Tony John, Port Harcourt

Traditional  values and practice areveryimportant in unifying people of the same cultural background. That is why, in African culture, it is condemnable when the tradition of the people are abandoned or abused. In some cases, negation of the culture could have unpalatable repercussions.

On this premise, recently, the Regent of Ekpeyeland, His Royal Majesty, Eze Felix Enene Otuwarikpo, underscored the need to revive and sustain at the grassroots, time-tested traditional norms and values that bind the people together, in order to build a better society.

Eze Otuwarikpo, who is also the reigning Eze Igbu Upata III of Upata Kingdom, said this at the Ula-Upata Community, the ancestral home of the Upata people, during this year’s Upata traditional ele (forklore) night.

“The traditional institution holds our values and norms because it plays important roles, especially at the grassroots. Nigeria is faced with a lot of security challenges and, therefore, it is very important to remind our people of the traditional norms and values that bind us together for a better Nigeria”, the regent admonished.

He lauded the untiring efforts of the Ekpeye at building bridges of unity and understanding, in order to restore the harmony of the good old days. He urged them to intensify efforts at maintaining peaceful co-existence between the component parts that predate modernity.

While declaring open the ele night, Eze Otuwarikpo noted that the long-standing peace between the different parts of Ekpeye ethnic Nationality served as a stabilising factor at this critical time when, the country is in dire need of peace, understanding and development.

He called for the continued support of the people to the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wikein order to promote peace and security.

The ele night which heralds the start of the Ogwu Ekpeye festival, climaxed with the public embrace and reconciliation of the differences between their promi- nent political leaders.

In his response, a notable lawmaker from the area, Ehie, thanked the monarch for finding the need to reconcile them. He described the choice of the ele night to reconcile them as symbolic in the light of the fact that they were coming together to further cement the bond of unity among the Upata people and Ekpeye at large.

Also speaking, Chairman of Ahoada East Local Government Area, Benjamin Eke, reaffirmed his administration’s determination to improve the wellbeing of the people. He informed that the Council was ready to provide basic school materials for primary school pupils.

On his part, member of the House of Representatives representing Ahoada East/Abua-Odual Federal Constituency, Bob Solomon, said the reconciliation would go a long way towards identifying those things that the people share in common and de-emphasise those that divide them. He promised to sponsor the 2020 ele night.

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The event witnessed the formal handover of the Upata Draft Constitution to the Upata Traditional Council by the Constitution Drafting Committee headed by Sir Nnamdi Okpu.

Prior to the ele night, the Director General of Na- tional Industrial Skills Development Programme (NIS-DP), Chief Joseph Ari, paid a courtesy visit to Eze Otu- warikpo, at his Ihuaba palace. He said Industrial Trust Fund (ITF) would partner with the traditional institu- tion to train and empower youths, as a way to stem development and unity in Ekpeye land,

Ari said: “The ITF was established to be utilitized to promote and encourage the acquisition of skills in industry and commerce in Nigeria with a view to generating a pool of indigenous trained manpower sufficient to meet the needs of the nation’s economy”.

At a brief ceremony, an overwhelmed Ari was inducted into the Upata Traditional Council as the Owuze Upata 1 (the benefactor of the Upata people), expressed delight and assured that the organisation would assist to equip the Ahoada Industrial Training Centre with modern technical equipment for training purposes.

While he described Eze Otuwarikpo as a personality with great pedigree, Ari further promised to provide a mobile workshop for use at Edeoha Town, in order to effectively tackle the challenges of unemployment and sustain the people’s traditional values.

He urged the people to always support the Regent to move Ekpeye forward, noting that the monarch “served the ITF meritoriously. He is a rare gift to us and is a personality with great pedigree. He is visionary, steadfast and a progressive-minded person with uncommon passion for service.

“Our love for him has brought us here and our decision is to collaborate with the people of Upata Kingdom and Ekpeye in general. We plan to assist the course of transformation that is going on in the land”, he assured.

Responding, Eze Otuwarikpo, who spoke in appreciation, informed that Ekpeye is peaceful and ready for investment. He stat- ed that since he ascended the throne, his focus has been on human capital development and the “intention is to aggressively improve the human capital index of my people”.

The Eze, who also is the Chairman of Ahoada East Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs, pointed out that the impact of the efforts of the ITF to train the youths was already being felt. He added that the Ekpeye people would partner the ITF and other development partners to give Ekpeye people the desired future.

While he solicited for more support from ITF, Eze Otuwarikpo expressed happiness and described the visit as “a reunion of fami- ly members. ITF is my family and the organisation prepared me well and I will always be indebted to this special family. My intention is to have a good harvest of our cordial relationship for the general good”.

On his part, Chairman of Ahoada East Council, Eke, thanked the Director-General of ITF for the visit and appealed that the organization should extend their empowerment initiatives to the area council.

Eke said the resolve of his administration is to build new structures and expand the Ahoada Industrial Training Centre to cater for those who renounced cultism and others, who might want to go into vocational training.