From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
Recently, the Uke community in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State rolled out the drums to mark the maiden Ofala celebration of His Royal Highness, Igwe Charles Chuma Agbala, Igwe Oranyelu III of Uke.
Igwe Agbala, a renowned estate surveyor who retired statutorily as a director in the Anambra State Ministry of Housing and Urban Development in 2011, had been in private practice until December 19, 2015, when he became the Igwe-elect of Uke, after an election.
The Anambra State government, through Governor Willie Obiano, also gave a final seal to his ascending the throne as Igwe on June 23, 2016, by issuing him a certificate of recognition.
To mark the maiden Ofala celebration, the traditional ruler also installed his cabinet chiefs known as Ndi Ichie Ukwu.
The traditional ruler, alongside his beautiful wife, Lolo Maureen Agbala (Ugogbe Eze), in his remarks during the Ofala noted that there was a divine coincidence in the two arms of leadership in Uke community.
He recalled that he was elected Igwe on December 19, 2015, and on December 27, 2015, the new executives of Uke Development Union were also elected.
He said that the two arms of leadership could be described as brand new while the Ndichie Ukwu he inherited from the former Igwe, GNC Ezeudeh, were minimal and for the community to start another journey on a clean slate, it became imperative to install new cabinet chiefs.
The monarch noted that the cabinet chiefs were supposed to be two from each of the six villages that make up the community but by the time he came into office, the number had been depleted while the new Uke Constitution stipulated for three from each community, thereby bringing the number to 18.
The traditional ruler said that it was the responsibility of the Uke Development Union executives to select the new Ichie Ukwus, screen and forward their names to him for installation to make up the new Igwe-in-Council.
The Igwe promised to bring his vast wealth of experience in the civil service to bear on his leadership of the community.
He said that humility, a core virtue of a civil servant that makes one not to be easily provoked, would be his watchword, promising to toe the same path in administering the affairs of his community.
“Being able to organise people and accommodate individual differences and galvanise them to achieve what they want to achieve. My Ofala message is a message of peace, a message of patriotism and that was why I started by recognising people that have contributed so much in the development of the town. I gave them befitting chieftaincy titles that will make them members of the Igwe-in-Council, so that they will continue to work for the people and for the community. That is a very good step and, from then onwards, we talk about development of the community holistically, physically, spiritually and otherwise,” he said.
The immediate past President-General of Uke Development Union, Chief Emeka Enendu, who played a prominent role in the emergence of the new traditional ruler, gave a historical account of the journey to the throne.
“When the Nigeria-Biafra war ended in January 1970, the then government of East Central State directed that every town should present an Igwe or Obi as the traditional ruler for recognition by the government to help in grassroots administration. In reaction, Uke amended her 1955 Constitution in 1971 to include the traditional ruler and the Ichie Ukwus. The said Constitution divided Uke into two, Enugo Uke, comprising Ezema, Ubulenu, Oba and Umunnakwe/Omimi villages, and Uruani Uke, comprising Uruezeani/Uruabor, Nkwelle and Umuazu villages. It recommended that the throne be rotated between the two halves and His Royal Highness, Igwe W. I. Ileka, Igwe Oranyelu I of Uke, emerged from the Uruani Uke (Umuazu village). He reigned between 1973 and 1994.
“Igwe Ileka was succeeded by Igwe GNC Ezeude, who reigned from 1996 to December 2011, and he emerged from the Enugo Uke (Ezema Ubulenu village). During this period, a misunderstanding led to the dissolution of the town union, led by Chief GNC Ogunwa (late), and the Anambra State government constituted a peace committee, headed by Dr. Ephraim Onyechi, in April 2007. The committee authored the Uke 2007 Constitution,” he said.
Enendu recalled that Igwe Ezeude joined his ancestors in 2011 and, according to the 2007 Constitution, the last Ofala celebration for the late Igwe was expected to hold within one year.
“However, efforts to hold the Ofala were aborted along the line and Uke community remained without a traditional ruler since then till in 2015 when the Idemili Council of Traditional Rulers urged him as the then President-General of UDU and the Owulu of Uke, Chief I.K Agupusi, to take action and see that the last Ofala was completed in order to accord their fallen colleague his full traditional rites,” he said.
He stated that the last Ofala for the late Igwe Ezeude successfully took place on November 11, 2015, and the Uruezeani/Uruabor community, whose turn it was to produce the next Igwe of Uke, forwarded the names of three eligible candidates, Dr. Boniface Agbala, Dr. Boniface Amah and Surveyor Charles Agbala.
“After following due process in the election conducted on December 19, 2015, Suveyor Agbala emerged victorious with a total of 165 votes as against Dr. Amah with 13 votes and Dr. Agbala with 10 votes,” he said.
The chieftain recalled that Governor Obiano, while giving the certificate of recognition to Igwe Agbala, remarked that, from enquiries and security reports, Igwe Agbala was found worthy in character and learning and was considered a fit and proper person to be the traditional ruler of Uke.
President-General of Uke Town Union, Mr. Ikedi Obi, in a chat with Oriental News, described the prevailing peace in the community presently as a good omen and thanked God for making it possible for the community to successfully complete the Igweship election process.
He pledged his loyalty to the traditional ruler, describing him as an instrument of peace.
Former National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, and Senator Annie Okonkwo, who paid homage to the traditional ruler in their separate speeches, wished Igwe Agbala success in his reign on the throne.
The traditional ruler of Mbaukwu Kingdom, Igwe Peter Anugwu, in his own remarks on the occasion, said Uke people had made a good choice by electing Agbala as their new Igwe.
He urged the people to support the king in their best interest, saying that when the Igwe enjoys the support of his people, there would be prosperity and progress in the land.