0 PREAMBLE

The Catholic Bishops of Makurdi, Katsina-Ala and Gboko Dioceses held a crucial meeting with some of the Traditional Rulers of Tiv. In attendance also were priests (deans) of the aforementioned dioceses, except the Bishop of Makurdi, Most Rev Wilfred ANAGBE, (Cmf) due to an assignment at St. Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary, Makurdi. The reason for this meeting was predicated on the grounds of the usual custom of the Catholic Bishops to visit at the Palace of our paramount ruler to reflect on a plethora of issues ranging from our identity as a people, the relation between culture and religion, the place of the Tiv people in Nation building and perspectives on reforms/values of the Tiv people in this changing society.

      2.0 ADDRESS BY MOST REV. WILLIAM AVENYA

Most Rev. William AVENYA in his remarks thanked God for His many blessings upon the Tiv nation. He also congratulated those elected recently as First-Class Chiefs and prayed for the smooth process of the other impending appointments/selection of chiefs. He prayed for the repose of the soul of our late Tor Tiv, Dr Alfred Akawe TORKULA. In relation to this he said, his departure is both a challenge and an opportunity. Referring to the traditional rulers in general, he said, today offers them an opportunity to make a mark in the history of the Tiv people. On our own part as Catholic Bishops, we reiterate our willingness to make available our experiences, time and talents to accompany you to effectively add value to the lives of our people on our journey of rediscovering, reforming, promoting and retaining the “Tivness of the Tiv People”.

One prominent issue the bishop raised was the absence of an Agenda for the Tiv nation. This was equally the concern of Late Most Rev. Athanasius Usuh but never lived to see it. It goes without saying that a cultural, social, political, economic agenda will not only protect us as a people but enhance our identity, status, standard of living and wellbeing. This is the assignment we expect you to pursue with vigor in this era and for posterity sake. The Bishop was convinced that once we restore our fast eroding identity, we would reclaim our dignity and rightful place in the scheme of things locally, nationally and internationally. He however cautioned that the process of rediscovering and retaining our identity does not mean cultural rigidity but a healthy shift of paradigm. In this way, there is need for Tiv people to cultivate diplomacy, friendliness, and to be more receptive to our plurarity instead of militancy and brazen belligerence attitude to one another.

The Bishop acknowledged profoundly the progress made by the Governor of Benue State and House of Assembly on “A law to make provisions for the establishment of Benue State Council of chiefs and traditional councils in the state and for purposes connected therewith. He however noted that unfortunately exhaustive consultations were not made in the final process of the electoral reforms; therefore some salient elements were missing in the blockbusting document. He expressed optimism that, with the election of a New Tor Tiv, he hoped these issues will also be his top agenda.

On the issue of our anticipated appointment/election of the Tor Tiv, the Bishop prayed that the electorates should beware and not allow human frailty to misdirect their efforts to appoint the Tor Tiv who is a product of man’s will instead of God’s. He observed with some level of discomfort that it is foreign to the Tiv people that the stool of the Tor Tiv is been ferociously contested like a political office. The Tiv people always know who should occupy what seat based on their zoning system of “Ya na angbian”. 

Bishop AVENYA also spoke profusely on the need for functional self-reliance projects. We cannot continue to perpetuate in ‘throw away culture’ considering our enormous natural endowment. The Tiv people are very educated. It is time, we constituted a ‘Research-Think Tank Team’ to proffer practical steps to realise the Tiv Agenda.

3.0 GENERAL INTERACTIONS ON THE FLOOR

The Tiv Traditional Rulers applauded the great vision of the Catholic Bishops in Benue State. They unanimously suggested that such discussion should go on many other fora and be expanded. The traditional rulers also noted that lack of constitutional powers, security, and the observable contradictory decisions of the government in matters adjudicated by traditional rulers among other challenges were responsible for the despicable decay prevalent in the Tiv nation. They strongly called on the government of Benue State to allocate to them some powers to reprimand and also to punish offenders at their levels as was the case in the past in Tiv land.

 Regarding Tiv cultural practices, the traditional rulers called for synergy between the Church and the Traditional Institution and dialogue between faith and culture. They encouraged the Catholic Bishops to strengthen their efforts towards promoting Tiv Culture by allowing the use of Tiv traditional dress for wedding, Tiv names for baptism among others. They also called for restraint by religious leaders who make unguarded and disparaging remarks about Tiv culture and traditional rulers. On the issue of election of a new Tor Tiv, the traditional rulers pledged their complete submission to the vision of the Tiv people to ensure that the appointment is done with due process. They however bemoaned the attitude of certain Tiv Sons who are seriously agitating to become the next Tor Tiv but do not have the slightest idea of the Tiv Culture and who had never ever sighted the Palace.

To realise the dream of a new Tiv identity, the traditional rulers proposed responsible parenting, and called on all to eschew the culture of hooliganism, to put an end to the dysfunctional way of doing politics among our children, to promote the healthy values of good governance, inculcate sound discipline in schools, and ensure unity among Tiv elites and the different Christian bodies. A nation is not built where leaders and the led independently pursue their personal agenda. The Traditional Rulers called on the Catholic Bishops in Benue to share this perspective with other ecclesial bodies.

4.0 CONCLUSION

The meeting came to a successful end with the closing prayer led by the Catholic Bishop of Katsina-Ala diocese, Most Rev. Peter ADOBOH and everyone departed with a renewed hope of the birth of a new Tiv nation.

With kind regards and prayerful best wishes, I remain,

Rev. Fr. Isaac DUGU

Chancellor, Catholic Diocese of Gboko