Origin of the Tiv - Onyeji Nnaji

If nothing attracts any prim historian towards the history of the Tivs, the desire to know how we entered into this contraption called Nigeria with the unfriendly Fulanis will. My sensation has not left me to hastily forget that it was the Tiv who held the Danfodio led Fulani jihadists from descending to the east those early days of Fulani infiltrating history. The Tiv were storng people who had fought many wars as they journied to their present home in the Benue basin.

The earliest recorded European contact with the Tiv was in 1852, when Tiv were found on the banks of the Benue. Before the appearance of the Europeans to the area, the Tivs had been in a heavy war with the Fulani. The Fulanu warriors who came from Fouta Djallon, under the command of Osman Dan Fodio, enter the northern part of Nigeria. They conquered the Hausa, superimposing Islamic religion on the Hausans. After that, they matched southward and were waged by the Tiv warriors. This situation was a very big setback to the proposed movement towards capturing the northern parts of Nigeria. Seeing the warring parties in the uncommon strength, they immediately had a confabulation. Unfortunately for the rest of people in this part of the world, the confab was with the Fulani. 

In the confab, the parties realized that they had almost the same agenda. The Fulani wanted to conquer the south also; so that, accoding to them, they count dip their Qur'an in the Atlantic Ocean. The Europeans understood what they meant and quickly entered into agreement with them. They told the Fulani that they had come only for colonization; and then they promised that once they were through they would hand over to the Fulani to continue their conquest. Recall the statement of the Fulani leaders after the killing of over 70 people in Benue on January 1st, 2017. They said that "There is no remorse for the killing of the Tivs because they were the people who prevented them from conquering South in the beginning."

It was in fulfilment of this agreement that Europeans played on Azikiwe's intelligence and handed over to Tafawa Bellewa. It became remarkable when Harold Smith lamented that if Nigerians clamouring for independence knew what shall befall them, they would wish that the Europeans stay more. This was the price Tiv paid to save christianity in the southern part of Nigeria today.

The land of the Tivs expanded along in their occuptaion of the similar plain that extends northward from the river toward the Jos Plateau. The heartland of Tivland stretches from about 6°30 to 8°00 N and from 8°00 E to 10°00 E, although Tiv settlements are also found north and east of that area. In the southeast, Tivland borders the foothills of the Cameroons, from whence the Tiv say they originally came. Some hills, especially in southern Tivland, are as high as 1,200 meters. The undulating plains of tall grasses dotted with savanna trees, lose elevation until they reach the Benue, at about 100 to 120 meters distance. 

How the Tiv Got Her Name

Many writers, especially bloggers, lack the censoring tools to bring history to it's focal point. They give little or no attention to the days of ignorance in their treatment of prehistory. That is where Western historians appeared more painstaking than many African historians. There is what is called "historical dimensions," different from "historical pointers". Language, names etc. are historical pointers, while societal shifts due to natural causes is a good example of historical dimension. The latter insists that every people have a reason for taking the names they bear as a community. Any discussion of prehistory cannot be complete, accurate and factual except these indicators are factored in.

Modern Tiv unanimously agreed that Tiv was the name of their ancestor. But the brief document of Dr. East has another information to furnish readers with: a more detailed history of the Tivs. As was stated Above, Europeans encountered the Tivs in 1852. They left a fraction of their population behind to study the Tivs language while the rest continued their journey towards north. Those left behind formed the earliest missionaries to interact with the Tivs. Meanwhile, about that time, Tiv had come under the influence (but not the hegemony) of Jukun and Hausa kingdoms, established "District Heads," who were influential men to whom the British gave authority in which order Tiv did not concur.

Those men who were used to the stealing harbit of the Tivs, chose to address them in that same way.  The Hausans, for instance, referred to the Tivs as "Munchi";  a term translated to mean "We have eaten".  Tivs have the habit of stealing from their neighbours. Whenever the attitude is reported to the Jukun or Hausa authorities, the defence the Tiv had was that they had eaten the item whatsoever that was stolen. Therefore, this habit assigned impetus to the names Tivs were called among her neighbours. The westerners living with them also joined in the similar notion and referred to them as "thieves". In later days, people in the Tiv neighbourhood, especially the Igbos, called them "Tivi". But as the records of the white men prevailed upon that same reference, the name then survived. Therefore, rather than call them thieves, Dr. East who wrote one of the earlier influencial notes on the people found it convenient to address them as Tivs in his work. 

Duggan 1932 and Ako 1981 also re-enacted this same views about the Tivs history; Ako particularly remarked that the Tivs did not welcome this reference by the neighbours. Tivs at early 1911 showed substantial dislike to their reference by the Hausans. British documents revealed that before the British eruption of 1911, 'the Tivs lived in stockaded villages of perhaps 500 to 600 people with each group holding strongly their views of a comon patrilineal relationship and reference to a same ancestor. After the "Pax Britannica" became effective, they "went to the farm," establishing smaller compounds spread more or less evenly over the land'.

Origin of the Tivs

The March, 2022 updade of the Wikipedia history has the following staring surprise to tell us about the Origin of the Tiv.

The Tiv say they emerged into their present location from the southeast. It is claimed that the Tiv wandered through southern, south-central and west-central Africa before arriving at the savannah lands of West African Sudan via the River Congo and Cameroon Mountains and settled at Swemkaragbe the region adjoining Cameron and Nigeria in the beginning of 1500 CE. "Coming down," as they put it, was in batches, some moved southward across Obudu mountains others moved northward spreading over Mdema and Waka district, while others moved into core benue valley present day core Central Nigeria. These dispersions took place in the early 1500 CE to 1600 CE

The problem with this account is the period of the migration. Using Orkar's proposed chronology chart, the first wave of Tiv migration to Ibenda hills can be estimated to have occurred about 1630-1645. This estimation by the Orkar chronology chart, debunking the Wikipedia date, would place the Tivs migration to the Benue-Plateau to much later dates. Again, the editor failed to account for the cause of the Tiv migration. Something must prompt a migration from one place to another; otherwise what Wikipedia presents to us here is a Utopia history of the Tiv. The publication of Akiga Sai and Paul Bohannan in Africa: Journal of the International African Institute Vol. 24, No. 4 (Oct., 1954), pp. 295-310 will be of help here. Below is the story in the words of Sai himself.

Tiv say that their original home was a hill which they call' Swem ' far to the south- east of their present location;' Swem ' is usually identified with the hill marked Ngol Kedju on maps of the Nigerian Cameroons. The area is still inhabited by 'Bush Tribes' (atoatiev) who resemble Tiv in culture and in certain aspects of their language. The Tiv separated from these bush tribes and ' came down ' in search of new homes. They were met by the Fulani, who were friendly with them, and with whom they stayed for a time. However, because the Fulani wanted to marry their daughters, Tiv left them and settled among other bush tribes near the present site of Takum; they did not stay there long, however, but came to a point near Kasimbila where they made contact with the Ugenyi (Chamba), with whom they lived peacefully. About that period, Igbo speaking people lived up to Kastina Ala river.

They later left there to settle farther east on Ibenda Hill, in the south-east corner of what is today Tiv Division.' It is here that Dr. East's translation leaves the Tiv; Akiga, in the original manuscript, returns to them on Ibenda Hill several chapters later and gave an entire chapter to detailing the accounts of their' descent, the wandering and migrations which brought them into their present location and account for their present distribution. Selections from this hitherto untranslated chapter are presented here.

When the Tiv were on Ibenda Hill, and the Ugenyi lived along the banks of the Katsina Ala river from the hill of Kurndiva to the hillock of Ilyufu, they lived peaceably with one another with never any fighting. The Ugenyi came into Tiv country, and the Tiv likewise crossed into Ugenyi country. At first the Tiv knew nothing of boats, and crossed the river with rafts. To make such a raft, you split down the middle a log about twice the length of your lower arm, making it about the thickness of a woman's hand; then you lash two branches to it securely, one at either end

The Ugenyi showed them how to paddle and pole (naha) a canoe; several people knew how to paddle and, when others were going to Ugenyi, paddled them across the crossing where Gading lives today. At that time, the Tiv called a canoe a ' plank ' (kpande)-it was later that they came to call it a 'boat' (tso). Even today, Iharev- like the olden people-call a canoe a 'plank'. The Tiv got many things from the Ugenyi [including some names and several types of food crops] .

one day they had a quarrel with them and finally war broke out. The cause of the disagreement was a hunting-net. A Tiv borrowed a net from his Ugenyi friend but didn't return it. When the Tiv went to Ugenyi country again, his friend came and asked him about it; the Tiv said that the net was all right. When the friend (hur-or) had come to take it; he said he would go and get it and return it immediately. His Ugenyi friend said quite right-he'd be expecting it. The Tiv returned home, but didn't give the Ugenyi his net. So again the Ugenyi went to his Tiv friend; the Tiv said there was no net and he proposed to stop this foreign non- sensical talk about it. The foreigner said, 'What do you mean calling this matter nonsense that way?' He refused to calm down and said that if he didn't get his net that very day, he'd call in the elders about it.

Thus they fell to abusing each other and to speaking carelessly. One said, 'Did you know anything about nets in the first place, or wasn't it we foreigners who showed you? Isn't there a Tiv proverb which says that the man you help doesn't stay to dinner? ' The Tiv little big-shot raised his voice toward the reception hut:' Boys, come here! This little foreign slave has come and insulted me! Who are these foreigners anyhow?' 

The boys fell to beating the foreigner-and all because of a net. The little foreigner looked around for an escape, fled into the bush and went to a man's raft, sits on it, paddles with his hands in the water and crosses perfectly well. Even today Tiv who live along big streams make such rafts in order to cross.

When he got home, he told his story to his people. When the Ugenyi heard all this, they sounded their ivory horn. They gathered and came down to the bank of the Katsina Ala river and went against the Tivs, chasing them out of the land, then the Tivs moved away. That was the event that brought them to their present home.

As I have always said, Bantu migrations are too long a movement that easily could confuse any researcher that is not careful. Their journey was a long one. So, when each Bantu tries to tell her story, it begins and terminates within the limit of her knowledge. They hardly could recall that there was, at first, a moving out from this part of the world, then the coming back.

Now, sizing up the Tiv migration, as clearly shown by Sai here, it could be deduced that Tiv migration may have commenced from the Cameroon region where the Ijagam as well as the Osaka emigrants had moved from. As the last set of Bantu, the Tivs may be said to have eluded their original home. But their collective views of Southeast is a clear indication that they have not lost out completely.


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