In November 2015, the paramount ruler of the Tiv nation, HRH. Alfred A. Torkula (IV) died. His death ended a 24 year reign that did not remain glorious all the way, but also threw the challenge immediately to the Tiv nation, to rise up as a national unit to an issue.

After one year, his Successor has been found. Now there are strong interests arising as to whether the Successor should swear his allegiance to the traditional ‘Swem’ or to the Christian Bible. Mr. Iorliam Shija has painstakingly dealt with this issue on his Facebook page. Here is what I think.


The impression already created is that of a titanic struggle between Jesus Christ and Swem. Both poles have generated support. Here I propose a third perspective, and comment on the given two.

A). The Spine-side: I would like to submit immediately that the most important side to this coin is the spine-side. The Coin hardly ever falls on its spine, but when it does it is spectacular. The man who has accepted to be Tor Tiv knows the implication of his consent.  He should be free to decide, to what he would swear his allegiance. It will put weight on his conscience; he will live the rest of his life defending this choice, but that should be it. The rest of his life he will be taking hard decisions and standing by them.

B). The Swem-side: to those advocating the use of the Swem, I make this point; where we are at this time as a national People, is how far the Swem has brought us. It is obvious that there is no fear or awe of the Swem in the life of any average Tiv man. We have been harassed, intimidated, and killed as a national people on a significantly humiliating scale by people who actually gave reasons why they were doing it. This was done by foreigners, but Sons (within) have also risen to frightening heights of notoriety and have done harm, with no one to restrain them, some still do. I want to state, that I do not know the expected effect, impact, use or value of the Swem. Christian or Pagan, I, as an adult Tiv man, have not seen the Swem impact on our national life. Swem has not facilitated Peace in Tiv land; it has not boosted our fortunes; enhanced our national glory, honor or dignity. It has not even added any sense of honour to the Tor Tiv Stole which in the last years has shamefully come under dishonour and ‘desecration[1]’.

Those who argue that the Tor Tiv has to swear by the Swem must take the pains to enlighten the Tiv nation on the nature, character and role of the Swem in our national life. I do not agree that this use of Swem should be enforced, especially if the Tor opts for an inoffensive alternative.

C). The Bible-side: those proposing this argument should be able to answer the question; ‘What is the implication of swearing him in with the Bible’? The answer should explain if it is our new stand to live our national life only as the Bible dictates. And this position either goes this far or it is only a show and should not be attempted.

There will be no point swearing the Tor Tiv in, with the Bible, while deliberately retaining the ‘Swem’ in the Palace with the intent to refer, or recourse to it afterwards. It may also not be wise for the ‘Ijir Tamen’ to remain. Those who presently constitute it cannot and should not be in a position to counsel a Tor who is so Christian at heart as to denounce the Swem. It implies, a new Counsel, perhaps of Christian elders must be constituted to Counsel their own. It might as well become a sister-body to the State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). Bible advocates must say clearly how far they intend to take this proposal. Is it a stand or a show? I refer here to two Bible episodes:

  1. Ananais was killed after making a supposed donation to God (Acts. 5). Before he died Peter asked him this question; while you had the property was it not yours? Even when you sold it, were the proceeds still not yours? Why did you think to lie? Lie? Yes, Lie. All because he gave not all but left a part of it at home. Do we intend to give all and take a stand for God or just make a show? We must tread carefully.
  2. The second is the decisive episode in the Old Testament when Moses made one announcement, and gave one instruction.

The announcement: Let he who is on the side of the Lord come to me.

The instruction: take your Sword… kill your own brothers; friends; and neighbor.

Killing ‘your own’ is here very important. I ask Bible advocates in this matter to take this bold step even to ‘their own’ homes and ‘kill their own Swem’ as a mark of belonging to the side of the Lord. It will be sad to keep your own ‘Swems’ at home and publicly kill this one that does not belong to you. Many of you have them; if you do not have the courage to kill them, you are only showing off here; please stand down.



We are aware that the immediate past Tor Tiv (God rest his Soul in peace) was said to have meddled with politics and on this account, almost dragged the Stool into the mud. This is not a one sided affair, it needs to be cleared: if the Tor Tiv is not to meddle in politics, let Politicians not meddle with ‘Tor Tiv Things’.

It is enough for the Governor of the State and his government to organize the coronation by financing it and making the atmosphere conducive to this function, but not for ‘him or them’ to begin at this early stage to say how The Tor Tiv should be Sworn in. Even if this is aired as a personal opinion, we all know what influence the opinion of a leader can have on the subjects. The governments of Sen. Dr. George Akume, Rt. Hon. Gabriel Suswam, and even the Ortom administration, have supported the Catholic Church at big ceremonies without suggesting what should be done. This should be the case. Organize, support, but do not say. There are those Chiefs, whose live job joy are to do this. Let them do it. There is already in existence, the #IStandWithOrtom# hash tag gathering followership on social media. This should not take-on a political garb. Well-meaning Tiv Sons and daughters, I am sure, do not want to hear political drums beating anywhere close to the Man who has emerged the Tor Tiv. It is already embarrassing to every well-meaning Tiv Son or daughter, that it should take one year to find us a Tor. Many people already have the impression that there is much mischief and political gaming about it. This is already disheartening. Thankfully, The Bishop of Gboko composed a Prayer and God has answered.

Lastly, I pray and hope that the new Tor Tiv gets all the support he needs to lead the Tiv nation. I congratulate the Tiv nation and the Catholic Church especially on this day of Prayer Pilgrimage for Peace in Tiv Land.

Long live Benue State, Tiv Nation and the New Tor Tiv.

Fr. SHITYO Ternenge Isaac.


[1] Maurice Tsav has a write up on the dishonour and shame the last Tor Tiv endured in his last days. He writes names and dates with events. Maurice Tsav, ‘Shameful treatment of the Tor Tiv’, SCAN NEWS, Jul. 9 2016.

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