Hail to the peacemaker
AN 87-year-old shared afternoon tea with members of an African tribe who hold him in the highest esteem when they visited his nursing home.
Dr Martin Dent was made an honorary chief by the Tiv tribe in 1992 after he spent years helping in their native Nigeria.
He was the first non-African to receive the title asoor Tiv which translates to "the peacemaker of the Tiv".
The former Keele University politics lecturer welcomed seven guests into Heyfield nursing home in Tittensor on Sunday to mark his position.
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Dr Dent, who never married, first went to the African country in his early twenties.
He worked for the Foreign and Commonwealth office and became well-respected by the Tiv people as he stood up for their civil rights.
He said: "My great love has always been Nigeria and the Tiv people who I have spent many years with. I was thrilled to hear they were coming all this way to see me and I am delighted to see them."
The Tiv are the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria and their language is spoken by about seven million people in Nigeria.
During his time thereDr Dent represented a member of the tribe in a treason case and managed to persuade rulers of his innocence.
He also helped to tutor the tribe's children and paid for their education while they were growing up.
Chief Ullam, aged 67, was one of the boys he helped.
And he made the long journey to see his dear friend.
He said: "I met the Chief when I was 16 and growing up in Gboko. He was a very good friend to my father and tutored me through school.
"The Tiv people have a lot of affection for him because he fought very well for the welfare of a minority group. And with that came the fight for justice. He was a very fair man."
Dr Dent also did a great deal for the underprivileged in Malawi as he inherited money from an uncle and gave the proceeds to the local children.
After returning from Nigeria Dr Dent studied politics as a post-graduate at Cambridge University. He enrolled to teach with a specialism in African politics at Keele in 1963.
The honorary tribesman started up the Jubilee 2000 campaign which grew into an international call to cancel the unrepayable debt of third world countries.
He was subsequently made an OBE and given an honorary doctorate by Keele University.
The seven visitors had made their way up from London on a bus dressed in their traditional black and white clothing.
They celebrated Tiv Day in the capital and brought Dr Dent a T-shirt marking the occasion.
Charles Kur, aged 42, from London is the president of Mutual Union of Tiv in the UK (MUTUK).
He said: "I heard about him when I was six years old and he has been part of my family and the larger community since then. He is someone that we hold very dear to us because of his immense contribution to Nigeria during our colonial years."
Other previous visitors include Lieutenant-Colonel Yakubu Gowon who served as head of the Federal Military Government and was Africa's youngest head of state.
But as Dr Dent points out: "I always knew him as Jack."