By Zika Bobby
Chairman, Ezinano Youth Development Forum, (EYDF) and chieftain of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA) in Anambra State, Obi Ochije has said the November governorship election has already been decided by the people. The former chairman, Awka Development Union (ADU) at the Netherlands between 2008 and 2010 and vice chairman, Black Youth Foundation in Europe, spoke on Anambra politics, crisis in Awka and other issues.
As an Awka indigene, do you think the development indices following the level of infrastructure and road network are enough to adjudge Awka as a befitting state capital?
Awka became a capital 25 years ago, and as a stakeholder in Awka, I know how many governors that have been here and their level of input into the development of Awka as a capital. So far, I will tell you that this present administration is the best Awka has experienced. No Awka man in this town will tell you that Obiano has not done his best. There is massive development and massive road network and other infrastructure including flyovers, springing up everywhere. Our appeal is that the road network should be extended to Agulu Awka, Amikwo, Umudioka quarters and other villages. The governor promised to make Awka a befitting capital and as a matter of fact, he has done so. Everywhere is being lightened up with streetlights. This is even visible to the blind. We would continue to support him until he returns to government house to complete the good work he has started.
What can you tell us about the crisis Awka community is embroiled in?
Awka crisis started before the Nigerian civil war. The first traditional ruler we had in Awka, Igwe Obiorah Nebe, was not accepted by all. He came from Agulu in Awka community. Now they are looking for a way to correct the mistakes of the past but could not. When he died Agulu villagers were not happy with the way the issue surrounding his death was handled. The matter went to court and they won in court and enthroned another traditional ruler called Alfred Obi Ndigwe ( Ezeuzu1). Again, some parts of Awka were not happy with the choice. Youths tried to wade into the matter with the aim of brokering peace but we discovered that there were lots of vested interests in the matter. After the reign of Alfred Ndigwe, His Royal Majesty, Igwe Gibson Nwosu (Eze Uzu 11) became the traditional ruler of Awka.
The crisis that tore Awka apart is the issue of the dust-to -dust rite between Awka community and the Catholic Church. Everybody was in support of the then President-General, Tony Okechukwu who made a lot of reforms in the town’s union. It’s the issue of dust-to-dust rites that divided us as a people.
In Ezinano village, you once championed a course for one man, one plot but it seems it failed. What happened?
One man, one plot was like a child of destiny because we started the fight with lots of sincerity with the group when they made me the chairman of the community. Our aim was to get the community to follow the right path by speaking with one voice in telling the government that enough is enough the way they were taking our land. What really gave rise to one man; one plot campaign was when we noticed that previous governments had acquired all our lands without compensation. We decided to take what belongs to us so that our children will have place to live. We started the fight with good intentions. Past governments in Anambra had used our land to compensate politicians and their relations. Our land was like oil well to them.
We agreed when we were in court that a contribution of N50 each would be made to register the land with the CAC. We went to court before we had peace. This was lingering before Governor Obiano took over as governor and since then, his antecedent has shown that he has good intentions for Awka community. He did not come to forcefully take our lands. It was during that time that we decided to go into the empty land opposite Rockland to divide the land so that each household can get a plot. We agreed to divide among the 20 villages that make up Ezinano. We know that the land may not go round but we decided to start with individuals that registered with us. I know how many times I was arrested during that period.
Some ganged up against me, saying that I was planning to sell the land. I told them I had no intention of doing such, that I have a vision to serve the people. I asked them to come up with any evidence that I have plans to sell community land. The two groups that ganged up against me started fighting themselves and this resulted in the death of one person, which led to government takeover. That was how we lost out in the one man, one plot initiative.
What do you think that should be done to enthrone everlasting peace in the community?
Traditionally, as a people we are suppose to eat together, agree to be part of that tradition where a pronouncement is made, that anybody who truncate the progress of the community will face consequences. Some people feed fat from crises. Secondly, our traditional ruler, Igwe Gibson Nwosu should be accorded due respect. No matter what might have happened, he still remains the traditional head. Finally, the Awka stakeholders should sheath their sword and champion a cause for peace and development of Awka community.