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02.02.2009 Africa

AS THE KALBARI KINGDOM CELEBRATES ITS CULTURE WITH POMP AND PAGEANTRY, VICE-PRESIDENT JONATHAN GOODLUCK PREACHES UNITY AMONG THE NIGER DELTA PEOPLE.

By Prince Tonye TJT Princewill

Vice-President Jonathan Goodluck who spoke through Mr. Braeyi Ekiye his Special Adviser on Parastatals, Establishment and Inter-Governmental Agencies during the Owu-Aru-Sun festival at Buguma on 31st January, 2009 admonished the people of Niger Delta to emulate the people of the Kalabari Kingdom to restore and sustain peace in the Niger Delta region. "The Federal Government has demonstrated every seriousness to show its determination to develop the region. We are determined to develop Niger Delta region and all sections of Nigeria not minding the position or thinking of the critics of this administration. Apart from establishing the Niger Delta Ministry, we set up the Niger Delta Technical Committee to study and recommend to the FG on the best way to tackle the problems of the region that has suffered monumental neglect in the past. The FG has set up another Committee to study that report and very soon a white paper will be issued on it and serious steps adopted to address the multifaceted underdevelopments in the region. However, we cannot achieve that without peace in the region that is why I was happy when invitation for this epochal and historical event was sent to me and today we can boldly state that peace has not only returned to the Kalabari Kingdom but in Rivers State. I urge other parts of the region therefore, in short, all Nigerians to emulate the Kalabaris who has through their amiable and peaceable King, King Prof Tonye TJT Princewill did every thing humanly possible not only to return peace but also to sustain it within his domain and this is a commendable feat that needs to be encouraged. I am happy for this resonance and display of the great and rich cultural heritage of the Kalabari Kingdom and I will surely make a positive report to Mr. President when he is back from his leave".

Rt. Hon. Tonye Harry the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly and a great son of the Kalabari Kingdom who represented Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State in his message titled ' Message of Hope in a Hopeless Situation stated " This epitomizes the absence of violence but represented by peace. Today those that see Kalabari Kingdom as a place where violence, uproar and all forms of criminalities holds sway will be shocked of the event-taking place in the Kingdom today. That today all the sons and friends of the Kingdom are gathered here without any form of molestation shows that peace has not only returned but that that ugly remembrance of the past will become a thing of the past. That through the collective efforts of both the King, stakeholders and government officials peace has become the hallmark of the people of this area; to God be glory.

King Prof TJT Princewill, Amaechree xi, the Amanyanbo of Kalabari Kingdom whose eminent presence captured the beauty and significance of the festival used the occasion to declare to the entire world that the Kingdom is peaceful and safe as the festival being witnessed by the mammoth crowd and array or personalities who graced the event shows. The King after dancing through the square majestically described the Owu-Aru-Sun festival as the "summation of the age-long belief and tradition of the Kingdom, a true symbol of the unity and peace in the Kalabari Kingdom. This is premised on the fact that in the then days this cultural festival was held once every thirty (30) years. This, as a matter of fact, was later reduced to eighteen years. The last festival was held in 1991. The festival show cases all the masquerades of the Ekine Sekiapu Society, their dance styles and steps. This is one festival in which the different regalia of the Kalabari people are displayed. As the Amanayanbo of the Kalabari Kingdom, the custodian of the culture and owner of the Kalabari Ekine Sekiapu Society, I am here in my full regalia to accord dignity and respect to the festival"

Prof Robin Hutton a Professor for over 60 years a Briton and now a Kalabari man married to a Kalabari woman and a member of Ekine Sekiep Society who was very visible during the festival expressed his happiness that peace has finally returned to his people and development will now flow as the Asari River flows.

Barr Osima Ginah the Hon. Commissioner for Urban Development and a son of the Kingdom who was so excited about today's event enthused "As you can see people from all climes of the society are represented here. If Buguma was in turmoil it would not have being possible to celebrate this festival, I therefore appeal to foreign and Nigerian Investors to troop to Rivers State and in Kalabari Kingdom in particular to start investing if peace as being preached is the perquisite for investment. With this event today, I am so happy that in my lifetime, God in His infinite mercy has scattered all the plots and evil machination of our enemies that desires to keep our area in turmoil and scare away those who wants to develop the area. Knowing Governor Amaechi very well and with the help of every stakeholder in the Kingdom, he will roll out chains of development to change the face of the area with we have collective achieved to bring an enduring peace to our people.

Alabo Tobim Diamond-West the Chairman of the Organising Committee and the Head of the Ekine Sekiapu Society of the Kalabari Kingdom stated, "we are happy to note that we have through this event unify our people, demonstrate and present the cultural heritage of the Kalabaris and prove to the entire world that peace reigns in the Kalabari Kingdom. Today for a very long time our people are in a joyful, celebrative and jubilation mood and have danced and enjoyed the serene atmosphere, the unique and enviable cultural heritage and tradition of their land".

Alh Asari Dokunbo the Leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Frontier Force NDPFF and the edi-abali of the Kalabari Kingdom stated "The Federal Government of Nigeria can no longer use lack of peace in Niger Delta as a perquisite to deny the people of the region the needed development that is lacking in the region. The Kalabari Kingdom with over 33 Communities is the largest section of the Ijaw Nation and with peace being celebrated through the Owu-Aru-Sun festival today; peace is assumed to have returned to the region so we expect immediate and sustainable development in the Niger Delta region. We are proud of our culture as without culture the people ceases to exist. With what has happened today the Kalabari Kingdom will now take its rightful place among the great cultural centres in Africa. I am involved in this event not minding that I am a Muslim due to that with my position in the Kingdom, I am the custodian of culture of our people. Kidnapping, abduction etc is not part of the culture of our people as those that engages in such frivolous acts are not Kalabari people. Sadly the occupation force of the Federal Government of Nigeria (JTF) is very visible here not minding the peaceful nature of our people".

31st January, 2009 marked the climax of the three days cultural extravaganza that started on 29th at the seat of the traditional stool of the Kalabaris, Buguma. On 29th January it was termed night vigil to commence the dancing and masquerades display while on 30th January, 2009 it was purification and cleansing of the land from every impurity and unclean acts. Today great masquerades that include Tari Oboko was displayed with 35 others to the amazement and pleasure of the mammoth crowd that includes both young and old that were in attendance The colourful edition of the festival brought together both the government officials, traditional rulers, elderly and young to sing the ballads of oneness. It was a genuine demonstration by the Kalabaris to preserve their culture heritage.

Prince Tonye TJT Princewill
Chairman, Publicity Committee,
2009 Owu-Aru-Sun Alali Festival

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