Tiv Men Will Give You Their Wives
If you have been to northern Nigeria, you might have heard this particular myth that “Tiv people share their wives with people who visit them.” But how true is this?
Let me be your tour guide on the journey to find out if Tiv men truly give their wive(s) to people who visit them from my personal life experience. Roll up your sleeves and let’s dive into this interesting and quite confusing culture of the Tiv People now.
Tiv people don’t joke with these two things: meat and their wives.
Before we proceed, let me remind you that I was born and raised in Tse Ilmo, a Tiv village in Asibiti ward of Donga Local Government Area of Taraba State, where I attended elementary school. After that, I progressed with my secondary education at St. Peter’s High School in the Chanchanji-Peva Takum Local Government Area of the same Taraba.
All these are places where one can perhaps describe them as Tiv concentrated areas, and all the traditions of a typical Tiv man are being observed by the Tiv people in these places to an extent that is able to showcase a clear and true exemplification of the real Tiv people’s way of life. ̶ I’m honest in my opinions.
Growing up in these places, I used to enjoy many traditional Tiv cultures. I attended special occasions like the Ajigber Competition and Gundu Fishing Festival with my friends in Gbundu, a Tiv village in Akate ward of the Donga local government of Taraba state. Ajigber is a Tiv traditional masquerade dance. There also used to be a fishing festival in Gbundu because it is a very beautiful hamlet with a charming impression. There you can see many traditional and modern fishing gear used by Tiv people, as most people there are fishermen and the place used to be like an island during rainy seasons. It is surrounded by heavy water bodies: the River Donga, Kumkum (a big stream), and Gbundu (a large stream). You must board a tso(canoe) before you can enter the village.
I also spent quality time in Adu village in Takum local government of Taraba state. Adu is the only place in Taraba state where you can find a large number of Tiv traditional worshippers. The most famous among them is Tor-jov Emberga; he has more than 11 wives and more than 40 children, along with grandchildren. Tor-jov Emberga has nearly 70 children as I speak now.
In his house, you can see different murals, sculptures, and the most powerful Tiv traditional gods, like Azov and Atsu Kwase. That man still holds to the Tiv traditional way of worship today, with hundreds of followers. I have been to his house and had physical interactions with him twice.
My own immediate uncle, the eldest son in my mother’s family, is a traditional worshipper who has been in practice for more than 30 years now. He knows many things about Tiv tradition and culture if not all. I used to visit him every time I went on holiday, where he used to take me to his shrine and show me some Tiv deities and tell me some classical Tiv stories like how Ikyaren, a snake that is believed that its helped Tiv people crossed a river, how Takuruku, the father of Tiv, fought wars with people and defeated giant animals, and the Ityav mbi Atem ityo, like the stories of Jato Aka, the most powerful Tiv sorcerer; Kwagh u Yamshe; Anyam Amor; Kwagh u Ibyorvyungu; Tsav, and Mbaazorov.
But what happens to this very one? I was never told that Tiv people have the hospitality of offering their wives to people who lodged in their houses to spend a night with in order to show their friendliness and acceptance to the visitor(s) from any of these stories, even for once.
Not until I moved to Yola on a mission to advance my education. That was when I began hearing this from my non-Tiv room and classmates. For the first time, there was this girl from the Higgi tribe in Michika Adamawa State with whom we had a cordial relationship. We used to read together and attend the same fellowship on campus. I’ll never forget that day. We were reading in a large multipurpose hall when we later switched to discussing cultures as noise from other students went out of hand.
Precisely, we were talking about the controversy of the Makyeri in Michika, as I learned in a sociology class. She then asked me, Sam, is it true that your people used to give their wives to visitors to sleep with? I’m told it is common for a Tiv man to give his wife to someone who visits him to sleep with her as a sign of hospitality. She added.
I couldn’t hold myself and shouted, Jesus! Abomination! All those who sat to close us uncontrollably rushed to our desk, asking, ‘What happened? What happen?’ I answered them—nothing! She was also surprised at my reaction because it was something she believed to be common practice among the Tiv people and never expected me to act the way I did.
I told her that there has never been such a practice in Tiv land because I could have heard of it from Tiv classical stories if it had happened even in the olden days. However, she seems not to be convinced by my objection. I was shocked and wondered who had fed her such a fat lie, but I later discovered that it was a generic impression of Yola residents about the Tiv People.
Almost everyone I met used to tell me or ask me about this myth, but whenever I inquired whether they had witnessed a Tiv man giving his wife to a visitor or read about it in a book, the answer they usually gave was that “someone told me. This implies that the whole concept is built on the hearsay of people with no or little knowledge of Tiv culture.
However, I took time to find out for myself if Tiv people truly do give their wives to guests, as they used to say.
I searched for scholarly articles on this subject in the “library without walls” and have gone through well-known online shelves like Wikipedia, Academia, Google Scholar, and Sprinkler, among others, but could not lay my hands on literature complementing this hearsay.
I also inquired from parents and many learned Tiv people, but only found stories that correlate with this erroneous belief.
Please don’t get tired. Just follow me; we are almost rounding up!
I’m not bragging, but Tiv are the most hospitable tribe one can ever meet in his life. They make sure you eat well and feel comfortable when you visit them. Every family normally has expensive special plates for serving food reserved specifically for visitors.
The plates are normally not allowed outside or to be used by anyone except when the family has a guest. So when a visitor, irrespective of tribe or societal status, comes to a Tiv man’s house, the family will prepare the best food according to the wealth and ability of the family, served on the special visitors’ plates.
After all the gist and series of discussions, when it is time for sleep, they will show him a room to sleep, and the husband will collect a wrapper from his wife and give it to the visitor to cover himself from the cold. Let me drive the point home by saying that it is uncommon among many neighboring tribes in the northern region to see a visitor covering himself with a wrapper of woman in which he sojourned. Then, the neighboring tribes assume that when they see this among their Tiv neighbors, the visitor is the wife of the Tiv man who accommodated him. That’s where this erroneous gospel of Tiv people giving their wives to visitors was convinced by people who misinterpreted Tiv culture due to their ignorance and inability to ask questions about things they don’t understand. I believe it is not their fault because when a lie is told repeatedly, people consider it to be true. That’s why I deem it necessary to debunk this myth which is being preached by the northern tribes who envy the rich culture and hospitality of the Tiv people. Such an abominable thing has never happened anywhere in Tiv land. In fact, Tiv people don’t joke with these two things: meat and their wives.
Image credit: Face Of Tiv International