By Peter Duru, Makurdi
Benue state in the last two weeks has witnessed mounting political tension following the supposed outburst of Senator George Akume, the Minister of Special Duties and Inter Governmental Affairs who was alleged to have verbally attacked the paramount ruler of the Tiv tribe, Tor Tiv Prof. James Ayatse.
Senator Akume was alleged to have accused the paramount ruler of partisanship at a private ceremony, describing him as “Tor pati” meaning king of party politics.
The unprecedented outrage and backlash that trailed the alleged comment could be compared to having the roof collapse on the former governor and leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state.
Youth groups, political and traditional leaders have all spoken out condemning the alleged unguarded utterance of the Minister, all insisting that he should tender an unreserved apology to the monarch and also withdraw the said offensive comment.
The first to register its disdain for the alleged unsavory comment was the Tiv Youth Organization, TYO, who urged President Muhamadu Buhari to, as a matter of urgency, call the Minister to order.
The TYO through its President General Chief Timothy Hembaor also urged the Minister to publicly tender an apology to the monarch within seven days failing they would embark on a street protest.
“We as youths of Tiv land, view Senator Akume’s utterances against the Tor Tiv and the entire Tiv Traditional institution as sacrilegious, abominable and unacceptable coming from a supposed prominent son of Benue State,” he stated.
The Tiv Area Traditional Council, TATC, shortly after in a communique issued at the end of an emergency meeting in Gboko signed by Tor Kwande, Chief Ambrose Iyortyer and the Secretary, Mr. Shinyi Tyozua, the TATC also summoned the Minister to appear before it to defend himself.
Part of that communique read “It was resolved that the Minister, Senator George Akume, who is a Tiv son, should be urgently formally invited in writing to appear before the Council and defend himself on the allegation.”
Meanwhile after the expiration of the seven day ultimatum to the embattled Minister to tender an apology, TYO staged a peaceful protest in Makurdi town to press home their demand.
The protesting youths bore placards some of which read, “Akume must apologize to the Tiv nation and the Tor Tiv”, Tor Tiv must be respected by all”, Tiv youths say no to insults on monarch,” among others.
The angry youths who presented a protect letter to the leadership of the Mzough U Tiv, MUT, an umbrella body of the Tiv tribe in the country urged the MUT to intervene in the matter and compel the Minister to apologize to the paramount ruler in the interest of peace.
According to the President General of TYO, “the seven days ultimatum we had issued to Senator Akume did elapse on January 4, 2020 but he has neither retracted the offensive words against the Begha-u-Tiv nor tendered any apology to our revered royal father.
“We have come out to call on the MUT as the umbrella body with traditional authority over every Tiv son and daughter to call Senator Akume to order over his conduct regarding the revered stool and person of the Tor Tiv.
“If the MUT fails to call Senator Akume to order then we will be left no choice but to take it upon ourselves to invoke such lawful measures as will make any part of Tiv land at all unavailable for him to further hold his insults bazaars.”
Few days after came Members of the Benue State Caucus of the National Assembly including three senators and seven out of the 11 House of Representatives members who decried the mounting tension in the state over the alleged outburst of the Minister.
The lawmakers in a resolution read by Senator Abba Moro representing Benue South district, insisted that the Tor Tiv must be respected without any preconditions by all Benue sons and daughters regardless of their status and locations.
Mdzough U Tiv, MUT, after an emergency meeting, in an open letter, also added its voice to the call on the Minister to retract the uncharitable statement.
Part of the statement by MUT signed by the President General Chief Edward Ujege and Secretary General, Boniface Ukende read “we have sadly taken note of the allegation of spiteful comments credited to you Senator Akume against our revered paramount ruler, His Royal Majesty Prof. James Ayatse, the Tor Tiv .
“MUT joins other well meaning Tiv sons and daughters and our good friends to unequivocally condemn such utterances. Such comments are sacrilegious and injurious to the respect of Tor Tiv stool, the Tiv Traditional Council and the entire Tiv nation.
“We specifically wish to state that our paramount ruler’s reputation and distinguished record are beyond any attempt at character assassination.
“The MUT reechoes the stand of the Tiv Traditional Council that you should urgently appear before the Council to clear your name and resolve the issues in the overall benefit of the Tiv nation.
“On a general note we are calling on you to deescalate the tension in order to keep the peace. We further appeal to you that no matter your elevated position of authority and resources you should use those blessings to advance the cause of Tiv unity, progress and tradition, without preconditions.”
But reacting to these barrage of public disapprovals and condemnation by a large section of the state, the man in the eye of the storm, Senator Akume through his Media Consultant, Dr. Aondona Mkor denied any wrong doing.
According to him, “They are issues of unfounded allegation and blasphemy against the person and integrity of Senator George Akume, moreover the Minister does not have any personal disagreement with the person of Prof. James Ayatse the Tor Tiv,” he added.