From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
There was jubilation and excitement in Abacha, a community in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State recently, as the traditional ruler, Chief Godwin Mbakwe, was dethroned.
Subsequently, an Onitsha-based business mogul, Chief Godwin Nwabunwanne Odiegwu was installed the community’s new traditional ruler.
The former ruler was among the three traditional rulers suspended by the state governor, Willie Obiano in August 2020 for allegedly violating the rules of traveling to Abuja without permission. Their certificates were also withdrawn.
On December 31 last year, the people of the community under the umbrella of Abacha Development Union (ADU) passed a resolution declaring the traditional stool of the community vacant after passing a no confidence vote in the former monarch. They accused him of non performance, violation of customs, constitution and traditions, and other offences.
Chief Paul Omofia, the traditional Prime Minister (Onowu) of the town presided over the coronation ceremony held at Ukwuora Iro Olisa Square, the ancestral selection place for all monarchs of the town.
He thanked God and the Anambra State governor for bringing peace and harmony in the town and the state. He urged the new traditional ruler to endeavour to serve the people and unite the community. He also appealed to all citizens of the community to support the new traditional ruler for him to excel.
The dethroned Igwe, Mbakwe, could not be reached for comments. But his brother, Joseph Mbakwe, asserted that the election of a new king did not follow due process.
He also said the issue of withdrawal of his brother’s certificate was still in court, describing the crowning of a new king as contempt of the court.
But the president general of the community Mr. Ifeanyi Okeke Obata enjoined the people to cooperate with the town union executives and the Anambra State government to attract developmental dividends to the community. He said the new Igwe would soon be presented to Governor Obiano who would give him a certificate of recognition and staff of office.
Obata said the constitution of the community was strictly followed in electing the new king who came from the same quarter with the dethroned Igwe.
He warned the brother of the dethroned king against fomenting trouble, noting that 99 per cent of the community members supported the removal of the former king and the installation of the new ruler.
He also explained why the traditional prime minister (Onowu) was the one that crowned the new Igwe instead of the kingmakers. “It was because our radition doesn’t allow any kingmaker who has not completed the title rites to crown the Igwe. So Onowu had to do the crowning as required by the tradition. And to show you that there was no foul play, the kingmakers were there and the oldest man blessed the new king at the event,” he said.
The former President General of the community, Chief Okelo Emeka who commended the peaceful dethronement and election of the new king, said the community had always been known for its peaceful nature.
“Abacha people spoke with one voice on January 9 when a new Igwe was elected and crowned at same time. Who is who in Abacha were all in attendance. All the villages and quarters were fully represented, including the oldest man among the kingmakers. The process of removal of the former Igwe had been on before the withdrawal of his certificate by the governor.
Abacha people had been planning his dethronement. In 2018, my executive wrote the former Igwe a letter asking him to explain why he breached some aspect of the constitution. We had earlier protested against him in October last year when we marched to the Government House to complain about his attitude and breach of our constitution.
“Abacha constitution says that the Igwe must celebrate Ofala festival once every three years. But as at 2018, he had been on the throne for 18 years and had never celebrated any Ofala festival. We wrote to him again demanding that he must celebrate Ofala festival before the end of the year 2018 or he would cease to be our Igwe but unfortunately he did not perform the Ofala festival that year. He bastardized the Ozo title tradition, which he gave anyhow. He dissolved so many institutions in the town, and nothing was functioning during his reign.
“When his certificate was withdrawn, our people formalised his removal in the general meeting of the community. You can see the level of jubilation and happiness here. Everyone is overjoyed.”
The youth leader of the community, Chief Ugochukwu Onyekwelu thanked God for giving the community a new king. He said it was a welcome decision by everyone, adding that there was no protest or crisis carried out by the youths.
Said he: “On December 31, our people sat and took the decision. That is the date of our general assembly, which is the highest decision making body in Abacha community. Any decision taken on that day stands; nobody counters it. It is constitutional. So, on that day the Abacha people came and said that enough was enough.”
A woman leader Mrs. Cecelia Oleife also expressed joy at the coronation of the new Igwe even as she appealed for peace.
“We are happy; that is why we came out on January 17 for solidarity march in support of what the entire community did by following due process to remove the former king and crowning a new king. It was done peacefully and nobody should cause any crisis in the community.
“We are solidly behind the decision of our husbands and our youths and support our governor in returning peace to our community. We are not part of any kangaroo protest by nobody against our general assembly decision. We want peace and tranquility in our community and we shall curse anybody that will bring crisis in our community,” she stated.
Some people who witnessed the election and coronation of the new king expressed satisfaction with the process. Chief Ikemefuna Okoye, a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police and an indigene of the town, Lawrence Achebe and Ambassador Uche Ajulu Okeke all said they were grateful to God for giving the community a new traditional ruler.
They urged the new Igwe not to disappoint the people by carrying everybody along as well as pursue peace. They also called on the Anambra State government to give their new ruler maximum cooperation for him to succeed.
After the coronation, the new ruler, Igwe Odiegwu, went round the arena to greet and thank the people of the community for the honour done to him by electing him and crowning him as the new Igwe.
He promised that he would never disappoint the people of Abacha on the trust reposed in him. He pledged that he would preserve the customs, traditions and constitution of the community.
“I will not disappoint you. I will bring everybody together and ensure that peace will be maintained in the community. I will carry everybody along in building a new Abacha community under me as the custodian of culture of the community,” he assured.
The event was full of pomp and ceremony. There was a display of various colourful masquerades, even as women and youths of the community also engaged in assorted traditional performances.