In what will be a break from tradition, the newly selected paramount ruler of the Tiv people, James Ayatse, has declined to take his oath of office before “Swem”, the traditional god of the Tiv people.
Mr. Ayatse, a professor, and two-term Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, and University of Mkar, has instead opted to be sworn in as the fifth Tor Tiv with the Bible, the holy book of his Christian faith.
The Chairman of the Planning Committee for the Coronation of the Tor Tiv V, Atom Okpera, a retired army general, disclosed this at a press conference in Gboko, Benue State on Thursday.
Swem is the traditional god of the Tiv people and has its shrine in the palace of the Tor Tiv in Gboko.
If Mr. Ayaste’s decision stands, he will be the first Tor Tiv not to take his oath of office at the shrine of the Swem. The four previous holders of the office had always invoked the powers of the Swem, whom the Tiv people revere as a “just god”, in ruling over the people.
The Swem, according to Tiv tradition, adjudicates disputes among Tiv people without fear or favour, ensuring justice irrespective of economic, political and social status of the parties to a dispute.
According to the statement by the coronation committee, other traditional rite for the coronation began on Wednesday in Gboko, with the climax and grand finale scheduled for Saturday at the Gboko mini stadium from10:00 a.m.
At the ceremony, Tiv sons and daughters were advised to appear in Tiv traditional attires. The Tiv are the dominant ethnic group in Benue State, but they are also found in large numbers in neighbouring Taraba State.
Due to security concerns over the large turnout expected at the ceremony, viewing centres have been constructed outside the stadium to enable those who may not be allowed into the stadium to follow broadcast of the proceedings on large screens.
Already, Gboko, which is the traditional headquarters of the Tiv and the seat of the Tor Tiv, is wearing a new look, preparatory to the coronation ceremony.