Tivland Amends Plato’s ‘Philosopher-king’ To ‘Professor-king’ in a New Tor Tiv
By the end of today, a major cultural event would have taken place in Benue State of Nigeria. Orchivirigh Professor James Ornguga Ayatse would have been installed as the fifth Tor Tiv (paramount cultural ruler of the Tiv nationality in Nigeria). In itself, the installation is not a turning point. That goes on all over Nigeria now and then. What draws attention to this particular ascendancy to the point of making it a challenge beyond Tivland is that the king is not only a Philosopher, he is also a professor, a professor of Biochemistry. Why might that be so important?
Its importance would lie in how the new king has more than fulfilled the requirement that leaders must be uniquely groomed, perhaps because, as the Idoma nieghbours of the Tiv people put it, the leader is like a waste basket. Just as everyone dumps all sorts of rubbish into the waste basket, so also does everyone dump rubbish on a leader. It would take a leader whose natural instincts has been tamed by special grooming to be able to sort out, appreciate and respond in the most fair and just manner to all sorts of rubbish dumped on him or her. The assumption here is that there is no higher grooming in balanced reasoning than the thinking and re-thinking that underpins a doctorate degree which makes a recipient a philosopher.
The new Tor Tiv acquired his grooming in quality stops. The University of Ibadan where he acquired his First Degree at that time was and remains a key quality training ground. Before Ibadan, he experienced Government College, Keffi, one of the high flying leadership grooming schools in those days in the northern region. The University of Surrey in the United Kingdom where he obtained his PhD is, today, number 8 in UK national ranking. With this background, there is nothing else to add to make his ascendancy an exciting as well as a defining moment, much, much beyond Tivland. This is more so that, before today, he had also ran two federal institutions as the Vice-Chancellor, one of it outside his own state of origin and where he reportedly created a mini-Nigeria in terms of appointments or recruitments generally. Having thus schooled in Ibadan and in the UK and worked in different parts of the region, he might not be meeting challenges that could be totally new again. All these are on the optimistic side. But optimism and pessimism are not always the opposite of each other.
Coming to the job more qualified than anyone who held it before him carries its own baggage. It could attract over-expectation, non-fulfillment of which could alienate. From the advertised innovation about swearing by the Bible, the new Tor Tiv serves notice of breaking from tradition, going beyond doing things as they have always been done, world without end. Instantly, there is an element of bringing something new or additional to the existing inculturation process. How far this would go or be extended to the entire gamut of his leadership would interest many people. Finally, the dynamics of his transition from academia and integration into the new layer of power he belongs – the traditional rulers in Nigeria- presents Professor Ayatse as well as his people and the people of Benue State its own challenges, opportunities and benefits.
As Intervention reported previously, this selection of a leading traditional ruler in Nigeria has gone contrary to the tendency for retired military officers or technocrats to clinch it in many of the cultural communities. The question would be that of the difference this makes. But, even on the surface, it speaks to a value shift.
The 5th Tor Tiv is succeeding the late Alfred Akawe Torkula who died on the throne in November 2015. He was on the throne from 1991. Dr Torkula also held a PhD but was, however, a technocrat, not an academic. Interestingly, Daniel Saror, another professor and former Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria equally contested the seat along with two others, one of them a judge and another a businessman. That was in December 2016. The entire process appears to have been a smooth one, something for which all those involved deserve to be commended in a country in which every other contest becomes acrimonious and conflictual. Long live the king!