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…As Princess Sekibo Becomes Etem-Ba

It was set to be, as nobles, politicians, friends and well-wishers defied the threat of tempest to witness the evolution of culture with the inauguration of a seat by the chief and people of Etem war-canoe house for Princess Asime George Sekibo,  the wife of the paramount chief, Senator George Thompson Sekibo, CON, DSSRS.

It was unprecedented in the annals of Wakirike tradtion as women were not given any special seat of recognition no matter the quality of their contribution to their respective houses or communities. 

Speaking at the event, the chief of Etem Omu Aru of Ogu Kingdom, Senator George Thompson Sekibo said, the occasion was the first of it’s kind in the war-canoe house and indeed in Ogu Kingdom as no Alabota (chief’s wife) has been so recognised and given this mark of honour.

He said, “no King ascends the throne without a wife and no Chief by the Constitution of the Ogu Divisional Council of Chiefs can be installed to head any Chiefdom in Ogu Kingdom without a wife that is legally married by Yaa marriage. This suggests the importance of the  Chief’s wife as a partner in the management of the Chiefdom especially when receiving dignitaries and colleague Chiefs into their home, the management of the women of the Chiefdom and many more.”

According to him,”these important roles which the wife of the Chief performs are not given the status they deserved, which has made our Alaputa (the wives of our chiefs) directionless with less respect they deserve, even as they come to the Wari meeting with no special chair to sit as they struggle among other women of the chiefdom to grab seats for themselves. This is same even in our community during our town hall meetings of the Kingdom. For us in Etem Omu-aru, this obsolete practice can no longer be practiced”.

The Etem wai-alabo said, we are aware that elsewhere in Nigeria, when an Eze is being installed, he is installed alongside with the wife, giving a distinction of honour to the Eze’s wife among the womenfolk. Some may say it is not part of our culture, custom and tradition, and that it has not been done before. Everything we know today in our way of living started one day and then practiced till date.

The chief who is also the senator representing Rivers East senatorial District asked: “What is culture, custom and tradition? The dictionary.com defines Culture as “the ideas customs and social behaviour of a particular people or society”.

Then the word custom is defined as ” a traditional and widely accepted way of behaving or doing something that is specific to a particular society, place or time”. The third word tradition is defined as “the transmission of custom or beliefs from generation to generation, or fact of being passed on in this way or a long established custom or belief that has been on from one generation to another”.

The three words can jointly been seen as a  people’s practice of a way of life, their behaviour, and beliefs that they have held for long and transmitted from generation to generation. This means that such culture, customs and tradition had their beginnings and evolves and refined with time.

For instance, what were the dressing pattern of the Wakirike people before the advent of the western civilisation and up till 100 years ago. Did our Kings wear gold crowns as it is done today? Did our Chiefs wear the popular ‘don’ as it is worn today? Just recently, our chiefs are putting beads (ikilari) on their necks, meanwhile that was seen as Igbo pattern of dressing some 20 years ago. Ajibulu head gear for chiefs was more popular with the Kalabari and Ibani people but today these have become part of our culture and custom.

My mother told me that young women (teenagers) wore no pants in their days as there were no pants to wear. Parents became uncomfortable with the pubic hairs of their daughters and this made some kind of coverings for them to cover their pubic areas. That was our way of life but today we have moved far beyond that practice as we have learnt better ways of living.

I take the pains to give these explanations not because I am making a particular case for the Etem Omu-aru is inventing but because we don not want our detractors to completely misunderstand us. The inauguration of a special chair for the Alabota is new but is it not befitting that the wife of the Chief of the Chiefdom should be given the status she deserves? The answer is an outright NO.

Declaration: Today  the Etem Omu-aru has decided to inaugurate the Etem-Ba seat and inaugurate the first Etem-Ba. It shall be a custom and tradition of this Chiefdom that after installing the Chief of the Chiefdom by the Ogu divisional council of Chiefs or whatever name it may be called, the seat of the Alabota shall be inaugurated same day or within seven days, and the wife of the chief be so addressed as Etem-Ba second or third as the case me be.

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