By Codratus Godson
The matter in Benue State seems to get messier as the highly respected and neutral council of Tiv traditional rulers has teamed up with the state governor, Samuel Ortom, saying they were ready to be crucified with their son on the matter of the Open Grazing Law that seems to be bone of contention.
The Ijir Tamen is a serious body in Tiv land and is seen as the Tiv supreme council always headed by the King of Tiv, the Tor Tiv populated by representatives of all intermediate areas of Tiv land, such as Jemgbagh, Jerchira, Kwande, Sankera and MINDA.
When the Iji Tamen decides, it means Tivland is ready to go to war. Ortom is the first Tiv man from the first son of Tiv (MINDA or Makurdi zone) to be governor of Benue State in their rotational philosophy called ‘Ya na gbiam’, (eat and let your brother eat).
This becomes more significant now that the Tor Tiv, the equivalent of governor, is from the other zone, thereby creating a balance. Whatever threatens Ortom would be seen as a threat to this balance and may be resisted beyond what the eye can see. If the matter gets to crisis level, it may bring back what happened in 1965/66 and later led to coups and a civil war.
The Tiv council does not seem to believe that corruption or diversion of the state funds was the matter in contention but the Open Grazing Law. Ortom recently decamped to the Peoples Democratic Party saying he was being persecuted by the state’s wing of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Since then, the anti-corruption agency says it has been uncovering dirt but Ortom’s camp says its all persecution.
Now, the Tiv Traditional Council (Ijir Tamen) on Friday unanimously agreed to stand by Governor Ortom in the implementation of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law.
The Council made its position known at its meeting in Gboko, the traditional headquarters of the Tiv nation.
The traditional rulers stated that if Governor Ortom would be crucified because he chose to resist the invasion and occupation of his land, they were ready to be crucified with him.
They urged the Governor to stand firm and resist any attempt to surrender the land to herders under whatever guise.
The decision of the Tiv supreme council was taken after the Tor Tiv, Professor James Ayatse, conducted a voice vote which saw representatives of all intermediate areas of Tiv land, namely: Jemgbagh, Jerchira, Kwande, Sankera and MINDA unanimously rejecting any attempt to suspend the ranching law of the state.
The paramount ruler cautioned Tiv sons and daughters against politics of violence and acrimony, stressing that anyone who encourages political violence would face unpleasant consequences.
Addressing the Ijir Tamen, Governor Ortom said his refusal to support the organized pogrom against his people was the beginning of his travails.
He stated that some prominent Benue sons had connived with enemies of the state to work against the people, saying that the probe of his security vote and the failed impeachment move were part of the plot to get him out of the way.
The Governor noted that he left the All Progressives Congress, APC, for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP because the interest of his people as a state was not protected in his former party.
Both Governor Ortom and the Tor Tiv charged Benue people who had not yet registered for the ongoing voter registration to do so within the two weeks extension, even as they urged those who registered but were yet to get their permanent voters cards to go for collection.