Daniel Abomtse is the Ter Tyoshin, a second class traditional ruler in Gwer West local government area of Benue State. Barely months on the throne, Abomtse reveals in this interview with Correspondent Terna Doki, in Makurdi, the challenges of his kingdom and laments that the colonialists distorted their cultural values in many respects. He explains why the Tiv people do not celebrate Yam festivals and appeals to government to turn attention to his domain, which is badly in need of infrastructural development, among other issues. Excerpts...
Looking at the totality of the culture of the Tyoshin people, which aspects do youth think are outdated and should be completely discarded?
In Tiv culture, when you marry, you must test the fidelity and virginity of the women. Once you confirm that the virginity is still intact, you buy, in those days you buy a cloth and send it to the mother in-law and the cloth must be Tiv traditional cloth. It could be "Anger" or "Ivavtyor" and send it to your mother in-law. And if you make a hole in the cloth you send, it means the sanctity or virginity of the woman has been damaged. And the mother in-laws will now begin to weep that the daughter has put them to shame. I know that this practice has been discarded by modernity. We elope with girls nowadays and sometimes for years and begin to have children even before we inform the parents. And yet we still accept. That is one aspect that has been discarded. The other areas which we are still calling for them to be upheld has to do with deaths. When death occurs in the society, it is always blamed on deistic occurrence or witchcraft practices, propelled by elders who are vast in it. So in this aspect, you cannot say that the whole Tiv society is educated or Christianised. So, on this I can tell you that, when it comes to deaths occurring within a community and going in for inquest, let the elders perform their rites. For instance, if a king dies and the king is a traditional ruler and it happens that he is also a knight in the Roman Catholic Church, the knight people will come and say, traditional people go away. No! He was made of tradition first. Tradition came before religion. Our parents were living and checking the society much more efficiently before the white men came and introduced his religion to us.
Your submissions about the presence of the Whiteman in your domain appear neutral. You have condemned and also applauded them in some areas, why so?
Lets balance up the whole thing. Where you see good aspect of his life, copy it or uphold it. Where you see good things in the modernity, cherish them as we now cherish education. But where religion conflicts with the culture of the people and the culture seems to be supreme in certain aspects, we respect the areas that have a kind of sanctity. Not all aspects of culture can be discarded. For instance, our culture demands that when an elder is talking, the youth keeps quiet. And before you go for marriage, the custom demands that you bring the most elderly person to the people you intend to take their daughter as wife. If that is not done, then marriage is not concretised. And it also holds that if you, apart from the church wedding and court knot-tying, you will discover that traditional marriage still upholds. You can go and perform the traditional rites for marriage. It is still there, you can't destroy it. The parents must give you conditions of accepting you as an in-law into the family. And you fulfill it. It is still practiced. Its not every aspect of the culture is bad. So where we see areas of improvement, lets us improve upon, because culture is not static, it is dynamic.