisdom and mercies, decided that at this period in our history and in our day, it is my person He would use for such a time as this. I therefore totally submit to Him and invite Him to take over as the King and Lord of the Tiv Nation and make me His faithful messenger to the people. I therefore urge the Tiv Nation to return to God and rededicate herself completely to Him to rule over the affairs and resolve the challenges of Tiv Nation and her people. I also clearly stated that I will not be involved in partisan politics but will be Tor Tiv and father over all Tiv people, irrespective of political and religious persuasion, and the Palace shall be open to all to come and seek encouragement, help, succour, peace and conflict resolution.
I deeply appreciate all my co-contestants to the throne for accepting my victory. I have received letters of congratulation from many of them and I am sincerely humbled by their action. I therefore wholeheartedly invite all of them to join me as we together seek ways of addressing the numerous challenges bedevilling our people.
Since my election in December 2016, I have been visited by many groups and individuals and received many submissions on the different challenges facing the Tiv Nation. The major challenges include security and safety, unity and oneness, education, erosion of cultural values and tradition, leadership crises, marginalisation, unwholesome political practices, commerce and industry, agriculture, etc. Considered in depth and details, these challenges are daunting but not insurmountable. I believe that with God on our side and the collective goodwill and support of the Tiv people, we shall overcome these challenges. Fortunately, my over thirty-five years in meritorious public service as an academic has given me the versatile exposure, experience and discipline for this important role as a parent, teacher, administrator and leader.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, my interaction with many sons and daughters of Tiv kingdom across the globe has given me a clear indication of the type of Tor Tiv that is needed in the modern Tiv nation and what is demanded of him. He must:
Recognise that the Tor Tiv is a political but not partisan position. He must play the politics of the office without been partisan. He should be involved in the politics of Nigeria by engaging with his peers and other political and government leaders to reposition Tiv Nation on the socioeconomic and political map of Nigeria in consultation with Tiv leaders, irrespective of their party affiliation, in a non-partisan manner;
Fit into the two-fold function and ministry of a mobiliser and a unifier. As a mobiliser, he will have to rouse his subjects from slumber and complacency and mobilise them to engage Nigeria more imaginatively and constructively while presenting and preserving unity of purpose and cohesion;
Be a soldier-diplomat – he does not have to be a Diplomat or a General, but a cross between the diplomat and the combatant, a lamb and lion combined. As a lamb, he should give the Tiv Nation servant-leaders
hip; as a lion, he should judge with royal sagacity as well as benevolent firmness, and consider the security of the people a priority;
Be a convert of traditional and cultural renaissance, not seeing culture and tradition in terms of clay pots and ashes or wood, but the totality of the people’s world view, perceptions, values, norms, relationships, respect for elders, traditional institution, and constituted authority, attitude, religion, socialisation, language, marriage and family life, etc;
Be holistic as a Paramount Ruler of the Tiv Nation world-wide, who recognises that Tiv people are found in over seven states in Nigeria, with majority single ethic population in three states, and with substantial population in the Republic of Cameroon, and the diaspora; and
Lead with the fear of God, promote fairness and equity in the administration of justice and uphold the Tiv democratic principle of “ya na angbian” that allows fair distribution of rewards.
As I ascend the throne today, I accept these demands and pledge my commitment to pursue these virtues with the support of the Tiv Area Traditional Council. I believe that the Tiv Nation will also demonstrate complementary key followership virtues of honour, submission and obedience to the leadership of Paramount ruler and his chiefs, and the willingness to uphold them in prayers.
I am ascending the throne at a very difficult time in the history of the Tiv nation. We are all living witnesses to the historical injustices that still subsist against Tiv interest in the national constellation in contemporary Nigeria. Our people have been maltreated, short-changed and compromised in humiliating circumstances. Mostly in the last decade, Tiv people in contemporary Nigeria have suffered untold discrimination, deprivation and relegation and have become vulnerable to simultaneous attacks from hostile neighbours, official victimization and offensive invasion from bandits and strange herdsmen. These attacks, sometimes take the dimension of criminality and ethnic haunt organised against the Tiv people. The Zaki-Biam massacre without any compensation, when compared to what was done to the Udi community in Bayelsa that suffered similar fate, is still painfully fresh in our minds.
The negative impact of this onslaught against the Tiv people in contemporary Nigeria is fuelled by political experiments of divide and rule with an origin from ethnic rivalries in the struggle over the soul of Nigeria. This scenario has affected the fortunes of the Tiv people in political and economic realities and has remained the reason why the Tiv people are currently been undermined in the principles of Federal character in the distribution of patronage and rewards. This inappropriate political reward system that undermines the Tiv potentials is totally unacceptable and most undeserving of a people who are known for their invaluable contribution to nation building in peace and in war under all regimes, be it Military or Civil. Undoubtedly, the Tiv people are too strategic to the Nigerian project, with a virile population that is ranked the fourth highest common ethnicity, blessed with an excellent, effective and intelligent human resources capital, endowed with huge reservoir of agricultural and mineral deposits and a geo-political location that determines the balance of power between two key components of North and South regions that make up the Nigerian Federation.
This undeserving Tiv fate which is caused by both internal and external factors has reached its saturation point with lamentations and agitations from Tiv people from all works of life. These expressions have generated genuine consciousness for an Agenda of Tiv nationalism as a platform to pursue and demand justice from the Nigerian Federation.
It is at a challenging time such as this that I have been enthroned as the Tor Tiv, as the father of all Tiv sons and daughters, irrespective of status, religion, state of indigene or political persuasion. A father that must take leadership in mobilising to resolve the internal challenges that have weakened us and fashion out strategies to confront the external factors constructively. As we reflect on the challenging path of the Tiv trajectory, I pledge that the Tiv Area Traditional Council, under my leadership, shall provide the platform and enlist all Tiv sons and daughters to participate actively in our efforts to restore, rebuild and restructure the Tiv nation. I elect to provide leadership that will establish the institutional objectives and reforms that are necessary for the transformation, conscious of the unfolding challenges associated with it.
It is Rosalyn Carter who once said that “A leader takes people where they want to go, A great leader takes people where they don’t necessary want to go, but ought to be”. The Tiv Nation is not where they ought to be. I pray to provide, under God, the type of leadership that will take the Tiv people where they ought to be. In doing so, some reforms will be necessary to change the status quo, our perceptions and world view, some of our cultural practices, goals and priorities for the overall interest and good of the Tiv nation. In pursuing reforms that will restore, rebuild and restructure the Tiv nation, I propose to provide leadership using a four-pronged, first five-year agenda that will:
Reaffirm the Kingship and Lordship of God the creator over Tiv Nation, kingdom and its people;
Reemphasise Tiv identity (“Tivness”) and development;
Reinforce Tiv unity and oneness; and
Re-establish Tiv security (food, political, economic and physical) and welfare.
The Tiv Area Traditional Council shall be reformed and refocused to provide non-partisan and acceptable platform of integrity to anchor these transformational ideals. In its rebirth, the Council shall oversee the following policies and actions in pursuing the four-point agenda:
Strategic institutional reforms to strengthen the Tor-Tiv institution through specialized committees on Agriculture and Food Security, Security and Communal Harmony, Commerce and Economic Development, Culture and Literature, Politics and Social Development, Education and Human Development, Health and Environment, Women and Youth Development, Tiv Professionals and Academics (both at home and in the diaspora), and Faith and Interreligious Relations. This will be done to complement Government’s efforts in these key areas of development.
2. We shall restore the dignity of the Tiv person by upholding fundamental customs and age-long cultural values of hard work, honesty, strength of character, fairness, justice, obedience and honour to parents, respect to elders/properly constituted authority and the fear of God.
3. All traditional rulers will be dissuaded from being politically partisan without denying the very strong influence of the traditional leadership on their subjects in voter registration, good governance and related activities.
4. We shall encourage education at all levels with interest in science and technology related courses and the professions. The existing Tiv Area Traditional Council Scholarship will continue to encourage the interest of our youths in science and technology education.
5. We shall set up the Tiv Nation Commonwealth Fund (TNCF) for development and peculiar needs of the Tiv Nation. All sons and daughters and friends of the Tiv Nation shall be expected and required to avail sustainable support and contribution to this Fund.
We shall develop a bridge of partnership with government at all levels to facilitate integrated development projects, and most importantly to enhance security of our rural communities with a boost in agricultural production. Steps will be taken to address the perennial Fulani herdsmen versus farmers feud to allow our farmers return to their farmlands. We shall actively encourage the passage of the Bill on Ranching by the Benue State House of Assembly that takes into consideration our traditional land ownership system and practices.
7. To fast-tract our cultural renaissance, we shall initiate and promote festivals for interaction with the outside world using agricultural festivals, dancing competition festivals, hunting expeditions, fishing festivals, cultural festivals, et cetera to sell our culture and boost the tourist potentials of our communities and the state in general. Priority attention will be paid to teaching and speaking of Tiv Language in our educational institutions, and the production of the parallel Tiv-English Bible. We shall strive to construct a Museum for the preservation of our cultural artefacts.
8. We shall evolve methods of checking the menace of moral decadence which is on a steady rise in our social and political lives. We shall lay a solid foundation for morality, discipline and patriotism. It is unfortunate that social vices such as indecency, brigandage, cultism, illicit substance abuse, thuggery, impunity and ingratitude have become so common among our youth who are supposedly the productive structure for our economic and political development. We will encourage parents, teachers, guardians and elders to focus more on the upbringing of their wards to enable them lead useful lives by channelling their energies towards productive efforts in the society.
9. We shall strengthen Mzough U Tiv, by encouraging every Tiv son and daughter to be a financial card carrying member, and reposition it to assist in furthering those major objectives of the Tiv Nation. The Tiv Day celebrations will be restructured to accommodate Women, Youths, political actors, professionals, et cetera and be made to hold more regularly. Will shall hold Tiv Nation general assembly to discuss and formulate a common agenda. Other engagement with the people such as Town Hall meetings in the different Intermediate Areas may be held to promote unity and oneness.
10. We shall restructure and revitalise the Merit and Honours award system in Tiv Nation that recognises genuine contribution to the development and advancement of the interest of the Tiv nation.
I pledge to be an instrument for peaceful revolution in the Tiv character. This will require providing a template for attitudinal reorientation that is consistent with the traditional value system of the people which is fundamentally premised on love for one another, respect for elders, honesty, diligence and hard work.
To reconstruct the Tiv nation, we need peace and peaceful coexistence with others and I am trusting God to give us peace. Through cultural diplomacy, peer diplomacy, consultations and peace-building, the Tiv living in any part of the world should be at peace just like all other Nigerians living amongst the Tiv should find hospitality that defines our character. In this regard, I commend the Governor of Benue State, Chief Dr Samuel Ortom for his efforts in this direction. The recent historic peaceful reconciliation between Tiv in Benue and Taraba warring communities was done in the most civilised method of resolution. We applaud this approach and promise that the Tiv Area Traditional Council will always be in partnership with the government in resolving these incessant communal conflicts.
Let me commend the Governor for the immense support and partnership he is giving the traditional institution in the state. Your efforts in the ongoing construction of a new and befitting Palace for the Tor Tiv at this difficult time of economic down turn is a clear demonstration of your commitment to fully reposition the traditional institution for greater performance. I am aware of your willingness to do more for the traditional institution when the fortunes of the state improve. We are encouraged by your support and pledge to do our best in superintending over our areas of jurisdiction.
Your Excellency, Mr. President, your presence today here is very significant as the Tiv Nation is central to your vision of economic diversification which is tied to agriculture. You are fully aware of the potentials of our agrarian economy as the Food Basket of Nigeria. I humbly request Your Excellency to take advantage of available opportunities by involving the Tiv people in your Massive Empowerment Scheme at the level of facilitating the provision of agricultural inputs and technologies that will enhance food production and value addition in agriculture. To ease the movement of agricultural implements and produce, we appeal that you kindly approve the rehabilitation of federal roads in the state in general and the dualisation of the Makurdi-Gboko-Katsina-Ala-Zaki Biam road in particular.
Lastly, as you take stock and make your next series of appointments, kindly be reminded that the Tiv Nation is not represented in the Federal Executive Council and have not benefited from any appointment at the level of chief executive officer of any federal parastatal in the current dispensation. We believe God will help you to correct this marginalisation.
In conclusion, let me thank all of you for attending this ceremony and wish you journey mercies and royal blessings as you depart to your different destinations. Thank you and God bless you all.
Long Live the Tiv Nation,
Long Live Benue State,
Long Live Nigeria
His Majesty, Orcivirigh Professor James O. I. Ayatse
Tor Tiv V (Nombegha U Tiv)
President, Tiv Area Traditional Council and Chairman, Benue State council of Chief