By Levi Wilson
As Africans, history and her keepers have not been very fair to us. Often times, what we are told about the past are in most cases not true or in the best case scenario, distorted facts about the exact happenings.
As a Nigerian I am sure you must have heard horrid historical tales of the man-eating tribe of Ikah in Old Calabar state, or the Fire-spitting King from Ife or maybe the Ocean-swimming tribes of southern Ijaw.
Myths, legends and tales abound from every tribe and culture passed on from generation to generation mostly through oral tales told by moonlight around small firewood –fires, lit to keep deadly mosquitoes and wild animals at bay.
Sadly, our forebears did not document very much, mainly because they had no means to, or partly because their thinking levels did not permit for futuristic thoughts, as such, what we know about our past, ancestry and traditions are hearsay from the tainted versions our European colonizers have left for us in books, books our now learned professors and educational gigowatts have failed to correctly modify or augment with the much needed balancing. As such, till date, much of our history is still lost or badly told in such ways that we can find nothing worth learning from the past.
Of all these stories and myths, one of the most popular is about the beautiful people of Benue state, Nigeria.
Benue is a small state in Northern Nigeria, popular for the farming prowess of her people, the state is known also for the hospitable nature of her people as well as her beautiful cultural heritage and rich topography.
Growing up as a young student, I was often told that the Benue man is so hospitable and kind that whenever he has visitors, especially males from another land, he would treat them to such great feast and offer them his home for comfort, including the pleasures of bedding any of his wives or daughters, depending on which mood he is met in.
So popular is this legend that every Benue woman is often seen as an easy go-to by young men wishing to explore their sexual abilities. “They will never say No” a young man was quoted to have said about the Benue woman, “They are always ready to get down” another confirmed. Armed with these stories and the need to prove their authenticity once and for all, I and my team set out for Gboko, a small town in the heart of Benue state.
Entering Gboko, the site of fruiting trees and the smell of green oranges greeted our sight and smell with such pleasant aroma and the kind of fresh air you can only get from nature.Surrounded by small villages made of small huts built with red bricks and corrugated iron roofs, Gboko is home to hundreds of fruit farmers who help to make Benue state the food basket of the nation.
Every house you turn to has an orchard lined with trees blossoming with fruits and young flowers. The neatly arranged trees help give the town a very pristine look, like something out of a Jehovah’s Witness hand book of nature. The people here are as friendly as we have been told by wayfarers and ol-soldiers who have been opportune to serve in these parts.
Mostly slim and lanky, they all appear athletic and slightly bent, mainly due to the daily task of bending down over yam heaps with hoes I think. For a Gboko Man, the size of his farms and the number of heaps he is able to pile up signifies his strength as a man. A Gboko man would litter as many children as possible, with the hope of expanding his farms for greater output. The more children he has, the more hands for the farms.
Naturally the people are a clean and healthy lot, with their meals consisting mainly of fresh farm products and fruits hand plucked from lush green trees.
Every evening, big pots of boiling soup spit compelling aroma into the atmosphere. From the smell coming from each man’s house, you could easily tell how rich his barn is.
Pounded yam is a favorite around here, with young muscular men pounding snow white yam tubers into mushy mounds ready for consumption with soup made tasty with fish sourced from the Benue River. Though an ancient town, technology is quickly catching up with the town and quickly replacing the slow sleepy life that once loomed over the villages.
Our host here is a kind-hearted shy young hunter who also acts as a tour guide for tourists to earn an extra bucks to help feed his large family. Although we have been offered the comfort of the entire huts in the large compound and the fruits of all the trees in the nearby compound, no one has yet offered us his wife or daughters to discuss with talk less of go into bed with—but we still have some more days to go, if this doesn’t happen, I hope to open up to our host and get first-hand information from a true son of the soil.
There is something spectacular about the women here though, maybe that is why visitors come here with the hope of getting a woman. Ebony skinned and slender like a pole, with curves, contours and bends in the right places, they are what you will define as God’s creative masterpiece. Talk about God putting square pegs in square holes—everything soft!
The Benue woman is blessed with a charming smile and a kind heart, it is in their nature to be submissive and loyal to their selected males. A Benue woman is Loyal to a fault and would do anything to please her man.
Beautiful like the morning sun, something about these well groomed maidens rekindles the fire of desire—I dot care how Holy and celibate you are, if you see a real Benue woman (Not an half caste mixed with blood from everywhere) in her natural elements, something just stirs up in you.
Every woman is beautiful, but a dark skinned Benue woman is ‘Beautifuller’.
I am still fresh in the town, so I definitely have very little to write about, but once the fruit is ripe and I have plucked enough, I’ll fill a whole history book with facts that have been tested, proven and confirmed.
I came here to find answers, answers to long told stories of the hospitable nature of the Benue man and the news of Him giving up his wife or daughter as gift offering to visitors. It is no longer news that the average Nigerian man must have heard about these strange tales…I mean how can a man, an African man give his wife to a total stranger to sleep with and still accept that wife back? By nature, a man is jealous and possessive when it comes to women, no matter how many he has in his harem. So, tales like these, beg for answers, answers that I hope to uncover in this bi-episode.
In order to put rest to the matter and get the true story behind this popular legend, I have come here (BENUE STATE NIGERIA) to interact with the people and hear from the very mouth of a true son of the soil.
The night is young and cold, and I am seated around a small fire facing my host, with my pen in hand and a cup of really hot broth made from yam slices cut in small round shapes and garnished with the insides of a small bush animal I suspect to be a porcupine, from the saline taste it gives when the meat touches my tongue.
With my eyes open and my ears at attention, I patiently waited to hear from the mouth of my host, a middle aged man with thin grey beards and a perfectly shaped chin fitted with perfect teeth colored by the stains only kola nut and tobacco can give.
“The Benue people by nature are very good and hospitable tribe” He began in a slow confident tone. “A Benue man is kind at heart and hospitable to a fault, especially the Tivs. It is true that a Benue man will readily open his doors and all he has to a stranger or visitor without recourse to the consequence whatsoever.
Since time immemorial, the Benue man is known for keeping large homes and building big compounds, mainly because they are mostly polygamous and can have as much as five wives or more, depending on the capabilities and wants of each man.
“To accommodate this large number of women and his family, the Benue man builds a big compound with multiple huts and a central hut for the Patriarch. To him, family is paramount, so he ensures that everyone is catered for according to how the gods permit.
“In Tiv land, we like to eat outside. We believe that food eaten outside under the moon brings blessings and tastes a lot better. No matter how wealthy a true Benue man is, he will never relinquish the blessings of eating under the moon for the comfort of sitting on a dining table, except the times and places do not permit.
Our hospitable nature did not just start today, it began since the very beginning of our existence.
“By default, a Benue man is kind to strangers, mainly because we see them as the gods come to us in the form of man. We were once sojourners ourselves, before the gods gave us this Promised Land, so we understand the needs and wants of visitors. A Benue man will gladly accept you into his house, offer you the most comfortable room, give you as much food as you can eat and ensure that you are well rested and safe from the elements and vices.
“When leaving, a Benue man will still load you with gifts that will make your journey bearable and ensure that you have what you need to arrive safely at your destination. For us, the safety and comfort of our visitors is paramount, we treat them like kings. Before the days of herdsmen invasion and all this senseless killings that have made our people wary of strangers, people from all walks of life used to stop here when passing through to the countryside, mainly because of how welcoming our people are and the joy of the gifts that they are bound to receive from us when returning to their place of origin.
“But contrary to popular belief, we do not offer our women, whether wives or daughters to go to bed with any man—God forbid. I don’t know where that story originated from, nobody knows either. We were born to hear of such untrue rumors probably spread by men of little understanding and plenty of mischief, Men with Kola Nuts for brains. It is a taboo in our land for another man to touch your wife even in your absence, talk less of giving her as a gift to be used and discarded. You see, in this part of the world, we treasure our women, they are golden to us, like the yams beneath the earth that feeds and gives us life. Our women are the root of our family, they give us beautiful children that we are all proud of.
“These stories about us gifting our women to strangers are unfounded and biased, they arose due to the amorous actions of some promiscuous wives in decades gone by. Like I told you, a Benue man is polygamous by tradition, he likes his women and can marry as much as his means can permit. As you know, no matter how hard you try, you can’t love multiple women at the same time and at the same rate, you are bound to have a favorite.
“So when these men marry multiple wives, they gradually started to neglect some, often showering love and attention on the newer or prettier wives in the harem. Overtime, this wives begin to feel the impact of neglect, they start to long for that attention, care and love that the human body always desires. Now, these women are humans, and they have needs too, sexual and otherwise. But because there are so many women in the man’s Harem, it is difficult to get the attention you used to get when you were the last or only wife.
“When visitors come into such homes, after been welcomed and properly cared for, the male visitors being new to the culture and environment often get tangled in more problems than they bargained for.
When a man comes to a Polygamous home with five wives for instance, when the host retires to the hut of his favorite wife, the others are free and left unguarded. Some of these neglected women then somehow manage to catch the attention of the male visitor who is often stunned by the presence of so many beautiful women. If it happens that the visitor is naïve and without fear, he will start to show interest and possibly give attention to one of the women.
“Now remember that some of them have been neglected for so long, so before you know it, one thing leads to another and both wife and visitor are entangled in a web of unholy romance. Of course, this usually spells trouble for the visitor should the host find out, but because the Benue man is peaceful by nature, he would prefer to quietly put the offender and her lover out of his home than to cause trouble and violence,and then word gets out and people twist the tales, each according to his understanding of the matter.
“Mind you, this case scenario is not only particular to the Benue people, it happens everywhere. But overtime, because we don’t have a habit of documenting or addressing such issues, it becomes a rumor that cannot be easily removed.
Over the years, thousands of people have recounted the story of the kindness of the Benue man in a different context, but the truth remains, that no true, sane Benue man will willingly offer his wife to another man, someone he barely knows. If you find any such happening, check well, there is more light under the table than the reflection you see on the surface.
“Some of our women have been stigmatized as cheap and easy to woo because of this unfounded stories, but the truth remains, that the Benue woman and man are people with pride and a good sense of dignity like every other Tribe in Nigeria. I believe that if more people seek answers to certain aspects of our lives and existence like you are doing, we could help curb or totally eradicate the spread of false history and properly safeguard and protect our culture and believes,” he emphasized.