A Special Publication On the Occasion Of the Coronation of Tor Tiv V,
His Royal Majesty, Begha U Tiv, Orchivirigh Prof James Ortese Ayatse
As Tiv people across the world celebrate the coronation of the new Tor Tiv His a Royal Majesty ORCHIVIRIGH, Prof. James Ayatse today, SOLOMON AYADO writes on the history of kingship in Tivland and the chronology of rulers of the Tiv nation of Nigeria.
History of Kingship in Tiv Land
From time immemorial, authority among the Tiv lay basically at the compound level and was vested in the oldest male member of both the nuclear and extended families in a form of gerontocracy, some Tiv scholars have traced.
A compound is made up of the Compound Head known as Orya and his wives and children, his younger brothers with their own wives and children and occasionally the compound includes people who come to live among them, such as distant relatives or in-laws to some other members of the extended family.
A compound is known after the Compound Head (Orya) and in the event of death, his first born son or his surviving most elder brother succeeds him. However, if his surviving brothers are younger than his first born son then the son would succeed him. The principle is that the most senior man by age is expected to become the next Compound Head (Orya).
The Tivs operated an egalitarian society and power was wielded through collective responsibility and consensus was the means of conflict resolution and this was the reason the Tiv tribe was classified as a stateless society by colonial sociologists and anthropologists.
According to history, the Tiv had no central authority; they had mainly a fragmentary social and political organisation with the family as the main unit of political organisation so any semblance to authority was therefore found at the compound and kindred levels.
The compounds were headed by the eldest male members who sometimes commanded enough respect with the influence of the authority to govern, depending on his own personal qualities and achievements.
Gerontocracy was an important qualification for indigenous Tiv leadership recruitment, however the personal qualities of an individual were quite significant in the emergence of a political leader especially charisma.
Among a traditionally segmented society like the Tiv, political office in the tribe was decided mainly by ability, this included the knowledge of health, fertility and jural customs with the genealogy and personal history of agnates.
The elders mainly acted as spokesmen for their compounds and they could only enforce their decisions if and when all members of the compound found such decisions to be just and for the good of all and sundry.
Decisions affecting the compound had therefore to be arrived at by consensus and if any member of the compound strongly disagreed with any decision of the Head – Orya – he had the option of breaking away to form his own compound and this served as a check on the power of the Compound Head.
Tiv political organisation also had as one of its basic units the kindred unit; this was a collection of compounds with all the agnatic descendants of a single ancestor. Each kindred group was governed by a council of elders known as ‘Ijir’ and each was autonomous of the other. Its main function was to deal with judicial issues involving one lineage or each other.
The mode of governance of each kindred unit revolved around the principle of representation. The ‘Ijir’ as a representative assembly of Heads of Compounds was not an assemblage of people in authority over a wider group, instead it was representatives of compounds who argued and debated until compromise and consensus were arrived at, failure to achieve consensus usually resulted in breakdown of law and order. The council of elders met only occasionally when the community was faced with calamities, epidemics, famine, war, or death of prominent members of the tribe.
With the advent of colonialism, the indirect rule system imposed by the British was unsuitable for the Tiv natives; this was because the colonial administration could not identify the structure and channels of authority among the people. They knew that the designation of Tor Agbande (Drum Chief) existed but they were puzzled how it functioned and the fact that the office was not hereditary nor did the holder exercise absolute executive power as the case with other communities in the northern protectorate.
As for their social organisation, the traditional Tiv society was completely egalitarian. There was no central authority. They had no king so every man was ruler of his own house. They lived in compounds administered by the oldest man. Many compounds formed clans and districts that were variously divided and sub-divided. The elders of the various clans (upyaven) and districts (ityar) met and discussed issues at those levels and arrived at democratic decisions that bound their sections. If an issue involved the whole ethnic group, the elders of the various sections and districts met and took a decision. This situation obtained until 1946 when the colonialists established a Tiv central authority by creating the office of a paramount ruler. The paramount ruler -Tor Tiv-lives and administers the people in Gboko, their headquarters, which was built in 1932. Ascendancy to the Tor Tiv throne is not hereditary.
Chronology of Tor Tivs
According to history, succession to the Tor Tiv stool has evolved without acrimony since 1946. There has been total agreement that the philosophy of power sharing by rotation between the two sons of Tiv – Ichongo and the Ipusu lineage – is the guiding criteria.
According to Prof. Iyorwuese Hagher, when the Tor Tiv dies, the stool passes to the next lineage. The wisdom of the rotation disqualifies anybody in the late Tor Tiv’s family and lineage.
In Tiv canons, it is safe to say that since the Tiv do not practice primogeniture, the last person to aspire for the next Tor Tiv in Tivland is the son of a late Tor Tiv.
It was gathered that the man “Tiv” had ten grandsons from his two sons, Ichongo and Ipusu since his third son Poor reportedly died without an issue. These ten have become the super-clans between whom the chieftaincy stool rotates.
Indeed, the Ichongo super-clans are, Iharev, Ikurav, Masev, Nongov, Turan and Ugondo. Also, among the Ipusu super-clans are Shitile, Ukum, Kparev and Tongov respectively.
Reflectively, the late Makir Zakpe, a Kunav man from Jechira, son of Kpar (Kparev) from Ipusu, became the first Tor Tiv. Chief Gondo Aluor, an Ugondo man, son of Ichongo accordingly became Tor Tiv II based on the Tiv policy of rotation known as ‘ya na angbian”. After his demise, His Royal Highness, Chief Akperan Orshi, a Tombo man from Jemgbagh, son of Kparev and of Ipusu, emerged as Tor Tiv III while His Royal Majesty Chief Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkula, a Ihyarev man and son of Ichongo, who was the last occupant of the stool, became the fourth Tor Tiv and 2nd Tor Tiv to have come from the Ichongo extraction.
The Tor Tiv stool became vacant after the death of HRM Akawe Torkula in November 2015, following which a successor was announced on December 20, 2016, in the person of Prof James Ayatse, the immediate past pioneer vice chancellor of the Federal University of Dutsinma, Katsina state and former vice chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi.
Ayatse’s emergence came a year after the demise of the Late Tor Tiv IV, HRM Alfred Akawe Torkula, who reigned and ruled the Tiv nation for about 25 years before he finally joined his ancestors. Recall that the late Torkula who became Tor Tiv in 1991, died on November 22, 2015. He hailed from Tse-Torkula in Mbadwem District of Guma Local Government Area of Benue State.
His successor, the Tor Tiv V, Prof. Ayatse was selected by the kingmakers during a convergence of the Tiv Supreme Council ‘Ijirtamen’, held at the traditional chambers in Gboko town, the ancestral home of the Tiv nation.
The Man Ayatse
The Tor Tiv V, Prof. James Ortese Ayatse emerged the occupier of the traditional stool in a keen contest with three other contenders. He polled 39 votes, out of the total 46 votes cast to defeat three co-contestants from the Ipusu bloc of Sankera intermediate area. The defeated contenders were Prof. Daniel Saror, a former vice chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, who scored three votes and Prof. Benedict Shinku, three votes while Andrew Wombo, an erudite lawyer, scored one vote.
The selection of Ayatse was arrived at after a marathon two-day selection process carried out by the kingmakers.His emergence defied all alleged political maneuverings that played out during the consultation process.
Born on May 12, 1956, he started schooling at LGEA Primary school Orbiam, Ikov in Ushongo LGA; LGEA school Mbagbegba, Shangev-Ya and attended St. Ann’s Primary School, Adikpo, where he obtained the first school leaving certificate. He later attended Government Secondary School, Gboko and proceeded to the University of Ibadan where he bagged a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biochemistry in 1979, and was the best graduating student in the department.
Ayatse obtained an MSc at the University of Calabar in 1982, where he was also the best graduating student that year, after which he proceeded to the University of Surrey, England, as commonwealth student for a PhD in Biochemistry in 1987, and quickly returned to the University of Calabar for his MBA in 1992.
Prof Ayatse was appointed Graduate Assistant in the University of Calabar, and worked in that capacity from 1980 to 1982; he was later variously promoted assistant lecturer, 1982- 1985; lecturer, 1985-1988; lecturer 1, 1988-1989 and was senior lecturer from 1989 to 1993. He became a Professor of Biochemistry in 1990.
The Tor Tiv V has held various academic positions including the head, Department of Chemistry, Benue State University, Makurdi; Director of Academic Planning, Benue State University, Makurdi and Member, Institute of Biology, Chartered Biologist, United Kingdom, as well as fellow, Institute of Medical Laboratory Science, United Kingdom, member, New York Academic of Science, USA.
He is married to Felicia Ayatse and has four children. His hobbies include photography, sports and farming.