From Aloysius Attah, Abidjan
52 years after the end of the Nigerian/ Biafra Civil War and the emigration of the Igbo leader and ex-Biafran War Lord, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, into the country, history was made in Treichville, Abidjan, the Republic of Cote d’ Ivoire last week as the Igbo resident in the country united in one accord, elected and crowned their new king, the first ever in history.
It was the Igbo Unity Day celebration for the Igbo people resident in the French-speaking country of Cote d ‘ Ivoire. The country holds a special place in the heart of the Igbo people, as the place where the now late Ojukwu spent 12 years in Asylum after the civil war that ended in 1970.
Ojukwu returned to Nigeria in 1982 and the then Former Ivorien President, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, now late, had named the central part of Cote d’Ivoire “Cartier Biafra” to honour Ojukwu and the refugees who trooped into the country towards the end of the civil war.
Many years down the line, Igbo people across the five states of the Southeast, Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo are today residents in Cote D’ Ivoire in large numbers. They are into various businesses and many of them are high fliers controlling affairs in government contracts, manufacturing, industrialisation, Information, Communication Technology (ICT) among others.
However, Daily Sun gathered that for many years running, having a unified central body of the Igbo Union has been a herculean task for the Igbo in Cote D’ Ivoire owing to internal squabbles, leadership tussle, non-transparency and accountability.
It has not been rosy for years until 2019 when some committed Igbo sons took up the gauntlet to have a formidable Igbo Union in the country shielded from the negative baggage of the past.
The leadership, led by Nze Ejike Williams (Oramadike na Nise ) went to work and has been unrelenting since then. Their resilience has paid off and eventually for the first time in history, the first ever Igbo Unity Week Celebration was hosted in Abidjan last week.
The Igbo Unity Week celebration featured activities like the Interstate union football competition where Ebonyi state team came tops by carrying the trophy. Cultural dance completions and raffle draw where a lucky winner went home with a brand new Innoson car. Iwaji festival, children Igbo language speaking competition, local artistes display, gala nite, awards presentation and Ijele masquerade displays.
There was a fraternity of family meetings, cultural music dances and the ultimate coronation of Eze Ndigbo Cote D’ Ivoire.
Speaking in an address, President General, Igbo Union Cote D’ Ivoire, Nze Ejike Williams recalled that the Igbo Union started in Cote d’ Ivoire in the early 70s with the displacement of Igbo people from the Eastern part of Nigeria as General Ojukwu emigrated to the country with some eastern indigenes with him.
Nze Ejike noted that after many years of existence, the Igbo Union has always been faced with one problem or the other which eventually led to its downfall emanating from either the inability of the leaders to establish long-lasting structures or from gross mismanagement of funds for the development of the Igbo Union.
He said that fortunately, this present generation restructured the great Union back and restored her lost cohesiveness, peace and progress under his leadership and with his team and support of the state’s union leaders and their various members as well, as the entire Igbo living in Cote d’ Ivoire are now together.
Enumerating the reasons for organising the great Igbo Unity Week, he said it was to create strong cohesiveness amongst all Igbos living in Cote d’Ivoire.
“Due to the vast number of Igbos in this country, this administration wishes to have well architectured Igbo schools, hospitals, civic centres, archives etc which shall be situated within an environment to be named Igbo Village Cote d’ Ivoire where our children can go for excursions and learning of the Igbo cultures.
“Secondly, we wish to delete into, that rhetorical but an unfulfilled assertion of Igbo enweghi Eze from the hearts of Igbos living in Cote d’ Ivoire by embarking on intensive search on who has the charisma to be crowned the Eze Ndi Igbo in Cote d’ Ivoire. In our agreement to allow who the cap fits to wear the cap, Igbo’s in Cote d’ Ivoire unanimously, chose HRM, Igwe Emanuel Ikechukwu Chukwuma as a Royal Father who shall be crowned to take on all traditional related activities for the interest of Ndi Igbo in Cote d ‘ Ivoire.” He said.
It was a very emotional moment amidst a thunderous ovation at exactly 5:26 pm that Sunday evening as the royal diadem, staff of office, the royal crown and certificate of coronation were all handed over and Chief Chukwuma was officially proclaimed as the first Eze Ndi Igbo of Cote d’ Ivoire.
The ceremony was performed by the traditional Prime Minister, Chief Ugochukwu Nnadi, Council of Chiefs and executives of Igbo Union Cote d’ Ivoire assisted by the traditional Ruler of Alor Community, Anambra State, Igwe Chinedu Elibe Okonkwo.
The newly coronated Eze Ndi Igbo Cote d ‘ Ivoire, Igwe Emmanuel Chukwuma who hails from Adazi Nnukwu community, Anambra State has been resident in Abidjan for over 30 years.
In a remark, he said he felt humbled that he was chosen among the multitude of Igbos in the country to be their leader.
He assured that by the grace of God, he will use his position to reposition the Igbo people in the Cote d ‘ Ivoire to be pace setters and a shining example to the world.
He said he will also submit himself to wise counsel and advice noting that only a listening king can lead his subjects to the desired destination even as he also praised the PG, Nze Williams for standing firm for the truth and ensuring that the right things are done.
Igwe’s wife, Lolo Ugonwa Chukwuma expressed gratitude to God for allowing such a dream to become reality. She said she will also rally around the womenfolk in that country towards not only supporting their husbands to keep excelling but also to make their own mark in their chosen careers.
Former President of Nigerians in Diaspora, Cote d’ Ivoire and Kabiyesi of all Yoruba in that country, Oba Adebayo Yahaya in a chat with Daily Sun lauded the existing fraternal friendship between the Igbo and Yoruba in Coted d’ Ivoire which he also lauded the President General of Igbo Union, Nze Ejikeme for the hand of fellowship he has continued to extend.
He said Nigerians in Cote D’ Ivoire relate as one family despite the fact that some individuals wanted to plant seeds of discord in the past but were rebuffed. He expressed hope that the unity will grow stronger by day.
Enugu Indigenes in Cote d’ Ivoire led by their governor, Chief Peter Ugwu (Ikenga) and other executives Charlie Eze and Ozor Jeff Odunze described the recent positive developments in the Igbo Union Cote d’ Ivoire as the dawn of a new era where they will fly higher and conquer new grounds.
Three Igbo sons who flew in from Anambra to Cote d’ Ivoire for the event, Chief Ikenna Okafor (Ide Akwaeze), Chief Vincent Udobi (Onwa Ifitedunu) and Chief Cosmas Agabo (Okpokanji Abba) apart from giving monetary donations to the union all lauded the successful hosting of the event.
“This marks the day enduring peace and progress returned among the Igbo in Cote d’Ivoire. The overwhelming participation and attendance among the Igbo here and those who visited was also another sign that their new Eze Ndi Igbo, Igwe Emmanuel Chukwuma popularly known as Nwatayanachiyadinamma is accepted wholly and carries the mandate of the Igbo people to be their leader,” they chorused.