Magnus Eze, Enugu
There is palpable tension in communities of Anambra State whose traditional rulers were recently suspended by government for allegedly travelling outside the state without permission. Governor Willie Obiano had invoked the Anambra Traditional Rulers’ Law of 1981 to justify the suspension.
The suspended monarchs included Alex Edozieuno of Mkpunando; Mark-Anthony Okonkwo of Alor; Chukuwma Orji of Ezinifite; G.B.C Mbakwe of Abacha; Chijioke Nwankwo of Nawfa and Nkeli Nelly of Igbariam. Others were Anthony Onyekwere of Owelle; A. N. Onwuneme of Ikenga; Ikechukwu Chidubem of Umumbo; S. O. Uche of Ezira; Emeka Ilouno of Ifitedunu and Peter Ikegbunem Udoji of Eziagulu. Government had earlier suspended Igwe Peter Uyanwa of Ukwulu in Dunukofia Local Government Area.
There were strong indications that people linked to government were capitalising on their suspension to dethrone them. For instance, the traditional ruler of Nwafia community in Njikoka Local Government Area, Igwe Chijioke Nwankwo, raised the alarm that some persons were after his life and the stool. He was one of the 13 rulers on a trip facilitated by billionaire businessman, Prince Arthur Eze, to the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
A meeting slated at the Nawfia Town Hall for October 16, to commence the dethronement of Igwe Nwankwo was thwarted. Youths and women of the community marched to the venue in support of their monarch.
The traditional ruler told Daily Sun that he would not keep quiet and allow people kill him the way they had killed his father on the throne. Apart from threat to his life, Nwankwo informed that those who were opposed to his kingship had planted seed of discord and disunity in the community thereby conducting festivals and other traditional ceremonies without the endorsement and consent of the traditional ruler of the town:
“All I can say is that my life is in danger. I don’t want to be like my father who was assassinated on the throne. One or two people organised what they called Nawfia cultural day. They organised it again in 2019 without my consent or approval while Anambra Traditional Rulers’ Law Sections 15c and d as well as the Chieftaincy Constitution of Nawfia stipulate that only the Igwe can do it. These are the statutory functions of the traditional ruler.
“The mischief makers also went to the town hall and addressed a press conference that I am no longer the Igwe of Nawfia; that I have been dethroned. The youths of the town are not happy and I have told them that they can do a peaceful demonstration. I will also seek recourse in court.”
Nwankwo became the regent of Nawfia in 2000 when his father was slain. On December 29, 2001, he was crowned the traditional ruler. On November 15, 2002, former governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju recognised him as the traditional ruler of Nawfia:
“My father was assassinated in cold blood on February 15, 2000, and some people were accused. Just three days ago, some people were stabbed right in front of my palace. They are inciting violence and they want me dead!”
He regretted that the police had ignored his cries over the spate of violent attacks in Nawfia. He alleged that three persons have been shortlisted and their names submitted to the Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Affairs, Greg Obi, for government to replace him as Igwe.
The case is not different in Aguleri in Anambra East Local Government Area where residents protested against two of their five traditional rulers who were part of the Abuja trip. They protested against Igwe Alex Edozieuno of Mkpunando Aguleri and Igwe Udoji Ikegbunem of Eziagulu-Otu Aguleri. The protesters said the two embattled monarchs betrayed their people by joining forces with an outsider to fight their son, Obiano.
In Mkpunando Aguleri; the community allegedly enthroned a new traditional ruler, in the person of Chief Johnson Mbanefo. Until his said enthronement, Mbanefo served as President-General of Mkpunando Aguleri. The traditional prime minister of the community, Augustine Akwobi, who allegedly did the coronation, said:
“Community is made up of four quarters; Ugwuoba, Umuagu na Obeke, Ivite Enu and Igboezunu. The four quarters unanimously agreed that since the traditional stool abhors vacancy, the enthronement of new monarch became necessary. Hence, the community chose Johnson Onyaka Mbanefo, to occupy the stool.”
The embattled monarch, Igwe Edoziuno, reacted: “Some people in the community said they have crowned the serving president general of the community as traditional ruler. But that is funny. It is funny, because, when a traditional ruler is alive, you do not go ahead to coronate another traditional ruler in the same community?”
Also, members of the Eziagulu Otu royal cabinet dismissed the Aguleri protest against their traditional ruler. Chairman of Igwe-in-Council, Chief Chidi Nnamekwue, said: “We have five communities that make up Aguleri clan and these communities have their own kings and presidents-general.
“Whatever they have in Aguleri Uno, we have it also in Eziagulu-Otu. Our people were not involved and we were not consulted. We have no reason to move against our traditional ruler.”
Alor in Idemili South Local Government Area where Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige hails from is another affected community. Ngige’s allies of Alor People’s Assembly [APA] claimed to be the authentic town union of the community. Alor People’s Convention [APC], loyal to Igwe MacAnthony Okonkwo, said they have the people’s support.
The whole thing got to a head on October 17, when some elders of the town crowned one Chief Ebelechukwu Chukwumesili as the new traditional ruler. Prior to this period, APA leadership staged a protest against Igwe Okonkwo and called on the governor to withdraw his certificate of recognition as he was allegedly imposed on them by the powers that be.
Throwing his weight behind the one year suspension slammed on the 13 monarchs, Ngige urged the governor to banish them for “desecrating the culture and tradition of their lands. When someone is suspended from performing functions of an office, he should be barred from even being in that vicinity. So, I advise Anambra State Government to relocate these 13 traditional rulers from their communities to avoid a situation likely to cause breach of public peace.”
But, Alor people rose in solidarity with Igwe Okonkwo, and appealed to the governor to disregard the minister. The Publicity Secretary of Alor Peoples Convention, Rev. Innocent Peace-Udochukwu said:
“Indeed Alor people have not in any way rejected their traditional ruler as some people who are opportunistic in nature in our town wanted to capitalise on the opportunity created by the unfortunate incident to deceive and if possible manipulate the system to favour their selfish interests.”
In Ukwulu also, where their traditional ruler, Igwe Uyanwa, was the first to be suspended, claimants to the throne also went for his jugular. But, President, Ukwulu Development Union (UDU), Malaysia, Thomas Chujekwu, described the governor’s action as an intimidation to the community and display of high handedness.
President of an Igbo youth group, Anambra Ekunie, Dr Ifeanyi Anachusi, said the action of government confirmed earlier alarm they raised of plot by the APGA-led government to begin massive silencing of monarchs to push through its agenda of zoning the 2021 governorship to Anambra South.