Hey buddies, hope y'all have been having fun with the history of Northern Nigeria. So far, we have discussed about 5 ethnic groups in the Northern part of nigeria. Remember, in our last post, I mentioned "Tiv" ethnic group in passing. Here, we will look at this ethnic group in details; their origin and socio-political organization before the colonial era, then we'll connect it to this present era.
Tiv Ethnic Group
Tiv is also referred to as "Tivi" by many. Tiv is considered as the biggest ethno-linguistic group in the middle part of Northern Nigeria (over 7 million people - according to 2006 population census in Nigeria). Much more than this, Tiv does not only have significant population in Nigeria, a very large and significant population is found in Cameroon. Some minority are found in D.R Congo and Benue basin.
Tiv people are well known for commerce and trading, though some living around the Benue basin are more into fishing and farming. Tiv has one of the most unusual but unique traditions and cultures in Nigeria. By this, I mean that, their cultures are exclusively preserved of them and they do not share them with other ethnic groups (unlike the Hausa and some others that share cultures with other ethnic group); this can be visible in their cuisines, traditional practices, music etc. For their traditional musical performance, they have their own musical instruments: "Adiguve" - this is a stringed instrument used mainly by ordained musicians in Tiv and by messengers to make important announcements like the coronation of a king, death of dignitary etc. There's another one called "Gbande" - This is a percussion instrument made of carved wood. Tiv people believe they can use the sound from this instrument to communicate with spirits from the land beyond.
Talking about dressing and attire, Tiv is the only Northern ethnic group with a recognized national attire which is white-and-black strip fabric. This has made it very easy to spot a native Tiv person in any traditional occasion. The fabric was launched at the early days of the origin of Tiv as a way to honour the zebra (which is regarded as the symbol of their traditional and cultural heritage).
Origin of Tiv
The exact origin of Tiv has remained largely unknown just like some other ethnic groups we have reviewed, though there are pointers to show us some history as regards the origin of Tiv. Among these pointers is "oral tradition". We will look at some recognized origin of Tiv.
The Version of Takuruku
This is partly a creationist account and partly a migratory account. There is a general belief that the almighty creator sent one of his messengers called Takuruku (also called "Awanje", "Shan" and "Karagbe") who has been believed to be the first and true ancestor of the Tiv people. Takuruku wandered through the Sahel savannah, Sudan savannah, West-central Africa and parts of Sub-saharan Africa until he found the Northern part of Nigeria and parts of Cameroon where he later established a base.
During his period of wandering, he got married and had two children known as Ichongoa and Ipusu. From these children, Takuruku had many grandchildren; Turan, Mase, Gando etc, which now represents the various kindreds in the land of Tiv. By inference, all the kindreds of Tiv came from the children of Takuruku.
Till this present time, Tivs still recognize Takuruku as their ancestral father and they have special celebration to honour him (and other Tiv ancestors) once a year where the locals would normally appear in their white-and-black attire.
The Pure Migratory Account
This particular account does not recognize Takuruku and a messenger from the almighty creator and as their first and true ancestor but they recognize the pattern of migration from Sudan savannah region of Africa through the mountains of Cameroon. Takuruku only joined the migration from Sudan savannah as one of the immigrants, not as a messenger sent from the almighty creator. Well, the common denominator in both accounts is "Takuruku". While they journeyed, they crossed paths with the Fulani and they established a relationship with them, this was how parts of Tiv got Islamized. Though traditional religion is still practiced in Tiv, but Islam and Christianity is also practiced.
After Tiv established a base, they were much bigger and had a bigger land area covered, but the Jukuns contended with them over some parts of the land; saying that it was originally theirs. The Jukuns won the combat and seized parts of the land. The clash between Tiv and Jukun has almost never ceased and has been a recurrent issue.
Tiv Administration and Socio-political Organization
Tiv people practise a very decentralized and segmentary system of government where leadership is based on kindred level and elders are seen as the fulcrum upon which leadership hinges upon. Each kindred is headed by Mbavessen (who is normally the eldest in the clan). A leader is normally appointed over the group of Mbavessens to oversea the activities of Mbavessen.
Tiv people have respect for family and attach a significant importance to blood relationship and brotherhood - this is due to the fact that there is a popular belief in Tiv that all of them came from a shared ancestry. They also believe in hierarchy of authority where the eldest in the clan commands more authority than others. The hierachical order goes like this: from Nuclear family to the bigger extended family, then to the kindred and finally to the clan - which makes up the entire Tiv ethnic group. This is why history scholars have said that Tiv people have more genealogical and lineage affiliation than other ethnic groups in the Northern part of Nigeria. As a matter of fact, their leadership is based on genealogy and their system of government have been maintained even till this present time.
During the pre-colonial time, Tiv people had no recognized titled nobility like other ethnic groups, and they had no crowned chiefs nor elected administrators, their leadership was based on genealogy, lineage, and age - this system has been partly maintained even till this present era - though some forms of traditional institutions have been formed, but on the overall, Tiv is known for genealogical system of government.
Authored by @samminator