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Ikpayongo Market: Understanding Tiv Culture

The market place as an arena for the distribution and exchange of goods and services is one of the defining characteristics of sedentary societies. Each society has its own market system and culture.

The Tiv people have a rich market system and culture since their settlement in the Benue Valley. Every community in Tiv land has its own market; such is the importance of market to people. Tiv is the fourth largest ethnic group Nigeria, occupying both sides of the River Benue renowned for their agricultural resourcefulness, saliency of spirit and rich cultural heritage.

The Ikpayongo Market is one of the major markets in Tivland. It is a periodic market that holds in five days interval counting from the market day. It is strategically located. It lies by the mouth of the ever-busy MakurdiOturkpo- Enugu federal expressway in Ikpayongo town, Gwer East local government area of Benue State.

It is 30 kilometers away from the capital city, Makurdi. Ikpayongo town, by virtue of its proximity to Makurdi, its hospitality, serenity and security, is demographically magnetic and a major source of agricultural land and food supplies to dwellers in Makurdi metropolis.

No precise date can be given as the day that the market started. Oral historians are nearly agreed that market started in 1948 in response to the growing economic and commercial activities of its inhabitants and neighboring communities.

Like every traditional market, it started on a low key with the selling of local beer (burukutu), roasted crabs, groceries and other local delicacies. Today, the story is quite different. Like an acorn seed, the Ikpayongo has grown into a huge oak tree providing economic, commercial, occupational, social, political and cultural shelter to all.

Like any other Tiv market, Ikpayongo market performs economic, cultural, social, political, communication, and several other functions. In the Tiv world view, the market place is also a supernatural arena. Supernatural because, supranatural beings also come to the market to engage in buying and selling.

However, these beings cannot be seen by people with ordinary eyes, you need the third eye to see them. And should one see such supernatural beings without the requisite supernatural powers such a person suffers dire consequences. As part of the supernatural orientation of the market, before a market is founded in Tiv society, the consent of the elders must be sought and approval duly given.

In the event, traditional protocols and rites such as the dressing of the Swem—the Tiv symbol of justice—and are carried out culminating in the setting of the Swem on the ground at the foot of a fig-tree in the market place. That done, the leadership of the market is entrusted into the hands of Head of the Market (Tor Kasua).

He derives his authority and legitimacy from these traditional protocols and reites. The Tor Kasua of Ikpayongo market rotates between the two kindreds, Mbaaku and Mbaagir. There are several parts that make up the Ikpayongo market.

These are: a) the main market square which occupies the biggest space of the entire market; b.) the Motor Park market which takes care of the transport needs of traders. Within this section of the market major agricultural commodities such as groundnuts, soya beans, benniseeds, oranges, maize, guinea corn, dried cassava pellets and a host of allied agricultural products are sold.

The major supplies of these products come from neighboring clans such as Mbaiviur, Mbalom, and Ikwe. And c.) Akpu Market. This section of the market warehouses the village market and mostly deals with edibles foods such as pawpaw, fruits, vegetables, okro, bean cakes, palm oil, akpu, and so on.

This outlined organization has a social and cultural dimension. Traders from Mbaivur, especially their women mostly trade in the motor park section of the market; the Mbasombo—that is the host community—particularly their kindred folks from Mbamar trade behind the goat section.

The Mbaayande people, especially their women deal mostly with garri. This social and cultural organization of Tiv market space is a deliberate strategy to enhance group social cohesion, solidarity, exchange market notes and ideas, and ease in tracing the whereabout of any member of the community within the market.

The Ikpayongo market is the major source of ‘Akpu’ to the south. In fact, it is the biggest ‘Akpu’ market in Nigeria. Hardly is there any market day that less than 20 truckloads of ‘Akpu’ do not depart to Enugu, Port Harcourt, Onitsha, Warri, Benin and Lagos.

Also, hardly are not less than 30 truckloads of groundnuts, soya beans, and oranges north bound to cities like Abuja, Jos, Kaduna, Kano, and Sokoto. Generally, Ikpayongo market day is always a good sight to behold. It chimes with Tiv cultural beauty and economic splendour.

On a market day, it is a common sight to see cultural and artistic groups from far and near in their numbers engaging in cultural performances that hold audiences spellbound. In this way, the market becomes a portent arena for cultural diplomacy and relieves psychological tension in the citizenry occasioned by the prevalent economic crisis and poverty in the country.

It is envisaged that as the new federal and state governments are to be inaugurated soonest, markets, especially rural markets across the country would be mainstreamed into the economic development agenda so that the vast majority of rural dwellers would tap into the vein of economic prosperity and progress. In this regard, Ikpayongo market would sustain and consolidate its contribution to our national commercial and economic development.

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  • Ikpayongo and it environs is the major producer and supplier of Akpu in Benue State and Nigeria at large. I also want to appropriate my lecturer and HOD political science department, Benue State University. Dr. Atah Pine for his intellectual transformation of Nigerian Students.

  • Well captured, given it economic burst to both the rular dwellers and by extension the State IGR it’s imperative that the incoming administration put in mechanism to checkmate unauthorized revenue collectors so as to provide for a more conducive and secured business opportunities that will FasTrack meaningful development.

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