Driven from their homes by herdsmen, Tiv youths turn Kogi community into food basket

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Kajola Market, Ayetoro Gbede in the Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State, is always busy with activities every other five days when market men and women from virtually all over Kogi, Ekiti and Ondo states gather for the purpose of buying and selling,

The market men and women that patronize the market deal more in farm products, mainly root crops, vegetables, processed food stuffs and grains amongst others.

On a particular market day in late February, 2021, when DAILY POST reporter was at the market on a casual visit, a group of youths later understood to be of Tiv origin in Benue State were spotted.

On this particular day, the Tiv youths, who were attired in t-shirts bearing Tiv Youths Association, Ijumu LGA, were in a meeting that was obviously well attended at a corner in the expansive market.

In other areas of the market are places that have come to be known as yam depots, where trucks of various sizes are seen loading healthy tubers of yam for transportation to other parts of the country, especially Lagos.

Sources in the town, who spoke to this reporter, also disclosed that aside yams, the community and others within Ijumu LGA have become centres of commercial activities for vegetables, cassava, and rice farming among many others. This, according to sources, is courtesy of the Tiv youths who came to the communities with their farming skills and expertise.

A community leader and one of the sub-Obas in Ayetoro Gbede, Chief Enoch Maiye, attributed the new found status of his community to the coming of Tiv people and the way they were received and accommodated by the community.

“The Ayetoro community and Ijumu people in general are very accommodating people and that’s what we have extended to Tiv people and off course that has made them feel at home and encouraged them to do their farming. They are comfortable in our communities and well received by all and sundry. You cannot take that away from the success they have recorded”, he said.

On the new food basket status of the communities, Chief Enoch said, though one cannot take away the fertility of the land in the area, most of the credit goes to the Tiv people, as the people of the area has for years been engaged in small scale farming but they are engaging in large scale and commercial farming.

“There is no doubt that things have greatly improved when it comes to farming especially in Ayetoro Gbede. Before now we only engaged in farming activities to feed our families and the little that’s left is sold. But with the coming of the Tiv people, we can now engage in large farming and have more than enough to sell.

“The Tiv people are here in their numbers and they do not just help us in cultivating large hectares of land, they also lease farm lands where they cultivate and sell the produce. This has greatly improved economic activities in our communities, as we have people coming from different places to buy from us. Even our market has witnessed a major turnaround in terms of patronage and profitability because we now have things to sell in commercial quantity.

DAILY POST observed that the youths and a few older men have integrated well into the community, as many of them have made friends with locals and are well accepted.

Determined to know why they are in the Ayetoro community in such large numbers, DAILY POST had a chat with a few of them, and their responses were almost the same.

According to them, they are in the community and the surrounding ones in search of livelihood since they have been displaced from their homes in Benue by marauding Fulani herdsmen.

Painting a grim picture of what led to their mass exodus, the president of the Tiv youth group, Terwase Samuel, said many of them had to leave when it became obvious that their safety was no longer guaranteed and their survival was in doubt.

According to Samuel, a native of Guma Local Government Area of Benue State, life took an unbearable turn with the attacks from herdsmen, that no one was safe any longer neither was it safe to farm, which he said was their mainstay.

“Our coming to Ayetoro and other places in Ijumu was not our wish but we had to if we must remain alive and we are to continue to practice what we do, which is farming. Many Nigerains unfortunately do not understand the impact of the attacks carried out by Fulani herdsmen on our communities in Benue. I, as a person fled when my community was attacked and I have been here for the past three years now. We were not safe any longer and had nothing to do to keep surviving because we could not venture into the farms to work”, he said.

Speaking further, Samuel explained that their coming waa not planned, neither was it coordinated, adding that the large number of Tiv people in the area was a result of the fact that they were received well by the locals and the fertile nature of the land.

“Honestly, we did not at any time sit down somewhere to decide or plan to relocate to Okun land, neither did we even envisage that it would happen. However, as some relocated, found the people to be accomodating and the land fertile just like what we have back home, many more joined till we now have a large Tiv farming community here.

“The unique thing about the land here is that it has not been over cultivated; in fact, a vast majority of the land has never been cultivated because they are not commercial farmers. They farm for consumption mostly making our coming timely and mutually rewarding for us and them”, Samuel said.

An older Tiv man, who gave his name simply as Terzengwe, coming to the Kogi community has been a blessing in disguise, adding that though he is not happy having to flee his ancestral home because of some strangers, he has been enjoying peace of mind and practicing his profession without hindrance.

“It was not easy at first, because it is not easy for me, at my age to be suddenly uprooted from my home and land and displaced in a land I practically knew nothing about. But after spending a few weeks in a camp, some of us decided to find the proverbial ‘green pastures’ which where we are now symbolises.

“The people have been good to us and the land is friendly, giving us bountiful harvest yearly. Even our hosts are happy because our farming activities have attracted more people to come to do business in Ayetoro especially. You have trucks coming from different places to buy yam and farm produce in large quantities. Even the community people have confessed to us that it has never been this good.

“However, for me, it is a mixed feeling; I am missing my home while at the same time, I am enjoying the new lease of life here. There is no way someone like me will not be attached to my ancestral home because that is the only source of livelihood I had known all my life before the unfortunate attacks started”, Terzengwe said.

The Iyaloja of Kajola Market, Ayetoro Gbede, Chief Mrs. Elizabeth Bello (JP), in a chat with DAILY POST, commended the Tiv for their hard work since they got to the community, praising them for reviving farming which was already gradually becoming extinct.

“I must say that the Tiv people are doing very well in Ayetoro, and we can feel the impact of their presence. They came at a time when the community was beginning to depend on food stuff from other surrounding communities because farming was greatly on the decline. We have an aging farming population without support from the young ones. The younger generation have shown that they do not have any interest in farming or Agriculture.

“Our youths are more interested in education and those who do not have the opportunity or interest will rather do some other things instead of taking to farming. So the Tiv people reversed the losses we were making in agriculture, that today we can boast of being one of the largest growers and suppliers of yams around. And apart from yams, we have rice, maize, Guinea Corn, vegetables such as tomatoes, pepper and many others in commercial quantity”, Mrs Bello said.

On the relationship between the locals and Tiv people, Mrs Bello believes it has been excellent, adding that Ayetoro are tolerant and accommodating to a fault.

“The people of Ayetoro Gbede are very accommodating and tolerant. You cannot fault our hospitality, so our Tiv friends have been well received and I can attest to it that they are having a good time in our community. At least there has not been an incident to suggest the contrary. But I must say here that these people too must continue to relate well and behave as good guests so that we can continue to enjoy the peace and tranquility currently in place”, the Iyaloja said.

Though the Tiv seem to have found a new home in Okun land, especially within Ijumu communities, they have, however, expressed fears that what they ran away from in Benue may be starring them in the face in Kogi. According to them, they have had one or two brushes with herdsmen in the bushes where they farm, an experience they would not want to go through again.

“Though we have had good working and living here, some of us have had some encounters with Fulani herdsmen in some of our farms. We honestly believe we have put all that behind us and would not want to walk that road again. We are however hoping that things are handled urgently by the state government and the communities so that they don’t degenerate to our kind of experiences at home. But things degenerate, we may be forced to move again”, Samuel, the youth leader said.





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