David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
For some time now, the agrarian community of Ogwu-Aniocha in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State has been grappling with a crisis over the Igwe’s stool. The crisis has set brother against brother in the area.
A section of the community recently passed a resolution rejecting the sitting traditional ruler, Igwe Oliver Nnaji, saying he was not the duly crowned Igwe of the community. They demanded the withdrawal of the certificate of recognition given to him by the Anambra State government.
The demand that Igwe nnaji should step down snowballed into a peaceful protest at the community’s market square by the youths and elders who vowed that the Igwe would no more rule over them or represent them in any capacity.
The protesters displayed placards with various inscriptions to draw home their anger. Some of the placards read: Oliver Nnaji stands banished; All lands and ponds sold by Oliver Nnaji stands revoked; No more imposition of any sort by government agents in Ogwu-Aniocha; It is community that selects king, not government, and many others.
Spokesman of the anti-Igwe group, Mr Ekpendu Chidi Donatus, said the community had been in one crisis or the order for over 30 years.
Donatus said: “Recently, there came up an Igweship tussle in Ogwu-Aniocha. About 10 years ago, our Igwe, Ojigbalu Hippolite, died and the kingmakers of this community decided to call for another selection to enthrone another Igwe.
“About five aspirants filed forward for the contest. At the end of the day the contest became troublesome, leading the community to decide that the aspirants and the contest should be suspended.
“The kingmakers then called for fresh nominees, and the search for someone to lead the community as Igwe continued.
“One late Nathaniel Nnaji was selected. He was duly crowned by the entire community. After the coronation, another person from nowhere just came up and said he was the Igwe of Ogwu-Aniocha. He is Chike Oliver Nnaji. He was neither selected, appointed nor crowned by anybody among the kingmakers.
“Erroneously, he went in search of certificate in Awka and, erroneously, his name came into a certificate that was prepared for his younger brother. Incidentally, his younger brother was the one the community crowned as Igwe, late Nathaniel Nnaji. Igwe Oliver Nnaji is claiming the Igweship stool of Ogwu-Aniocha but our community says no, we don’t want him again.”
He named Umuidei as the kingmakers in Ogwu-Aniocha who he said were never part of the Igwe Nnaji’s coronation. Donatus articulated the process an Igwe could emerge in Ogwu-Aniocha, according to the community’s constitution and declared that the process was never followed.
Those opposed to Igwe Nnaji, including Ogene Ikechukwu, the Chief Priest (who is said to be the eldest man in the community) and Ajie Nwarubuo Ngodi said they did not know about Nnaji’s Igweship and demanded that he should be removed.
The protesters also alleged that the Igwe sold the community’s parcels of land without their knowledge and that some amount of money belonging to the community was in his possession. They accused him of harassing members of the community with the police and thugs.
In his reaction, Igwe Nnaji said nobody could be an Igwe of a community without a certificate of recognition which he said was duly given to him on March 7, 2014 under ex-Governor Peter Obi’s administration.
“My late father was an Igwe who died in 1986 and his last ofala (burial ceremony) was in 1988. Igweship is rotatory in our community and after his last ofala, Igwe Hippolite Ojiba took over and was recognised by the state government.
“After the death of Ojiba, the community called me for Igweship and this group (the opposition) called my younger brother to take over the stool. But the whole community called the young man and told him to step down, but he refused.
“I was not crowned after his death. I was presented to the Ogbaru Local Government Council on February 27, 2013. It was from the council that my documents were forwarded to the Government House, Awka. Until I was given the Certificate of Recognition, I never knew Government House, Awka. And it was Governor Obi who signed my Certificate of Recognition,” Igwe Nnaji said.
He insisted that he was duly crowned the Igwe of the community even though, according to him, some of the elders who officiated at his coronation had passed on. He said the two villages saddled with the responsibility of kingship in the community followed the due process for his emergence as Igwe.
He declared that he had been representing the community in various capacities as the Igwe and even as he is currently the assistant secretary of Anambra North Traditional Rulers Council. He denied being in possession of the community’s land proceeds, noting also that he did not sell any land since he ascended the throne.
The Ogbaru Local Government Area Transition Committee Chairman, Hon. Arinze Awogu, in whose domain the crisis is raging, said he had intervened and appealed to the community members to accept Igwe Nnaji since his younger brother, who was chosen by some of them, died. In his words, the reasonable thing to do was to allow the elder brother to continue.