.A tale of one community, 2 leaders
From OLUSEYE OJo, Ibadan
THE last may not be heard in the leadership crisis rocking the Igbo community in Ibadan, Oyo State, in the last 19 years. The community is now sharply divided into one faction led by Dr. Alex Anozie, an optician, and the other led by Chief Alloy Obi, a businessman.
The Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji, Aje Ogungunniso I, took the bull by the horn when he waded into the crisis when he installed Obi as the leader of Igbo community in Ibadan on Friday April 22, 2016. The brief ceremony took place at his Popoyemoja Palace.
The monarch explained his roles: “The two warring factions were invited to the palace. The palace resolved that Obi should be the leader of Ndigbo in Ibadanland”
This, however, did not go down well with the Anozie camp. Anozie and his followers said the court had declared him the authentic leader of the Igbo in Ibadan and Oyo State.
It was a welcome development to the Igbo General Assembly (IGA). President General of the association in the state, Nze Emeka Enweronye: “The Igbo in Oyo State were polarised over who is the authentic Igbo leader leader for the past 19 years. His Royal Majesty, having gone through the resolution of the South East Council of Traditional Rulers in 2008 that Eze Ndigbo in the Diaspora have been abolished and other documents, invited the principal actors, Obi and Anozie, and directed that Eze Ndigbo in Ibadan has ceased to exist.
“On Friday, April 22, 2016, Oba Adetunji, formally confirmed Obi as the authentic ‘Onyendu Ndigbo (Igbo leader) in Ibadan and Oyo State. The Ndigbo will remain loyal to Oba Adetunji and the traditions of Ibadanland. We assure the Olubadan and his council of our unalloyed cooperation.”
But another group, the Igbo Community Development Association (ICDA), was not pleased with the development. Its president, Chief Emmanuel Nzeako, Anozie at separate fora said the Igbo leadership crisis in Ibadan has been resolved by the High Court judgment, which granted the prayers of Anozie as the only recognised Igbo community leader in Ibadan and Oyo State: “As a people of this country, we believe, nobody, no matter how highly placed in the society is above the constitution of Nigeria
and on the Constitution we stand.”
Anozie recalled that a judgment delivered by the Oyo State High Court on February 18, 2014, was quite explicit on the matter as it proclaimed him the only Igbo leader in Ibadan and Oyo State: “I am also aware that the particular judgment has not been vacated by any superior court even though there has not been a stay of execution against the judgement. The matter is still left in the Appeal Court.”
On the endorsement of Obi as leader of Ndigbo: “I was only invited by the Olubadan-In-Council where I met Obi and the Baale of Ekotedo (Elder Taiye Ayorinde). I was surprised to see someone like Obi whom the court ordered to stop parading himself as Igbo leader in Ibadanland.
“The only message passed on to us was that they do not want the use of the Eze title in Ibadanland as the South East Traditional rulers wrote to stop the use of the title outside Igboland.”
The turn of event also caught the attention of the traditional ruler of Igbo-Ukwu community in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, Igwe Martin Ezeh, Idu II. He expressed displeasure over the installation of Obi as leader of the Igbo community in Ibadan:
“Anozie is my subject and very close brother. I know him very well as a lover of peace and always has the fear of God. I am very much aware that Ndigbo in Ibadan and environs in Oyo State chose him democratically to be their head, leader, and gave him the Igbo title of their choice since 1997.
“An official letter to that effect was communicated to Igbo-Ukwu Development Union then and I am aware of that. I am also aware that a high court of competent jurisdiction has ruled in his favour to be in that position.
Ayorinde took serious exceptions to that: “The statement is capable of causing upheaval, as Ibadans don’t joke with issues capable of dragging the good name of Oba Adetunji in the mud. A traditional ruler should always refrain from statement and issues capable of causing disaffection, between the two tribes who have been living together peacefully for centuries because of inordinate ambition of somebody.”
He said former Olubadan of Ibadanaland, Oba Emmanuel Adeyemo, “had in July 1997 banned Anozie from being a chief in Ibadan via letter EAA3/Vol.1/97. Whereas, Obi became Balogun of Igbo to Olubadan in 1996. This is a development which Oba Adetunji only revisited through the coronation of Obi to douse the 20-year leadership tussle among the Igbo in the city.”
Obi told Daily Sun that history has been made with his endorsement as leader of Ndigbo in Ibadan by the Olubadan: “In October 1996, I was made Balogun Ndigbo of Ibadaland. Olubadan has confirmed that I am the true leader of Igbo in Ibadan.
“Olubadan has anointed me as the leader of Igbo in Ibadan. It is a great day for the entire Igbo. That is the end of the crisis of the entire Igbo in Ibadan. God has made it possible. I thank Olubadan, the high chiefs, including Igbo General Assembly and our women. They are fantastic people.”
But on May 4, 2016, news went viral on the social media that Oba Adetunji denied installing any new leader for the Igbo community in Ibadan. A statement credited to the Director of Media and Public Affairs to the Olubadan, Mr. Adeola Oloko, on the social media reads in part:
“There was never a time he (Olubadan) conferred the chieftaincy title of Eze Ndigbo or recognised anybody as the leader of Igbo in Ibadanland. The Olubadan therefore urged all the residents and citizens of Ibadan to remain law-abiding.”
Following the statement, Anozie commended Oba Adetunji for applying his God-given wisdom in “clearing the air over the very recent misconceptions and speculation in some quarters on the Igbo leadership tussle in Ibadan. Ndigbo actually received with shock that news, now proved to be false by the Kabiyesi that he installed a new leader for Igbo in Ibadan in person of Aloy Obi.
“Ndigbo in badan felt seriously disenfranchised, marginalised and humiliated in our country, Nigeria over the action. But glory be to God who has given our Kabiyesi the guidance to doing the right thing without much delay.
“The area that impressed us so much is the area where he (Oba Adetunji) said that him, being a responsible monarch and law-abiding citizen of Nigeria, that he stands by the rule of law and therefore abides by the ruling of the court over the Igbo leadership matter.
“What is the court’s ruling over the matter? On February 18, 2014, the State High Court of competent jurisdiction has ruled that I, Dr. Alex Anozie, remain the only Igbo head or leader in Ibadan and Oyo State, and ordered Chief Alysus Obi and his group to stop parading in that same capacity.
“Up till now, no higher court has vacated that judgment, and there is no stay of execution standing against the judgment.”
But Oloko explained that the monarch only affirmed Obi as Balogun of Ndigbo of Ibadanland. He wondered what would be the gains of the main actors in the Igbo leadership crisis in Ibadan and why they have not allowed the tussle to be resolved.
Earlier before the endorsement of Obi as leader of Igbo community, the Olubadan and his council had said Ibadan would not recognise the use of Eze Ndigbo title in Ibadan.
The monarch also banned the use of ‘his royal highness and his royal majesty’. The palace also directed that the leaders of various town unions and associations must be under the authorities of the recognised community heads (Baale) of their respective domains. The heads of the associations and clubs must get to the palace through their Baales.
Following the directives, an announcement was made by the Ohanaeze Ndigbo that as a mark of honour to the Ibadan monarch and in the interest of peace and harmony in Ibadan, the use of Eze Ndigbo title had been dropped.
President and Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chiefs Emma Nzeako and Nwanze Okechukwu, stated that the issue of Igbo leadership in Ibadan and Oyo State had long been settled in favour of Anozie since 1997. They noted that Anozie was democratically elected by all the Igbo communities, town unions, and traders associations residing in the state.
The Ohanaeze body in the state said it did not understand why Anozie would have to report to Olubadan through the Baale of Ekotedo, adding that Anozie was not chosen by only the Igbo resident in Ekotedo but that of the entire Ibadanland and the state.”
In the same vein, Enweronye, said Obi was democratically elected as the traditional leader of Igbo community in Ibadanland during an election organised by IGA.
At present, Obi and Anozie still see themselves as leaders of Ndigbo. But the question is, when will the leadership tussle be resolved.