From Chuks Onuoha, Umuahia
The Ibeku clan, Umuahia in Abia State has elected a new President-General and other officers to oversee its affairs.
The election, which was held on December 26, 2016, being the annual Ibeku Day, was not without drama, as immediate past governor of the state, Chief T.A. Orji and 29 others were sanctioned for desecrating the Ogurube stool, the clan’s traditional institution. They were equally asked to bring in seven-fold, tortoises, cows, goats, kola nuts, hot drinks, cartons of beer and many other items to appease the land. The election usually produces officers of Ibeku Egwu Asa Development Association, an administrative/political umbrella, under cultural background, that takes care of everything about Ibeku as a clan administratively.
During last year’s election, many prominent Ibeku sons were determined to address the rot that had befallen Ibeku land for many years now during which time the people were crying that they had been held hostage politically and culturally. In times past, the people alleged that leaders were imposed upon them, making them to to feel like slaves in their own land. They further accused them of nepotism, selfishness and greed to the detriment of the entire Ibeku clan. They determined, therefore, to ensure that only leaders they choose must emerge at the end of the day.
To actualise this, prominent sons of Ibeku mobilised themselves and decided that the process under which one family held the entire Ibeku people hostage must not be condoned anymore.
Speaking to Daily Sun in Umuahia, the traditional Prime Minister of the clan, High Chief Uche Akwukwuegbu, said that he and the likes of Stanley Ohajuruka, former acting Governor and House of Representatives member, Chief Allen Okpokirir, Joshua Ogbonna of the Rising Sun, Dr. A.U. Ibelegbu, Prince B.B. Apugo, G.O. Onyemobi, Isaac Iroegbu, Justin Nwosu and many other prominent and authentic Ibeku sons, both home and in the Diaspora came together and insisted that proper election of leaders must be held without people being intimidated or bought to support certain people.
Expectedly, this did not go down well with those already benefitting from the flawed system. They went to court on December 23, seeking an injunction to stop the election but failed.
A very peaceful pre-conference had been held on December 24, where those that wanted to contest election indicated their interest and, at the end of the day, High Chief Princewill Ikechukwu Ukaegbu emerged as the winner of the election. He was eventually elected unopposed, as the choice of the people, to the prestigious position of the President-General of Ibeku Development Association.
Ukaegbu, who has an intimidating profile in administration, is from Eziama Osah, Ibeku. He was a one-time President-General of Osah Ibeku Autonomous Community in Ibeku Ancient Kingdom before it was dismembered by former Governor T.A. Orji for political reasons. He was the President-General for eight years and was once the coordinating chairman for the president of Ibeku for two years, where he supervised the settlement of disputes.
Ukaegbu was elected the local government chairman under the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), for two years and performed creditably well to the admiration of his people. He was also a special assistant on environmental issues to former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu. He was a lecturer at the Federal College of Agriculture for 11 years, where he held the positions of Dean, Student Affairs, for over five years as well as the head of the Registry Department before he voluntarily retired in 2016 to venture into politics.
Also elected with him to pilot the affairs of the association were Chief Mike Mbaiwe (Afaraukwu), Vice President-General; Barr. Nduka Onwuchekwa (Vice PG, South Nigeria); Mr. Odionyenfe Otuonye (Vice PG, North Nigeria); Pastor Paul O. Mmeregini, Secretary-General (Ndume); Chief O.C. Chilaka (Assistant Secretary 1 (Afaranta); Apostle Emenike Nwamuo, Assistant Secretary 2 (Emede); Chief Chuks Ukaegbu, Treasurer (Afarata); Martin Nwankwo, Financial Secretary (Eke); Mike Nwachukwu, Publicity Secretary (Amaoforo); Iheanacho Onumaegbu, Director of Socials (Emede); Barr. G.I. Chionye, Legal Adviser 1; Barr. Ugochukwu Ndubuka, Legal Adviser 2; Chima Nwokoukwu, Provost 1; and Reuben Iruke, Provost 2.
According to the Traditional Prime Minister, “These are the principal officers of Ibeku Development Association that were elected. Any election that the PG did not preside over and the Ogurube did not bless cannot be called an election but an exercise in futility, which makes no sense.”
Throwing further light on what transpired on the Election Day, he said that former Governor Orji, his wife, Odochi, his son, Chinedu and people like Charles Ogbonna and their group organised women and some other people to influence the outcome of the election.
According to him: “For every election year, it is supposed to be a delegates’ conference where every Egwu sends 10 delegates, then the stakeholders, who must receive letter of introduction from the PG. These delegates from Egwus and stakeholders and some other highly placed people were called automatic delegates like former presidents, governors, LGA chairmen and men of honour will obtain letters from the PG to authenticate them as delegates.
“But we were surprised that the former governor, whatever must have been his interest, went and mobilised women, bought clothes for them and flooded the venue before 6am for an election that was supposed to kick off about 10 o’clock, with soldiers, police and other security agents, who, through their attitude, showed that they were compromised. But Ibeku people came out en masse and said no, when we heard that something was going on at the venue.
“Earlier, they had gone to court to seek an injunction, stopping Ibeku from holding the conference, as they had anointed one of their own, Emeka Enyeazu, the PA to T.A. Orji, to become the new PG.”
He revealed that the community meted out punishment. “Among them were people that did sacrilegious things; those that committed ancestral turpitude by going to the press to address our Ogurube derogatorily and the Ogurube-in-council sanctioned them and told them things they must do for the appeasement of the land, which must be brought in seven fold.”
They were to bring seven units of everything mentioned, which included tortoise, goats, kola nuts, N7 million, seven cartons of beer, seven bottles of hot drinks, which the traditional people said that they would use to appease the gods of the land because of the gravity of what they had done.
“The Ogurube-in-council gave them these conditions and until they are fulfilled, they cannot partake in anything Ibeku people are doing. And Ibeku people also discovered that some of them were not really Ibeku people; they were people from all over the place and are now trying to rubbish all that Ibeku stands for. They use their positions in government and privileges of having ill-gotten money or emergency wealth to bring hungry people to be following them, which the authentic and real Ibeku people are rejecting, that it will not continue.
“When they went to court, they sought that the sanctions placed on them be lifted so that they could participate in the election; two, that an injunction should be given to stop the election, as it had potential for crises and violence. The court granted the first one partially and said that sanctions should be lifted on 13 out of the 30 people that were involved and refused to put an injunction on the conference.
“They then compromised some traditional rulers to go on air and say that the election would not hold. They did not tell the Ogurube, who is the ancestral head of the traditional stool of Ibekuland, the only one who has the ofo of Ibeku. The other ones have ofo of their respective communities; some don’t even have any ofo in the real sense of it. So, without consultation, they went on air and made the announcement.
“Unfortunately for them, the traditional rulers don’t have any power to control the development union. The Ogurube, who was embarrassed by the announcement, consulted with the PG, who told him that they were ready for the election, as delegates had received their letters, and security agencies informed.
“They went on air and jointly countered that announcement, saying that the election would hold. Having failed yet again the opponents opted to bring security agents, the police, Army, etc., to scuttle the election through violence.”
He disclosed that before 7 o’clock in the morning of the Election Day, there was heavy presence of the military at the square, venue of the election.
He said: “When Ibeku people came and saw how the security agencies were behaving, and that there were bound to be actions that would lead to violence, they went to the traditional headquarters, called Egwu Ibeku where the above named officers were y successfully elected in a free and fair election presided over by the PG of Ibeku, Chief Onwunaruwa Onuoha. The Ogurube of Ibeku was there and did the opening prayers and the PG was produced with his executives. After their swearing in, Ogurube placed his blessing on the elected persons, as the former PG, who presided over the election handed over the seal of Ibeku and all instruments of authority with which he would govern Ibeku to Ukaegbu, as the authentic new President-General.”
The newly elected PG, Chief Ukaegbu, who spoke to Daily Sun, expressed surprise that armoured trucks would be brought to an election for clan leadership. He said: “I was surprised that our security agencies would allow themselves to be compromised to bring in guns, armoured cars, etc., to a cultural event, to intimidate people. What this means is that President Muhamadu Buhari has a long fight to do on the issue of corruption because some of us were baffled by their behaviour. If you saw what they were doing publicly, especially the police, led by the Area Commander in Umuahia, you would be ashamed, because I was ashamed over their shamelessness because of money. The soldiers were a bit disciplined, sitting down somewhere, but the police were openly exhibiting a show of shame.”
Reacting to the sanctions placed on him and 29 others, including the former governor, for degrading the Ogurube stool, by the Ogurube-in-council, Chief Charles Obioha Ogbonna, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, said that the Ogurube decided to arbitrarily use his office to punish some people.
“If he was not being partial, he would have looked at both sides of the matter and allowed people to air their views, but he refused anybody airing their views. I raised my hand to speak, he refused, and severally a lot of people raised their hands to speak and he refused. You cannot just slaughter me on the altar of partiality. We are in court and by the time we come out of court, we will know where to go to. I am an Ibeku man and Ibeku people held their election on December 26 last year to produce one Emeka Enyiazu, as the President General. If there is any other person that is parading himself, we are yet to know. As far as I know, there is no split in Ibeku Egwuasa Development Association, it is one.
“I am in court because somebody somewhere formed the communiqué of a meeting I attended to say that I am suspended, whereas they don’t have any right to do that, not even the Eze. An Eze of another autonomous community has no right to impose sanction on me. We have to go and iron that out in court. We Ibeku people believe in Ogurube, which is ceremonial. We shall begin to look at this thing from the point of law. It is ceremonial now because Ibeku has been balkanised. From the beginning, it is is a revered stool, a seat all of us respect. We have respect for this community; Ogurube seat is not something we toy with, nobody ever toyed with Ogurube seat,” he said, but adding, “Saying that some people have desecrated the Ogrube is rubbish.”
Reacting to information making rounds that he was part of the election that produced Enyeazu, the former President General, High Chief Onuoha disassociated himself from such claim, stating that if there was any other President General apart from Ukaegbu, such a person was not known to him.