From Chuks Onuoha, Aba
The controversy over the rightful occupant of the Akanu Ohafia Traditional Stool in Abia State has lasted about 13 years now. But the controversy is far from abating.
The issue has triggered mayhem, bloodletting, fear, insecurity and terror.
This situation has kept peace far away from the citizens and those who cannot endure it have gone into exile. Some others have been banished from the community and warned never to step their feet into the land of their birth for the next ten years.
It is not known when this condition will be normalised as several efforts to ameliorate the situation seem to have failed.
One of the victims of the banishment, Chief Kingsley Agwu Uwa, said he had suffered various degrees of harm, to the point of being butchered by his assailants. He said after he had almost lost his life, he was still banished by one of those contesting to be the traditional ruler on the Akanu Ohafia Ancestral stool.
Agwu Uwa, a community leader and chairman of Ugwumba Age Grade, alleged that he almost lost his life in the hands of one of the claimants to the traditional stool. He said the man, Ezeogo Mba Odo Okereke, a claimant to the throne, pronounced him banished for ten years for reporting the monarch’s alleged inhuman treatment to the Human Rights Commission in Umuahia, the state capital.
He said the human rights body invited the police to arrest the monarch, “and after that, I was marked for elimination,” he alleged.
The accused monarch, Ezeogo Mba Okereke however denied the allegation, which he described as a tissue of lies. He said Uwa had to be banished for embarrassing the community and trying to create a crisis.
But explaining the issues, Agwu Uwa told the reporter that about 1.30 am on December 28, 2019, some blood-thirsty assailants kidnapped him from his home, took him to the lonely Arochukwu-Ohafia Road and thoroughly dehumanised him. He said several machete injuries were inflicted on him when he was attacked. And believing that he had died, Uwa said his assailants dumped his body by the road side and fled..
“As I lay unconscious, bleeding from the cuts on my hand, legs, head, lower abdomen and other parts, some good Samaritans, who heard my groaning rescued me and took me to the hospital. I spent over six months undergoing several surgeries to survive,” he said.
Uwa said the attack left him with a limping leg, a bent right hand, and several scars all over his body in spite of the many surgeries he has undergone to correct his twisted flesh and bones. “Uwa called on the authorities to assist him get justice.
He said the Ezeship tussle in Akanu Ohafia, which involved two persons from the same royal family, has lasted for over 13 years. He said the people of the community have been trying to determine the real heir apparent to the throne.
“As a result, everyone in the community, including me, has waited for the outcome of the case to know the person to identify with. And because of my refusal to identify with them, they vowed to deal me.”
Uwa alleged that the Ezeogo locks his perceived enemies, both male and female, in his private cell, after putting them through torture. He also accused the monarch of harbouring some men who force people in the community to pay revenue and fines. “These and other acts have created fear and tension in the community,” he said.
“The Director of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr Uche Nwokocha, investigated, saw evidence and invited the police in Zone 9 for the arrest of the culprits and people involved in the acts.
“For that reason, he said that I had desecrated the land and my blood must be used as sacrifice to cleanse the land.
“When the police came for the arrest, they resisted, and engaged them in serious fracas, claiming that no one has power to come into the community to arrest anybody.”
Uche Nwokocha of the NHRC, expressed shock over the actions of the Eze He called on the government to take a decisive action against the violent attitude of some Ohafia people towards the Nigerian police.
“It is always happening in Ohafia, it was there that some soldiers were disarmed, it was there that some police men were attacked and killed and their hands chopped off. It was there that police stations, courts were burnt. One can keep counting without end. Why should Ohafia appear to be an ungoverned space in the state? If those behind the problem can be brought to book, the police would have done so much for Ohafia people,” she stated.
On the issue of the banishment pronounced on Uwa, she said that nobody has any right to banish any free citizen of the state, noting that those behind the matter were very brutal.
‘They had earlier attempted to kill the victim, and he survived by God’s grace, if nothing is done for the police to be alive to their duties, I am afraid that they may accomplish their threats of killing Kingsley Agwu Uwa and others,” Nwokocha said
“We want to make sure that nobody suffers the same fate as Uwa. We made sure that the cell where they lock people up are closed. And we have also asked the police to stop giving them their personnel to help them in collecting levies and fines from the people, as they were using the police before to make their actions to look genuine. The police have been inviting him since July 2020, to answer to the allegations, but he refused to come. And this is somebody they address as ‘Above the Law.’
“He has openly boasted to me that no policeman in Abia State can arrest him. But there must be an end to this whole madness. What is going on in Ohafia is nothing but madness and it has to be stopped as Abia State cannot afford to become a state where people don’t respect law and order,” she said.
But in his reaction, Ezeogo Mba Okereke, Ezeogo of Akanu, denied the allegation. He said Kingsley Agwu Uwa was banished because “he aligned himself with those who wanted me to be removed, and such an act is a sacrilege, and has earned him banishment.
“For him to bring the police or whoever to my palace to arrest me, not even an invitation that I should come to the police station, is a sacrilege,” the monarch said.
“He physically came to the palace and told the police; ‘this is the man, arrest him.’ What was my crime? Whether they were policemen or kidnappers or those who would kill me, I don’t know because they did not come in police uniform. They came with two unmarked Toyota Sienna mini buses and identification was not possible until when the damage had already been done.
He also alleged that Agwu Uwa wanted to create crises in the community by that action. He explained further that Uwa’s intention was to embarrass the community and kill some people. He informed that when the community descended on the people that came to the palace, they ran away, leaving two policemen behind.
“I was the one who insisted that they shouldn’t be harmed in Akanu Ohafia, because Ohafia’s name is not good especially at this time,” Ezeogo Mba Odo Okereke said.