By Peter Duru, Makurdi
The unveiling of the revamped palace of the revered Begha U Tiv, the Tor Tiv, Prof. James Ayatse has changed the aesthetics of the ancient city of Gboko which has been the seat of power of the paramount ruler of the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria who are known as the Tiv tribe.
The gigantic palace became a cynosure when it was unveiled by Governor Samuel Ortom in the presence of several monarchs from across the country, state Governors and prominent citizens who gazed in awe at how the state government succeeded in creating what has now become a tourist attraction out of the domain and palace of the Tiv monarch.
The eye-catching palace which is deliberately adorned with unique artifacts and features to portray the rich cultural heritage of the Tiv people has continued to play host to visitors who throng the place to catch a glimpse of its breathtaking beauty and splendor.
The palace no doubt is an embodiment of the very rich Tiv cultural heritage representing the very essence of their artistic being, poise, deportment and grandeur.
This probably accounts for why the graceful palace will continued to attract visitors, who according to sources in the town come from far and near to catch a glimpse of the large and very impressive stately mansion.
Perhaps the Governor Samuel Ortom administration may have set out to achieve that purpose when it collaboratively embarked on the project about five years ago with the 14 Tiv speaking Local Government Areas of the state.
Giving an insight to what the edifice represents and the mindset of the government when it initiated the astounding project, Principle Special Assistant to the Governor on Special Duties, Hon. Abrahams Kwaghngu noted that “the Tiv nation’s traditional institution is one that is rich in both history and contemporary cultural values as the 4th largest ethnic group in the country.
“So, the Tor Tiv Palace was one of the institutions that desperately needed a facelift by way of reconstruction, rehabilitation or building of a new structure.
“The administration of Governor Samuel Ortom in recognition of the vital position the traditional institution occupies in our socio-economic environment, initiated the building of a new and befitting palace for the Tor Tiv and backed up with the political will, the project was completed according to specifications.
“The new Tor Tiv Palace is a striking architectural masterpiece as the Tiv traditional colours of black and white as well as other symbolic Tiv cultural symbols and elements were architecturally incorporated into the design and finishing of the palace which represents a key legacy project of the Governor Ortom administration.
“It is a project that would serve as a reference to the historical contributions of culture and tradition that Benue bequeaths to the world, especially given the emerging socio-economic relevance of culture and tourism and its positive impact as an economic factor that contributes to the GDP of many nations who leverage on their comparative advantage in tourism to attract visitors and investors to their country.”
On his part, the Commissioner for Housing and Urban Development, Chief Ekpa Ogbu whose Ministry supervised the projects said the government had from the conception and execution of the project set out to have it attract the attention and admiration of the people and visitors alike.
He said, “though the project was started before I came on board in 2019, I met the phase one. When I came on board we expanded it. It was during my time that phased two and three were carried out.
“The truth is that the palace was consciously designed in such a manner that it should create the kind of attraction that we are witnessing today.
“So it took the conscious effort of Governor Samuel Ortom to create that impression and adding value to the traditional institution in the state by going into very interesting restructuring of the Tor Tiv palace.
“And you will agree with me that the aim was rightly achieved because we daily get reports of people visiting and taking a tour of the palace to catch a full glimpse of its interior and exterior allurement and in most cases taking snapshots within and outside the premises.
“We knew we achieved that purpose from the remarks made by some of our guests on the day of the commissioning some of who said that the architectural masterpiece would continue to attract visitors to Gboko.
“And on his part, the Emir of Lafia, retired Justice Sidi Bage who also witnessed the commissioning qualified the palace as the best in the country in terms of modernity, size and the kind of attraction that it has displayed.
While commending Governor Ortom for making the project a reality by creating the enablement and funding, the Commissioner explained that “the Governor made it known to everyone that the funds for the project came from the state government and the 14 Local Government in the Tiv speaking areas. It was more like a joint efforts to get it down and achieved.”
He disclosed that the next in line for that special touch and transformation is the palace of the paramount ruler of the Idoma tribe, the Ochi Idoma.
“We have also received directives to work on the hitherto Governor’s lodges across the state in order to transform them into the official residences of all the First Class Chiefs where such building exist in their domain.
“What the people are seeing and savoring at the moment is a conscious effort by the government to place the traditional institution in its pride of place, conscientizing the people about the very sensitive and import roles our monarchs play in the day to day life of our people.
“It is a deliberate policy of the Governor Ortom’s administration to restore that respect and reverence that the traditional institution enjoyed, being the bedrock and springboard for all other administrative structures we have in this part of the country today because governance was established from that institution.
Speaking during the unveiling, an obviously elevated Tor Tiv, commended Governor Ortom for his foresight and development strides in the state.
According to the Begha U Tiv, the new palace now dubbed a tourist attraction came to being because “the former Palace was badly dilapidated beyond regular renovation and beneath the status of a Paramount Ruler of the ranking of Tor Tiv.
“It was pulled down and completely reconstructed by the Governor to the modern edifice. On behalf of the Tiv nation, l would like to thank Governor Samuel Ortom and his administration for accepting to be used by God in this great work of reconstruction and provision of a befitting Palace for the Paramount Ruler of the Tiv nation worldwide, which is a pride to the Tiv Area Traditional Council, Benue State and the Tiv nation.
“I am indeed humbled, and give all the glory to God that, by divine arrangement, I am privileged to be the Paramount ruler under whose tenure this project was executed and to be the first occupant of the edifice,” the Begha U Tiv said.