By Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Council of Chiefs of Koniju Town in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State have condemned what they described as derogatory statement against the paramount ruler of Okochiri community, King Ateke Michael Tom, by the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The community also threatened to sue the APC unless it tenders a public apology and retracts the comments.
Leaders and members of the APC in the state had during a protest in support of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Port Harcourt, accused Governor Nyesom Wike of recognising criminals as traditional rulers in the state.
The protesters displayed, among others, a flex banner with a picture of Wike with the Okochiri monarch during his coronation, with a bold inscription, â€˜Wike is Making Criminals Kingsâ€™.
But addressing journalists yesterday at the Community Secondary School field, Okochiri, Chairman of Koniju Council of Chiefs, Chief Chris Biriowu Opuayaraya, demanded for a retraction of the statement by the APC and an apology published in both local and national media.
Mbonu-Ayagara said: â€œWe, the chiefs, elders and people of Okochiri Kingdom and indeed the entire Wakirike ethnic nationality wholly condemn in the strongest terms the damaging malicious, provocative and insultive inscription targeted to malign and denting the hard-earned reputation of our monarch.
â€œWe view the act as sacrilegious, inciting and intended to demean not only the image of our well respected traditional stool and its occupant but also a great disrespect and disservice to the people of Okochiri Kingdom, who after a thorough selection picked His Royal Majesty to ascend this exalted ancient throne.
â€œWe, the chiefs, elders and good people of Okochiri Kingdom and indeed Kirikebese therefore demand that the statement be retracted, and a public apology rendered in both local and national print and electronic media by the perpetrators of this treacherous act without further delay or we will take legitimate and necessary action as we may deem appropriate.â€
He described the claim by members of the APC that Wike coroneted Ateke Tom as paramount ruler, as an affront to the respected cultural values of the Wakirike people and the Ijaw nation in general.
â€œWhat right has these uninformed members of the APC to tag an innocent man a criminal? Has there been any competent court judgment to that effect? And what right do these uninformed persons of the APC have to challenge the right and choice of the Okochiri Kingdom in the selection of their?â€ he queried.
The chief said: â€œLet me at this juncture enlighten the uninformed among the originators of this devious, malicious and condemnable act that traditional issues particularly concerning the selection of a king has no business with government or governor.
â€œIt is the exclusive preserve of the community that uses various traditional determinants including the contributions of the individual towards the development of his people that culminate in the choice of the king.
â€œTherefore to allude that Wike coroneted Tom, is an affront to the highly respected cultural values of the Wakirike people in particular and the Ijaw nation at large.â€