The Anambra State government, on Monday, suspended the Igweship certificate of HRH Igwe Peter Uyanwa, (Eze Dike), the traditional ruler of Ukwulu town in Dunukofia LGA of Anambra State. The porported suspension was said to be effective from Friday, July 24, 2020.
According to the government, HRH Uyanwa was suspended for one year, both as the traditional ruler of the community and as chairman of Anambra Central Traditional Rulers Council. The traditional ruler, on his part, has come out to accuse the state governor, Chief Willie Obiano, of removing him because of his support for President Muhammadu Buhari.
The monarch, who addressed journalists in his palace, said the governor could not remove him and the best he could do was keep back his certificate, which he said had no importance in how he ruled his people. According to him, “I remain the traditional ruler of this community and no one can remove me. I give respect to whom respect is due. If I talk, I will die, and if I don’t talk, I will die; s,o it is better to talk and die.”
From the undercurrents that have trailed this development, it is clear that this tussle is not unconnected to the big question of who succeeds Chief Obiano after he leaves office. Conversely, the hullabaloo that has been engulfing the state can all be traced to this fight. As a pointer, the monarch of Abagana, Mbamalu Okeke, said: “Arthur Eze spoke to us about zoning. But, if you say only Anambra South will contest governorship, then they need to come for negotiation with other zones’.’
So, politics is at the heart of all the brewing crises.
It is important to stress that governors should not, by any means, try to intimidate traditional rulers. This is because they are the fathers of the nation. They are also the conscience of the communities, since they are the custodians of traditional institutions, which are steeped in culture, truth, morality and godliness.
Obiano should not be threatening to withdraw traditional rulers’ certificates of recognition and staff of office just because they differ on an issue. That is tyranny and undemocratic. The very concept of democracy thrives on the right to hold and canvass diverse views. Diversity is the strength of any democracy and a people’s diverse array of interests and ideological leaning make democracy viable.
The great philosopher, Aristotle, discussed democracy in terms that would become highly influential in comparative studies of political systems. At the heart of his approach was the notion of a “constitution,” which he defined as “an organisation of offices, which all the citizens distribute among themselves, according to the power which different classes possess.” This constitutional emphasis is important because that is a major plank on which democracy rests. The Nigerian constitution guarantees freedom of association and choice. Why should Governor Obiano now seek to cage traditional rulers who have freedom of association, freedom to hold personal views as guaranteed by the Constitution, the grund norm of our entire socio-political stratosphere?
And for that matter, what offence has the traditional ruler committed for aligning with President Buhari?
Obiano’s action is also against the law of natural justice and should be condemned by all and sundry. The step speaks to the growing culture of intolerance among our political class. When has dissent become an offense when we are not in a dictatorship? And it is even more worrisome that this action has not just been against HRH Igwe Peter Uyanwa. By implication, he is fighting all other traditional rulers in Anambra State who are seen not to be clapping for him.
The very fact that a political office holder would want everyone to toe his line of thought or expect that people should be praise-singing him is a cankerworm that must be uprooted from our political space. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said, it is those who disagree that often move society forward. Yes-men rarely do!
The governor’s action has now pitted him against traditional rulers in the state. For instance, the traditional rulers of various communities in Anambra who were at the palace of Igwe Peter Uyanwa to show solidarity with the monarch blamed the governor for meddling in the affairs of the traditional institution. Who would blame them for speaking tbe obvious facts?
Good enough, a celebrated philanthropist and business mogul, Prince Arthur Eze, seems to have come to the aid of the embattled traditional rulers in the state. He has promised to even lead them to President Buhari. To my mind, Obiano may as well keep his certificate, because a true traditional ruler does not really need it to lead his people well.
What the monarch of Nawfia community, Igwe Chijioke Nwankwo, said is quite instructive. According to him, “We have nothing against Obiano. He is our brother and our son. If Igwe Uyanwa has done anything wrong, we the monarchs of the state should be told so; after all, we all were in the meeting where Arthur Eze spoke.”
Whatever the case may be, it is clear that Obiano is meddling in things that don’t concern him. It is a known fact that the traditional institution is older than the government, and no one can upturn this reality. Those who are in authority must show maturity at all times and this is the least expected of Obiano. He should always strive to unite the people and live above board.
The position of Prince Arthur Eze during the briefing by the suspended traditional ruler is very pregnant.
“Obiano is fighting a battle he cannot win. We are the people who make governors; so, governors cannot dictate to us what to do,” said the highly respected Ukpo Prince. “I have been in and around government since 1970, and, within that period, I have made many governors in Nigeria.
“Since Obiano is not ready to pay you people (traditional rulers), I shall be giving N200,000 to all monarchs every month. I shall also give N10 million to former LGA chairs to pursue their matter in court.”
This is very magnanimous of the chairman of Oranto Group, but it does not come to one as a surprise, since he has been widely known for his large heart and great philanthropy.
No matter what happens, Obiano should never forget that plurality of ideas and opinions is what makes democracy tick. He should rise above the temptation of wanting to silence all opposing views and fighting dirty because of political interests. This is the least he can offer as his administration winds to a close.
•Okechukwu, a political affairs analyst, wrote from Awka, Anambra State