Category : Sub National Branch
Nation : Nigeria
Seat of Parliament: Makurdi - Nigeria
Date of Independence: 03 Feb 1976
CPA Branch Formed: 01 Jan 1983
Voting Age: 18
Benue State as it exists today is a surviving legacy of an administrative entity which was carved out of the protectorate of northern Nigeria at the beginning of the twentieth century. The territory was initially known as Munshi Province until 1918 when the name of its dominant geographical feature, the River Benue was adopted. As an administrative unit, Benue State was first created on February 3, 1976. It was one of the seven states created by the military administration headed by the late General Murtala Mohammed, which increased the number of states in the country from 13 to 19. In 1991 its boundaries were adjusted with the creation of Kogi State. The new Benue State of today has twenty (23) local government areas, which are administered by local government councils. Benue State lies within the lower river Benue trough in the middle belt region of Nigeria. Its geographic coordinates are longitude 7° 47° and 10° 0? East. Latitude 6° 25° and 8° 8 North; and shares boundaries with five other states namely: Nassarawa to the north, Taraba to the east, Cross-River to the south, Enugu to the south-west and Kogi to the west. The state also shares a common boundary with the Republic of Cameroun on the south-east. Benue has a population of 4,780,389 (2006 census) and occupies a landmass of 32,518 square kilometers. The state comprised of several ethnic groups: Tiv, Idoma, Igede, Etulo, Abakpa, Jukun, Hausa, Akweya and Nyifon. The Tiv are the dominant ethnic group, occupying 14 local government areas, while the Idoma and Igede occupy the remaining nine local government areas. Most of the people are farmers while the inhabitants of the riverine areas engage in fishing as their primary or important secondary occupation. The people of the state are famous for their cheerful and hospitable disposition as well as rich cultural heritage. The Benue State Government accords high respect to traditional rulers in recognition of their role as custodians of culture and as agents of development. Also, their roles in peace and order at the grassroots level are recognized. In order to enhance their contribution to the affairs of the state, government has established a three-tier traditional council system made up of Local Government Area Traditional Councils, Area Traditional Councils and the State Council of Chiefs. The Local Government (Area) Traditional Council is made up of District Heads in a Local Government Area and is headed by a chairman who is a second class chief. The two Area Councils are the Tiv Traditional Council and the Idoma Traditional Council. The former is made up of all the traditional rulers from the fourteen Tiv-speaking Local Government Areas with the Tor Tiv as Chairman, while the latter is made up of nine Idoma-speaking Local Government Areas, has the Och?Idoma as Chairman. The State Council of Chiefs has the Tor Tiv, Orchivirigh Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkura as Chairman, with OchIdoma and all second class Chiefs/Chairmen of the Local Government Traditional Council as members. Benue State possesses a rich and diverse cultural heritage which finds expression in colourful cloths, exotic masquerades, supplicated music and dances. Traditional dances from Benue State have won acclaim at national and international cultural festivals. These dances include Ingyough, Ange, Anchanakupa and Swange among the Tiv, and Anuwowowo and Odabaru among the Idoma. The Tiv kwagh-hir theatre provides memorable entertainment in its dramatization of Tiv folklore and social commentary. The socio-religious festivals of the state are equally famous. The Alekwu ancestral festival of the Idoma for instance, is an occasion when, it is popularly believed the ancestors emerge from the spirit world to reestablish contact with the living in forms of masquerades. Marriage, funerals and other rites of passage provide occasion for rich displays of the people's cultural heritage. Fishing festivals and communal hunting expeditions are colourful and memorable social events among various communities. The Igede Agba (a new yam festival) and the Ujo festival are the most important social occasions among the Igede and Igumale/Agila people respectively. Kwagh-Hir The first organized state-wide kwagh-hir competition festival dates back as far as December 1981 and was initiated by the then Chairman of the Benue State Council for Arts and Culture, Dr. Iyorwuese Hagher, a university professor. Among the Tiv speaking people of Benue State of Nigeria the word "kwagh-hir" literally means the folktale or simply something magical. It is a unique form of theatre in the generic concept of folktales told in traditional societies all over the world. Folktales are told in virtually all societies all over the world with trickster characters like the rabbit, or the tortoise or the cat dominating their plots and playing unassailable roles. The objectives of these folktales and stories are not only to entertain young children at bedtime but to also teach some morals on contemporary issues. The kwagh-hir theatre is therefore an enactment of the Tiv folktales. Since the Tiv people are good hunters, their stories and imaginations are full of bush animals (Nyam). Some of the episodes of the kwagh-hir feature highly imaginative forms of wild beasts that dance to the melodious tunes of the humans. Tiv folktales are not only told about animals, but spirits (Azov) and puppets (Eev) as well. Spirits in the world-view of African societies are a reality. Africans believe in the existence of the spiritual world of various people made by the Almighty God, lesser gods, good spirits, evil spirits and ancestors. In fact, human beings who live virtuous lives and die at a ripe old age transform into the state of ancestors who must be appeased anytime a social occasion is to start. In the imagination of the Tiv kwagh-hir theatre, spirits manifest in many fantastic forms performing various activities as are carried among human beings. What perhaps distinguishes the kwagh-hir theatre from any other theatre in the world is its composite nature bringing together the role of carvers, drummers, singers, masquerades dancers, manipulators and actors. It features a rich repertoire of marionettes performing various human activities with a view to making comment or teaching morals in the Tiv society. In essence, the kwagh-hir theatre is a unique fusion of the human world, the spiritual world, the animal world and the world of fantasy. All these characters share common music and instrumentation, common beliefs, common world view and common virtues. Although the kwagh-hir performance may not have a single plot as in formal drama, each enactment has its own characters, action and message existing independently.