George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
The proliferation of autonomous communities has no doubt devalued the traditional institution, especially in Igboland. There are over 600 traditional rulers in Imo State, many of them appointed by the state government.
The situation is worsened by the undue interference of government in the selection of who becomes a traditional ruler, particularly in the newly created autonomous communities.
However, a cultural enthusiast, Sir Chris Onyemachi is poised to restore the lost glory of the traditional institution, beginning with the repositioning of the kingmakers (Ojiofor), the body traditionally empowered to select/install monarchs in the various communities.
Working through the Chris Onyemachi Care Foundation, the cultural promoter believes proper strengthening of the Ojiofors would reduce the growing disputes over traditional stools in the state.
The foundation has resolved to sponsor the activities of the Ojiofor holders in the state to enable them perform their revered role in the selection and installation of traditional rulers.
At a recent meeting he convened at the palace of Eze Andrew Nnanna Ugbondu of Inyinshi in Ikeduru Local Government Area, Onyemachi said he got a divine call to inform the members of Ojiofor to rise up to their duties and sanitize the traditional institution in the state by speaking the truth and upholding justice at all times.
Onyemaechi, who lamented that the exclusion of members of Ojiofor in the installation of traditional rulers in parts of the state has led to traditional rulers being regarded as mere agents of the government in power.
He urged them to unite in order to perform their sacred role in the society, because, according to him, the lack of unity amongst the Ojiofors in the state has given rise to the manipulation of the traditional institution at the whims and caprices of the government.
He lamented that some traditional rulers saw the Ojiofors as threat to their thrones, but commended Eze Ugbondu for being one of the few of his colleagues who desired the rebranding of the traditional institutions in the state.
Chairman of Ojiofor Mbaise, Osheize Chris Nwaiwu lauded the group in Ikeduru for agreeing to come together to ensure the growth of the traditional institution through strengthening of the role of the Ojiofors.
He recalled that before now, traditional rulers were crowned by the Ojiofors in various communities with the offor (ancient staff) symbol, but today, government only gives staff of office and certificate, thereby alienating the people from the stool.
He added that any traditional ruler installed by the Ojiofor would never go to court with his subjects because the kingmakers would be there to settle his matter.
“Today you find out that many Ezes are in court with their subjects over one issue or the other. But, if it’s a situation where the Ojiofors are in existence, no traditional ruler should go to court to settle matter with his subjects because there are the Ojiofors to help in the adjudication of matters like that,” he said.
Nwaiwu said many nations and tribes in the world have the Ojiofor, recalling that “when the people of Kano State were about to select their Emir, the state government tried to interfere by nominating somebody from the ruling house, but the kingmakers rejected the government’s nominee and selected Lamido Sanusi as the Emir of Kano.
He said: “Our role as kingmakers is to make Ezes live their roles as real monarch because any traditional ruler that is not empowered by the kingmakers is a mere government Eze whose tenure expires after the government in power leaves office.”
Also, an Ojiofor member from Amaimo, Nze Cyriacus Diala commended the Foundation for its role in revitalizing the culture of the people of Ikeduru.
He said he left civil service 20 years ago to carry on the title and perform his role as Ojiofor, urging his colleagues to come out and participate in strengthening the traditional institution.
Eze Ugbondu on his part expressed gratitude that a young and well-travelled man like Onyemaechi has unbridled interest in revitalising the culture and tradition of his people.
The traditional ruler, who described Onyemaechi as a lover of his people’s culture and tradition, said he has remained the sponsor of Umuoziri cultural festival in Ikeduru.
The monarch described the people’s culture and tradition as their identity.