Tiv Future in the Throes of Herdsmen Terror
In about 12 out of the 23 Local Government areas in Benue State, farmer-herder clashes have left scores dead and over 700,000 displaced as of February 2019, according to the Benue State Emergency Agency. These grim statistics exclude the scourge of rapes – especially of underage girls, prostitution, children giving birth to children, children without parents and a massive youth drain. The social and economic fabric of the state is in ruins, as families are in disarray and children are out of school.
The effects of these dislocations are bad enough for the present but without urgent intervention, the future may hold a worse fate for the Tiv, who constitute over 90% of the victims. We are raising a generation of damaged families and children who may grow up to manifest a wave of devious behaviours to the detriment of our society. Our young men are leaving in droves to work on cocoa farms in the Southwest. More girls are being exploited in domestic labour as a result of this crisis – without a future that holds any meaning. Lives have been in limbo for the two years that our people have lived as IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons), only by ourselves can we push back the present and looming danger.
Unfortunately, there is no UN Agency with the mandate for IDPs’ status hence international support eludes us. More so, other international agencies that would have filled the gap are concentrated in the North East with no visible plan for the North–Central. The State Government has been unable to manage the humanitarian crisis. Self-help from the Tiv People in Diaspora may have become our last resort.
Of equal concern is how to restore stability in our communities not yet affected by the conflict. We are an agrarian people, the food basket of the nation now being eclipsed by food insecurity and hunger. While we plan for the IDPs, we must also deliberate on how to find lasting peace at home. What began in 2013 in Moon District Area of Kwande Local Government Area, leaving hundreds dead has, six years later, become an existential threat to the Tiv. Still fresh in our memory is the Mbalom Massacre where 2 catholic priests were killed alongside other worshippers during a church service.
We must think of a platform to tell our stories, as the damage is beyond what is gleaned from a media showing fatigue for crisis reportage. We must unite as a People fighting for survival as we lay aside differences occasioned mostly by political interests. The prominent sons and daughters of Tiv land must rise up with one voice and stand behind the Tor Tiv to chant the Ayatutu ka se not only with the lips but also with their hearts burning. The Tor Tiv must, as a matter of urgency, call all Tiv sons and daughters to a forum that can only be concluded when practical, implementable solutions are carried out. In doing this, the youth must be very much involved in the dialogue and decision-making processes.
For the Tiv in diaspora who at this point seem to be our last resort, I would suggest 4 key areas of focus:
Engage in high-level advocacy to key stakeholders and actors in diplomatic relations for Government to provide security for citizens.
Use international media and other platforms to tell the real stories of IDPs from a human angle to call world attention to the genocide.
Engage Government to speed up efforts towards resettlement of IDPs Support an education fund project for orphans whose parents have been killed in the crisis.
Tiv is the 4th largest ethnic group in Nigeria. The Tiv nation should not fail itself in this trying period so that its youth can have a future though the past and present have violated them.