Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has denied showing disrespect to traditional rulers in the state.
Wike made the denial on Saturday at the installation of a former Minister of Transportation, Precious Sekibo, as the War Canoe Chief of Awolome-Biri in Okrika. He accused his political foes of misconstruing his speech to traditional rulers that went viral in which he threatened to withdraw recognition for traditional rulers that do not attend meetings in Port Harcourt with their staffs of office.
In that viral video, Wike also reprimanded a young traditional ruler, who he accused of causing trouble and adorning oversize regalia and a crown he called “Usman dan Fodio.” But at Okrika on Saturday, Wike said he was actually speaking against the promotion of the culture of other people by Rivers chiefs who dressed in traditional regalia of other cultures.
He said, “I have great respect for traditional institutions. Traditional rulers have a lot of role to play to stabilize our state and our communities. But it is unfortunate that some people will want to play politics when it comes to traditional institutions.
“All I said was this and I will continue to say it that traditional rulers must give themselves respect. All I said is that we must promote our own. We cannot continue to promote other people’s culture. If you are coming out as a chief from Okrika the people must know that you are a chief from Okrika. If you are coming out as a chief of Ikwerre, people must know that you are a chief of Ikwerre. You must not dress like other people who would not identify where you come from.
“I said to traditional rulers that their staff of office is very important like when you are coming for quarterly meeting you must show that you are a recognized traditional ruler. You must not carry ordinary walking stick like me.
“Some of us go to other areas to worship their traditional rulers but when they come to our own, they will not regard them.”
Wike urged Sekibo, who was once the Secretary to the Rivers State Government, to use his wealth of experience to support the Okrika Council of Chiefs and avoid bringing politics into the council.